CAN-do strategy: in-your-face problem solving (Fast Company, 11/09)

Check-out the “Made to Stick” column that appears in the monthly publication, Fast Company.  Brothers Chip and Dan Heath write cutting-edge commentary on entrepreneurship, innovation, and the integration of Web 2.0 tools.  The November 2009 contribution “caught my fancy” with an irreverent approach to solving marketing problems.

The Heath brothers describe an intractable problem faced by a Procter & Gamble business unit.  The group director may have invoked the famous words of Albert Einstein, who said:  “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Unable to solve a problem within the P&G domain, the group director took the team on a field trip to the San Diego Zoo – looking for answers on another turf!

Observations of plant life and animal behavior sparked eight fresh approaches to the CPG problem, driving home the point that “…someone else may have a different perspective…problems that are difficult in one domain may be trivial to solve from the perspective of a different domain.”

The work of the Heath brothers promotes innovative thinking and problem solving strategies.  Their clever and slightly irreverent metaphors drive home the point that solutions to problems may be “in-your-face,” and yet not visible through your own mirror.  Clearly, the message is to search outside our own borders, beyond our own companies, and outside the paradigms created by our industries.  Maybe it is time to bring back my own irreverent metaphor for those in career transition:  the unicellular paramecium.

A New Strengths Assessment Tool from Gallup Press

Passing on news that that Gallup Press has released another title in its series of self-assessment books in collaboration with Tom Rath: Strengths Based Leadership.  The new title promises to build on the results of the Strengths Finder 2.0, which is itself an extension of the popular title, Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

Buckingham is a business guru whose perspective has always appealed to me, on several levels.  Like me, he was once a stutterer who found that his strength is actually his ability to communicate clearly and convincingly.  Secondly, he has been a proponent for an intuitive and healthy attitude about personal and professional development. I think he would endorse my self-description as a career strategist, not a counselor (illness) nor a coach (no fruits and nuts).  Marcus started a "Strengths Revolution," by asking what is most likely lead to the achievement of goals: building on your strengths or fixing your weaknesses?  

As a career professional, I totally embrace the emphasis on strengths assessment.  Many traditional psychological assessments leave the client and coach communicating through language that I call "psycho-babble." The Strengths Revolution encourages a coaching dialog that uses easy to understand terms; the terms relate to the business world, not to the theories of a psychologist.  (An earlier strengths-based tool was developed by Timothy Butler, & James Waldroop; it is still available through the Harvard Business School).

The new book seeks to build on research conducted over 10 years, focusing on what it takes to be a leader. Tom Rath has collaborated with Barry Conchie to identify  themes and provide  specific strategies that should help you to build a stronger team.  This post is not a book review, as I have only learned about the new release today. (Note that few reviewers have recommended the new book to those who have already taken the Strengths Finder 2.0; it is suggested as a substitute rather than an addition to the original assessment.)

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A Physicist’s advice RE: stalled career

I've been waiting to use this quote for months… The New Year and our stalled economy seem to offer the right context for some words of wisdom from Albert Einstein:

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep

What appeals to me is the goal of "balance," and the basic law of physics that is recommended: "keep moving."  These are great words to keep in-mind, especially if you feel unsteady at this point in your career or your life. 

Your personal anecdotes
about maintaining balance and momentum would add greatly to this post…

Karen P. Katz
Career Acceleration Network (CAN), LLC

Thinking Outside The Box. What Box? – Guest Post

Thanks to Sanjay Doshi for this self-reflective and forward-thinking "guest post."  I think it says a lot about his evolution while working through his Acceleration Plan.  Please feel free to comment via this blog  (Career Acceleration Notes) or directly to Sanjay –

When I was first laid
off in October, it took me over a week just to figure out what exactly
had happened.  Then, I mapped out a plan to help me organize my search
to determine the next step in my career.  The first step I took to
guide me?  Hiring a career counselor.  When I explained to her where I
was looking to go and what skills I had that would be attractive to my
target companies, she mentioned that I needed to start thinking outside
the box.  In my head, I thought 'What box?' 

I soon realized it meant
that in the process of one's active job search, employed or unemployed,
one should strive to cast a wider net to find their next opportunity
and look beyond the traditional job searching/networking methods.  In
one of the toughest economies the U.S. has seen in decades, taking a
fresh approach may pave the future.  After all, who doesn't want to be
the purple cow in a meadow of white and brown ones?  Here are a few of
things I've learned:

1. When it comes to networking, whether it be with family, friends,
or co-workers, focus on giving, not receiving.  When you do the first,
the latter will come in time.  Growing those relationships and
occupying a space in their minds can pay off in the long run.
2. While it's important to select your ideal job/career and spend most
of your efforts on getting there, take time to consider other fields. 
Tapping into segments of
certain industries that are growing (from my research, this includes
education, health care, oil/energy, social media) could be fruitful,
especially in a
contracting economy (at present, most segments of financial services,
pharmaceutical, retail, advertising and print media are
restructuring).  Leverage the industries you have experience in
and revisit them.  In my case, I consulted for a city government for
nearly 4 years and while I've been out of touch since 2004, I now bring
a broader skill set than before – more creativity supported by
analytical and strategic thinking.  I plan to reach out to a few of my
old colleagues and get a sense of how the landscape has changed,
network with people in other branches of the government and ultimately,
see if there is a match.  The very reasons I left could be the same
ones to return.

3. Remember it's about the companies' needs that you are trying to
fill, not yours.  Once you know that, you can position yourself
better.  Think about what their challenges are in the marketplace and
how you can perhaps provide solutions to them.
4. Consider volunteering.  After all, who can't use an extra pair of
hands?  Ideally, if you can find one that fits your interests, you can
not only make an impact on the community, but also gain credibility for
future interviews showing your commitment to making a specific career
5. Part time work can be beneficial.  Even a few days a week can help
keep your skills up to date, you get to meet people, stay active and
build your network.

as how I'm still working on each of the strategies above, I'm slowly
crawling out of the proverbial box.  Actually, I probably have my left
hand and foot out.

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Career Search ‘Basic Training” in honor of Veteran’s Day

Veterans perform tasks and achieve a variety of successes in environments that civilians have trouble understanding.  In honor of Veteran's Day, I'd like to offer some basic training to help Vets make a successful transition to the civilian workforce.

Veterans are like all candidates: it is imperative to demonstrate that their skills, abilities, and areas of knowledge are transferable to the needs of civilian employers.  Vet's can talk about what they have accomplished in the military and in previous positions.  Like other candidates, it is important to present a "mini-business plan" to relate to the
needs of a prospective employer.  Review the following list to be sure
you are prepared to interview successfully:

  • You have
    clearly and concisely described one – two "success stories" for each of
    your previous positions, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action -
    Result model.
  • You have analyzed your accomplishment
    stories to identify the personal qualities, skills, and areas of
    knowledge that made it possible for you to achieve your successes.

Step #1
- Study the job description and organization to identify the criteria
for the job (not "requirements"). The criteria are likely to be "soft
skills," e.g., flexibility, team orientation, interpersonal skills,
etc. Create a grid, with the criteria on the left and your previous
employers across the top.

Step #2 – Fill-in the cells
with a note about each employer/accomplishment that addresses the new
job criteria. (Without the ability to post a table on-line, I can't
provide a good-looking sample – contact this author for a complimentary
copy of this worksheet..)

Step #3 – Once you've
completed this "homework," use your notes to prepare for questions and
conversation with the interviewers. Be careful to limit your responses
to three – four crisp sentences, using the Problem (Challenge) – Action
- Result model.

SimplyHired, an on-line aggregator of job postings, has created a Vet-Friendly filter that may make it easier to complete local labor market research.  I found 124 potential leads with the keywords, "Operations Manager" in my 5-digit zip-code.  The idea is to use these leads to develop a list of target organizations and keywords/job titles – don't become obsessed with "cutting and pasting" in response to postings.  Use the Internet to conduct a proactive campaign: Vet-friendly organizations are a great place to start!


An ivy perspective on the success of The Brand Called Obama

Readers know that I'm a career-politico and a student of the 2008 Election. The last two years have offered many lessons for those seeking new jobs and/or engaged in career transition.  I've shared my own perspectives during the last year:  check out the views expressed by Harvard Business Online (The Managerial Triumph of Barack Obama)

John Quelch's post in Business Week is one of three "ivy-covered" views of Obama's victory.  It reads like a comment on my Lessons from the National Interview; here's a summary of his points that circle back to inspire anyone involved in personal marketing:

  1. Obama's personal attributes were fleshed-out and visible to voters: interpersonal & communication skills; composure; his compelling story
  2. He engaged support from the ground-up; perhaps the Harvard-educated Obama was inspired by the idea of the "learning organization," advocated by a professor on the other side of Cambridge, MA – Peter Senge.
  3. Dominated the use of technology – multiple websites; the blogosphere, You-Tube, podcasts, and an incredibly effective infomercial (33.5 million viewers)
  4. The campaign targeted an inclusive array of voters; went beyond likely voters and discovered the power of early voters.
  5. Message of hope delivered during time of doubt and despair resonated with possibility
  6. Obama had some noisy gremlins in his closet; he dealt with them early-on and in a poignant and transparent manner.  When the Republican Party of Pennsylvania pulled them out of the closet In October 2008, they were marked as "past season." 
  7. TEAM – The team Obama assembled to market his candidacy and run the campaign was outstanding.  Quelch rightly points to the selection of Joe Biden as VP – a choice that filled Obama's foreign policy gap and reassured voters about Obama's judgment.

BlogTalk Radio with Jason Alba re: Lessons from the National Interview

Great experience today – my first as a guest on BlogTalk Radio!  I was honored to join a few other JibberJobber Partners who have talked with Jason about issues of importance in the Web 2.0 world of career transition and job search.

We talked about McCain and why he appears to be losing the job to Obama, despite his "hard copy" credentials and experience.  The conclusion appears to be that McCain has not responded well to the behavioral question of the day – the economic crisis. 

  • Obama has been able to convince the interviewers, a.k.a. voters, that he "feels their pain" and has practiced the time-honored strategy of listening with 2 ears and talking with 1 mouth. He has learned from the interviewing process and has offered need-based plans that appeal to voters whose issues are health care, education, foreign policy and war, and of course, the economy.
  • McCain and Palin talk a lot about themselves – a commentator on NPR suggested that McCain is asking the voters to reward him for his military and government service – he is not offering success stories via examples or testimonials that speak directly to the concerns of voters.  Indeed, one commentator observed that he appears to be a veteran of WWII, rather than a Vietnam War-era veteran; perhaps his POW experience shielded him from the cultural shift that affected his chronological peers.  His problem is not his chronological age, but the perception that he
    lives in the past and is not equipped to lead in the future.

The lesson for job seekers and career changers is to identify the needs of prospective employers; identify and emphasize transferable skills and personal qualities that are prized by this organization; and offer your brand and mini-business plan in a WIIFTm (What's In It For Them) context. 

The Recruiting Animal joined the conversation and added value by sharing his perspective as a Recruiter and a Canadian.  We discussed the impact of age, race, personality, and blogging in the interviewing space.  Listen to the recording and offer comments to keep this topical discussion alive:  <>

Six Questions to Consider RE: “International Update Your Resume Month”

I belong to several excellent professional associations, Including Career Directors International (CDI), which has designated September as "Update Your Resume Month."

The fall is one of the seasons of the year that is traditionally associated with self-evaluation, work-life management, and change resolutions. This is a great time to seize the opportunity to manage your career and life situation: to be proactive rather than defensive, especially in the face of challenging economic times.

Many people call, asking that I tweak their resume; in most cases, a more complete revision is needed. What are some of the factors you should consider when considering how to proceed?  Remember – the resume is a marketing tool that speaks for you when you aren't there…

  1. Does your resume make a convincing case for where you want to go – in the future?
  2. Do you use industry-specific keywords?  Do you use terminology that helps to make a transition?
  3. Is your resume more than 2-pages long?  How dense is your text?  Is your writing style clear, concise, and compelling?
  4. Does your resume describe job duties or success stories?  Does the text of your resume support your "brand" or "your SSP (special selling points)"?
  5. Is your resume relevant?  Do you emphasize quantifiable and recent accomplishments; those that are relevant to your future goals?
  6. Is your resume an effective marketing tool?  Never lie, and never market yourself in a cheesy or over-the-top manner… Know yourself: plan your campaign strategically; tell your story with understated enthusiasm, in writing and in-person.

See the archives of this blog for other posts on resume-writing; see CAN's tips to "Avoid the Round File" (Download 0405-TRIBUNE_EDITED_E-MAIL.pdf); see books by Enelow and Kursmark for current samples, including those by this writer.

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