The whoopin’ in the Biz School back-room

A chain of posts through the Net Impact LinkedIn group led me to rant again about the disparity between the innovation that is taught in “better” business schools and the conformity that is foisted-upon new graduates.

Ivy League universities hire distinguished faculty to teach classes in “innovation;” these same professors rally around the need for change to compete in the global marketplace.  Yet as students approach graduation and complete their exams, theses, and dissertations, it seems they are ushered into the back room to have the creativity beaten out of them.  The Biz School back-room “whoopin” leaves new graduates wondering about their considerable investment of time, money, and faith.

Resumes must conform to a specific style to earn a place in the recruitment “book; ” cover letters may as well be automated, and networking is almost incestuous (maybe due to over-reliance on alumni).  I shouldn’t complain, as many students seek the services of experienced career professionals to flesh-out their personal brand and manage their job search campaigns.  (Look for CAN and other career strategists at the Sept. 17th PA Governor’s Conference for Women,  as well as several MBA Career Expos and the November Net Impact Conference.)

The NetImpact group discussion led me to a related post by Matt Madden, a Presidio School of Management student who is writing a book tentatively titled Status Quo Values. The purpose of this project is to explore status quo value systems – economic, political and social values – and discuss the role these values play in our society’s aversion to change.  The goal of the work is to define status quo values, discuss the historical roots of our institutional embrace of status quo values, examine the role our institutions play in promoting these values to individuals and investigate examples of institutions and individuals adhering to alternative value systems.  Sounds like a continuation of the dialog started by Robert Reich in his Fast Company issue, Your Job Is Change.  I’ll be looking for the book, Matt…

Salute to Studs Terkel – a community organizer extraordinaire

Studs Terkel died in Chicago yesterday at age 96.  He enjoyed a full life to be sure, with the possible loss of an opportunity to cast his ballot for a fellow community organizer, Barack Obama.  Click here to read an excerpt from an October 23rd interview with Studs about Election 2008.

As one whose first "professional" job was with a community-based employment development agency... …with two sons who work to repair the earth, one through higher education and another via social entrepreneurship/BOP…whose family has walked the talk, I join Studs Terkel and Barack Obama in celebrating the value proposition that "community organizers" can bring to the workplace.

Some may scoff or snarl at the idea that "do-gooders" offer value to the traditional world of employment (e.g. Rudolph Guiliani at the Republican National Convention), but with the perspective of an interviewer like Studs Terkel, let's look at what a hiring manager may find:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills – listen twice as much as they talk to people who are not often heard
  • Needs assessment ability – understand the needs that are underneath the expressed frustrations
  • Problem solving/Resourcefulness – able to identify needed resources and people
  • Project/Program management – ability to keep a lot of balls in the air, all headed for home-plate
  • Sales/Marketing ability -  accountable for outcomes; identify continued and new funding sources
  • Communication tools – written, verbal, print, visual, audio, Web 2.0, and in several languages

The service that community organizers perform is as valuable as that offered by our military, our teachers, our police officers and fire-fighters, and by journalists, broadcasters, and interviewers like Studs Terkel, who respectfully chronicled American workers since 1957.

Scale the Brick Wall: some inspirational words suitable for a downturn

A client has maintained a constant training regimen
to scale her brick wall: technology is sending her job to the scrap-yard. 

She is an incredibly positive and tenacious
person.  The transition/training process has required nearly 6 months of
patience and focus; now she is close to realizing her goal.  One door may be closing, but a window is

Her recent e-mail referenced this excerpt from the
last lecture of Professor Randy Pausch, who offered a legacy talk shortly
before his struggle with cancer ended with his death. Perhaps these words will inspire
those who are trying to scale their own walls


The brick walls are there
for a reason.

The brick walls are not
there to keep us out;

the brick walls are there
to give us a chance

to show how badly we want

The brick walls are there to stop the people

who don’t want it badly

They are there to stop the
OTHER people!


Download randy_pausch.m2YH4U3WTBO0QA.htm

Randy Pausch

Successful interviewing at all levels: secret weapon is P-A-R

you’re reading this article, you probably understand that job
successful job seekers talk about what they have accomplished in
previous positions, and 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 employers, 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.

Going forward, you need to re-frame this data in terms of what is needed for the specific position you are applying for.

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 online, 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.

Ironically, you’ll need to rehearse these responses so you can deliver them in a style that appears to be totally spontaneous!  Rehearse
wherever you are alone and won’t feel silly talking out loud to
yourself, e.g., while driving, drying your hair, etc.  Want to hear a supportive refrain while practicing?  Try Frank Zappa’s 2005 The Classic InterviewsZappa Classic Interviews_7358270

Go hire one of Business Week’s Top 50 Hot Growth Companies

Image - business week
Assuming that you are experimenting with the concept of proactive job search, check-out this list of preeminent small companies. They've been selected by Business Week for "showing resilience in the face of a worsening economy." 

Why should job seekers give greater consideration to smaller companies, e.g. those with fewer than 500 employees?  Because this sector of the economy has been more nimble since 2003; they are most likely to seek innovators as they navigate the current economic downturn.

  • Beginning in 2004, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job creation moved from larger to smaller companies.  A few of the simple reasons:
    • Smaller companies need to hire to fuel and sustain their growth
    • Larger companies may be under the spell of "slash and burn" CEO's

Read the full article referenced above (by Richard Kirby) to think about small versus large employers. For our purposes, consider the following criteria when evaluating the Business Week Hot Growth Companies or performing a SWOT analysis on any potential employer.

Is the company focused on organic growth from the inside . . . or
growth through external M&A?

•  Does the company reward and promote high achievers?

•  Do they truly value their employees?

Perform your due diligence using the strategies suggested in 5 clues to your next big thing and answer these (and other) questions
before you decide to sign up with a new employer. 

Cross-cultural networking: a personal perspective


I was asked to present a workshop at a Career Fair sponsored by Univision on 10/20/07; this was the Spanish language television station’s first attempt to hold a career fair for the community in Philadelphia.  Networking was the topic I was asked to speak about, so I decided to illustrate the power of networking rather than talk about it. (decision influenced by my inability to speak Spanish fluently, or even well!)

I had asked my colleague and friend, Billie Sucher, for permission to have her poem translated by my Spanish-speaking son and his girlfriend so that I could share it with this group. Billie was honored and thrilled to know that her words may inspire people she would otherwise not reach.  The translation was able to retain both the meaning and the rhyme, and it conveyed the concept without the need for further explanation.: click here for the Spanish version (View this photo

So why is this love-fest an example of networking?  What is this thing we call networking?

  • Networking takes place when people are sincerely curious and open-minded; one party has to be interested in the work of the other to create an environment for networking to take place:
    • As Billie describes it, she initiated our relationship "over a fancy centerpiece at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY;" she commented on a blog post I had written. We became buddies, not just during the Conference but thereafter via e-mail and occasionally, via phone.  In May 2008, we’ll present a workshop to our Career Management Alliance colleagues…
  • Networking is a 400-level course: whoever initiates it has the responsibility for learning something about the other before making a connection; it helps if both parties are as interested in giving as in receiving:
    • Billie and I knew a little about each other via our respective blogging; that was the building block for a relationship where we serve as a resource and support for one another in our respective businesses.  We take turns using our ears twice as much as our mouth…
  • Unlike those who network for self-interest, we have nurtured our relationship; we realize that it must be reciprocal and on-going
    • Never treat your network like "tissues:" as if you can use them and throw them away when you are finished. Networks must be nurtured for a lifetime of career success.
  • Effective networking is using your imagination to consider how you might add value to or extend the work of someone else.
    • Billie shared the pre-publication version of her contribution to a Career Hub e-book (WOW Networking: Tips, Tricks & Tractics).  Apart from a "you go girl,"  I thought the poem may help to cross the cultural disconnect that may exist in presenting the concept to the constituents of UNIVISION.

So now Billie’s poem is on the web in English and in Spanish, and has crossed a geographic and cultural divide. Do you have a better idea of how this networking dance is done?  Have a story to share?  Your comments on this blog are encouraged!

To talk with Billie Sucher or read more of her perspectives on career transition, check-out her web site:

Posted by Karen P. Katz 

© Copyright Career Acceleration Network - Theme by Pexeto