Friday, 30 May 2014

What Makes a Great Place to Work?

There always seems to be a healthy two-way traffic between the best employers who are seeking the best candidates, and the highly competent individuals who are seeking employment with the best in the industry. This relationship becomes a win-win situation for both employer and employee. If the corporate environment enables workers to enjoy their work, they will remain motivated to report to work regularly. That prompts companies to offer various attractive perks and facilities to help them retain the best talent in their company. Such successful companies are often listed among prestigious lists in places like Fortune or Forbes Magazine.
Employers coming on top of Fortune lists provide a slew of amenities for their employees, such as, in house medical care, library, workout facilities, free meals, etc... For spending a substantial part of their day at the workplace, an environment conducive to working is appreciated by the workers. Some employers also offer the facilities of a healthy cafeteria and natural parks close to the working area.
Very strict rules pertaining to lunch break, tea sessions, etc., need not be enforced rigidly if there is a trust component between the employer and employee. Some companies provide flexible work schedules designed to suit the employees’ convenience. For example, certain employers offer an extended weekend of three days in lieu of an employee having worked for extended hours during the rest of the week.
Additionally, many esteemed companies in the field of engineering and software welcome creativity from employees. Companies that follow such practices will allot some part of the day to encourage workers to explore their talents.
Training & Development
Some of the best employers provide training to develop in-house personnel for management positions arising in the company, instead of hiring people from outside. That helps reducing employee turnover as it increases loyalty towards the company.
Some employers reimburse tuition expenses incurred for skill development programs, which need not necessarily relate directly to the job but could help personal growth and interests. Moreover, interaction between higher levels of management and junior staff helps to improve the process of learning for current and future employees.
Since medical coverage, benefits are necessary, many employers offer two weeks of sick leave to their employees. Well, sick leave is liable to be misused by employees who may utilize the same for vacation. Companies that really trust their employees would generally have a policy of unlimited sick leave, thus demonstrating confidence that employees won't misuse this facility.
Many employers go beyond the above-mentioned benefits and perks for their employees by encouraging the latter to participate in corporate events concerning community involvement and pension programs to help create a friendlier environment at the workplace. Volunteering for a good cause can be meaningful too.
Employers don't really offer all these benefits at the cost of their profits. On the contrary, all these facilities are conducive to having a motivated workforce resulting to increase production and hence profits.
Facilities like paid maternity leave and subsidized or internal daycare services enable workers to strike an appropriate balance between their work and personal lives. Companies ranked among the best places to work, usually provide these benefits. Policies like this convey that the employer realizes the needs of its employees to have a life beyond the workplace.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Starting A New Job: Hit The Ground Running

Once you have overcome the major hurdle of landing that dream job the hard work has only just begun.
Rightly or wrongly the impression you make within the first weeks and months at a new company is the one that tends to stick with you, so it is important to hit the ground running. I have always maintained that the first 100 days are the most important in a new job, so here are some tips to make the right impression from the very outset.
Give yourself a breather
It is important to start a new job in the right frame of mind and to be ready to take on the new challenge. Rather than jumping straight into a new role it makes sense to take the opportunity to give yourself a breather. Have a week or two off between jobs to recharge the batteries and to give yourself time to properly prepare for the new challenges ahead.
Do your research
You should have done your research during the application process but there is no harm in finding out as much as you can about your new employers. Talk to people who work for the company and spend some time on the internet looking for any information you can glean. If possible pop into your new office briefly and introduce yourself to your future colleagues. Remember that knowledge is power and the more information you have, the better prepared you will be for your new role. However do not get sucked into the trap of believing gossip or getting involved in any internal politics – this will not help you in terms of relaxing, and it could make a bad impression on others.
Dress for success
The way you are dressed on your first day at the office will tell your colleagues and boss exactly what sort of approach you are taking. If it is a highly professional environment you do not want to appear casual, because that is exactly how you will be taken. Things like scuffed shoes for example might seem like a minor detail, but they give off the impression that you do not pay enough attention to detail. The same applies in reverse – if the business is more relaxed and casual then you don’t exactly need to wear a three-piece suit! Take a look at your ‘work wardrobe’ and if necessary go out and get a few new items. It can be easy to let things slip if you have been at the same place for a long time. Dressing well and looking good will not only help to make the right impression - it will also help you to feel much more confident about yourself.
Have an open mind
It is important to remember that different organisations tend to do things in different ways. You have been chosen for your own skills and experiences but taking on a new job will mean learning new ways of doing things. Just because you have always gone about tasks in a certain way does not mean you have been taking the right approach for this particular company. The key is to be ready and willing to accept the changes that are almost certainly heading your way.
Be a self-starter
It is vital to be enthusiastic and full of energy when you start a new job. You will probably be given small tasks to start off with, but once these are done don’t be afraid to ask for more if you think you can handle it. If there’s one thing which impresses employers above everything, it is people who are proactive. The same applies to your colleagues - there are bound to be people on your team who need a hand with certain tasks and they will appreciate you giving them a hand.
Above all though, I would urge all new starters to have self-belief. Remember you have landed the job because your new company admired your abilities and personality – so let this shine through immediately.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Get Hired: 12 Hiring Manager Secrets

Here's a fact: hiring managers want to hire you. They go into every interview hoping that you'll be the one they choose to hire. If you don't get hired, it's because you've convinced the interviewer that you're not the person for the job.

Why sabotage yourself like that?

The "hiring" process starts well before your job interview and continues long after you get the job. Too many of us ignore our resumes and portfolios until the last moment when we need to put it all together in a rush when we start job-hunting. Your resume should be a living document that you're always building. Online resources like LinkedIn make it easier, but we have to make a conscious effort to be mindful of the way our career is progressing. Of course it's not practical to spend all of your time calculating and planning out your entire life. But you should spend a little time every week thinking "how will this activity affect my career" or "what should I be doing for the future."

The purpose of this article is to give you insider tips that will help you get inside a hiring manager's head and understand what they really want to see from employees. We want to give you the info you need to go into the interview and give the employer what they want. Not just SAY what the employer wants to hear, but legitimately give the employer what he/she needs from you as an employee. You may not be able to do all of these things at once. But you can start working on them today. It's never too late to turn around a sputtering career (or even to improve a successful career).

1. Make My Company Better
You get the job because you'll bring value to the company. Make sure you're bringing as much as possible. If you're replacing somebody, be better at the job role than the previous employee. Be prepared. Take it upon yourself to understand the company and the position so you don't need a lot of extra training. Be confident, enthusiastic and positive. You want the day that you start to be a better, more productive day for the company than the one before you got there. Make it your goal to improve the "seat productivity" of your position, not just replace it.

2. Don't Job Hop
Six jobs in the last five years? That doesn't speak so well about the likelihood that you'll give me a lot of value as an employee. Either you're going to take off for another position, have too much baggage to maintain a position OR you're just not capable enough. None of those qualities are attractive. Hiring managers aren't blind to the fact that people want to move upward and onward, but at least show me some loyalty. If you can stick around for two to four years at most of your positions, it shows me that you'll be around long enough to make an impact and that you're competent enough to be valuable.

3. Don't Job Squat, Either
Although you don't want to move around too much, you also don't want to look like you're married to a previous position. Unfortunately, the days of working 30 years for the same firm and retiring with a gold watch are gone for the most part. Staying at a position for too long can make it appear as if you're not confident or that you're scared to make progress. And you certainly don't want to show a hiring manager that you're going to want to start making changes because that's "how we always did it back at so-and-so company." Show life, vitality and confidence with the career moves you make.

4. Show Me What You Can Do
Back your credentials up. So many people put the burden on the employer to find out what you can do. That's wrong! The burden is on you. Get a certification that shows you can perform the job role. If you are just starting out in IT, look to gain your CompTIA A+certification, or Network+. If you are looking for an IT certification for a more seasoned professional, consider getting your CCNA certification or get MCITP training for your MCITP certification. Take a course. Give me evidence that you can do the job that you're applying for. And don't waste the hiring manager's time. Be qualified for the advertised position (44% of applicants are under-qualified).

5. Show Fresh Challenges
Expertise with new technologies, expansion of your scope and movement across boundaries are all qualities that show you're willing to improve. That's what a hiring manager wants, someone that's willing to improve personally and professionally. It's easy to maintain a status quo, follow orders, do the same things every day, collect a paycheck and go home. It's more valuable in the long run to have an employee that will stick his/her head out and recommend change. Caution! Make sure you look for improvements from the company's point of view. Adopting new technologies may make YOUR life easier, but have little to no benefit for the company. There's a difference between identifying legitimate areas for improvement and simply complaining about things in the office. And certainly be sure to display these challenges prominently on your resume, blog, LinkedIn and all of your other personal communication outlets.

6. Have Current Skills
Even if your company is still running Server 2000, you should be ready to make the migration BEFORE your company is. You don't want your current or potential employer to be forced to wait it out while you got up to speed. Be the person driving innovation. New stuff is fun! Most software is available on a trial basis for free, so it doesn't have to cost you a lot to stay up to date. Keep up with sites such as THIS SITE and THAT SITE to be aware of new releases and updates. Staying up to date allows you to bring the new technology to the table (see #5).

7. Hate Complacency (Employers Do)
Few things are more frustrating to a manager than an employee who won't take action and has to continually be told to perform. Be careful that you're resume doesn't display a lack of initiative, and especially don't let that show in an interview. When asked situational questions, be careful not to put the burden on the company for solutions. Instead of answering about how you'll follow policies and procedures or ask management for guidance, discuss how you'll take initiative and how you'll use your abilities. Employers would rather consider a risk-taker who isn't afraid to be wrong from time-to-time than a complacent

8. Don't Look Stupid on the Internet
Social Media makes it very tempting to be more and more transparent about your personal life. It can be easy to let your guard down and reveal facts that shouldn't be for public consumption. Now is the time to reel it back in. Carefully manage your privacy settings and closely monitor the content you allow to be seen publicly. Better yet, you may want to follow this rule: only post material that you'd show directly to your boss. It's important to be in control of your online presence. Employers Google your name, you should do the same to see what comes up.

Be purposeful about your online presence. In response to an online blog, one poster commented that this year they planned to "be more diligent at linking my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook strategies in order to facilitate more of a personal connection." This is a wise strategy you can employ for yourself. It's also important to keep to the topic at hand. Not all social media serve the same purpose. Look at what the "mission statements" are for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Twitter: "Discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world"

Facebook: "what's on your mind? / Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life."

LinkedIn: "Over 65 million professionals use LinkedIn to exchange information, ideas and opportunities"

Stick to the topic! Try not to include too much personal activity on your LinkedIn. Your contacts won't appreciate it. Don't use Facebook and LinkedIn for minute-by-minute updates, that's what Twitter is for. Use your social and professional media to your advantage, don't let it tear you down. Also, make sure that you use the highest integrity with your screen names, avatars, email addresses and even your passwords. No hiring manager wants to seriously consider a candidate with for an email address.

9. Finish Your Work
People aren't hired for the amount of work they do, it's the amount of work they complete. Too many people feel that if they show up and work for eight or nine hours then the job is done. That's not necessarily true. Did you get anything finished? Are any of the open loops on your desk closed by the end of the day? Until you've finished a project, the work you've done has little to no value to the company. Direct your focus toward finishing projects at work. When looking for a new position, be sure to highlight the work you've completed and to display an attitude that shows you're a closer. Develop clear objectives for yourself, with tangible, quantifiable outcomes. Hiring managers love to know that a potential candidate is someone who can recognize a task that needs to be done, and to follow it through to completion without a lot of direction from management.

10. Be Humble
This is a tough one. In the professional world, companies desire employees that put the needs of the company in front of the needs of the employee. You're there to serve the company. Do tasks that others may feel are beneath them. Don't be afraid to take risks because you may be wrong. Don't be afraid to voice opinions because you may not get buy-in. Make sure that you're not delaying an activity because it's personally unattractive to you. By taking one (or many) for the team, you show your loyalty to the company and you reduce the headaches of your supervisors. You wouldn't believe how highly valued these traits are in an employee. You don't have to be a pushover, but service with a smile goes a long way. Adopt this attitude at work, and it will show through during your interviews and your career.

11. Be an Awesome Communicator
Interpersonal and "soft" skills are a big buzz topic in the IT community. The difference between becoming an executive and working at a help desk forever is often found in a person's ability to communicate. Speak clearly and annunciate, don't mumble. Use eye contact (but don't stare). Smile! These are simple things you can do to win the favor of a hiring manager. They show you care and you're enthusiastic. Stick to the point in conversations. Be an excellent listener. When in an interview, makes sure you're answering the question that you've been asked. There are many fast and effective courses you can take that will help you communicate more clearly. They are just as important to your career as your technology training.

12. Make Me Want to Know You
Your resume and cover letter are the first pieces of information I have about you. Make sure they speak volumes.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

5 Reasons Why Startups Succeed

Entrepreneurs are superheroes as they all take the leap of faith and embark on a journey into the unknown. It takes a certain type of person to take on the responsibility of founding a company or working for a startup. The nature of a startup is one that contains sacrifices, emotional and physical investment, and pressure to perform.

On average, 9 out of 10 startups go out of business, and the remaining that are able to survive and succeed are the ones that capture the qualities outlined below.
1) Vision
A well-defined vision is a skill or gift that every company leader needs in order to cross the finish line. It will be the major force behind an entrepreneur’s success and will serve as a compass in tough times. A startup needs to envision how to monetize from the very beginning. The first dollar counts, especially for potential investors.

2) Budget Masters
A successful startup is efficient in managing its finances and able to operate very lean. Every angle should have its own budget assigned and unnecessary expenses should be avoided. It is important to know what the company needs in order to accomplish milestones and budget accordingly. When resources are limited, and time is of the essence, companies need to master the skill of doing more with less.

3) Determination
Strong determination is always necessary for success to take place. A successful startup emphasizes the significance of determination when building a business and never quits, especially when the road gets bumpy and scary. There are many challenges that will arise and the startup team needs determination to overcome these challenges.

Just like the book from Jim Collins “Good To Great”, if the right people are seated in the right seats of the bus, the startup will eventually find its direction towards success. Determination and persistence is a key component to making this fact happen.

4) Fundraising Skills
Cash flow is the blood line of any business. This means that businesses can be ruined with inadequate capital. Successful startups are the ones that have sufficient capital to run their business operations. The primary duty of a startup CEO is to be able to raise capital. A good way to raise money online is via equity and debt crowdfunding platforms like RockThePost, as it allows the startup to raise funds, in some cases, in just 60 days from accredited investors. This eliminates the need of doing an 8 month road show which is tiring and ultimately very unproductive for the business itself.

5) Execution
Lastly, having an idea is just the beginning and really, execution is 98% in determining each business’ success. For this part, the experience of the team is critical as their backgrounds will help towards making more good decisions than bad ones.

In summary, successful startups are always looking for opportunities to do something better by thinking outside of the box and constantly questioning the status quo. They learn from their mistakes and fix them quickly as they continue their long, challenging and soon-to-be successful journey.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Books To Change Your Life And Your Business

Books are such a great source of knowledge and when you find the right books that interest you, you become an overflowing fountain, spilling over with great ideas and stimulated on to do good stuff whether at home or at work. Getting to the end of a great book and being topped back up with ideas and enthusiasm is almost like a drug for me now; books have become addictive in a good way.
These are just the highlights of my book reading over the past months and years, my top few because if I list any more, you may feel a little overwhelmed of which one to pick first. Of course your reading list will be different to mine, but these are my top-notch selection for now. I may not have even read the best book of my life as yet, who knows, maybe you can recommend one.

3 books to change your life

1. Choose the life you want by Tal Ben-Shahar is a simple book to make you think. Packed full of the possible choices you can make in your life and what doing the opposite will bring you, it’s a great way to realize that perhaps there is a better way to be you. One to keep and read several times over your life to make sure you are the track you want to be. Pick it up and put it down, or read it straight through.
2. The start-up of you by Reid Hoffman takes you through a thought process about developing the brand of you. The light bulb moment for me from this book was that I didn’t have to build a multi million-dollar company to be successful; it could just be me, the start-up of me and maturing beyond.
3. How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie is always high up on my list of all time classics for interacting with others. In my view, this book should be a staple in all schools across the globe because if children were taught Dale’s principles, I think the world would be a much friendlier place. Always keep a copy of this book through your life and revisit it often.

4 books to change your business

1. The E-Myth revisited by Michael Gerber has been around for many years as simply The E-Myth but like many great books, updated versions are required to take into account how we do business in the present day. Told as a fable, it’s again a very easy to read and extremely enlightening book on why people start businesses and why the majority find it tough. When you realize we all fit into 3 different categories it’s easy to see just which one you are and what you need to do to survive.
2. Contagious by Jonah Berger is filled with great examples about why things have caught on, what has made them so special that millions of people have shared with others and how can you do the same. Hoping that something goes viral is not a strategy for doing so, there is a science behind it and Jonah reveals all.
3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini is a great follow up book to read after Dale Carnegies bestseller above. It’s not about manipulation, more about just getting the best result you can from a meeting or sale or interaction by getting the required 'yes’.
4. Made to stick by Chip and Dan Heath is a fascinating read again packed with real life stories. So what makes an urban legend stick, and some real life stories forgettable? How did some of our greatest movies get massive budgets to proceed when there was virtually no information available? How do newspapers get you to read on from the headline? Get the book and find out.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Simplest Way to Avoid Wasting Time

I recently met with a capable executive who is passionate about his work and good at it. The problem is he pursues so many initiatives that by the end of the year people don't really know what he has accomplished. They know he has done “a bunch of stuff” but in the blur of busyness they can’t be quite sure what it adds up to. It's the career equivalent of Apple's undisciplined approach of "add more product lines" before Steve Jobs' return. Their answer to everything was “another product” until at they’re peak they reached 330 different products. It almost sank the company.
The reason for my meeting with the executive in question was a good one: he wanted me to run essentialism workshops to every person in his company. Still, with no sense of irony, he also wanted to roll out five other workshops. In the last few months he has added two different leadership competency models, a values list and much more. He is enthusiastic about it all. However, it has left him making only a tiny amount of progress in too many directions.
My advice to him was to become far more selective. Instead of trying to do everything, popular, now we can pursue the right things, for the right reasons at the right time. By doing fewer things, better we can make a higher contribution.
Returning to the Apple story, Steve saved Apple by reducing the number of product lines from 330 to 10 products. The mantra was to say no to almost everything in order to say yes to a few "insanely great products." It is a principle that can work for companies and also the people who work for those companies. Here's how:
1. Explore more; commit less. One paradox of essentialism is that essentialists exploremore than their nonessentialist counterparts. Essentialists are incredibly selective about what they commit to but in the interim period, they can be curious about lots of things. They just don't go all in until they find something that's a total 10-out-of-10 'Yes! This is the thing I should be doing.' Think of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive saying day after day, "This might sound crazy but..." Almost all of the ideas were crazy until, as Jony put it, eventually an idea was so great it took the air out of the room.
2. Negotiate the nonessentials. For a lot of people it is laughable to imagine saying "No!" to a senior leader. They worry, for good reason, that such a blunt response will immediately be a career limiting move. However, it is a false dichotomy to believe that "either I have to say yes to everything and capitulate or I have to say no and be seen as insubordinate." When we believe nonessentials are nonnegotiable we lose a lot of power.
3. Conduct a career offsite. Sometimes we spend more time planning our vacation than planning our careers. One cure to this is to schedule a quarterly offsite. We can take a few hours every few months to think about the bigger picture questions: "If I can only achieve three things over the next three months what should they be?" and "Where do I want to be five years from now?" When we don't take time to ask these more strategic questions we become a function of other people's agendas. We are left to react to the latest email and can become rudderless; blown about by every wind of corporate change.
4. Come back to your purpose. My friend and "ocean advocate", Lewis Pugh, has designed an extraordinary career around his professional purpose: to create National Parks in the Oceans. His clarity of purpose enables him to achieve the (almost) impossible. Among other things, he swims in the most extreme water conditions imaginable. In one recent TED talk he describes swimming in the North Pole in temperatures of minus 1.7 degrees (see it here). He says, "The most powerful form of self-belief comes from believing in something greater than you. Because when you’ve got purpose, everything becomes possible." So when you are exhausted or getting pulled in a million directions come back to your purpose.
5. Give up the idea that success means pleasing everyone. Thinking we can keep everyone happy simply by saying yes to everyone is false. It leads to everyone feeling frustrated. Alternatively, when we wisely push back we sacrifice an ounce of popularity in the moment, but we trade it for respect in the long run.
6. Celebrate the reality of tradeoffs. Instead of asking, "How can I make it all work?" Ask, "What are the tradeoffs I want to make?" Make them deliberately and strategically. Don't try to straddle every request. As Michael Porter has written, "Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs. It's about deliberately choosing to be different."
In the end, it is this idea of choosing to be different that can be so powerful. Designing a career of contribution doesn't mean adding layers. Instead, it is about becoming more of who we are already are by chiseling away those things that don't feel right.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

How to Build a Successful Team

Selecting the right people is just the beginning of building a successful team for your business. However, you cannot simply expect that your team alone will transform your business and take it to its next level of performance.

It is equally important to have the following six elements in place: 

1. Strong Leadership: 

Tom Landry, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said "Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control."

Strong leadership requires creating a working environment that encourages the cooperation of your team members. By encouraging and inspiring them, they in turn, will inspire and encourage the customers.

The goal of strong leadership is to maximize the "discretionary effort" that team members provide to meet team or company goals. That's the extra effort people provide, if they want to. Too often employees will do just what they have to do in order to get by.

In his best-selling business book Good to Great, author Jim Collins identifies common leadership elements that top performing organizations have in place to allow them to tap into this wealth of discretionary effort.

The most important element is what Collins calls "Level 5 Leadership." While these leaders have the ability to motivate their teams to pursue a clear and compelling vision and generate higher performance, they also demonstrate a unique blend of personal humility and professional will as they lead from the front to create the discretionary effort from all team members.

Another important element is the "the window and the mirror" concept to both protect and energize the leader's team. When things are going well, “Level 5” leaders look out the "window" and credit their team for the success; when things are going poorly they look in the "mirror" and take the responsibility for poor performance.

2. Common Goals: 

Teams need to understand what their common business goals are and those goals need to supersede all individual goals. Sports teams provide an excellent example of this concept.

If the team understands that a common goal is to win the championship, then it will be easier for all team members to focus and concentrate on the team goal. If one or more team members are focused on individual goals, such as winning the scoring title, the performance of the entire team can be negatively affected.

Business is similar in this respect. If the salesperson is just focused on bringing in orders regardless of the cost to produce and ship that order, the common goal of maximizing profit will be at risk.

As people do what they are recognized and rewarded for, it is critical that the recognition and reward structure for individuals and for teams is consistent with the company's common goals.

Setting common goals for the business always starts with the owner's vision. This must be regarded as the central aim and leaders must enlist the support of all team members to inspire them to do the things that they have to do.

3. Rules of the Game: 

Employees also need to understand the rules that govern the way the owner conducts the business. The rules must be written down and made available to them.

If the owner doesn't provide employees with the "rules of the game" they will go outside the boundaries.

The process of setting the rules of the game will include specifying company culture and values as well as ensuring that individual roles and responsibilities are defined with positional contracts, and operations and procedures manuals.

Without providing defined rules including the company's culture, the owner or manager will need to rely on policing to run the business. Also, if the owner doesn't establish the culture, the employees will create a de facto culture that may not be to the owner's liking or in the best interests of the company.

4. Action Plan: 

A key element for a winning team is a strong action plan that is spelled out in clear and unambiguous terms to all members of the team. While the common goals referred to above, help 
identify what the owner and the business want to do, the action plan identifies how the goals will be achieved. A good action plan will assign ownership of tasks, identify what resources are required, set timelines for when tasks should be completed, and provide measurement details of the current status of the tasks over the defined time-periods.

5. Support Risk-Taking: 

Business is all about risk and reward. To make the business grow, a leader must be willing to support prudent risk-taking by the team. If the owner doesn't allow risk-taking, the business will lag behind market leaders. The level of risk-taking is usually related to the company's culture.

6. 100 percent Inclusion and Involvement: 

The art of inclusion is driven by communication to all members of the team. By providing 100 percent inclusion, the owner can then require 100 percent involvement as an expectation of the organization's culture.

This will lead to trust and a comfort level by the owner to delegate responsibilities.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Your resume will get more calls if you do this

In these challenging times, so many resumes come in for a single job opening that companies have trouble finding the best candidate. Also, interested applicants have difficulty getting their resume in front of someone that will invite them to an interview. A successful resume is one that gets you through the door, generating a job interview for you. Once you are in the building, you take your best shot at winning that job.
Employers are looking for the BEST FIT. They have a problem and they need to solve it quickly. They will only take a few seconds to look at your resume and they will quickly determine if you're worth their time to talk to.
From my experience, these are the most common problems with the resume:
  • CAREER OBJECTIVE - People like to announce their career objective and aspirations on the top of their resume. We have been led to believe that this shows you to be a highly motivated and ambitious individual. This is a mistake. The decision maker is wasting valuable seconds reading about your career objective and may move on to the next resume. No one cares about your career objective. Nobody cares. NOBODY. The decision maker has a problem and they want the answer to just one simple question, "CAN YOU HELP ME SOLVE IT?"
  • EMPLOYMENT HISTORY - The recruiter or the decision maker will quickly glance over the job descriptions of your previous jobs, looking for commonalities, similar skills or experience that match the job opening that you're applying for. If your job description doesn't clearly show that, it's over. You're done.
Here is a quick and easy way to correct it, improving your chances of getting a phone call:
  • Replace Career Objective with QUALIFICATIONS - The recruiter or decision maker is looking for someone that closely matches the job opening so make it easy for them by listing all of skills and experience at the very top of your resume. If they want to read the rest of your resume, they can, but they don't have to. You told them everything they needed to know. You gave them what they were looking for. If the position requires a certain level of experience in a particular skill (ex: 5 years of customer service experience), add up all of your years of customer service experience from every job you've had and list it in bullet points. If a college degree is required, list it here. If you think a particular skill is helpful (ex: fluent in Cantonese), list it here.
For example:
  • Bachelor's degree
  • 7 years of customer service experience
  • 3 years of outside sales experience
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • 6 years of healthcare experience, etc...
Hope this helps!

Monday, 19 May 2014

The 5 qualities of successful young leaders

The best way to become an effective leader is to disregard it as a goal and instead focus on a learning journey that combines formal experiences in a workplace with selective experiences of your own making.
I recall in my early years that volunteering in different environments enabled me to test my capacity in unfamiliar circumstances with people from all walks of life. In many ways, these were far more enriching moments than my nine to five jobs provided me.
I began to learn the importance of exposure and reflection as a way to live a big life. Each time I exposed myself to a new situation, I knew I had learnt something valuable and I reflected on my response to it. This in turn kept redefining who I was and what I was capable of. I began to realise and continue to believe that we can all be borderless in our mindset if we keep testing our own capacity in different circumstances. It is my way of life.
Here are my five priorities for young people interested in becoming effective leaders:
1. Pursue your passions
Sound cliché? Well, I am not worried if it does. My reality is that I am yet to see an effective leader who is not working in an area that they are passionate about. The lucky ones know their passion early, but for many, they must simply keep looking.
When you combine passionate pursuit with your work you have an energy that others notice. It’s in your body language. People are naturally attracted whether they like you or not. Great leaders mobilize others with their authentic energy.
Don’t settle for existence ahead of a leadership adventure you believe in.
2. Listen and observe
If you want to lead you need to be a champion at listening and observing. Everyday, the people around you are expressing themselves in word, manner, body language and actions. To date, I remain stunned at how blind so many are to the messages people express in different ways.
If you want to be the leader amongst leaders, learn about the personalities of the people you work with. Understand their strengths, weaknesses and motivations. Invest in them through conversation. Learn about their life experiences and marry your approach to different people in a manner consistent with their character.
Great communication comes from a genuine human interest in others.
3. Empathy
Ironically, there is no greater strength than the expression of empathy. In leadership, always take the opportunity to exhibit your understanding when a colleague faces difficult times, whether that be as a result of their own actions or not. A moment of kindness when a person is vulnerable can present a profound opportunity to recast a relationship and allow confidence to be built or rebuilt.
A timely kindness can turn a person’s life around.
4. Personal identity
The most effective leaders are not defined by their own success or the title they hold. You will see on many occasions a person’s life unravel when they lose their leadership role. This is often because they have unwittingly allowed their title to be their identity and confidence. Throughout your life, always ensure that you do not align your identity to your title. Not only will it make you more tentative in conducting your activities, it will shatter you if the title is taken away.
Your role should not define you.
5. Self-awareness
From today, do everything you can to understand the impact you have on others around you. It took me a long time to begin to appreciate how my actions and behaviours impacted on others. Only when self-awareness becomes a strength will you be on your leadership journey. I have seen many hard working and well meaning people miss out on their earned opportunity for promotion simply because they continued to have negative impacts on others without ever recognising it.
Test your level of self-awareness with those you love and like.
So, if you are new to leadership or on the track towards it, I hope these five tips help to ensure you are focused on the learnings up the ladder, not what it looks like from the top.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

How to Choose Between Job Offers Using Science

Suppose you get a phone call one evening about a great job offer from the CEO of your dream company. Just as you finish the conversation with a promise to respond with an answer, another call comes in.
It's your former mentor. He'd like you to join the executive team of his partnership: there you'd name your position, have a great salary and choose your perks. Again, promising to get back to him promptly, you hang up.
Strolling into work the next morning, you're greeted by your company's Chairman. She announces that the board wants to make you the next CEO once the existing CEO retires in a few weeks. It's the promotion you never expected but always hoped for. You're so overwhelmed you ask for a minute to mentally check whether you're, in fact, still alive.
Back in your office, your head's racing but then suddenly it settles on one, horrifying question: "How will I decide?"
Perhaps your gut reaction is to quickly jot down a list of all the pro's and con's of each job offer. You might even make a top 10 list of the most important features of each, then rank them and choose. Unfortunately, science shows that such approaches are often riddled with mental traps.
Focusing too much on one major feature could lead you to overlook a number of awful surprises in the making. That's a cognitive bias called, "focalism" or "anchoring".
In the other extreme, considering too many features in your analysis could lead you to overweight unimportant factors (such as the size of your office window) and underweight important factors (such as career trajectory). That's a mental bias called the "paradox of choice".
In the worst case scenario, the paradox of choice can even lead you to a state of absolute confusion and perplexity: where you delay your decision altogether and miss out on one or all of the opportunities.
What then can you do? Fortunately, decision science has an interesting tool that can help. It's called, "stochastic dominance".
Sexy sounding enough to be used in a pickup line, yet powerful enough to cut through the cognitive biases just mentioned, stochastic dominance can help you select the opportunity that's "most likely" the better option, considering what you know at the time you have to make the decision.
Suppose, for example, that the three most important features to you in a job are Salary, Career Trajectory and Location. On the surface, comparing jobs based upon these criteria seems easy. Take the one with the highest salary, the best position and the most ideal location, right?
Not! In fact, all three of these features are typically subject to numerous uncertainties. Salary may fluctuate based upon the company's performance, not yours. Career Trajectory may be held up by internal politics and Location may be too far from civilisation (i.e., no Whole Foods).
This is where stochastic dominance helps. Using it, you would evaluate each job's features taking uncertainty into account.
Here's how it works in three steps:
Step 1. List the key features/dimensions that a given job opportunity 'must-have' for you to take it seriously.
As I said above, these could be Salary, Career Trajectory, Location, etc.
Step 2. For each job opportunity, score (on a scale of 1 to 5, say) the features in relation to that particular job. Then compare each job, side-by-side, using the scores.
For example, Job A might be with an established company that pays a regular (i.e., almost certain) bonus. If the Job A's base salary is already high (and you expect the bonus to be good), you'll give Job A a score of "5" in the Salary dimension.
Job B, however, is with a startup. The Salary base is good, but the bonus could either be very high, or very low. Net-net, you expect the Salary + bonus to be a bit less with Job B, so you give Job B a score of "4" in the Salary dimension. Comparing the two, Job A stochastically dominates Job B in Salary terms.
Proceed like this in scoring and comparing all the other must-have features (i.e., Career Trajectory, Location, etc.).
Step 3. Choose the job that clearly dominates in at least one dimension and is at least as good as the others in terms of the other dimensions.
Job A (which, again, dominates Job B in Salary terms) is stochastically dominant overall IF it scores at least as high as Job B in all the other dimensions (i.e., Career Trajectory and Location). If that's the case, you choose Job A!
Another way of saying this is: choose the job that dominates all others in at least one important feature and where you're no worse off in any other dimension.
Sexy, right? There's just a few catches. Ties occur if Job A is dominant in one feature and Job B is dominant in another. Break the tie by flipping a coin, staying put at your current job or ranking the features, comparing the scores again and taking the job that dominates in the highest ranked feature.
A second catch relates to how you score. Use the same method of scoring each feature across jobs. If you use Glassdoor to assess salary for one job, don't use your buddy's drunken opinion for the other.
A third catch relates to how much you personally like to take risks. Thus far, I've only discussed "first-order stochastic dominance". However, if you're one of those people who really hates the unknown, then "second order stochastic dominance" (SOD) is more appropriate.
SOD would suggest you take the job with less uncertainty and an acceptable, overall, anticipated experience. Hence, take Job A if the features it promises are more certain or more clear to you and if you anticipate situations where you might be worse off at Job B. (Of course, you may kick yourself for being so risk averse later…)
A fourth and final catch relates to the number of dimensions you consider in scoring. You can use as many as you like, but you should focus on those absolute, MUST-HAVES. Going too much beyond this brings you back to the paradox of choice.
Admittedly, stochastic dominance is still a geeky way to choose between jobs. However, it can save you errors in thinking incorrectly about such an important decision.