An Olympic Bolt from the Past – Seth Godin

March 1, 2010

I mentioned recently how much I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s writing. Here’s another – just as the the Vancouver Winter Olympics have ended, and what a finish for the Men’s hockey team! – he has one of those uncomfortable questions we need to ask ourselves in our jobs, our lives and especially for a new career seeker: Are you a torchbearer? Here’s the post in it’s entirety:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Olympics. To me, most of the pageantry is hackneyed and off-putting — and I’ve never forgiven them for not including Ultimate Frisbee as a sport. Most of all, what’s the deal with curling?

But one part of the Olympics that fascinates me is the torch relay that kicks off the event. Apparently a riff on some legend from ancient Rome (or ancient Greece, I can never remember), the torch relay involves carrying a single flame from one spot to another — preferably a spot that’s pretty far away.

Unlike every other moment of the Olympics, this one focuses all of our attention on a single person, a single detail. No multiple-event, three-ring circus here. It’s one runner, one flame. If the torchbearer falls, it’s a big deal. If she doesn’t make it to the next runner, she lets down everyone ahead of her in line, as well as all of the runners who carried the torch before her.

When people in the workplace confront shift, rift, zooming, and all of the other challenges that make up business life, there is one thread that runs through all of the choices that they make: Either they’re torchbearers, or they’re not.

In 2000, I spent some time working with friends at Flatiron Partners, one of the biggest Internet venture firms on the East Coast. Entrepreneurs think that the selection process used by VCs is a big mystery. They’re dying to know how VC firms decide who gets the big bucks and who gets nothing. The answer is surprisingly simple.

When venture-capital firms look for entrepreneurs on whom to risk their money, they aren’t searching for a great idea, or even great credentials. No, what they’re searching for is this: the certainty that the person who brings them a business idea is going to carry the torch for that idea as long as it takes, that the idea will get passed on, and that the business will make it across the finish line.

The really great startup companies in Silicon Valley, the ones that overcome every obstacle and manage to persist, even when it looks as if they’re going to fail — those companies are run by torchbearers. If there is one thing that separates Silicon Valley from almost any other place I’ve been, it’s not the technology, the traffic jams, or the lack of a decent Italian restaurant — it’s the culture. The place is teeming with torchbearers, with folks who are willing to take responsibility for carrying a flame.
As more and more of us emigrate to Free Agent Nation, a place where more and more people are their own chief executives, the trend toward rewarding torchbearers will only increase. The biggest chasm in our society has become the gap between people who embrace the torchbearer’s responsibility to customers, investors, and companies, and those who are just there for the job.

A lot of folks whom I talk to speak wistfully about what they would do if they were “in charge.” I’ve got news for them: If they’re willing to be in charge, people will put them in charge! In my view, the huge rewards that we’re seeing for people who are brave enough, crazy enough, and talented enough to carry the torch for a new business are entirely justified. Why? Because there aren’t nearly enough torchbearers around.

In 1999, more money was spent to fund new business ventures than in any other year in the history of the world. Yet a huge amount of money sat uninvested, because there was no place to invest it. Are we really out of good ideas? No way. I’ve got a file cabinet filled with them, and you probably know of a few as well. Is there a shortage of engineers who are capable of implementing those ideas? Nope. There are plenty of engineers too.

So, if it’s not a lack of money, ideas, or engineers that is slowing down our shift to the new economy, what is it? Exactly the same thing that’s holding up your company’s transition to a new way of doing business — the absence of someone who is willing to stand up, look everyone in the eye, and say, “I’ll make it happen.”

Here’s how I know that I’m talking to a torchbearer:

First, torchbearers don’t make excuses. Our current economic good times won’t last forever. You won’t always be able to found a company and go public in less time than it takes to have a baby. At some point, the venture-capital funds will dry up. And, when those tough times come, they will present a perfect opportunity for the pretenders to fold their tents. Filled with vitriol and busy looking for a lawyer so that they can sue someone, these entrepreneurial also-rans will find a way to blame their troubles on other people. Real torchbearers run uphill with the same grace and style that they bring to gliding downhill.

Second, torchbearers often attract a crowd. People are fascinated by folks who are willing to carry responsibility. All too often, people add their own burdens to those that their leader must already carry — but, in any case, they’re usually delighted to follow along. And sometimes these folks are loyal and hard-working enough to follow a torchbearer uphill as well as downhill.

Third, most torchbearers don’t realize how unique they are, how powerful their role is, or how hard their task is. Even though they could make outrageous demands and insist on all kinds of special treatment, most of them are happy just to perform their role and to handle their task.

Fourth, torchbearers often care more about forward motion than they do about which route to take. You won’t find them tied up in endless strategy meetings, looking for the perfect solutions. Instead, you’ll find them out on the road, picking their way through boulders and weeds — moving, moving, moving, because they realize that moving is often the best way to get where they’re going.

Fifth, and most important, real torchbearers don’t stop until they finish. In the life of any torchbearer, there’s a balance between devotion to duty and the pursuit of joy. A torchbearer never forgets about or shortchanges a duty, even when that means postponing joy.

In established companies, the refrain that I hear most frequently is “Well, we’d be doing great if [insert person or department, along with pejorative adjective] would just get [his/her/its] act together.” Many previously great companies, both big and small, are having a lot of trouble dealing with all of the changes and rifts that the new economy is bringing to their doorsteps. Why? Because in many companies, the torchbearers have left the building. Either the folks in charge have forgotten what it takes to practice true leadership (after all, they’ve made it, the company has hit its marks, and now it’s “Miller time”), or they’ve left and been replaced by a different kind of management.

The point here isn’t that people in top management are unwilling to embrace change. The point is that the people who are busy pointing fingers and whining about “those guys” are demonstrating that they’re not torchbearers.

If you’re waiting for someone else to lead you to a better way of doing business, then reckon with this Olympic-size news flash: Settle in. It’s going to be a long wait.

All of a sudden, in every company in every country, torchbearers are in high demand. Everybody is trying to figure out where to go. And, much more important, they’re trying as hard as they can to find someone who will take them there: someone who will walk through walls and over hot coals, someone who won’t give up until the job is done.

Intrinsic to being a torchbearer is recognizing that you bear the torch for someone else. In our increasingly “me”-centered society, it’s easy to worry about increasing the value of the Brand Called You, while letting someone else carry your company’s or your investor’s torch. Torchbearers do both.
In a small town in Georgia, a woman named Karen Watson faced such a challenge head-on. Several years ago, her friends and neighbors were complaining about the way that blacks in that town were treated. There was an undercurrent of racism, and, in particular, blacks were being tracked to lower-level classes in school.

For a while, Watson and her neighbors appealed to civil-rights organizations, waiting for some big shot to come to town and save them. Then it dawned on Watson that maybe, just maybe, nobody was ever going to come — and that the person who could make a difference was her.

So she stood up and took charge. She taught herself what she needed to know. She made a commitment. And the organization that she built, the Positive Action Committee, has made a huge difference in her community, generating change in several areas. Watson took responsibility — for her town and for her neighbors’ town. She is a torchbearer.

So could you be a torchbearer? Are torchbearers born or made? Here’s my guess: Many of us have the torchbearer gene, but for some of us, it lies dormant until something awakens it. Some parents raise their children to be torchbearers from birth. Others do whatever they can to persuade their kids to hide it. We’re certainly not organizing our schools or our society to reward children who demonstrate torchbearer qualities.

But I think that you can awaken the torchbearer within. I think that most people, given the right reason, can find the intestinal fortitude to carry a flame across the finish line.

Now, I’m not talking about working hard, or being dedicated, or putting your mission first. Being a torchbearer has nothing to do with how late you work at night, or whether you give your cell-phone number to your boss. No, I’m talking about the people with that rare skill, the ability to dig deep when the need arises — to get past the short-term pain and to pull off an act that few would have believed possible.
In the new economy, people are doing things that have never been done before. Faced with the unprecedented, in an environment that’s unstable, many people say, “It can’t be done.” The torchbearer is the one who does it. Roger Bannister did more than set a record when he ran a mile in less than four minutes. He showed the world that anyone else could do that as well. He broke a time barrier, and he changed the way that everybody trained for a race.

Are you a torchbearer? Probably. The challenge is to find the right project, the right challenge, the right moment — and then to do it. Once you’ve shown that you can do that, the world will beat a path to your door.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile
JP Headshot1

Weekly Top 3 Job Search Tips

January 11, 2010

Here are my top 3 articles on job search tips I’ve found since the New Year began. These are compiled from the many articles and blogs I read on the economy, jobs and the best strategies for finding them.
1. First up is from Polly Pearson, who reached out to me after I mentioned the excellent e-book 100 Job Search Tips from FORTUNE 500 Recruiters.
Turns out Polly, who is VP Employment Brand and Strategy Engagement at EMC and was the co-creator of the e-book, has a terrific blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Ask yourself how you are staying up to date on your profession. If it involves learning from people in your department or company, going to an annual conference, or being a member of a professional organization, that is not enough. Get Better At What You Do.

Action: Connect with thought leaders in the space you want to know more about or master. Don’t leave anything “hot” for the “young kids,” or the people with seniority. Learn about it. Thanks to Google, Bing, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon, and good old fashioned volunteering via personal outreach, anything you want to know about is just a click, or request, away. 99% of information and connection with the thought leaders in the space you wish to master is free.

Ask yourself (and reply honestly!) if you are leveraging the resources at your disposal today. Get Better At Using What Is Available to You.

There are LinkedIn professional groups on just about every topic. In these groups, people are having real-time discussions and solving real-time problems. By listening to, and eventually joining, the conversation you’ll pick something up. This will make you more valuable at your current job — and people you work with will start to notice. As chief salesperson and chief marketing officer, how are you making sales calls, building relationships, and looking for potential space to advertise? Now is not the time to be meek or shy. You need to be proud of the product you are selling.

Are you recruiting recruiters? This was called to my attention just this week by JP McDermott over on Don’t forget to market yourself (and this means many contact attempts) to the people with the jobs! Understand they are busy, but also make sure they know your elevator pitch and how you can help them. Check out Polly’s full article here.

2. Next up is Polly’s EMC colleague and Personal Branding expert and best selling author, Dan Schwabel. His blog Personal Branding has a very good post on job boards and their new role in your social job search. Here’s an excerpt:

If you’re a job seeker, or you were in the past, then you know what a job board is. It’s a database of “open” positions at companies looking to hire specific talent and they are searchable by multiple filters, such as geography and company name. They make money per job listing and have other advertising options, such as banners. In November, The Conference Board reported that job postings were down by 83,000 in October. Other figures I’ve seen over the past few years have shown the decline in job postings, not just because of the economic turmoil, but due to the high costs associated with each posting.

I’ve spoken a lot about the demise of job searching and the rise of “people searching” in the past. The idea behind this concept is that we get jobs through people (you get interviewed by a person, not a fax machine) and hiring managers and recruiters are freely accessible on online social networks. It all comes back to a relationship driven system, instead of a job board driven database. That is not to say that you should ignore job boards altogether. Read Dan’s full post here.

3. Lastly, Jason Alba, founder of job search website JibberJobber, discusses how Twitter can be used networking. I’m still on the fence about Twitter – there’s no doubt it’s incredibly popular, but I’ve wondered about it’s effectiveness as a job search tool. I’m slowly coming around – Jason asks the same question and uses Keith Ferrazzi’s recent trip to Guatemala to make a point. The story is pretty amazing, too. Read it here.

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile
JP Headshot1

Top 3 Job Search Tips of the Week

December 20, 2009

It’s time for the top 3 job search tips this week I’ve found from the scores of blogs and articles I read and pass along. Also, I will be looking for your votes on which is your favorite. Feel free to forward this link to your friends in transition.

1. The first is a post from the blog Interns Over 40 on How Older Workers Can Find Work by Eve Tahmincioglu. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s a good idea to concentrate your job search on growth industries, advises Jeri Sedlar, who moderates a group on boomer social networking Web site and is the author of “Don’t Retire, Rewire!” Some areas to consider, she notes, include energy, health care, government and education.

But no matter what job you go for, you have to start believing in yourself and get across how great you are to a prospective employer, she stresses. “Imagine you are sitting on a shelf in grocery store,” she recommends. “Why would someone want to buy you? Should you be repackaged?”

Repackaging means updating skills or learning new ones, and being prepared to walk into a room with enthusiasm rather than despair and desperation. That doesn’t mean you have to go for a four-year college degree or go get your MBA. Experts suggest taking a few courses at a community college or online.

Start letting everyone you know you’re looking for a job, including former co-workers, friends and family. And make sure you have that two-minute elevator speech down so you can articulate what you’re looking for clearly and concisely. “Don’t just hand someone a resume,” Sedlar says.

There are a host of Web sites out there that offer job listings and job-seeking advice. In addition to, which lists a host of companies that are older-worker friendly, Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin, recommends these sites as a good place to start:,,

We’ve all heard so much about the aging of the work force and how older workers will someday be in the driver’s seat when it comes to employment. Unfortunately, the economic climate today has put a squeeze on many 50-plus workers, Toedtman says.

And things probably won’t change drastically, he says, “until people develop portable skills and until employers value experience.”

2. Next up is another from the WSJ’s ‘Laid Off and Looking’ blog.
I have been highlighting the latest trend in recruiters using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to find candidates – here’s another major corporation doing just that.

By the time a job opening is posted, there’s already a virtual pile-up of hundreds of resumes. And while it’s still a worthwhile strategy, John Campagnino, senior director of global recruitment at consulting firm Accenture, suggests that job seekers take time to build relationships to break into the firm once positions open up. Mr. Campagnino advises to “focus on social media and where you can, make personal connections through an employee,” because “one of the things that you don’t want to do is just send [your resume] to a Web site and hope for the best, especially if there aren’t specific openings.”

Here, Mr. Campagnino talks about Accenture’s recruiting strategies:

Where does Accenture find candidates that are not applying to official openings?

We are sourcing candidates via social networking venues. They need to be out there on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, [and] Twitter because that’s where many corporate employers look to source quality candidates. It’s not only being out there so companies can source them directly, but it’s also being out there to build their own network in the market.

How important are social networks to your hiring strategies?

We are making our people the number one source for talent, and we just kicked off [the emphasis on social networking] over the last six months. My intention is to take our number today of 25% [directly-sourced employees] and bring it over 40% in the next two years. If people are trying to get into a company, the best way is through your internal contacts.

If someone is recommended by an employee does it get his or her resume to the top of the pile?

You’re always at a distinct advantage being represented by an employee. We have a pretty sophisticated system — it auto-matches and prioritizes employee referrals above everything else. When a recruiter comes into [his or] her office, the top listed people are always the employee referrals.

When job seekers get in touch with someone at the company, what’s a common mistake?

There’s no excuse today for not having a good level of understanding of what any company does. If you are going to reach out to an organization [we] should have a reasonable expectation that the [you] would understand the work that we do.

3. And finally a whimsical yet fascinating look from Thom Singer’s ‘Some Assembly Required’ blog at the things that have changed in the last decade (it is the end of the decade, you know!)

What’s next?

This decade is coming to an end.

It came in with all the attention on Y2K and is going out with our world forever changed. Many things, big and small, have morphed our society: The terrorist attacks on 9-11, the mass adoption of cell phones, and the changes in communication due to social media are just a few things that have impacted the ways we live.

Trends come and go. Products and services rise and fall in their impact. Everything has been changing since the beginning of time.

New York Magazine has a current list of the things that have gone obsolete from our lives in the last ten years. This includes:

The Rolodex – We all have databases and cell phones where we keep our contact information.

The Answering Machine – Voicemail in our phones has replaced the need for a separate machine.

The Lickable Stamp – Self adhesive rules the day.

Foldable Paper Road Maps – Three letter: G-P-S.

Cathode Ray Tube Television – Flatscreen TV’s outsell the old style now.

Incandescent Light Bulb – Already banned in Europe for environmental reasons, will soon be phased out in US.

Paid Pornography – They claim everyone gets their porn for free.

Smoking in Bars – Hmmm, I guess that depends on where you live.

Fax Machine – It was just a fad. A 25 year fad, but gone none the less (we all use email and PDF).

Hydrox Cookie – What? I didn’t even notice, but it is true…. one can only find Oreo Cookies now. I loved the Hydrox. RIP.

Cassette Tape – Now with it’s distant cousin the 8-Track.

French Franc – Euro.

Floppy Disc – I remember when thumb drives appeared, now they are king.

Phone Book – One just arrived on my porch last week. They had merged the white and yellow pages into one, as there is no advertising in it any more. Hello Google.

Polaroid Photo – Don’t count Polaroid out just yet, they are looking at releasing some new products.

Bank Deposit Slips – Ummmm I still use these.

Subway Token – I live in Austin, this city has avoided any real mass transit for decades, so I have no idea.

Interesting list of things that have gone away (or almost) in the last decade, but it makes me wonder what we will be talking about having had its time gone by in 2019.

Think about it. The phone book? Who would have guessed that this staple would now be a joke thanks to the internet and Google. Could Google be yesterday’s news tomorrow?

The hot social media properties of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others could vanish as fast as they arrived when something new comes along.

Maybe the internal combustion engine could be gone in a decade as new ways to power transportation are discovered and fine tuned.

If the recession does not end, maybe jobs could become obsolete (okay, that was a joke)

I believe that the speed at which products and services appear and get wide spread adoption is increasing. The “new new” thing is coming… but what it it?

What is next?

Which is your favorite this week?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile
JP Headshot1

Is Age Discrimination Real?

December 18, 2009

I have been hearing comments lately from over-50 workers why they don’t use Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter in their job search. When asked why, the usual responses are: I’m concerned about identity theft, I’m not very computer literate, or it’s just for kids and younger people.
The fact is that it is not for kids or younger people, unless you consider the recruiters out there (who are probably younger than you) that are using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as the initial screening tools. Why remove yourself from the game before you even got a chance?

I watched the movie “Up in the Air” recently about a “Transition Specialist” (George Clooney) who travels the country from company to company firing people. One scene has a clearly older man getting upset that he has just been fired. “What am I gonna do now?” He wails. “I’m 58 years old, for Christ’s sake!” My immediate reaction was he thinks he’s old, so therefore he is old. (It’s a great movie, by the way.)

Contrast that with a person I interviewed years ago for a project management position in my organization. I knew him personally as one of the most upbeat, positive people I’d ever known, yet had big misgivings about his moving into a new industry. He showed up in a suit (unusual at that time) and I’ll never forget what he said:

“JP – I’m only 52 years old – I have at least another 15 years of contribution I can make. And you know what? I’ll be the best damned project manager this company has ever seen!” I hired him, and he was right. He was promoted twice within 3 years and was a terrific leader.

My point is this: we are as old as we think we are. Does age discrimination exist? Sure it does. Does that mean you have to accept it? Absolutely not. If it is an issue with the company where you are interviewing, go find another one.

If you want to be perceived as a valuable contributor, then that’s who you are and who you must believe yourself to be. Focus on the value you can bring to the company and the problems you will solve for the hiring manager.

My friend used his age and experience as an asset because he believed it was an asset and he sold it. Why can’t you do the same?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile
JP Headshot1

Find Your Next Job Through a Different Kind of Networking

November 28, 2009

How many times have you heard that “networking” is the only way to find a job in this economy. Or that 70% of the people who are getting hired found the opportunity by “networking?” So how does this work?

Many people think of networking like a bad Seinfeld episode – obnoxious people cornering some poor guy, like George, at a party and going on and on about their great job, their sky rocketing career, their wonderful life, and, “Oh, yeah – what did you say you do?”

Maybe if people had a few simple tools in those situations, it could actually be fun. Like a simple 3 part script: (1) Hi, I’m George Costanza and (2) I enjoy helping companies see their projects completed on time and under budget, and (3) have a good time doing it!”

Or for those that are uncomfortable in social settings like this, networking also includes one on one meetings over coffee, using social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook to find someone who may know someone at your target company.

In fact, this is a very effective way to get in front of a hiring manager: Identify the company you want to work for, identify the types of positions you would like to have, then if there is a position (or similar type job) posted on their website, now the fun begins.

Use the Companies feature in LinkedIn and you’ll see people in your network who may work there or have worked there. More likely there will be people who are 2nd or 3rd degree connections. By clicking on them, you’ll see who in your network is connected to them.

Then, call or email them and ask for an introduction to the person you want to meet. You’ll be surprised at how helpful people in your network are – even if you are not close to them.

Now, they have introduced you to someone who can possibly help you – offer to buy them coffee at Starbucks or at a place of their choosing and get to know them with a series of simple, but powerful questions (more on that at a later time.)

What’s the worst that can happen by doing this? You may not get any introductions – you’re no worse off than you are now, but at least you’ve taken some action. Or, you may have gotten the introduction, but no response from the target person. Again, no worse off, but at a later date, the target person may remember your reaching out.

And how hard is any of this? Do you think you can try this kind of networking? It may just land you your next dream job.

For a very concrete example of how this type of networking works, read this post from WSJ’s Laid Off and Looking blog.

JP Headshot1JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. He is also a career and financial coach, has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations, most recently helping those in transition. His philosophy is to help others be more successful and to enjoy the benefits of meeting new people.

JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile

What Are You Doing To Stay Sharp?

November 23, 2009

We all know the recession is over, right? The media announced that some weeks ago. But we also know this is like no other recession in most of our lifetimes – in fact, the job landscape may never return to the way it was. The days of starting with one company and retiring from that same company are pretty much gone.

If we believe that the recovery will be slow and lasting much longer than in the past (and we do), then the short term looks a lot like contract and temp work. Many people are looking at these types of employment, hoping they will lead to full time work. Others are re-tooling in a different way.

I’ve heard many talk of the renewable energy sector as the holy grail for new jobs, and it may indeed create new careers. Some are trying to learn as much as they can about the industry (solar, wind, biomass, etc.) and transfer their skills from other industries. Still others are taking this time to learn entirely new skills.

I have a friend who retired a few years ago from a major tech company. He has a PhD. in Engineering. He is now in a program at UC Berkeley learning a totally new discipline and is looking to share his new learnings with others in a paid or volunteer capacity.

Still others are starting side businesses – many as infopreneurs – learning how to use social media for their new businesses. Learning these skills will most likely help them in whatever new jobs or careers they find when the recovery takes hold.

Here’s an example of one such individual from the WSJ’s blog, Laid Off and Looking.

What are you doing to learn new skills, keep the ones you have sharp and apply them?

JP Headshot1JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. He is also a career and financial coach, has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations, most recently helping those in transition. His philosophy is to help others be more successful and to enjoy the benefits of meeting new people.

JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile

Weekly Roundup of Top 3 Search Tips

November 20, 2009

It’s Friday and time for the the top 3 job search tips I’ve found from the scores of blog posts I see and pass along. Also, I will be looking for your votes on which is your favorite. Feel free to forward this link to your friends in transition.

1. My first choice is related to a recent one I wrote on Know What You Want. Here Nance Rosen takes the next step (and the hard work) to putting into words what it is we want. Here’s an excerpt:

If You Can Say It, You Can Live It

* By: Nance Rosen on November 17th, 2009 at 5:15 am
* In Networking, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies | 3 Comments

If you can’t tell people what you do, then you won’t be doing it much longer. If you can’t articulate what you want to do, then you won’t ever be doing it. But, if you can – well, I found out you are one in about 150 people who can complete this sentence:

I am: ______________________ .
On Sunday I spoke to an audience at an event sponsored by the LA Urban Beauty Connection, supporting two philanthropies and drawing a cool, professional crowd that came out to hear experts present on the latest trends in fashion, technology and business. My topic was The Real Secret to Success in Careers and Business, How to Stay Up in a Down Economy. Of course, I was there to talk about personal branding.
Personal branding foundational work.

Typically, I stand on a stage and talk at people (it’s more exciting than that, but basically I’m the show until Q&A or the workshop portion of my personal branding presentations). But, this forum was much more “theater in the round.” I was given the opportunity to do interactive, live coaching for people who had considered but never really hunkered down to do the foundational work of personal branding.

So, I opened with my signature line: “Everyday you have the opportunity to say the one thing that will change your life. I guarantee by the time we’re done today, you’ll know what to say, and where and when to say it.”

Five statement in the personal branding process

What a great way to spend a Sunday, I thought. It was like magnifying the coaching that I do with one person, but having all these people learn from process. I started as planned, by picking one person, but when she seemed a little lost, I move to another. I wound up challenging five people in the audience to complete these 5 statements that are requisite for the personal branding process:

1. I am:
2. I excel at:
3. I do this via these methods/approaches/tactics:
4. Here’s an example:
5. Here’s what I’d like to do more of:

Obviously, I want the answers you’d give in a business setting, or at least an environment that would make an impression on people attending an event like the one we were at. This is a networking opportunity. This is when you’re going to meet strangers; people whom you suspect are candidates for developing valuable relationships. If you do nothing else: you’ve got to have a crisp, clear and compelling way of communicating what you do, how you do it, and what you’d like to do more of (or what you like to do that is a departure from what you’ve got going on now).
Read here for the rest of the article.

2. Next Up – From WSJ’s Laid Off and Looking Blog, an interesting alternative to the search titled:
Postponing the Full-Time Search for a Contract Assignment

By Geoff Hibner

Geoff Hibner lost his job in 2007 after working as the CFO of Banta Corp. The entire executive team was let go when the company was sold. Previously, he was an independent consultant as well as a senior vice president and CFO at The Timberland Co. Mr. Hibner earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1977. He lives with his wife in Neenah, Wis. and has two adult children.

Geoff HibnerIt’s been a number of weeks since I last posted to this blog. I’ve been really busy. Not busy making contacts, that could lead to my next full-time job; instead, I’ve been really busy working as a consultant.

In several of my earlier postings I mentioned making a contact while interviewing for a certain CFO position. Although that introduction was too late for me to be considered for the CFO position, it did lead to the CEO of that company deciding he wanted to meet me to discuss other possibilities. To make a long and complicated story shorter, a series of discussions led to a full-time corporate strategy and financing consulting assignment that began in late August.

The assignment is extremely interesting. I work with solid and dedicated people, and the compensation is good. But, I’m away from home from Monday morning until Friday night, working 55 to 60 hours a week (I’m paid by the week, not the hour), and have little time for activities which might lead to another full-time position.

I’m certainly not complaining. I made the decision to take on this assignment knowing that it would affect my job search activities. I didn’t expect to work quite so many hours per week, but it can’t be helped when there are deadlines to be met.

This assignment could stretch out for several more months, or it could end within the next few weeks. There could be other projects when this one is completed. Even if the opportunity exists to remain in a consulting role for months to come, I’ll really need to decide soon if continuing as I have been is in my longer-term best interests. Some readers will say that to have a full-time position, even as a consultant, in these tough economic times is to be in a great position and that I should continue to devote all my energy to creating value for the company so that there will be follow-on projects. Other readers will observe that consulting positions are often the first to go if a company decides it must cut expenses; even if the position has been created to address a very specific, time-sensitive issue (as mine was), and they’ll insist that I need to somehow find the time to continue my job search. Both will be valid comments and I’ll need to decide sometime soon which way to lean.

Readers, are you postponing your full-time search to keep up with a less-stable contract position? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

3. My last choice today is from Meg Giuseppi and reports on some things you probably already knew but now have statistics on the generation born between 1946 and 1960…

Boomer Career Trends: The Graying of America’s Work Force

By Meg Guiseppi | November 20, 2009

We’ve all been hearing lately that boomers are staying in the workforce longer because their retirement accounts took such a hit recently, and that we can expect the trend to continue well after the economy recovers.

According to one government estimate, 93% of the growth in the U.S. labor force from 2006 to 2016 will be among 55 and older workers.

But you may be surprised to know that the majority of those over 55 stay at work beyond retirement age because they want to stay active into their later years, not because they need the money.

According to a September 2009 nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project:

“A majority (54%) of workers ages 65 and older say the main reason they work is that they want to. Just 17% say the main reason is that they need the paycheck. An additional 27% say they’re motivated by a mix of desire and need.”

The reasons older workers gave included:

* “to feel useful”
* “to give myself something to do”
* “to be with other people”

Conversely, younger adults are staying out of the workforce longer.

Of Americans aged 16 to 24, 57% are in the labor force today, compared to 66% in 2000.

Two factors impacting the youngest working group:

* Instead of diving into full time jobs, they’re getting a college education under their belts to get ahead, and
* Discouraged by dwindling opportunities in this economy, they’re dropping out of the job market entirely.

The Pew report is based on analysis of long-term trends in survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research’s own survey of a representative national sample of 1,815 people ages 16 and older conducted from July 20 to Aug. 2, 2009.

Other key findings:

* Security trumps salary.
* Despite tough times, job satisfaction remains high.
* Older workers are the happiest workers.
* Retirement is not always voluntary.
* Even so, retirement gets high marks.
* The public is skeptical about full-time working moms.
* Most working moms would rather have a part-time job.

You can grab the full report here: Recession Turns a Graying Office Grayer.

JP Headshot1JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. He is also a career and financial coach, has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations, most recently helping those in transition. His philosophy is to help others be more successful and to enjoy the benefits of meeting new people.

JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile

Know What You Want

November 18, 2009

Remember that big term project you slaved over for days or weeks in school? You were focused! You had to do the most thorough job, researching, contacting companies, people and maybe even staying up all night before it was due, pulling it all together. For what? A grade, right? The satisfaction of doing the best you could and maybe getting an “A”?

Have you put that type of effort into your job search?

I meet people, recently laid off, and ask them what they want to do next. I often get “well, I can do sales, or operations, or project management. Oh, any company will do.”

Good luck with that. People can’t help you when you’re that general.

I spoke with someone yesterday who knew exactly what he wanted to do next and he identified the 4 companies that he’s targeting. I was able to go into LinkedIn and immediately find people I could introduce him to. He’s doing that with everyone in his network, and starting to get interviews.

Being laser focused on what you want makes all the difference in your search. Instead of fishing and hoping a fish will swim by and see your bait, you are now hunting – armed with knowledge of your “prey”: who the hiring manager is, where they went to school, who’s worked for them, what the culture is like, and most important – what problem they have that you can solve.

In addition, your focus and knowledge gives you the confidence that you will get that position. And with that confidence and knowledge, you probably will get it.

That’s a bit better that getting an “A”, isn’t it?

What are you doing to put that kind of focus into your search? Share your ideas and successes here.

By the way – Career Coach Megan Pittsley writes a Job Search column for The Examiner and is looking for success stories of finding jobs through your Success Teams. If you have one, let her know at

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A Personal Branding Tale – Part 3

November 16, 2009

This is the third of Chad Levitt’s posts that tell the story of the job seeker who’s hired mainly because of his blogging and views on his industry (and now company). In the last post, he was promoted. Now we see what this star employee is doing a year later…

A Personal Branding Tale Part 3
from Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel by Chad Levitt

You have been in your new role after being promoted for close to one year – you have done an excellent job and executed on all tasks. As a result of your leadership your team has exceeded expectations.

You have even managed to keep up with your blogging – you are well known around the company because many of your colleagues read your blog.

While there have been the occasional naysayers you have dealt with it by ignoring the negativity and focusing on the positive. It has worked so far.

Through your blogging activities and social networking you have created a reputation as a thought leader in your field. You are respected both within and outside the walls of your company.

You have written a few articles for trade magazines and have even been interviewed by other bloggers that thought your ideas would be valuable content for their readers.

You have more job security than most people because of your performance at the company – but mostly because you have developed and nurtured a powerful social network safety net. If something were to happen and you lost your job – you have a strong network to help you.

Other mid to high-level managers have reached out to you from different departments of your company and asked for your advice. You have more relationships than most of your colleagues at your company.

Through your relationships at the company and solid performance you maintain a high level of influence at the company. Your colleagues listen to you.

Then early one morning you are sitting in your office and your phone rings – you are surprised that the person on he other end works for your biggest competitor. They have heard about you through your personal brand and would like to meet with you.

After a few meetings (on your time) this competitor of yours makes a very compelling offer – you have a very big decision to make.

You decide to meet with your boss and talk things over to see if they are willing to match or exceed the offer being made to you by your competitor.

After a few meetings your company decides to meet the offer being made by your competitor – you gladly accept.

Your personal brand just helped you receive a raise and a few more benefits at your company.

Personal brands have value – how much is yours worth?

Chad Levitt is the author of the New Sales Economy blog, which focuses on how Sales 2.0 & Social Media can help you connect, create more opportunities and increase your business. Chad is also the featured Sales 2.0 blogger at, the number one web portal for sales pros, the professional athletes of the business world. Make sure to connect with him on Twitter @chadalevitt.

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Weekly Roundup of Top 3 Job Search Tips

November 13, 2009

Each Friday, I’ll be posting the top 3 job search tips I’ve found from the scores of blog posts I see and will pass them along. Also, I will be looking for your votes on which is your favorite. Feel free to forward this link to your friends in transition.


So, here are my top three this week:

Meg Giuseppi’s blog Executive Resume Branding has the The 20 Most Common LinkedIn Mistakes

Here’s an excerpt:

You probably know by now that LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for personal branding and executive job search.

In case you don’t, get busy immediately building your branded profile, connecting with people, expressing your executive brand, and leveraging LinkedIn to full advantage.

But don’t make these 20 mistakes:


1.  Not personalizing your LinkedIn public profile URL.
Many people leave the default mess of letters and numbers at the end of the URL. Change that to “yourname” or as close to it as you can come, as I did with mine –

2.  Not including a photo.
Branding and career marketing are about creating emotional connections. People believe content more when it’s accompanied by the author’s photo. An online profile with no photo is a missed opportunity to reinforce your brand and engage people.

3.  Not adding links to websites or web pages.
Include links to your website, blog, VisualCV, Twitter or other online profiles, so people can get more on-brand information about you and see what else you’re up to.

4.  Not having a searchable professional headline that brands your unique promise of value and resonates with your target audience.
Make sure your relevant key word phrases show up in your headline so that recruiters and hiring decision makers sourcing top candidates by searching LinkedIn will find you.

5.  Having no (or only 1 or 2) recommendations.
Solicit recommendations that reinforce your brand and the best you have to offer.

For the 15 other tips and rest of her post, click here.

Next is Dawn Jordan’s post in the Wall Street Journal’s Blog, Laid Off and Looking – authored by a series of guest bloggers describing their job search efforts and thoughts. Here’s her post in it’s entirety:

Last week a friend told me about the most unlikely place he found a job. It was during his child’s swim meet when a fellow parent casually asked what he did and where he worked. That impromptu poolside conversation turned into a new job for my friend.

His story segued into a conversation on unconventional sources for job leads. It also motivated me to try something different. Since then I’ve been asking people “What was the most unlikely place you found a job?”

They’ve answered with stories ranging from encounters during dog walks to waiting in line at Starbucks. Some of the stories were about situations in which I’m unlikely to find myself. But even those answers produced three tangible benefits.

First, it put people at ease. I wasn’t asking for a favor. I was showing an interest in them, giving them an opportunity to talk about themselves. This two-way sharing generated a stronger connection than my usual approach ever had.

Second, the question fired up their creative thinking. It got them out of the passive listener role and most of their answers were interesting and helpful. Before I could even ask, most offered additional suggestions about professional organizations, job boards or, best of all, names of people they would contact for me.

Here is the real gem in all of this. Asking people about their own experiences evoked empathy, support and action. They instantly remembered their own anxiety during their job search. It elicited a quicker, stronger, and warmer response than I’ve experienced before.

The takeaway of this experiment is the optimistic reminder that I never know when or where opportunity may strike. The real challenge might be recognizing it.

Fianlly, I love this post from Seth Godin, Hammer time

While not specifically about job search, his lessons on our background and our filters and biases point out how we need to adapt to changing situations. Amen.

Hammer time

So, if it’s true that to a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, the really useful question is, “what sort of hammer do you have?”

At big TV networks, they have a TV hammer. At a surgeon’s office, they have the scalpel hammer. A drug counselor has the talk hammer, while a judge probably has the jail hammer.

Maybe it’s time for a new hammer…

One study found that when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery, physical therapists thought that therapy was indicated and yes, acupuncturists were sure needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn’t symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor.

When the market changes, you may be seeing all the new opportunities and problems the wrong way because of the solutions you’re used to. The reason so many organizations have trouble using social media is that they are using precisely the wrong hammer. And odds are, they will continue to do so until their organization fails. PR firms try to use the new tools to send press releases, because, you guessed it, that’s their hammer.

It’s not just about new vs. old. Inveterate community-focused social media mavens often bring that particular hammer to other venues. So they crowdsource keynote speeches or restaurants or board meetings and can’t figure out why they don’t have the impact others do.

The best way to find the right tool for the job is to learn to be good at switching hammers.

Which is your favorite?
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