Be Prepared

th

Sports can provide valuable lessons for all aspects of life. Over the news and heard on many of the talk shows on sports radio, recent topics showcase many of the negatives of sports in general. Many respected athletes have been shown to have engaged in the use of unauthorized performance enhancers, or encounter legal troubles ranging from domestic violence to outright murder. Watch the news, and you’ll so many instances of stars of various sports behaving badly. In spite of the lessons on how not to behave, I like to look at a sports analogy for those trying to get that first job. Preparation is vital.

Watch a college or professional basketball or football game, and you see those who have worked so very hard to get to that point. The introductions ensure, and the starting lineup come out to mid court and the game begins. The crowd cheers and for next couple of hours. Heroes can be created based on a great performance. The game, itself, is just a small part of the process.

These athletes are do not simply come together and play the game. The audience and viewers on TV do not see the amounts of preparation that went into the development of their individual skills going back to the first time they took up the sport. We do not see the intensity of practices, nor do we see the many hours of shooting and conditioning these athletes put in. Thousands of hours for many of these players were spent just to get them to this point in time.

The amount of preparation put in to job hunting and for interviewing can lead to success, just as these athletes. If you do not put in the effort to search for a job, you will miss opportunities. Researching trends in whatever industry you are considering will pay benefits down the road. When you know where the industry is heading, you can pattern your resume, application, and cover letter to match it. Develop skills before to meet these demands will be very marketable. This will take time and effort, but every slight advantage you can gain will increase the changes to get a career start.

Before you get an interview, time should be spent on reading as much as you can in regards to the common interview questions. Simply walking into a resume without adequate preparation is a mistake, and it will show during your performance. Stammering or not being able to put thoughts together coherently will definitely show up. There are so many books and articles that document common questions, and how to answer them properly. Failure to do this is a critical mistake. Anticipating these questions and having examples at the ready will allow for a better interview. The amount of preparation will be evident and will showcase your qualities beyond anything you can. Actions speak louder than words, as the old cliché goes.

Be professional and prepare as such. This is your career, and you’ll need to take ownership of it. Spend the time in the gym, so to speak, and practice. Have answers ready for as many questions as you can anticipate. If you put in the work, your career will be off to a great start.

 

Advertisements

Actions Before Words

tumblr_o2nfnmHtL41v770eco1_1280

Make no mistake, in a perfect world, the ability to say it well and get it done with high degrees of skill are a beautiful combination. However, the world is far from perfect, and the ability to communicate always seems to be a trait perfected by a select few. The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin is still relevant to this day. His was a great mind for the ages, with timeless advice and recommendations.

Sometimes it can be easy to overcompensate, and cross the fine line between being assertive and boasting. Common perceptions for those who boast and talk are that they are fooling their listeners. They feel they are able to bluff their way, or to talk themselves up to gain recognition and acclaim. Talk about yourself with reservation and humility. Be accurate and factual. If you were only a minor part in the process, say so. Nothing can grow into a bad situation faster than when someone makes claims that are not entirely accurate. Your coworkers will often know better, and nothing will break down trust faster than a shameless self-promoter and/or liar.

I remember someone working in our area some years ago. She was nice on a personal level, but she got into trouble in a different department because her resume was discovered to be less than accurate. How she ended up in our IT department was something of a mystery to me, as it was clear that the other department was hoping to move a problem-child to some other area. Not a good organizational move, I thought, but I could only focus on my thoughts and to do the best I could do. She was tasked with some documentation relating to the new VOIP phone system as we were migrating from traditional land lines. As we concluded the project, she moved on to another position with a different company and that was the end of it.

A year or two later, I was on LinkedIn, and came across her profile. Out of curiosity I decided to open it up and see what she was up to. As I browsed through her recent experience, I began to read more closely. According to what she wrote, people would mistake her role in documenting aspects of the project, to one of actually leading it. Her role was very much non-technical, but the impression she gave out was that it was her project, completed with great success to the organization. From my direct involvement, I know she was misleading and elevating her role to something it was not. True, she helped out with the project, but was taking credit where it was not deserved. For those who see her profile, it looks quite impressive, but is mostly false.

Suppose she gets a job, and the organization expect her to be able to provide some VOIP technical solutions to the table. Perhaps the organization sees her experience and feels they can have her lead up the project to upgrade their phone systems. What will be the expected result from this? What’s worse, to not be considered for a position due to limited, albeit accurate experience, or getting a promotion or new position based on hopes and wishes? Sometimes you cannot fake it until you learn it. The organization will lose time and money on someone who talked well, but could not deliver with their actions. She will suffer because she will be tasked with things she has no experience with. The project may be on her shoulders, and she may have little knowledge on what to do, and no experience to fall back on. Pressure will be high, and the stress will be phenomenal.

As you enter the work force, and embark on a career, the ability to talk well is important, make no mistake. The ability to do well will quickly transition you into a valued and indispensable member of the team. The respect you will receive based on your performance will go so much farther than your ability to boast and promote yourself. Everything you do should be based on actions first and foremost. Listen to the words of Benjamin Franklin and learn from his timeless wisdom. Be realistic, and always learn when you can, but do not make false claims or boast. Be humble, and let your actions speak first. You will win friends and the respect of your colleagues.

How to be an Entry Level Leader

washington-crossing-the-delaware

Leadership can be more of an art than an exact science. Every situation may require a different approach. Each individual may react different to a certain style. One minute you may have to be nurturing and caring, the next, you may have to be like a drill instructor. Leading is difficult, and while people may be able to be effective to a certain extent, to be truly exceptional requires a special kind of person. Walk around the bookstore and visit the managing & business section and you’ll many titles for leadership techniques, theories, and even biographies written to demonstrate world class leadership. There is a demand for good leaders.

A quick glance through history reveals so many examples of leadership. On a personal level, two pictures really capture my imagination. The painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River, which may not be accurate in how it happened, is such a wonderful picture of someone leading the action. Not sitting in the background, or simply ordering the solders to cross the river to catch the British off guard, the painting captures a true leadership moment. The second is the photo of General Eisenhower talking to the airborne troops shortly before the Invasion of Normandy. He didn’t drop into action like these men, but his concern for them was so apparent. Two great examples, leading in different ways, but leading with great effectiveness.

The common perception of leadership is of someone in charge of a large following. Washington leading an army and leading the country in our infancy. Eisenhower leading not only the U.S. forces in the European Theater during the Second World War, but leading the entire Allied (British, Canadian, Australian, etc…) effort. Leadership is seen as something only performed by those who are seemingly larger than life. Think of the business world over the last decade. Giants of industry immediately come to mind. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs are the obvious individuals. Business magazines are always profiling up and coming CEOs and entrepreneurs, showcasing their innovations and their ability to create not only companies, but even entire industries. These are leaders, but they are not the only ones.

Eisenhower_d-day

These individuals are often world class leaders, and able to not only create a vision, but to have the ability to communicate that to their followers. Magazine articles often profile these types of individuals. Books are written about their lives, management styles, and leadership examples. Leadership is not confined to these people, though. Everyone, I repeat, everyone has the ability to be a leader. On a micro level, even the entry level employee can be leader.

Imagine you complete your classes and receive a degree or certification. After sending out applications and having interview opportunities, you land a position. Your foot is in the door, and a career is just underway. As you step into a new position, realize that your ability to be a leader starts that first day.

Establish yourself as a leader by doing the following:

Lead Yourself

Take charge of yourself. Set an example. Your job may not have any supervisory skills, nor may your job be one that creates visions and sets policies, but you can lead through work ethic and setting a good example. Come into work early, and stay late when needed. Volunteer to do what’s needed. Five minutes before the end of your shift and you see a problem, fix it. Take action. Sometimes this requires some sacrifice, but if you are dependable and reliable, this will set a tone for others to follow. Be the backbone for your team, and you will look up to. Be honest and set an ethical example. Integrity and ethics are a cornerstone for all development.

Understand the Vision and Mission of the Organization

Organizations have mission statements and goals for a reason. What is the goal for your organization? What is it trying to accomplish? Set your actions to work towards this goal. I work in the educational sector, so I have to make decisions that affect college students. How are my decisions enabling the students to have a better experience? A decision may have two possibilities, and I always defer to the option that will be in the best interests of the students. Ask questions and know your organization inside and out. If you know where the organization is going, you can help to get it there. Your actions can lead the organization towards its ultimate goal. You can lead the way.

Be a Team Player

Everyone has worked in a job where someone was not pulling their weight. A team working in a restaurant may have to work just a bit harder when someone calls in sick, or has to leave early. Life happens, and there are days when you will feel sick and need to stay home. This is acceptable and people understand. Always leaving early, having excuses, or being generally unreliable, you will be viewed as selfish and bad for the team. The team will look down upon you, or ostracize you from the group. If you lose the trust of your teammates, if can be impossible to regain. Be a team player by helping out when able. Perhaps your tasks are complete, but you see someone still working. Offer to help. Do you know a solution to a problem someone is working on, share the knowledge. People know when you hold back. I’ve seen instances before when someone holds back key information and someone struggled as a result. This is very destructive to team cohesion. If you help out and share knowledge, you will reap the rewards and be leading by example.

Always Develop

Leadership is a garden. You sow the seeds and water often. The seedlings will grow, and requires care and attention to grow to the full potential. Pull out the weeds of negativity. Plant the seeds and water, but leave it alone, the growth will be stunted. Your leadership potential will be limited. Always develop. Always. You will develop skills and add much value to the organization. This is the key to advancement and growth as a leader and professional. Healthy leadership practices and skills are the end result of constant attention.

Learn from world class leaders, both modern and from history. They offer so many timeless examples of leadership in action. Learn from bad leaders just the same. See examples of what not to do. Above all, as you embark on a journey into a new career, do not underestimate the ability of you being a leader. Leadership is not only leading a large group of people, it’s also about leading you as an individual. As you learn and grow, your ability to lead grows. No matter what your job position or rank, you can lead if you work hard and keep your eye on the big picture. The possibilities can be endless.

 

 

Telling Your Story

tell them your story

The average human will get more out of a talk, lecture, or discussion when it’s told as a story. In school, at church, or simply listening to someone talk, when their topics are story driven, people become more rapt and attentive to what’s being said. How often have you started to listen to someone tell a story, and within a few seconds, you are listening and getting their points. We’ve all been in a situation where someone comes in with facts in hand, but the delivery is dry and unimpressive. In the end, regardless of the data provided, many cannot remember key takeaways. When told in the form of a story, almost anything will be interesting to the listener.

This is especially true in an interview process. I’ve seen so many candidates come into the interview, and most are quite personable, but are not effective in delivering the critical takeaways to separate them from others. In reality, for every posting, there’ll be multiple people with similar experience and skillsets. Reflect back on your education and experience, and frame as much as you can in a story.

Tell Your Story

In a situation where everyone has similar skills and experience, what separates one candidate from the others is in how they showcase their skills. How did you use your hardware support skills to save the day? Suppose you encountered a problem with a critical PC. Maybe it was a machine that was used to send jobs to the assembly line, or perhaps a server locked up and prevented a department from printing during pay period. What was the problem? How did you respond? Most importantly, how did you save the day for the organization?

Instead of stating you have experience with hardware support, tell it in a story form. Something like this:

Interviewer: What kind of hardware support experience do you have?

You: One evening, as we were getting ready to leave for the day, I noticed an influx of work orders about our check cashing printer not printing, and took it upon myself to check on it before leaving. When I walked over, the accounting staff was on the verge of panicing. If the printer was offline for too long, it could affect staff from receiving their paycheck on time. The printer looked to be fine, but noticed I wasn’t able to remote into the print server, and ran down into the server room to physically check. Things looked to be normal, and at that point I began to receive calls from our end users. It was the last day of the month, and the checks needed to be sent out that next morning. Realizing that a problem may result in delayed pay checks, I began to work the problem…detailed troubleshooting descriptions… and then I verified the server was back and the checks were printing once again.

The point is to frame your experience in a story that will resonate with the interviewer. Simply stating your experience is not enough. This is just a hypothetical example, but through a story, a job candidate can show much more than an amount of experience. This example not only shows your skills in supporting printers, but also managing a crisis situation, customer service skills by keeping the staff calm, good troubleshooting methodology, leadership by taking control of the situation instead of leaving for the day like some of the others, etc…

Showing how your experience was used in a real life scenario will always leave an impression. Even if the job is awarded to someone else, if you leave enough positive impressions, it may reward you down the road. When completing or updating your resume, take the time to write down some of your experiences and have them ready when you have that interview. Just make sure your story is non-fiction. Everyone has an interesting story to tell, so don’t shy away from telling yours in your next interview.