Honesty is the Best Policy

606x340_331168

My mom always told me to tell the truth. The truth may not always be what you want to say or hear. As a manager, do I want to hear that a project is failing, or that there are some significant problems that will put our department in a negative light? No, but I would rather hear that than something inaccurate. Bad news isn’t always the worst thing in the world, and knowledge is power. Knowing the true state of something will allow me to prepare and respond accordingly. Someone who is honest is someone I respect, even if the news may be bad.

As someone new to the job market, it may be easy to be inaccurate on your resume or application. As job searches go on for longer periods of time, it may be tempting to claim that your role in a project or previous job was more significant than it really was. To make false statements or to claim roles and experience that you did not earn can backfire. When it does, you will violate their trust and put your reputation on the line.

Volkswagen-scandalA couple of recent examples immediately come to mind. On a corporate level, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have made news. Whether or not the companies mandated false claims for mileage for some of their fuel efficient vehicles, or whether individuals took it upon themselves to falsify the reports, the fact is the companies are seen to have violated the trust in the consumers, which will resonate with consumers for decades.

Years from now, how it happened may not matter. All that will come to mind is that these companies lied to the consumers. Their trust is no longer what it once was. Companies can spend years trying to resurrect tarnished images. Ford is still remembered for the decision to not correct the problems with the Pinto. Union Carbide’s role in the Bhopal disaster, or more recently BP’s role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have tarnished their image. Decades may be required before some of the trust can be earned again.

The same principle holds true on a personal level. Lance Armstrong will never live past the performance enhancers he used while winning seven consecutive races in the Tour de France. Pete Rose, the leading hitter in baseball history, is still banned from the game due to his gambling on games. President Nixon never was never able to get past the Watergate scandal. These are famous individuals, but the same thing can haunt everyone.

To get a foot in the door under false pretenses can lead to a job, but the hardship of getting in over your head can be severe. The organization spends time and money hiring someone, only to have to let them go, and repeat the process months later. Projects can fail, and money can be lost. Worst of all, people can be laid off. Decisions all have consequences that may reach far beyond an individual’s reach. The company thinks they are getting someone to perform a valuable role, only to lose time and resources.

In a more networked age, reputations will more easily follow an individual. Burn a bridge, or get caught lying or falsifying your experience, you can make things more difficult for you down the road. Be honest and accurate, and if finding that first job, or something better than you have now, takes a bit longer, you’ll be better off because of it. Earn that job and feel good about it, you’ll be better off the long run.

Resume Tips

bigstock-Resume-concept-in-word-tag-clo-36378274

So many organizations, websites, and books tend to all say very similar things about resume writing, almost to the point of being a cliché. But they are so true, and many job seekers do not seem to heed them. Do you want to have a leg up from the very beginning? Here are some common recommendations from my own experiences as a hiring manager.

  1. Tailor the Resume to the Specific Job

Some people seem to think that the best job search method is saturation. Multiple job board sites have been around for years now, and offer many features for mass applying for open jobs. Several companies specialize in taking a resume and broadcasting it out to a mass audience. I understand the logic of having one resume that gets sent out to hundreds of companies and job postings. This is not a good method to implement. Believe me, I’ve tried it. Hiring managers can see a standard one size fits all resume and generally do not give them much consideration.

Take your time, and carefully read the job descriptions and reflect on them. Do you have the necessary skills required? Do you have the experience if mandated? Decide if the job is something you are qualified for and can reasonably expect to perform it if hired. Tailor the resume and application to reflect the required skills and experience. You may be a great computer programmer, but if this is not a programming job, do not lead with that particular skill. Lead with the experience that is pertinent to the job posting first, before other skills. The hiring manager sifting through many applications that contain irrelevant experience and skills will notice yours as a good fit for the available job, and probably give it further consideration.

  1. Make the Resume or Application User Friendly

Long paragraphs are better left to essays and research papers. Bullet points are your friend. A long paragraph will make the hiring manager work harder to read your resume. Make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to see your skills and experience related to the job posting. I take great pride in giving each an equal evaluation, and if one resume is harder to read than others, I still take my time to evaluate it equally. Not all hiring managers will do this.

Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. You have work to do as part of your regular duties, but still have to take the time to go through the pool of applicants. They may have to evaluate many in a short amount of time. Sometimes it may be over one hundred, perhaps more. After reading through fifty or sixty, do you think they want to see long paragraphs of text with your skills and experience buried within? Think of who will be evaluating as you write and format your resume. Break down the necessary skills in bullet point format. Always make it easy to read and concise.

Avoid industry jargon. Assume that the hiring manger may not be fully up to speed on many of these concepts and spell it out. Some jargon can be expected, but always make things clear and readable. Assume that people not familiar to the jargon and acronyms will be reading the resume and application.

  1. Proof!

When I see someone who effectively proof reads something, I see someone who takes the time to pay attention to details and they show a tendency to see things through. Many resumes and applications I receive have grammar mistakes and misspellings. Do you want a hiring manager to notice your flaws in this critical moment, or do you want them to see your skills and experience?

Mistakes will happen, and I have made my share of them. However, with as much on the line as a new job, and possible start to a career, this is not the time or place to make preventable mistakes. Do not gloss over the resume and application.

You may have spent hours perfecting it, and tailoring it to various postings, and not yield results. For young and inexperienced candidates, a perfect resume may not be enough. Be persistent and be thorough in your efforts. These, too, are life skills worth perfecting. Every little thing you can do to make your resume better, to be more visible and outstanding compared to the others will increase your odds for an interview. Keep pressing, there’s a career within your grasp.

Profiles in Teamwork: Lou Gehrig

52831a_lg

Team dynamics are critical for any organization. The tired clichés and adages pertaining to teamwork stick around because they are so true. Successful organizations and departments always have people working together for the common mission, and a well working team can achieve much success. Sure, there are outliers and in some cases, a collective working as separate entities can still achieve success, but odds are not in their favor.

I love looking at leading industry figures and historical examples of good leaders and teamwork. Learn what made a particular team or organization successful, and if applicable, emulate the ideas and practices when able. Learning from history can be immensely valuable, as many of these lessons are timeless. A great leader at the turn of the 20th century would be a great leader at that start of the 21st century. Technology is radically different, but the concepts of teamwork and leadership are always relevant, regardless of the era or time.

One of my favorite historical figures is Lou Gehrig. Gehrig played first base for the New York Yankees during the 1920s through the 1930s, and was a key figure on the famous 1927 “Murderers Row” Yankees, still regarded as one of the best teams in baseball history. Gehrig was quiet and measured, and always the consummate professional. Playing behind the boisterous and larger-than-life Babe Ruth, Gehrig always was relegated to the background. Ruth made the headlines with his antics on and off the field, while Gehrig quietly worked to make the team better.

Gehrig played key parts of the seven World Series championships he won as a member of the Yankees. Without his constant and consistent presence in the lineup, I would argue they would have won much less. Known for his continuous games played record of 2,130 games played, which stood for 56 years, Gehrig was the essence of the team. His stats, even when compared to more offensive eras of baseball, are impressive these many years later. His stats have been eclipsed, and others came afterward to hit for a better batting average, more home runs, or more runs batted in, but his legacy has endured more than a century after his birth.

For those who want to be part of a team, or to be part of something bigger, look no further than Lou Gehrig. His enduring legacy shines to this day. For those who think than being part of the team may hold you back, or to see your efforts glossed over, fear not. As a hiring manager, a critical trait is to fit in well with the team. If you work hard, and put the team first, your efforts will be recognized. You can still shine as a valued employee, yet still be a team player. Those who think they need to be better than everyone else, or work to elevate their stature at the expense of others will only hurt their own career and reputation. Lou Gehrig was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1939, and was voted onto the “All Century” team in 1999. Not bad for a man who was all about putting the team first.

Records (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Gehrig)

MLB Records
Accomplishment Record
Most consecutive seasons with 120+ RBIs 8 (1927–1934)
Most runs batted in (RBI) by a first baseman 1,995
Most runs scored by a first baseman 1,888
Highest on-base percentage by a first baseman .447
Most walks by a first baseman 1,508
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman .632
Most extra base hits by a first baseman 1,190
Single–season
Most runs batted-in by a first baseman 184 (1931)
Most runs scored by a first baseman 167 (1936)
Highest slugging percentage by a first baseman .765 (1927)
Extra-base hits by a first baseman 117 (1927)
Most total bases by a first baseman 447 (1927)
 
Most home runs[a] 4
  1. The record is held with 15 other players

Awards and honors

Award/Honor # of Times Dates
American League All-Star 7 1933–1939
American League MVP 2 1927, 1936
The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award[80] 1955–present
Named starting first baseman on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team 1999
Inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum 1939
World Series champion 6 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938

Teamwork: An Essential Skill

Sea Trials

Books and movies seem to glamorize the lone hero. As a society, we tend to celebrate the accomplishments of a solitary figure. Will LeBron James win for the city of Cleveland, which last saw a championship with the 1964 Cleveland Browns football team? The mindset seems to be not the team winning, but the individual winning it for the team. So much focus of the last Super Bowl match-up was Cam Newton going against Peyton Manning. The young, brash quarterback versus the rapidly declining elder statesman of the league.

In sports, as in life, so much focus seems to be on the accomplishments of the individual. In business, much can be made of the accomplishments of the CEO at a given company. Bill Gates was Microsoft. Steve Jobs was Apple. Currently, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, or Elon Musk is Tesla. Articles in many technology or business magazines tend to gloss over the teams that prop these people up. Would any of these CEOs have succeeded to heights of business without a great team to fulfill their vision?

Before anyone can climb the ladder of any company or organization, they need to build up a foundation in teamwork. To be part of the team is crucial and essential. Anyone who comes in fresh out of college, training school, or armed with certifications, and tries to be the star will be frustrated. I’ve seen young workers come in and work hard and do a decent job, but they were not working for the benefit of the team. They tended to pull more work than others in order to skew the work order stats, and at times they neglected to share information that was helpful for others. The actions did not reflect well, and possible avenues for advancement were not realized by these individuals.

Any team, whether it’s in an IT sector like me, or something on a manufacturing line, will know when people are working for their own interests. Managers who are paying attention will see information hoarding and selfishness. The more you prop yourself up at the expense of others, the weaker your foundation will be. Few managers will tolerate disruptive and selfish individuals who undermine the team dynamic. Most managers, me included, would rather have someone on staff that is average in skills, but top rated in teamwork, before a star worker, who disrupts the team.

As you start out in your career, or seek to land that first great job, work as part of the team. Do your part and let your actions speak, not your voice. Don’t talk about whether you did this or did that, but show what you have done. Demonstrate it through your work ethic. Be the one that others grow to depend and rely on. Be on time and attend consistently. Be the one to take on the hard and unwanted duties without question or complaint. When things are critical, step up and keep the engines going. It may seem that others may have better visibility or opportunities, but this is not the case. You are building and reinforcing your foundation and putting the team first. There may be times you will be overlooked, as some managers can and will play favorites, but keep the team in mind for your actions. In the end, you will reap the benefits.

The coworkers that may admire and respect you now, may be the ones you are in charge of down the road. This is the team that will work extra hard not just for the organization, but they will put forth the extra bit of effort for someone they admire and respect. Someone may use the team to vault into a higher position, but I’ve seen so many times where the team does not fully respect them, and the effort and determination reflects that.

Team first will set you up for all your successes. When you get your foot in the door, start working as part of the team, and build your foundation for the future.

How to Answer the Five Year Question

where-do-you-see-yourself-in-5-years-time

Where do You See Yourself in Five Years?

This is perhaps one of the most common questions any potential candidate will face. This one could be asked as “What do you want to do?”, or perhaps “What is your long range objectives?” There are many variants for this question, but it will probably be asked in some capacity during an interview, especially for entry level positions. The question is easy to answer properly, but can be tricky and destructive for possible employment opportunities.

Good Answers

What I look for when asking this question is simply to gage someone’s interest in self-improvement. Will they get the position, and stagnate in terms of professional growth? Are they realistic in what their expectations are? Will they be self-motivated? These questions are usually bouncing around in my mind when conducting an interview.

Some good answers I like to see are:

  • To continue to progress in the profession through continued experience, education, or certifications.
  • To achieve more rank and responsibility by excellent performance and high achievements.
  • To help fulfill the mission of the organization through dedication and hard work (know the organization’s mission before the interview)

Any combination or variation of the above answers will be viewed in a positive manner. I recommend keeping the enthusiasm realistic, as I have heard some possible candidates answer that they want to run the department. Usually, the interviewers will be looking in the short term, hence the five year period of time. Be realistic and positive.

A Word of Caution

This question is difficult to answer much better than other candidates, as this one is perhaps the most expected question to prepare for in any given interview. However, this question is easy to answer in a way that is unfavorable, and can undermine your chances for the open position, or future consideration for the organization.

Answers to Avoid:

  • I haven’t given this much thought as of yet/I have no immediate plans.
  • Whatever you want me to do, I only want to follow orders.
  • To be in charge/to be running the place.
  • To make the highest wages possible.

These answers will tell the interviewer that you either have no plans for the future, have little drive or motivation, or simply want to use the job as a rung in the ladder for advancement. If the position is not desirable for your career plans, you’ll have to answer the question as if you will be in the field for the long haul.

If you have everything planned out, wonderful. Elaborate and lay it out for the hiring manger during the interview. If you really don’t know, or are indeed using the position to get your foot in the door to gain experience before moving on, be vague. Always focus on self-improvement. You may have no solid answer for this question, but as long as the hiring manger knows you want to continue your education and experience, they will look upon your answer in a favorable manner.

Be prepared for this obvious and common question. Frame the answer in such a way that you are focused on internal growth, and dedication to the organization as a whole. You may not know for sure what five years will entail, but as long as you express a desire to improve your skills, gain experience, and express a desire to help the organization’s mission, the hiring manager will nod in approval and move onto the next question. You will be one step closer for consideration.

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.

 

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.