A person of wisdom realizes that more can be learned from listening than speaking. Speak when needed, but learn to listen often.
A person of wisdom realizes that more can be learned from listening than speaking. Speak when needed, but learn to listen often.
Most of us have a tendency to look at the finished product and view it as unattainable. We may go to a concert, and see a world class pianist or violist work their instruments into brilliant and beautiful songs, and assume we could never be as good. We go to a sporting event to watch a basketball player dribbling the ball with astounding precision and coordination and cheer as they help the team win. We see things in the finished product, but we do not always realize just how much effort and practice went into the finished product.
Think of the roots of a tree. Examine an old, majestic oak, and marvel at the symmetry and beauty. You don’t see the extensive roots, which may be just as impressive. These old giants withered countless storms and bad weather. The seasons have blurred through time for hundreds of years, over a thousand for some species.
Always take care of your roots and you will flourish in all aspects of your job, and life. When starting a new job, or getting a professional career started, do not worry about how much or little you know. Grow your roots though learning and developing. Don’t worry about how much you know, or how good you may look in the eyes of others. Most of this is superficial. Learn all the fundamentals, and your foundation will flourish. Your roots will grow. There will be others who are experts in your area or department or in your life. They may be able to build and produce much more than others. They may be a skilled computer programmer, whose complex and advanced code may be as impressive as intimidating. Their root system will be extensive and developed.
As when you watch a basketball game, you see the end result of a lifetime of practice and development. Stephan Curry may make shooting look easy as he makes shots from seemingly any part of the basketball court. However, you do not see the countless hours of practice he spent growing up. In terms of basketball ability, Curry is a redwood, immense and impressive. A redwood sapling nearby may look up and think it would be impossible to grow to be as thick and tall as mature redwoods nearby. Yet, after many years, the young sapling gets larger and larger. Continuous practice and development will grow your skills and create a solid foundation. As a young worker, you will slowly become a redwood among in your organization and in the workforce if you keep focus on your foundation, your roots.
While it is always a great idea to look upon others with admiration, and to wish to be more like them, always remember that you will need to put in the time. Practice, plan, and develop at all times, and before long, you will become the majestic oak or redwood that everyone admires, but your roots will be extensive, providing a solid foundation for what everyone sees.
One of the simplest and most effective mottos originates from scouting organizations. Be prepared. Be ready for anything. Every year, Coast Guard searches are conducted, looking for people who were ill prepared. Sometimes they did not adequately prepare with emergency supplies, or safety gear. Perhaps they neglected to look at the weather reports for the day, and were caught unaware of an approaching storms.
Preparation is vital, not just for life, but also for profession. Those who apply and interview for jobs that are prepared, will greatly increase their chances for success. Those who “wing it” or hope to perform and adapt on the fly will have more frustration. Increase your chances with the following:
For thousands of years, philosophers and thinkers struggled with the idea of knowing who and what they are. Know what makes you who you are and how you think. This can be rather abstract, but in the realm of the job market, know who you are and where your strengths lie. What are you good at? What makes you do the things you do. What do you seek or what do you want to do? Where does your passion lie?
Fully understanding where you stand in terms of the job market can make interviewing much easier. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can learn to focus and match your strengths with the job descriptions. Equally important is to know what you need work on. Targeting weaknesses and areas that need improvement can make you a well-rounded employee down the road. The first step towards greatness is to know who you are and what you need to do.
When a hiring manager asks you questions, you can always frame the arguments towards your strengths. You will be able to answer questions with more authority and conviction. You will not have to spend moments trying to reflect back when asked. You will be assertive and on point.
It’s easy to target quantity over quality. The trap is easy to fall for. Why send out just ten resumes for job openings, when you can send out one hundred. I’ve heard the argument before. A small percentage of one hundred will yield more results that a small percentage of ten.
While the math backs up this logic, in terms of job searching, this will generally not work out. Take each job posting as separate and unique. Read through the description and look at what skills the organization is seeking. Match your own skills with the various elements of the job description, tailor the resume to reflect what the job posting specifies. You want to lead off the resume with the most relevant skills for the posted jobs. A posting may require marketing skills, so be sure you lead off your marketing abilities, not accounting.
Create a standard resume base, and take the time to modify it as needed for every job you apply for. Treat the job search as a full time job. Be organized, and have a breakdown of resumes for every position. You learn more about yourself in the process and will separate from many applications.
Many interviews will ask what should be an easy question. “Tell me what you know of our organization and why do you want to work here?” Learn the pros and cons for every company you apply for. Are they on Forbes’ list of good companies to work for? Did they make the Fast Company Magazine of the one hundred most innovative companies? Are they the subject for impending high profile lawsuits? Have they declared bankruptcy in recent memory? Understanding the footing of the company or organization today can lead to a better understanding of what to expect.
Congratulations, you have an interview and are scheduled to go in a week from today. What’s your game-plan? Are you planning to drive by the location where you need to report to? What’s the traffic like? Construction nearby? Eliminate potential stress from an already stressful time by knowing exactly where to go and what the parking will be like. The time before the interview will be better spent on relaxing and reflecting on possible questions, not where to park or go.
Do you have the list of names of who will be conducting the interview? Check them out on LinkedIn, or even Facebook. Someone who has a bunch of Star Wars references on their Facebook page may appreciate a reference to the movies. Discretely, of course. The last thing you want to do is appear to be stalking them, but having some level of who they are, maybe a little about their personalities can help you leave a quality impression.
Be prepared. Take all the little steps that can work together to separate you from the others. Every bit you do will help, and it will take time and effort, but when you go into job search and interview prepared, it shows. You will tell the prospective company you are serious and determined. Others may have more skills, but dedication, work ethic, and preparation are equally important traits to have and demonstrate while at an interview.
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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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|
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||—||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|
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.