Refocusing Your Know-how | From the Pick and Roll to the Prostate

 We get known for what we do and have always done. That’s how personal brands evolve.

It’s easy to ride out a positive brand. Just keep doin’ what you’ve been doin’ so you can keep earnin’ what you’ve been earnin’…and maybe a little more, if you’re lucky.

Tested know-how is a kind of career currency. You know when and how to use it successfully– a comfort to the people you work with.

When we add value and make a difference, our work satisfies us.

Then sometimes the ground shifts and we have to shift with it. Or we may see a unique opportunity and decide to push ourselves into new space.

In both cases, your know-how comes with you, providing the foundation for your next move.

Be ready…and steady.

Think of your knowledge and skills like an investment account. The more equity you build, the more prepared you are for surprises.

Things have a habit of changing when you least expect them to:

  • The company reorganizes, merges, or gets bought.
  • You get reassigned (up or down), furloughed, or dismissed.
  • You become ill, disabled, or injured.
  • The product or service line changes and the processes you’ve mastered with it.

Suddenly, the once clear path to sustainable success becomes confusing, uncertain, and even frightening.

Take heart: Your rock is still there. It’s your know-how.

The transferable skills, knowledge, and experience that you’ve always relied on remain, ready to be tapped into anew.

The task at hand now is about focusing yourself on immediate problems and needs. Then putting your know-how to work to resolve them.

Digging in

Recognizing how your know-how can start to restore your sense of control is a crucial first step.

Jack McCallum, acclaimed writer for Sports Illustrated and author of nine books, most of them about great basketball teams and players, is a case in point.

He is an expert at the nuances of  basketball moves like the pick and roll. His sports and journalistic know-how are clear in his writing. In his early sixties, he was gradually throttling down his career.

Then he got prostate cancer.

So what did he do? He wrote about it. First in a  op ed piece in The Morning Call newspaper where he shared his personal logic for following the “watchful waiting”  protocol. He got lots and lots of emails from lots and lots of people–prostate cancer survivors, widows, and physicians.

This response spawned his decision to turn his journalistic skills for research, interviewing, and rational thinking to the challenge of prostate cancer decision-making. What he discovered informed his own treatment decision (which was ultimately to have his prostate removed) and to demystify, as much as that’s possible, the complex arena of prostate cancer treatment.

His first result was ending up cancer free with minimal side-effects.

prostate 819CxxluCaL__SL1500_-220x360The second was his book, The Prostate Monologues: What Every Man Can Learn from My Humbling, Confusing, and Sometimes Comical Battle with Prostate Cancer.

(Suggestion: If you are someone or know someone with prostate cancer, this book is an important read, actually more like a conversation with a good friend over coffee…lots of important factual information, anecdotes, cases, and a few laughs when needed.)

Build portable know-how.

Almost everything you know how to do at your job is a transferable skill.

Whether you need to rebound from a calamity or you want to explore a new direction, there are many ways to give your seasoned skills a new platform and focus.

Consider utilizing your:

  • Web design skills to format e-books for self-published writers
  • Financial skills to support a non-profit needing a comptroller
  • Public speaking skills for a cause that needs a strong voice
  • Fine arts skills to help traumatized children express themselves
  • Project management skills to aid a community group in chaos

Your know-how is exclusively yours. You developed it in ways that express who you are, and it has become integral to your brand. It’s there when you need it, so take good care of it. Then when you’re called upon, you’re ready to step up.

Fatal Distraction–When Your Resume Highlights Work You Don’t Want to Do

resume 14255685-hiring-and-job-search-concept-in-word-tag-cloud-on-white-backgroundResume panic–that unique feeling of crippling dread that overtakes you when facing the need to promote your skills and experiences to get a new job.

Needing a job is unnerving enough. You’re in transition, going from where you were to someplace new.

The competition for that new job starts with a resume that can get you an interview.


Ditch the panic.

Panic gets you nowhere. In fact, it puts you  at risk.

When athletes panic, they make crucial mistakes that cost them the game. The same is true of business leaders, investors, and trades people.

Panic is stress on steroids…and stress makes people stupid.

So if you want to land the right job for yourself, start by taking a deep breath and clearing your head.

Being between jobs gives you a chance to restart or refresh your career. You have the time and space to think about what you really like to do and what you’re good at.

The biggest mistake many job seekers make is writing resumes for jobs they think they can get, instead of ones they want.

 If the stresses of being a supervisor caused health problems, don’t extol your accomplishments running a call center. If you don’t like working directly with people, don’t promote the duties you had clerking at The Gap. If you do, your resume becomes the fatal attraction for a job you really don’t want.

Hit your reset button.

Before you start updating your resume, dedicate a good block of time to thinking about the best next job for you. Talk to people who know you and whose views you respect, consider talking to an experienced career coach or an expert on resumes.

Remember: Your resume is a marketing tool, so it needs to showcase the knowledge, skills, and experiences that you are eager to bring to the job where you will add real value.

If your resume is cluttered with everything you’ve ever done, it demonstrates that you have no real career focus–that you are, in fact, panicked.

To be sure your resume attracts jobs you want, avoid these two big mistakes:

Big Mistake #1: Listing all the duties, tasks, and responsibilities from your prior jobs.

If there’s work you don’t like or want to do, don’t tell the screener via your resume that you know how to do it and are even good at it. When you aren’t looking for that kind of work, it  just clutters up your resume. (Caution: the screener may have another opening full of all that stuff you hate to do and you’d be perfect for it. Ouch!)

You want to list the outcomes you achieved in your prior jobs that excited you.That’s       how your value is measured. Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.

Big Mistake #2: Showing your entire work history, even down to high school jobs.

Your resume is a marketing tool not evidence in a jury trial designed to prove you’ve         worked hard all your life.

Use your resume space to present relevant work and/or academic experience, the           kind that aligns with the requirements of the job. The fact that you worked at McDonald’s   when you were in high school and as a coach’s assistant in college doesn’t market your    talent for strategic planning or app design.

If you’ve been in a professional role and want to stay there, only include your professional experience. If you’re just starting out, align the tasks you performed in those early jobs and internships to the kind of work you’re seeking.

Attract don’t distract.

Attract what you want. Your resume is the bait. The tastier it looks, the more likely you’ll get a bite.

The same is true for the jobs you’re seeking. They have to look yummy to you too. It’s not just a meal you’re after, it’s sustenance for a long time.

The best jobs come when both you and your employer have hungered for the same thing and found it on a shared plate. Let your resume be the appetizer.

Photo credit     

Miserable in Your Job? Wake Up Your Dreams.

wake up 2373187031_87a9803e8c_mMaybe you’re sick of it–that  “follow your dreams” bit.

It can be annoying when fabulously successful people deliver that seemingly hackneyed message. Their words make it sound so easy, as though our dreams are actually clear to us and the path obvious. Their encouragement can even sound a bit like criticism. Ugh!

We often convince ourselves that realized dreams are for other people–mostly celebrities, pro athletes, and people a lot smarter than we. That’s our first mistake.

Open up.

Our desire for approval (and fear of disapproval) from friends and family can be a powerful force.

So, most of us keep our dreams private for too long.

Choosing a career that’s far afield from what you really want sets you up for big disappointments. The sad truth is that most people do just that.

When I coach people facing career crossroads, I ask them this:

Describe briefly the career/job you’ve always dreamed of having that you have never pursued or have only toyed with.

In the list below, the arrows tell you what these folks saw as their dream jobs:

  • Senior corporate finance director after 30 years → Manager of an entertainment-related facility
  • Entry level accountant → Sports team front office administrator
  • Business analyst → Own and operate a bed and breakfast
  • Single mother of four with a medical degree out of the workforce for two decades → Practicing and teaching alternative medicine
  • New college grad  with an English major →  Wine dealer/Travel writer/Set locator for movies/ Travel company founder

 Dreams linger, so it’s never too soon or too late to embrace them.

Your dreams belong to you and you only. Your challenge is to pursue them–on your terms.

Wake up your sleepy head.

Our dreams start in our heads. To make them real, we need to be awake and in gear.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is the voice for the garden snail  who dreams, quite unbelievably,  of being the greatest auto racer in the world in the animated Dreamworks film, Turbo. As Reynolds says, the message in this fantasy film is important:

No dream is too big. No dreamer is too small.

It’s often the case that we start small as we explore our dreams, testing out whether or not we can cobble together plans to achieve them. Each step inches us closer to our vision.

That’s how it worked for county singer, Dolly Parton, who ,throughout her career, has said she always dreams big dreams.

The fourth of 12 children, the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Tennessee, Dolly grew up, as she describes, “dirt poor,” living in a rustic, one-room cabin, and singing in church.

Her talent for singing and songwriting, her grit, willingness to work hard, her charity, and her willingness to dream bigger and bigger dreams propelled her career. She’s never stopped dreaming.

Neither should we.

Fear not.

It’s never too late to get started. So consider these steps:

  • Put a sock in your mouth–to stop the “I can’ts” you mutter that self-sabotage
  • Turn over lots of rocks–to find out what’s needed to realize your dream career
  • Nibble at the edges–to find an entry point for your first efforts
  • Pick your spots— set some specific goals and a timetable for your plan
  • Step forward–involve yourself in some way no matter how small
  • Keep moving–by gradually increasing your participation

You can turn your dream into reality by simply putting yourself out there.

Say “hey.”

Converting dreams into reality requires consistent and persistent hard work, sacrifice, mental toughness, and resilience. You’ll need to muster your courage, withstand  disappointments, and protect your self-belief.

Your dreams also need the help and support of others. So share them with the right people.

It’s important to ask for what you need when you need it from those who truly care about you and your dreams. Your moment will come but the ride is what it’s all about.

Photo by SanitMB via Photoree

Caught in a Mess at Work? 3 Ways to Get Untangled. | Avoiding Drama

It’s easier to complicate things than to keep them simple. That’s why most of us periodically find ourselves in a mess at work.untangled 3632105088_bdaf9ebab1_m

There comes a time when we realize that we’re:

  • Too aligned with the wrong coworkers
  • At odds with our boss
  • Parked in the wrong job
  • Part of a doomed project

Situations like these creep up on us.

Pay attention.

Each day we’re faced with decisions and options that take us down one path or another, usually believing we’re advancing our careers not putting them at risk.

I’ll write it here again: Things are rarely what they seem, and that’s especially true at work. The closer you are to where the real work gets done, the farther away you are from the decisions and decision-makers affecting the organization’s direction.

The less you really know, the more careful you need to be about your choices. This is why developing business savvy is so important.

We often make a mess our of careers by getting tangled up with the wrong people or by putting ourselves in places where we can’t meet expectations.

Here are a couple examples:

  • You get hired by a boss who once worked with you as a staff professional and where you were also friends.  Now you’re expected to  support his wrong-footed policies. If you buck the boss,  you lose all around.
  • You’re new on the job and the boss isn’t training you. You turn to coworkers for help which they give gladly along with their “rules” for getting along, so there are no “problems.” In time you realize that you’re in the wrong camp.
  • You eagerly accepted a role on an important project team to gain some visibility for your technical talents. The forceful team leader has a predetermined result she’s promoting. You realize that her basic premise is wrong, the team is going in the wrong direction, and the result is going to be a bust with your name on it.

We get ourselves into these situations through our own naiveté. As much as we want to be optimistic about opportunities, we need to stop and weigh the potential downsides.

5 ways to disentangle

It is much easier to get situations tangled up than to untangle them. (If you’ve ever tried to get the knots out of a necklace or a fishing line, you know.)

When you need to extricate yourself from a complicated  situation at work,  consider these approaches:

  1. Avoid getting in deeper: Assess the people and/or decisions that are exacerbating the problem and figure out how to start distancing yourself from them. That may mean changing the way you communicate, reducing personal (not professional) sharing, and developing relationships with others who represent your viewpoints.
  2. Resist the “lures”: Step away from the temptations that may have drawn you to the situation in the first place like special access to the boss, the need to make “friends” with everyone, associations with “big” players, and egoism. Instead, refocus on doing your best work for the right reasons, even it if means accepting a short term setback.
  3. Plan and activate an escape plan: When you’re in a mess, you have to get out of it, slowly and carefully in most cases. This takes careful planning and a bit of finesse. You may need to craft a special bit of face-to-face communication, build new alliances, reduce your level of involvement, and/or make a big break. It all depends on the severity of the mess and the risk it imposes on you over time.

The worst thing you can do is nothing. The longer you stay in a bad situation, the more you risk increasingly dire consequences, the worst of which is feeling trapped and helpless.

Avoid drama.

The best thing you can do for your career is to avoid pointless drama caused by unhealthy entanglements. It only adds stress and needless complexity to the work you’ve been hired to do. Each time you’re given a career opportunity, first ask yourself, “What am I really getting myself into?” That should help you take the right step and avoid troublesome drama.

Photo from framelius via Flickr

Career Not Going Your Way? Try Relaxing Your Grip. | Words from the Wise

Feeling stuck? Frustrated? Just plain mad?relax grip 3325065380_252a4c50de_m

Choosing a career and getting the chance to pursuit it doesn’t always happen the way we’d like.

Careers are unpredictable beasts. They come with promise but no guarantees. While they seem to be about us, they’re actually more about others giving us the opportunity to make their organizations successful.

We often start out believing our careers are within our control. Then reality sets in and we hear ourselves saying:

  • “I’m knocking on every door and still don’t get even an interview. Why?”
  • “I’ve been performing at a high level in this job for three years and still no promotion. Why?”
  • “I never thought the work I do would frustrate me like this. What can I do?”

Too often, we can’t answer these questions. They’re too big, too encompassing, and too far beyond our understanding of the conditions that drive them.

So we keep pressing, driving ourselves forward, dragging our frustrations with us. Some just curl up in a ball and do nothing. Sadly, this doesn’t fix anything.

Words from the Wise

Struggles with career choices and direction have gone on for centuries. Human beings generally want to do work that will support them and bring some satisfaction.

Especially in modern times, the hardest part is figuring out what we like and want to do, given our skills. Once that’s somewhat figured out, we set out to find the right employment.

This figuring-out process requires introspection, which many fail to do. It also requires owning what you know about yourself and the career you want, so that  you can set your direction with an uncluttered mind.

I’ve  worked for many years with job and promotion seekers who have been battered by rejection when they’ve pursued job titles, salary levels, and big name companies rather than the work they enjoy. They’ve held on so tight to their preconceived career must-haves that they have tuned out other opportunities.

I use this quote from Robin Fisher Roffer’s book, Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success, to help clients (both men and women) get free of themselves:

The universe is waiting for you to say what you want…Everything that you are seeking is also seeking you.

Then I add these wise words from Henry David Thoreau in Walden:

 Men (and women, right Thoreau?) are born to succeed, not to fail.

Just think about how complex it is to get all the parts  aligned just right so that you and anyone else can intersect your objectives at the same time.

That means: The job you want has to present itself when your skills and experience are seen as the right fit for the company and when the political forces see you as having the right nature to meet expectations. Whew!

Your successful career starts with your willingness to “put out there” what you sincerely want and then to allow your conscious and subconscious thinking to work together to connect the dots. Your prospective or current employer is doing the same thing.

Relax your grip.

Lots of good things happen when you take that chokehold off your career pursuits and replace it with a realization that what you are seeking is also seeking you.

The benefits can be palpable:

  • Less self-imposed pressure, negative self-talk, and energy-sapping stress
  • A refreshed ability to see and hear snippets of ideas you might otherwise have missed
  • An openness and excitement that blunts feelings of frustration and isolation
  • A renewed belief that you will get there and commitment to the effort
  • Recognition that your attitude and effort are what you control; success will follow

Your career path is a function of the work you’ve done to offer value to an employer and the initiatives you take to get hired/promoted. Your biggest challenge is to be authentic in the process and prepared to act effectively when opportunities present themselves. Taking your hand off the throttle can help you make a nice smooth turn.

Photo from ladybugrock via Flickr

The Sweet Sound of Striking the Right Chord | An Interview with Ricky Bell

I met Ricky Bell because my home office computer was deadly slow. As an independent computer technician, Ricky came highly recommended by my accountant, so I knew I’d be in good hands. To my surprise, I soon learned that those hands were equally talented on the neck of a guitar and that Ricky had connected two talents into one amazing career.    

DL:  Ricky, do you consider yourself a computer guy who’s a musician or a musician who’s a computer guy? 

RB: My goals as a musician drive everything I do. It’s been that way since I was a high school kid, working whatever decent-paying jobs I could find, including telemarketing, to earn enough money to buy more music gear. I’m still that way, investing in new equipment that helps me make better music. 

DL:  Is that what your IT business does for you today? 

RB: That and a lot more. After I got my A.A. degree in information technology, I apprenticed in IT for a couple years until I realized I could earn more if I had my own clients. So I went into business doing on-site residential and business troubleshooting, then database development and website design. I also handle convention production audio for my corporate clients plus IT consulting services. 

As a married man with a family, I need a business that provides a growing income. As a musician, I needed flexibility so I can play. Being an IT entrepreneur gives me both. 

DL: When did you know you had the talent to be a successful musician? 

RB: I’ve been playing music since I was a kid—violin in 3rd grade, piano in 6th, guitar and drums in 7th and 8th. I play six instruments and have been playing in cover bands since high school. 

I figured out that I might have a real talent for the guitar when I took lessons from Greg Howe, guitar player for Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Enrique Iglesias. I wasn’t sure that I was any good until at 13 my friend’s parents let me sit in with their band. When they called me a “prodigy,” it got my attention. 

DL: How did that revelation change things for you? 

RB: I started to put myself out there more. My breakthrough came when I entered one of my original songs in a contest run by WZZO radio. As the winner (out of 150 entrants), I got to perform my song on stage at The State Theatre in Easton,PA with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. That recognition was a watershed moment in my music career.  

DL: What were your next steps? 

RB: I never like to say “no” to opportunity which means that to say “yes” I often have to go out on a limb.   

I’d been working a freelance job as a cameraman for Blue Ridge Cable, a sister company of Penns Peak, a concert venue in PA. Through that connection, I was invited to play at an American Cancer Society benefit there—just me singing and playing my guitar. The performance was so successful that I was booked by Penns Peak to open for major music groups, including Styx, REO Speedwagon, Kansas, and The Tubes.

DL: Where are you now with your music? 

RB: For me it’s all about performing to reach as many people as I can. I play with three bands now, two are my own. I play guitar and sing as a duo with my friend, Ian Frey, percussionist, at small venues and private parties. My cover band, Connect5, plays at larger venues where we keep the crowd dancing.   

I also play harmonica and sing as the Elwood character with the tribute band, The Blues Brotherhood, for large stage, sell-out crowds at casinos and the like. 

DL: How do music and your IT work fit together to meet your career aspirations ? 

RB: Computers and music share common ground in the music studio and on stage. Whether I’m performing with my bands, recording music, creating websites, or solving computer problems, my IT knowledge is always key to achieving successful results.   

I have no set-in-stone plan for the future. I continue to say “yes” to good opportunities the way I always have. All I need is money in the bank and the opportunity to play music. After all, I still need to buy more gear! 

Long term I just want to keep moving forward and upward. Making music and getting paid for it while taking care of my IT clients and raising my beautiful family matter most to me. Everything works together. 

DL: Your story reminds us all that careers emerge from the choices that we make. The more open-minded we are about our options and the more willing we are to take risks, particularly on ourselves, the more likely we are to fashion a career that fits us, striking the right chord. Thanks, Ricky, for sharing your story.

You can follow Ricky Bell and listen to his music and his bands at his website and on Facebook.  Here’s a two-minute video sampling of Ricky in action.

Reinvent Your Career—Preserve Your “Self” | An Interview with Cherry Woodburn

I met Cherry Woodburn on an NPR talk show for Women’s History Month. We were part of a panel of women entrepreneurs who were also authors. Cherry was an on-air veteran, having hosted her own radio show, and I was a rookie. She graciously helped put me at ease. 

Her career history struck a chord with me. She’d done it her way, always pushing forward to follow her talent and her principles. So we decided to meet for coffee and, in short order, became friends. Cherry’s story is an important one, so I asked her to share some of it with you. 

DL: Starting out, what were your career aspirations? 

CW: I had really BIG plans. I fully intended to save the world. 

I came of age in the 1970s, graduating from college with a B.S. in sociology with a minor in education. I assumed my first job would be for a non-profit, serving women and children in abusive or deprived situations. 

Instead I got a job in urban renewal which, in the final analysis, was about demolishing homes for green space, turning people’s live upside down. It didn’t take long until I knew that job was the wrong fit. 

DL: How did you deal with that realization?

CW: I thought an advanced degree would lead me to the right career. So I got a master’s degree in public administration from Penn State. Then back I went into the job market. 

I got a series of contract jobs with quasi-governmental non-profits in health planning and City administration. I spent most of my time trying to find grant funding and/or justifying expenditures for my own job, ugh! After three years in this arena, I was done. 

DL:  That was a hard realization. What kept you going? 

CW: I’m not afraid of change, so I decided to move into the business world. I wasn’t going to save the world, but at least, I could grow and see where that would lead me. 

G.E. hired me into their leadership development program. I was assigned to employee relations, handling primarily internal communications and assessment center work where I interacted directly with frontline employees, managers, and executives. I did well there. 

Employees in the leadership program who successfully completed their first job assignment were expected to relocate anywhere in the country for their next one. When my time came, I was pregnant with my first child, and explained that I was unwilling to relocate at that time. G.E. let me go. 

DL: How did you ever have the courage to sacrifice that big career move?  

CW: After considerable reflection, I determined family, rather than moving up the corporate ladder, was my priority. But what I hadn’t expected was that in a few years I would be a divorced single parent with two young children. 

As someone who started out wanting to save the world, I realized that my sons were my world. I was determined to find a way to make a living that allowed me to be at home with them as much as possible. 

Little by little, people started hiring me as an independent contractor. Suddenly, I was an entrepreneur! I did freelance copy writing for training manuals and video scripts. I wrote procedure manuals, developed and conducted training, and taught statistics to production employees at manufacturing companies. 

Then I was asked to work with a team to develop curriculum materials on total quality for elementary school teachers. The American Society for Quality selected our model as their model, and I ended up training it across the country. I could make enough money in a week to cover a month’s living costs and that week’s babysitters. Perfect!  

DL:  Even though you’ve reinvented what you do, you’ve still held on to your ideals. Where is that taking you now? 

CW: I still want to save the world and have a passionate concern about women’s issues. 

I see how women get stuck in self-limiting paradigms and I want to help them.

I’ve consistently defied unfair limits placed on me, but I, at times, still struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem issues. I think I’m typical of lots of women. 

Social media provides me with an amazing platform for reaching “the world.” I have embraced it so I can reach women who need someone to help them overcome their self-limiting beliefs. 

I have come full circle, having weathered many storms.  This current career reinvention stage enables me to connect who I am with what I do. What could be better? 

DL:  For everyone who struggles with “what they want to be when they grow up,” you remind us that we need to understand and follow what really matters to us, our drivers, and our passions. Then it’s a matter of taking responsibility for our choices and pursuing what’s important to us with courage. Thanks, Cherry. 

Cherry Woodburn blogs at Borderless Thinking. She is featured, along with Stephen R. Covey and Brian Tracy, in the book, Mission Possible, a compilation of interviews on reaching your potential, conducted by David E. Wright, President, International Speakers Network. Her services include speaking, live workshops, and on-line programs. You can follow Cherry on Twitter and Facebook.