Want to Make It? Then Believe You Will…Without a Doubt.

“Why not me?” That’s the nagging question we often ask ourselves after we fail to:

David Ferrer

  • Get that promotion
  • Receive recognition or reward for our contributions
  • Land the job we wanted

Whether we’re an individual contributor, supervisor, manager, or executive, there will always be some career goal that keeps eluding us. So what’s the answer?

Know how to compete.

“Making it” is about competing. You want to progress in your career, and so do most of the people working with you. That means those coworkers are also attempting to stand out and showcase their value.

Unlike in sports, we don’t find ourselves pitted against each other in a specific contest each day, but we are continuously being compared to one  another by our supervisors and managers.

They assess our:

  • knowledge, skills, and experience
  • desire, motivation, and reliability
  • work ethic and integrity
  • ability to collaborate, engage others, and lead
  • mental toughness and focus in the face of adversity

We  compete, every day, by demonstrating our ability to get desired results. The more significant our contributions, the more value the company will assign to us.

Sadly, this isn’t always enough to “make it” in our terms.

Believe you will.

You aren’t the only one putting together your portfolio of value attributes. Others are doing it too.

Remember: You are all performing as best you can, differentiating yourselves, building relationships, and getting ready for that next big step.

You increase your chances of making that step when you really believe you will.

We all tell ourselves that we want to, are ready to, are prepared to, have worked to, and are entitled to that step. But that’s not the same as believing we will…with no doubt, no second-guessing, no probably. We must believe we WILL.

David Ferrer is a Spanish professional tennis player, currently World No. 5 in the ATP Rankings. He turned professional in 2000 and is known as a clay-court specialist, although he has also had success on hard courts.

He routinely faces current tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who have amassed numerous championship titles. They routinely beat Ferrer and are almost always between him and a championship title.

The fact is that Ferrer has all the skills and desire to win:

Ferrer is noted for being one of the more dogged, agile and fit players on the tour… Ferrer has won many matches through consistent baseline play along with great fitness, footspeed and determination. Although he does not possess powerful  groundstrokes like many of his contemporaries, his ability to keep the ball deep in play has allowed him to be successful on all surfaces, especially on clay and hard courts… Roger Federer regards Ferrer as the best returner in the men’s game.

So what’s the obstacle for Ferrer?

While I was watching the 2012 Internazionali BNL d’Italia tournament where Ferrer faced Nadal in the semi-final, one of the TV commentators offered his opinion that, as good as Ferrer was, it appeared he simply didn’t believe he could beat his higher ranked rivals.

Who can say for sure if that’s true for Ferrer, but what about in your case?

Do you believe?

So we come to another question…one only you can answer. It takes something deep inside to get us to really believe we can achieve our personal career goals. That believing is a mental discipline that we form through:

  • Constructive feedback consistently internalized from people we trust and respect
  • Absorbing the confidence shown by others–our fans, our supporters, our friends/family
  • Committing to prove something to ourselves
  • Wanting to share success with those who are invested in us and/or for a  cause
  • Realizing that our time will come, so we must remain ready

There is no predicting when we will move from where we are to really believing in ourselves and our ability to secure our brass ring. We need to teach ourselves to deny self-doubt any place in our thinking and replace it with the belief that, through our continued hard work and diligence, we will make it. You gotta believe, okay?

Photo from beelde.com via Flickr

When You Don’t Know, Find Someone Who Does—Like Jack Nadel

Success is the prize. Seeking it gets us to make the effort. 

Sadly, our efforts don’t always deliver the success we’re after. We look around and wonder what we’re doing wrong. Now it’s time talk to someone who’s been through it all. 

Enter Jack Nadel.  

At this writing, Nadel is in his late 80s. He spent 65 years in business, primarily in product sales, as founder of Jack Nadel International. After serving as a decorated combat veteran in WWII, he started his business in a tiny office without money, education, or experience. He became a successful global entrepreneur, author, TV personality, and philanthropist—a source of the guidance we need. 

Starting with nothing and ending with enormous success is inspiring. We want that to be us, initiating a great idea, building know-how, and taking prudent risks that work. Often, when we read success stories and try to replicate the steps, we end up disappointed.

The value of priceless wisdom 

Our flawed or misguide notions often get in our way. It’s not what’s on the surface that gives us an edge: It’s how we interpret, translate, and innovate what’s behind it. Insights are the real keys to success. 

I was treated to that special insight when I was invited to blog about Nadel’s new book,Use What You Have to Get What You Want: 100 Basic Ideas That Mean Business. 

I admit I didn’t know anything about Nadel before the book arrived. But I was immediately taken by the uncluttered, easily absorbed advice he gave. Each of the 100 ideas with a real-life illustration from his experience fits on one page. 

His insights work, no matter whether you’re managing a household, a small business, or a department in a corporation. 

Selling is a success staple.

 Nadel’s expertise is broad: His knowledge of sales and deal-making is laser sharp. There’s selling in everything we do: We sell ideas, products, services, relationships, and opportunities. Whenever we try to get someone to act, we’re closing some kind of transaction. 

Nadel zeroes in on the principle that there’s right-way and wrong-way selling. The right way ensures success that lasts. 

Here are ten Nadel selling ideas that struck a particular chord with me. (The parens are how I intend to apply them.) 

  1. “If you can’t explain your product or service in 30 seconds, you probably can’t sell it.” (Test my elevator speech and revise as needed.)
  2. “Selling…[has]…a built-in scorecard.” (Track revenue and opportunities in the pipeline to measure progress.)
  3. “The best way to learn to sell is to go out and sell.” (Make contacts. Meet with people. Use #1.)
  4. “Features tell and benefits sell.” (Clarify my “what’s in it for the client” message.)
  5. “It’s easy to sell glamor, excitement, hope and feel-good products. It’s tough to sell insurance.” (Understand my service touch points.)
  6. “Perceived value is what sells—real value is what repeats.” (Continue to deliver what’s promised.)
  7. “The road to hell is paved with misrepresentation.” (Make sure there are never any surprises.)
  8. “Honesty is not only the best policy; it’s the most profitable.” (Own up when I goof up. Make things right.)
  9. “After you negotiate the best deal, give a little extra.” (Be counted on to over-deliver.)
  10. “Careful planning is more important than hard work.” (Think first; then act.) 

Life runs on transactions 

There’s a business aspect to almost everything we do. Good business ensures that each transaction feels like a win on both sides. As Nadel says: 

 “If I give you a dollar, and you give me a dollar, we each have a dollar. If I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas.” 

Our success is achieved on the shoulders of others. Generosity in the way we do business has a way of boosting success. Nadel’s generosity in sharing his immense insights is an example of that. 

You can purchase a copy on Amazon.com.

When Your Career’s Sagging, Get Yourself Business Fit.

Ever had that old sagging feeling? It’s when: 

  • Nothing at work excites you.
  • Your motivation has flat-lined.
  • The signs that “you’re going nowhere” loom.
  • Your energy is drained.  

Even a Red Bull can’t jolt us out of that. 

Wake up! 

When our careers are sagging, it’s because we’ve allowed it. After all, we own them.

They’re a function of our choices—the education we pursued and the work experiences we’ve accepted. 

Each year of our careers is like a professional sports season. It’s a cycle: The draft (our hiring or retention), then camp (team alignment and goal setting), and the season (the work and its outcomes). Then it starts over again. There’s a calculated method to all of this, because, after all, it’s big business. 

Similarly, our companies make money through the contributions we make along with their other employees. When we act like the company is holding us against our wills in careers we’ve chosen and allowed to sag, something’s wrong about us. 

If that’s how you feel, it’s time to ratchet up your business fitness. 

Step up! 

Clayton Kendrick-Holmes is the sixth year, head coach for Maritime College in New York, a 2010 championship contending, football team. He’s also a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves being deployed to Afghanistan in November 2010. 

Coach Kendrick-Holmes promotes the importance of principles over personalities with his team. In place of having his players’ names on their jerseys, he has them select words like accountability, family, respect, character, and work ethic for their backs—a driving principle that motivates their play. It shows what’s important to them. 

A sagging career often lacks a driving force, that compelling reason to dig deep, test ourselves, take risks, and work hard for success. 

Ask yourself what’s causing you to feel in a career slump. Think about what you want from your career: Maybe your word is fortune, change, service, security, collaboration, quality, innovation, or connection

The word(s) we choose help us figure out what’s missing in our careers today, so we can make changes. 

Buck up. 

Knowing your personal drivers is a starting point. Now you need to look at where you are. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of work gives me the most satisfaction? Where can I find it?
  • What causes me to feel inadequate on my job? What am I ready to do about it?
  • Who are the colleagues I count on and who count on me for leverage and support? What can I do to get more connected?
  • What are the knowledge and skill gaps that I need to plug so I can grow?  

Think of yourself as the professional you are: Then ask yourself whether or not you have prepared yourself physically (knowledge and skills) and mentally (savvy and toughness) to compete for the career that you want, just like any serious athlete. 

Business is about competition like any sport. You’re a player. The more business fit you are, the more valuable you are to the team and to yourself. When you aren’t, you risk getting cut. 

The discipline of building your business fitness is like an athlete’s workout/practice regimen but without the sweat. That includes knowing how to find out what’s really going on around you and how to deal with it effectively.   


I write in my book, Business Fitness

“If you start out on a journey to success without a clear picture of what you are pursuing, then what you get in the end will be some kind of default result. You might like that result or not. Either way you have nothing to complain about since you had no particular direction in the first place.” 

I advocate taking charge of your work life as much as possible, by committing to your success vision, building your capabilities, and moving forward with courage. When you’re business fit, you’re ready for most everything. Time to get pumped up! 

What words best describe what drives you? How has that focus helped keep your career from sagging? Thanks for commenting.

Shooting Your Career in the Foot | The Consequences of Squandered Trust

Competition sets its own bar. To succeed we need to know: 

  • Who’s controlling the bar
  • Is it permanent or changing
  • Am I the only one expected to jump
  • What do I need to do to get over it
  • Can I count on a fair assessment of my effort 

It’s a problem when we can’t trust consistency, support, and fairness. 

The trust factor 

To trust and be trusted: An essential precept in business and our careers. 

It starts and ends with us. Trust is actually quite simple: It’s doing what you say you’re going to do. 

That puts a serious burden on being careful about what you say. Today, however, communication has become, among many, fast and loose! 

We communicate by: 

  • Cell phone text using cryptic codes, BTW with LOL
  • Tweets, using 144 characters, compressing words 4 ur ease, TY
  • Facebook posts, a bit longer, aided by photos and links (the words of others)
  • E-mail, a spacious platform to say what’s on our minds 

No longer are we prone to speak face-to-face or even ear-to-ear. We write, just like in the old days. Sans quill, ballpoint, or felt tip. 

But today, what we say has long legs. Nearly everything we say electronically can be and, likely will be, shared. 

Sometimes we forget to think about what might happen when we write something that is: 

  • Incorrect or distorted
  • Inappropriate or critical
  • Angry or rude
  • Thoughtless or stupid
  • Knee-jerk or mean 

The fallout can be quick. In a blink, it can cost the trust you have painstakingly built, perhaps permanently. 

An apology only stops the bleeding! 

It rarely heals the wound. People trust us to: 

  • Do the right thing
  • Keep ourselves under control
  • Be patient, kind, and responsible
  • Get the facts and be above rumor
  • Think before we speak or act
  • Conduct ourselves professionally and with integrity 

A personal brand without trustworthiness undercuts our potential for success. 

Imagine being on the receiving end of these words from a boss, colleague, or coworker. What would be your level of trust going forward? 

  • I can’t believe that you got into a shouting match with that customer. I should fire you for that.
  • I went ahead and told my work group about the program you’ll announce next week since I’m going on vacation tomorrow. 
  • I know I said that I was going to support your idea at today’s meeting, but it looked like it wasn’t going to fly, so I backed off. 
  • As it turned out, I just couldn’t get that assignment done as promised. I had other priorities. 
  • I know I told you I thought you were ready for that senior level job. But I decided to give it to Kim instead. 
  • I never said I was definitely going to give you that special assignment, just that I was thinking about it.  

Trust is a delicate thing. There are words that will crush it immediately. And there are others that just erode it. 

Lost trust is a downward spiral. 

Distrusted bosses end up with employees who: 

  • Keep book on them in case they need to take legal action
  • Have low morale and poor productivity
  • Are wary and anxious
  • Resist change consistently
  • Create an undercurrent of negative chatter 

Distrusted employees will experience: 

  • Intense scrutiny and/or oversight
  • Few opportunities for development
  • Efforts to transfer them or eliminate their jobs
  • Suspicion and avoidance
  • An undercurrent of negative chatter by coworkers 

Be mindful! 

Don’t be cavalier. Think first. Consider unseen audiences. Weigh the implications. Be strategic. 

What you say matters. Few people will take the time to think about what you mean if your words aren’t exactly right. The responsibility is yours to protect your trustworthiness. Being your truest self is the underpinning of business fitness. Please don’t let yourself down! 

Do you have a “loss of trust” story to tell from your career? Was it ever repaired? If so, how? Thanks!

“Any Clues, Sherlock?” | Uncovering the Hidden Job Market

Remember the old joke about the little boy whose parents took him to a psychiatrist because they worried he was too optimistic? The psychiatrist took him into a room piled high with horse manure. Instead of recoiling, the boy ran to the pile and began digging frantically. 

His reason: “So much manure. There must be a pony in here somewhere.”

You have to dig to find hidden job opportunities. 

If you’ve confined your job search to job boards, classified listings, career fairs, or agencies, you’re shopping for what’s on the shelf, not what’s hidden.

You also won’t find jobs that fit you by confining your search to titles like:  Entry level marketing specialist, Computer programmer, or Accounting associate.

When you don’t know what you’re really after, you end up in the search line with everyone else, hoping you’ll get lucky.

To find the right job, target the right industry. 

A great job is not about the title. It’s about work that fits your talents and interests. Every business is part of an industry, enterprises engaged in the production goods and services like pharmaceuticals, education, apparel, or entertainment.

Each business supporting an industry does unique work that is often unknown to us.

That means, if you want to tap into the hidden job market, you need to do some sleuthing, Sherlock Holmes style.

Businesses in every industry faces competitive issues. 

For starters, you need to know what’s ailing the businesses you want to work for. Here’s how to start unearthing those challenges:

  • Follow them and their industry in business publications, like the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Inc.
  • Follow them on social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Follow their competition
  • Set up Google alerts for each company/industry. Examine what you find
  • Study their websites for what is and isn’t said about their performance 

Draw conclusions about what their issues are in areas like:

  • Customer relationships
  • Financial performance
  • Process efficiency
  • Marketing strategies
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Technology applications 

Turn over the rocks! Reveal what’s underneath. 

By now, you’ll know what their big picture needs are. You’ll also know how you can help meet those needs. Now, frame your plan:

Identify a specific, targeted need that you can help them improve like: 

  • Expanding market reach through social media
  • Reducing specific production errors by upgrading software
  • Improving employee awareness of buyers’ habits
  • Providing oversight on new financial regulations 

Present yourself. Get known. 

Identify someone to talk to in that business who’s facing the needs you identified.

Contact them by phone or written correspondence (since this stands out more than another e-mail his his/her mailbox).

Identify the issue that you have been looking at and frame it in a way that fits your talents. For example: say,

“I have been following XYZ issue in your industry for the past 3 months and would appreciate the opportunity to get your perspective. I would like to talk with you (pick one):

  • In preparation for a blog post that I will be writing
  • As an expert resource for an article I’m freelancing
  • For a paper I’m writing for my college class
  • To get a broader understanding of the issue
  • To test my perceptions about a potential “fix” 

After each meeting, agree on how you will remain in contact. Do what it takes to keep the conversation going without being overbearing.

Eventually, you will find the right opportunity to state your interest in working for that company, using the expertise that you’ve been demonstrating.

Good jobs remain hidden until you find them. 

If something’s worth having, it’s worth working for. Getting the really good jobs are about preparation and readiness, not luck. That’s why being business fit makes for a satisfying and long career. Now, let’s see what you’ve got!

What did you do to pierce the hidden job market? Got at a trick to share?

Start Smart. Finish Strong. | Job-to-Career Strategies

Singin’ the “I Need a Job” blues? It starts like this: “Don’t know what I wanna do with my life…Got so many bills to pay.” It’s a sorrowful tune about the rock and the hard place. 

You want a job that launches your career but can’t find one—the rock.  You settle for a make-do job to cover debts and expenses—the hard place. Luckily, there is a cure for the blues! 

Jobs don’t make a career, but they can add up to one. 

A job is a means to an end. So before you start looking, you need to know what you’re really after. 

I recently spoke to a group of college seniors with questions about the job market. One of the students expressed confusion and frustration about the pull of trying to find a job that matched his major versus taking a $20-an-hour security job to start paying his tuition debts. 

I asked him, “What are you interested in?” 

He answered, “Bodybuilding.”  Bingo! 

The bodybuilding industry is huge. It’s made up of companies that: 

  • Produce body-building equipment, supplements, and attire
  • Build and design gyms
  • Market equipment, products, and services
  • Handle event planning and promotion
  • Offer personal trainers, DVD’s, and on-air programs
  • Produce print and on-line publications 

Each one of these companies has jobs to fill at all salary levels. If you really want to work in a certain industry, first get connected to it. 

I told this young man, “If you’re willing to work for $20 an hour, then look for $20-an-hour job at a company that’s connected to the bodybuilding industry.” 

Why? Because, at least, he’ll get in a door that gives him an insider’s look at the industry that he’s attracted too. Once he’s there, he’s in a position to stand out.

 Positioning is about building your body of work.

When you start any job, you don’t really know how the business works. So your objective is to do what it takes to accumulate knowledge, skills, experience, and insights that will make you a strong candidate for new opportunities when the time comes. 

So what should you do in that current job: 

  • Master the technical skills and processes to maximize your productivity.
  • Make strong, professional relationships with the colleagues, managers, suppliers, and vendors you meet. Stay in touch.
  • Learn about the competition and how the company is dealing with it.
  • Volunteer for special assignments; Offer to work on a project even if it isn’t within your existing job.
  • Participate on work teams to solve problems.
  • Ask people you work with about their career paths; Do information interviewing with them.
  • Keep alert to internal openings and job opportunities in other companies tied to your preferred industry. 

Be ready to move when the time comes.  

  • Keep your resume updated.
  • Maintain a professional social media presence.
  • Let people in your company and outside know that you are interested in other opportunities.
  • Think through the next steps you want to take and what you require to make a move. (Remember: Each job change is about adding to your skills, knowledge, experience, and network! It’s not all about money and title.) 

The key is to be prepared and ready to make those moves. That’s what it means to be business fit. 

You build a career by being strategic about the jobs you take.

Flailing is not a strategy. That’s what taking jobs for paychecks looks like. In order to take control of your career, you need to be under control about your choices. 

The sequencing of your jobs tells a story on your resume. A job history that demonstrates a commitment to learning about an industry from the ground up sets you apart. That’s how to trade that hard place for a warm seat that fits just right.

 What are some of the related businesses you discovered while working in an industry? What do you see emerging in today’s marketplace?

Want an Enviable Personal Brand? | Do the Right Things

The paparazzi are following you. Well, not exactly. Truth is: We are always in someone’s line of sight. They see, they interpret, they judge. 

Our personal brand is always in the making.  

No matter who we are or what we’re doing, someone is drawing conclusions about us. That’s how our personal brands are formed. I learned this once the hard way. 

When I was a kid, I took a few horseback riding lessons and was hooked. I had to wait until I was 30 to take my next lessons. At 38, I bought my first horse. 

Danny was a retired race horse, decorated show horse, and seventeen. He knew a lot more about being ridden well than I did about riding. 

Two months after I’d gotten Danny, my instructor took us to our first show. It was a cold, damp February day. We were entered in classes where the jumps were no higher than 2 ½ feet. 

Here’s the chain of events:  

Danny and I come into the ring. We make a circle to build up a little speed and head for the first jump. As the rider, it’s my job to stay in the saddle until just before the horse lifts off. 

Well, my timing wasn’t the best, and I move off his back too early. Smart old, Danny thinks, “Hey, where is she?” 

Because he’s unsure, he stops short and sends me flying though the air, head first over the fence. Splat! 

I’m now lying in oily turf completely disoriented with Danny quietly watching me. My trainer rushes out, dusts me off, hoists me back into the saddle, and I try again. 

The arena is starting to fill up. Everyone loves a crash. 

I tap Danny with my crop to get his attention. Around we go again. First fence,good. Second fence, good. Third fence…I got excited. Lifted off early. Became a human canon ball again! Thud. Wow, that landing felt harder than the first. 

Out comes my trainer. In come more spectators. I’m spitting turf. It’s also in my boots. Back up into the saddle. Around again. Fence four…made it. Fence 5…yes! Fence 6…I’m again aero-rider. Whomp! 

By now I can barely get up. I’m so sore. (It’s been a five foot fall each time.) I no longer have my bearings but I had to get back on. The arena is jammed with people. I ride one more jump. And then I pull up. 

I smile and wave to the crowd. They applaud. Of course, I feel humiliated. 

Now, they’re ready to award the ribbons. Clearly, no ribbon for me. But I hear my number called over the loud speaker. 

So I limp back into the arena and see the ring steward approaching me carrying a cupcake. 

The announcer says, “We’re giving this rider a good sportsmanship award for her courage and for not taking it out on her horse when things went wrong.” 

I was stunned and overwhelmed. It was a powerful lesson about what others see in what we do. The announcer reinforced the standards of proper competitive behavior and made sure the spectators got the message. 

Just for the record, Danny and I returned the following month and won our classes. After one of them, a young rider came up to me and said, “Aren’t you the lady that kept falling off last month?” Everyone remembers! 

A good reputation is a brand calling card that opens many doors. 

It can get you a job interview, a new customer, a bank loan, a date with someone special, and life-changing opportunities. It’s a key to being business fit. 

Today, more than ever, we really don’t know when someone is watching. Cell phones and security cameras have increased the odds. But we know whether or not we’re doing the right thing. Like the old adage says, “If you wouldn’t do what you’re intending to do with someone watching, don’t do it.” 

Do you have an experience that has helped build or protect your personal brand? Got any advice to go with it?