Monthly Blogs 2013

Shifting Connections & The Strength of Weak Ties

December, 2013


“Changing careers is not merely a matter of changing the work we do. It is as much about changing the relationships that matter in our professional lives. Shifting connections refers to the practice of finding people who can help us see and grow into our new selves, people we admire, would like to emulate, and with whom we want to spend time. All reinventions require social support. New or distant acquaintances — people and groups on the periphery of our existing networks — help us push off in new directions while providing the secure base in which change can take hold.

We cannot regenerate ourselves in isolation. We develop in and through our relationships with others — the master teaches the apprentice a new craft; the mentor guides a protege through the passage to an inner circle; the council of peers monitors the standards of a professional group, conferring status within the community. Yet, when it comes to reinventing ourselves, the people who know us best are also the ones most likely to hinder rather than help. They may wish to be supportive but they tend to reinforce — or even desperately try to preserve — the old identity we are seeking to shed.”

Hermina Ibarra

Source: Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, Pages: 113-114

“People weren’t getting their jobs through their friends. They were getting them through their acquaintances. Why is this? Granovetter arues that it is because when it comes to finding out about new jobs — or, for that matter, new information, or new ideas — “weak ties” are always more important than strong ties. Your friends, after all, occupy the same world you do. They might work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, schools, or parties. How much, then, would they know that you wouldn’t know? Your acquaintances, on the other hand, by definition occupy a very different world than you. They are much more likely to know something you don’t. To capture this apparent paradox, Granovetter coined a marvelous phrase: the strength of weak ties.”

Malcolm Gladwell

Source: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Page: 54


Crafting Experiments

November 2013


Ever since it came out in 2003, there is one book that remains on the top of my recommended list when one of my clients is considering a career transformation; Working Identity by Hermina Ibarra. I’ll be discussing one element of Ibarra’s three part model in this and my next two blogs. This month is about crafting experiments, next month is about shifting connections, and then in January I will discuss making sense of what can be learned from your experiments and new connections, and whether it is time to take the big leap.

In her book, Ibarra explains crafting experiments this way, “Trying out new activities and professional roles on a small scale before making a major commitment to a different path. We don’t, as a rule, leap into the unknown. Instead, most of us build a new working identity by developing the girders and spans as “side projects” — extracurricular ventures that allow us to test possible selves without compromising our current jobs.”

What might this look like? Here are several experiments that you should consider as you look at new career possibilities: volunteer work, pro-bono work, side projects, moonlighting, a part-time job, consulting, contracting, go to conferences, read new magazines/books, leave of absence/sabbatical, board memberships, committee work, informational interviews, new hobbies, temporary assignments, freelance or project work, job shadowing, join a club/group, buy supplies and just do “it”.

Ibarra offers this cautionary note in her book, “By far the biggest mistake people make when trying to change careers is to delay taking the first step until they have settled on a destination. This error is so undermining because we learn about ourselves by doing, by testing concrete possibilities.” Don’t just keep thinking about or planning to run experiments in the future. Do them now, or do them soon. You don’t need to leave the path you are on, or have been on, to do so. Each of the examples mentioned above suggest “on the side” activities, not “all in” choices. Eventually you might choose to jump in with both feet, but it often takes a few months or even years of experiments, new connections and reflection before you have built a solid enough bridge to a new future.

One of the most helpful aspects of the Working Identity book is the many career transformation examples the author offers to bring her theories to life. These are stories of experienced professionals and leaders like you who have been very successful in their past, and are committed to being bold and adventurous in their next chapter. The book is published by the Harvard Business School Press, so it is in no way another pop psychology or simple minded book. It is a classic, and I encourage you read it (or reread it), act on its advice, and use Ibarra’s model if you are considering a major career shift.

Next month my blog will be about shifting connections. As Ibarra describes it, “Developing contacts who can open doors to new worlds: finding role models and new peer groups to guide and benchmark our progress.” Happy trails to you.


Evaluating An Opportunity

October, 2013


Making a decision about a job opportunity can be a daunting, overwhelming experience. You feel the pressure to say yes and get on with it, but what if you have some misgivings? What if you are missing important information, or have a competing opportunity? What then? This decision making process about an opportunity can be made easier by breaking down the key factors for consideration. The most significant of these include: the job, the organizational fit, and the personal factors such as money, time demands and location.

You can put together an excel spreadsheet to list out key factors within each of these three categories. Below I have included many of these factors for the creation of a job comparison spreadsheet. The headings on the top of that spreadsheet could include; column 1: the factors themselves, column 2: importance weighting (rating each from 1-10 according to how important each factor is to you), column 3: the score (from 1-10 how this particular opportunity meets your needs on this factor), and column 4: the total score as the product of column 2 (importance) x column 3 (rating for this job).

Your spreadsheet can continue on to a second and third opportunity so that you can compare one to the next. The importance stays the same for each, but the scores and totals will likely vary between opportunities. For each opportunity you can summarize each of the three categories as well as the grand total in order to compare one to the next. You may not necessarily have a clear winner, but you will have a better sense of the positives, negatives, red flags, neutrals and the unknowns. You can then move towards solidifying your overall assessment and prepare your next round of questions and research. Now, here are my suggested factors — job, company and personal:


Impact Potential
Growth and Advancement Potential
Uses My Preferred Skills
Interests Match
Values Match
Uses My Knowledge and Experience
Fit With Boss
Reasonable Expectations
Decision-Making Authority
Good Likelihood of Success and Support


Attractive Size of Company
Management Style Compatibility
Fit With The Senior Team/Board
Alignment With Vision and Strategy
Well Managed Overall
Good Future Outlook For the Company
Good Prior Track Record Of Success
Invests In Its Employees
Good Industry Fit For Me
Healthy Company Culture
Receptivity To Change
Quality Conscious Company
Respected In The Industry


Salary Base
Work Hours (Quantity)
Work Hours (Flexibility)
Bonus/Profit Sharing/Options
Health Benefits
Geographic Location
Travel Requirements
Commuting Requirements
Office Space/Facilities

When all is said and done, what you are evaluating is fit. So how will you know you have found it? Great fit comes from the alignment of talent, purpose and place. In the end, you will have found it if you can confidently say that you will be able to use, develop and stretch your talents in a meaningful and significant way, within a place that values you and shares your values. This is the ideal, and I wish you the best as you pursue it. Good luck in your search!


Fake It Till You Become It

September, 2013

How does one remain confident and strong while deep in the throes of a job campaign, a career transition or transformation? Harvard Professor and Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy (pictured above) has some creative and smart strategies. Watch this 21 minute video to learn what she has to say. I was particularly inspired by what Amy revealed in minutes 16-20, so hang in there all the way to the end of this video and you’ll be rewarded with some excellent advice and inspiration. Take a look:


The 20-Minute Networking Meeting (revisited)

August, 2013

In 2012, Keystone Search Partner Marcia Ballinger and researcher Nathan Perez wrote a book called “The 20-Minute Networking Meeting” that has become a great tool for anyone interested in becoming a more efficient and effective networker. Last October I posted a short blog on my web site summarizing key recommendations from this book, and I am expanding on that blog this month. A few weeks ago, I heard Marcia present at an executive forum, and would like to now share some of her latest thinking on networking.

For the past year I have been giving a copy of this book to each of my new clients, and several other career transition firms are doing the same. If you don’t own this book, I suggest you buy it now and use it for both the shorter and longer versions of your networking meetings. Try some experiments where you stick firmly to the “20-minute rule”, and if your circumstances allow more time, you can use the same format and principles and expand the session. It works very well either way.

When you contact people you don’t know terribly well, or for your connections with recruiters, offering a 20-minute meeting will be a smart and welcome alternative. It is surprising how much can be accomplished in a short time! Here is a summary of comments from Marcia Ballinger during her presentation earlier this month (and some from me as well).

Marcia began by offering three key goals for each networking session:

1) Learn something.
2) Get more names for your networking list.
3) Create an evangelist (someone who, after the meeting, will go out of their way to help you).

She repeatedly stressed the need to keep meetings to less than 30 minutes, and never an hour! This will be especially appreciated if the person is not a close connection, and if you made the commitment to 20 minutes up front.

Your first job, however, is to get the meeting. Marcia suggested that when you contact the individual, you provide as much detail as possible, framing clearly who you are, who referred you, and why you are requesting the meeting. Once the meeting is secured, here are the five steps Marcia outlined in her presentation and in her book:

Step 1: Great First Impression

2-3 minutes of thanks, connecting and setting an agenda

Don’t forget gratitude (during and following the meeting). In Marcia’s experience, easily 50% of networking meetings don’t include the words “thank you.” Hard to believe, but true. As you start your meeting, strengthen the bond with details about your common connection. Add some appropriate color to the commentary about your common connection, making it interesting.

You called the meeting, so you set the agenda, Marcia says. Don’t do a “bait and switch.” This meeting is your responsibility. She is surprised by how often the one calling the meeting is not proactive about leading it. Take charge.

Step 2: Great Overview

1 minute for giving an overview of your experience

Don’t be too narrow or too broad, and don’t take more than a minute to overview your background. Be more specific with search professionals, perhaps, and more general with others. Let your behavior demonstrate your other positive attributes (the all-important personality and fit factors).

Step 3: Great Discussion

12-15 minutes discussing five key questions:

• Three unique questions using a Statement->Question model
• One question asking for names of other contacts
• One question asking how you can help the person you are meeting with

(That last suggestion is worth the price of the book. Common sense, uncommon practice.)

Step 4: Great ending

2 minutes for thanks and wrap-up

Step 5: Great Follow-up

• Meaningful follow-up, right after the meeting
• Keep careful track of all your follow-up action items.
• Appropriate ways to stay on their radar, on top of their list.

Marcia suggested that those people who are prolific networkers, but not good at follow-up, should consider networking half as much, and following-up twice as much. This is not just a numbers game, not a transaction game. Overall quality of the interaction and follow-through trumps mere quantity of contacts. Take time to circle back with both the person you just met with and the person who referred you. Marcia also suggested a personal touch when following up. Don’t be afraid to make your follow-up response a warm one, including reminders of your connections and ways that you might stay in touch.

And finally, Marcia quoted the CEO of a national executive search firm who was recently asked what he thought was the best way to “stay on top” of a search firm’s list. “Reach out to your whole network, and forget about us!” was the recruiter’s instant reply. Where do recruiters find you? They find you through your network. What network contacts are going to be most helpful to recruiters? Your evangelists.

Now, if you don’t already own it, go buy this book! If you do own it, read it again. Whether employed or in transition, your network will always be one of your most important career assets. Take good care of your network, and your network will take good care of you.


Smart and Memorable Interviewing

July, 2013


It is so much easier to remember important ideas with an acronym. You’ll learn three really good ones in this blog. As a frequent presenter and storyteller, my all time favorite acronym comes from the Heath Brothers’ book, Made To Stick. The authors suggest that the most “sticky” ideas are attached to the word “SUCCESs” (only one S at the end of this version of success). People remember best when what you present is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and includes great stories. This acronym can provide an easy to recall checklist for your next speech, and offers great advice for making presentations of all kinds more memorable and engaging. When it comes to your future presentations, few match the significance, or pressure, of job interviews.

Strong and memorable job interviews must include great story telling. Prospective employers want to know you have “been there, done that”. Stories reveal our past actions and results, offer compelling evidence that we are effective in our work. You can prepare many of those stories in advance by doing a needs/qualifications/stories analysis:

What are the top 10 needs of the employer for this job?

What are your specific qualifications for each of these 10?

What are your stories that prove these qualifications, framed in a challenge, then actions, then results structure (a second acronym for you, “CAR”)?

After you prepare and rehearse your best stories, always remember that while it is very helpful to do so in advance of the interview, you don’t want to just line up those songs (stories) in your jukebox (brain) and start playing them in sequence (a natural tendency) at the interview. The reality of job interviewing is that it is more like improvisational theater than a solo concert. You need to connect quickly and powerfully with the unique needs of your audience. You are asked to think on your feet as you respond to prompts (sometimes coming out of left field!). You have some idea of what is ahead, but you never know exactly what is coming your way, so you have to be present in the moment, confident, engaging, and quick (but not too fast).

Always remember that most of the agenda is set on the other side of the table. They are the customer, and need to be understood first before you launch into your stories. Probe often for what they really need. Be sure to choose the right stories. Don’t sing D7 when they really want to hear A9 (back to the jukebox metaphor).

When all is said and done, you will be evaluated in three primary ways; your ability, motivation and fit:

Can you do this job effectively?

Are you highly motived to do this work?

Will you fit this work role, culture and boss better than our other options?

Of these three key factors, the first two have likely already been answered affirmatively or you wouldn’t have been invited to the interview. That third element, fit with the role, culture and the boss, will be very big factors that will be revealed in the job interview. Even if most of the interview questions are about the job itself, make no mistake. The evaluation of your candidacy is largely about “fit,” culturally and stylistically.

When preparing for that upcoming job interview, here is a third helpful acronym for you to consider, “SO SMART”. Psychologist Karol Wasylyshny, an emotional intelligence expert, created this memory aid. So smart refers to self observation, self management, attunement and relationship traction. Each represents a key element of emotional intelligence, and can lead to greatly improved interviewing techniques and strategies.

Now imagine that you were secretly being videotaped during your last job interview. Let’s review that tape and jot down answers to a small sample of these “so smart” questions:


How efficient and engaging were you with your words and presentation when offering
your stories/answers?

Overall, how well did you connect with the interviewer?

How effective, engaged and engaging were your words, tone and body language?

Some of my clients have really struggled with interviewing. I have at times seen these clients bomb in a pretend interview in front of a camera or audio recorder, then shine after reviewing the footage and making adjustments. If you are really concerned about an upcoming interview, consider recording yourself beforehand. Play it back. Pause frequently when reviewing, noting how you would react if it was you across the table.

Give yourself a mulligan or a do-over if you need to. Step outside yourself for a while, and see how you come across. It is ok to bomb in the scrimmage, but not the actual game. Remember the old adage, with a different twist at the end; “practice makes permanent”. Check for yourself, and ask others what they see as your communication strengths and challenges. Unless you ask, they likely won’t tell, and without the benefit of feedback, we are each prone to repeat our mistakes. Ask for honest feedback, and take it graciously.


Were you able to make adjustments to your body language, tone and words when the conversation shifted, or were you almost “robotic” at times, just wanting the get the right words out?

Were you both authentic and prepared, not overly polished or caught off guard?

Were you able to quickly forgive yourself if you made a mistake?

If you are in transition, one important perspective offered by local retained recruiter Marcia Ballinger is to be prepared while also remaining authentic and natural during the interview. Recognize that you are mostly competing with candidates who are currently employed, and usually those candidates are not overly prepared for the interview. Their less rehearsed/less scripted answers can lead to the perception of a more natural, “trustworthy” candidate. Because employed candidates usually need to be convinced that this is a better opportunity than the one they currently occupy, they are going to be quite discerning. They will have tough questions. They won’t “puff up” their experiences. They are far from convinced that this is a “perfect” opportunity. If you appear to be overly-anxious for this job, especially before you know all the particulars about it, your judgment could be held in question.

Especially if you are in transition, Marcia also suggests a focus on time management. Candidates in transition give far longer answers, she says, making client companies wonder about their time management and organizational skills. She even recommends setting up a meeting for shortly after your interview. That way, you have a reason to be somewhere else at a certain time. You will need to be succinct. You will seem more balanced, less intense, and likely more authentic.

You and your competition always have options, so be discerning. Be careful not to appear judgmental, however. Ask good questions, and when you get to a problem area, position yourself as a problem solver, not a critic. Getting at challenges creates an opportunity for you to tell stories of successfully addressing such challenges in the past. Always remember too why the interview is mostly about story telling; The best predictor of your future performance is prior performance in similar circumstances.


When unsure, did you clarify what was meant, or did you just try to guess?

Did you try to create chemistry with your interviewer, or did you usually go straight to the point?

Would you say that there was a fit between you and the job/interviewer/culture, and did you communicate that during the interview?


Could you imagine a healthy and productive future partnership with this person?

Will this person likely tell others that he or she could imagine a great partnership with you, and thinks you would be a excellent fit for the organization?

If you didn’t get the job or advance in the process, did you try to take the high road and make an effort to preserve relationships? Consider the advice of local retained recruiter David Magy, “It’s a small world and a long life.”

In summary, I hope this blog will help you become a more memorable and engaging communicator (think “SUCCESs”), effective story teller (think “CAR”) and “SO SMART” at your next job interview!


The Dreaded “Weaknesses” Interview Question

June, 2013


Over the years, the “What are your weaknesses?” inquiry has befuddled and stressed out my clients more than just about any other interview question. In some ways, it is a no win situation; damned if you do, damned if you don’t answer directly. To follow is the advice I typically offer to my clients as they prepare for the possibility of the “W” question.

First of all, consider a philosophical perspective. Doesn’t every boss hope that when (not if) someone makes a mistake, they will own up to that mistake? Further, wouldn’t any boss hope to hear that after accepting responsibility for a mistake or a shortcoming, action would be taken to rectify the problem, and the lesson learned would serve to minimize or eliminate the problem occurring in the future? This, in essence, is one very good framework for your answer.

Let the interviewer know that looking back, you have made mistakes or have had shortcomings, have accepted responsibility for these mistakes/shortcomings, have then taken actions to effectively deal with them, and have ultimately become more effective as a leader as the result of this learning process. Proceed to give a historical example that is relevant (but not too scary) to the work that you are interviewing for. Use the “CAR”, challenge then actions then results format when telling the story, and by so doing, you will demonstrate that you don’t just speak in generalities, but rather you can back up your claims with real and relevant examples. You are human, you make mistakes, come up short from time to time (we all do), and you are committed to learning from your mistakes and shoring up deficiencies.

I reference past mistakes and weakness here. I am suggesting that none of us needs to position ourselves as a possible bearer of some ongoing weakness that we just can’t seem to address, and will likely bring with us to the next job. This can create a crisis of confidence on the part of the prospective employer if they think you are reasonably likely to have future problems of a similar nature. If you have a problem, you need to reveal how you have been able to deal with it in a past, present and/or near term way.

Sometimes a past weakness has been converted to a strength, but could easily slide back to weakness status if not consistently addressed. A memorable example of this came from an HR internal recruiter when speaking to a career transition group I was running a few years back. This man suggested that the group consider finding an example similar to his story. He told us that his answer to the weakness question in a job interview would have to include the disclosure that he is an introvert, and would tend to avoid public speaking in the past. Since public speaking in his job was important to his success, he made a decision a few years back to engage in public speaking on a regular basis. He went on to tell the group that public speaking has now become a strength, but it certainly would not be if he had let his natural tendencies dictate his choices.

He recognized his limitations, took responsibility and action, and has now become strong in what would have become a career limiting deficit had he not made a regular commitment to public speaking. He told the group that he has committed to speaking engagements at least every other month so that he doesn’t lose what he has gained. From the strength of his presentation that day, we would never have guessed this to be a former weakness.

Find your stories that show that you, like everyone else, make mistakes and come up short from time to time. Declare that you take responsibility, take action, address the problem and afterwards remain committed and vigilant to turning each mistake or shortcoming into wisdom and hopefully an eventual strength. Your stories are your proof that this is true for you.

Next month’s blog will continue this interviewing best practices theme. Take a look. It will help you prepare for your next interview, take you beyond the tough questions and into the big picture and interpersonal nuances of effective job interviewing. Here’s to making interviewing one of your strengths!


Balancing IQ and EQ

May 2013

I love going for long bike rides this time of year.  As the weather improves, I take my bicycle out of storage and get it rolling once more. I think more clearly on that bike, enjoy nature breezing by me. I have time to contemplate personal, professional and community matters and strengthen my body at the same time.  Riding my bicycle reminds me of the importance of balance, simplicity, time for reflection, and offers a helpful metaphor I will share in this month’s blog.  What follows is an idea presented by Lisa Griebel, EQ expert and trainer, at a workshop I attended last month.

Think of the back wheel of the bicycle as your IQ, the driver of decisions that comes from your native intelligence and logic.  The front wheel represents your EQ, your emotional intelligence.  That front wheel guides your interpersonal interactions less from pure logic, and more from finesse, patience and attunement to others.  When communications are flowing well, the logic that emerges from your IQ is channeled through the interpersonal filter of your EQ.  While this might appear to be common sense, during times of stress this can easily become uncommon practice.  Job transition, employment interviews and networking sessions can represent times of significant stress.  Is it time for you to slow down and think more now about this balanced approach?  If you are in, or anticipating, a job transition or transformation and likely have some upcoming networking and interviewing meetings, I suggest you take some time now to consider this balanced approach.

If you are familiar with how golf carts operate, you might think of EQ as the governor that automatically slows down the speed, direction and energy (IQ) that the cart has built up so that it can be steered more safely and accurately (EQ) through the hills and curves ahead. Are the wheels of your IQ/EQ  bike in balance, of similar size and significance?  Are each creating a smooth ride, or are you out of sync?

I frequently conduct mock job interviews with my clients and too often notice that their lips are moving, their brain is fully engaged, but the rest of their face and body, and especially their emotional tone and connections with me the interviewer, are out of sync.  Choosing the right words and applying the right logic are too often the exclusive priorities, not the all important focus on connecting with the person across the desk. I will play back the tape, and suggest that if this was a written transcript, they might not be doing too badly.  But seeing the video clip often reveals to both of us how poorly aligned their head (IQ) and their physical, interpersonal and vocal attunement with me (EQ) are.  If this was a song they were singing, you could say that the words (IQ) and the music (EQ) simply did not come together.  The feeling of “fit” then becomes too hard to imagine, and the opportunity is likely lost.

So how does one build up the EQ sensitivity, and balance those wheels for a better conversational flow, better impression, better chemistry?  It starts with awareness, and tends to work best when you are so smart about it.  These two words “so smart” are actually an acronym memory aid that can be used to describe what emotional intelligence looks like.  In a future blog entry I’ll get into greater detail about what it means to be “so smart” in networking and interviewing.  Here is a teaser.  High EQ (so smart) includes:
Self Observation
Self Management
Relationship Traction.

More on that in the upcoming blog.  For now, start thinking about how smart you are in both IQ and EQ.  Go for a ride on that IQ/EQ bike of yours, and remember to keep the wheels balanced and true!


Pursuing Your Next Job Like They Do In Hollywood

April 2013


According to Kenneth Atchity, a Los Angeles native and producer of films for video, television, and theater, four things lead to getting a job in Hollywood…… in this order:

1. Perseverance
2. Connections
3. Talent
4. Being Fun to Work With

Does this surprise you? How might these assumptions compare to your experience during a job campaign? Let’s take a look at each of the four, in the order that Atchity suggests.

1. Perseverance

Interesting how Atchity has turned upside down the popular notion that talent is the leading and most important driver for successfully landing a new job. Perhaps this is because it is so hard to make the cut in the ultra competitive world of the arts. I would suggest that making perseverance first in order of importance might also apply to finding work in a tough job market, or attempting to make a big career change. Combining your dogged determination with the support of others can help build stamina when things are just not happening quickly enough. Especially when there is abundant talent available, persistence keeps you in the game. When all is said and done, in a highly competitive market, or during a major career change, I agree with Atchity, and would place perseverance first on the list. You simply have to keep at it to succeed. If you quit, you might just disappear from sight and mind, and the other three factors that follow might not be enough to help you land that next opportunity. Do you approach your career search with the tenacity and discipline that you do your work?

2. Connections

Since I started in this career transition field 23 years ago, I have kept close track of landing statistics. The next career opportunity is discovered and landed through connections 65-80% of the time. So many positions are simply not posted on-ine, or it is too late once they are. Connections have always been critical to revealing opportunities “upstream,” or in the “hidden” job market. Connections are tied to trust, and trust is a huge driver of hiring decisions. Hiring strangers is risky. Without network testimonials and assurances, many hiring managers fear that they will hire Dr. Jekyll and end up with Mr. Hyde. Trust takes time, but can be greatly accelerated through connections. There is so much at stake with hiring decisions, especially at the higher levels. In a career transformation, when you are leaving the familiar and moving in a new and perhaps very different direction, connections are even more important, and usually the key to being taken seriously. During a big career shift you might easily be dismissed as only temporarily interested in a change, or at risk of returning to the familiar when that more logical and lucrative opportunity surfaces. Half the battle is being persistent, connected and actively building your network. It leads the way!

3. Talent

My definition of high talent includes being really good at your work, and greatly enjoying it as well. Results really do matter in business, and possessing the talent that has consistently achieved maximum gain is a huge factor in hiring. The reason this is not the final selection factor in Hollywood, however, is that there are likely many other candidates who are highly talented. If the top candidates are all equally talented, the decision maker will usually need to turn to the next and final determining factor…fit.

4. Being Fun to Work With

Whenever I chat with recruiters, the word fit always seems to bubble to the top of the list of hiring criteria, and being fun to work with is one area of fit that is worth paying attention to. One Human Resources leader put it this way, “Leaders need to be fast, focused, flexible and friendly”. I know the words friendly, fun and results are not always linked, but perhaps we could take a bit of license with Atchity’s model, and suggest that great fit means that people do enjoy working with you, whether the word is fun, or just a good fit for the culture, organizational and job needs. In the creative industry, fun is a likely imperative, as fun feeds creativity, higher engagement, and creates an enjoyable environment. If the word fun doesn’t work for you, substitute the words “a great fit”, and think of your own hiring decisions. Wouldn’t you agree that great fit has been one of your top three criteria for hiring? At the highest levels of the organization especially, I would be inclined to put this at the top of the list. Without great fit, does talent, connections or perseverance even matter?


Remember that in Atchity’s model this is Hollywood we are talking about, and not necessarily the business or non-profit world. With some notable exceptions, good actors are viewed as a “dime a dozen”. Remember too that Hollywood is an especially difficult place to find work, and the most common form of work is more like a project than a long term commitment in that town. Sound familiar? Hasn’t much of the work at all levels become more like being on the set of a movie, a one to three year project? When that movie/project ends, it’s time to search for another one, and the persistence, connections, talent and fit factors come right back into play as one searches for that next gig. So it goes in Hollywood, and so it goes in the new world of work.


What Great Fit Looks Like

March 2013

For the past ten years I have been sharing these three phrases with my career transition clients as they sharpen their focus and search for both a good compass and a good filter for future opportunities. Take a look and see what you think.

What is great fit?

When you can use, develop and stretch your talents
In a purposeful way
Within a place that values you and shares your values.

Anything missing for you?


Key Factors Recruiters and Employers Consider When Evaluating Candidates

February 2013

Job interview
Here is the short version of what I have learned from countless conversations with recruiters and employers. How would you rate yourself in each of these five categories?

Especially proof that you have successfully done in the past what you will need to do for this organization in the future

Past achievements that offer proof of your drive, plus current energy that reveals the drive you have now, and will bring forward in the future

Getting along successfully in good times and tough times. Fit especially for the opportunity and culture within the organization you are pursuing

Always remember that you are competing with others, not the job specifications. How do your abilities, motivation and fit compare to other candidates?

Who are your sponsors, and how can they help you get to the front of the line? It is not necessarily the most qualified candidate that gets the job, it is more often the candidate that is both qualified and has been endorsed by trusted sponsors. Networks drive trust and visibility. Resumes can look amazing, interviews can be dazzling, but “who do I trust?” is the question that recruiters and employers lose sleep over. During your job campaign, spend most of your time on networking, building your visibility and reputation for excellence and trust.


From Teacher, to Corporate Executive, to Small Company Entrepreneur

January 2013

0a28955The man in the photo is my 8th grade English teacher……. 44 years later! I reconnected with Michael Fronk a year ago at an executive career transition group we both support. We have had several great conversations since, and Mike has generously agreed to let me share his story. His is an increasingly common preference these days; moving from a bigger to a smaller company some time in the second half of one’s career. I often compare the corporate employee to entrepreneur transition to the adjustments that would need to take place if a domestic pet was told that he or she now needs to become a wild animal. Mike really likes that metaphor. To follow are some of the highlights from our conversation last month.

You’ve owned a small business for 10 years now, but you spent nearly three decades at General Mills and Land O Lakes. What’s the biggest difference between running a small vs. large business?

“Learning how to interact with a wide range of people. At the senior levels of a large organization, you are removed from most of the everyday interactions with the rank-and-file. In a small business, the variety of interactions is incredible. Relating to such a wide range of people can be tough, but for me, it’s very gratifying.”

You left Land O Lakes in 1998. What did you do after that?

“I did some “bucket list” kinds of things, including some adventurous traveling and serious writing. Then I took up consulting for a good part of the next four years.”

You were 60 when you decided to buy Network Business Computing. What were you thinking?

“My son had received a degree in computer network engineering, and asked me to

help him start a business in this field.”

How was the first year?

“After two months of owning the company, my mother died and I needed to go to Florida and take care of her estate. That took me six months to complete, and I thought I could mostly let others run the business in my absence. The debt grew fast, and the revenues didn’t keep up. I had a big hole to dig out of when I returned. I learned the hard way that when you move to ownership of a small company, you must make it the passionate be-all-and-end-all object of your regard.”

The best aspect of running a small business?

“You can make a huge improvement in a few lives. Plus, I have been able to work with my son for ten years, and that has been a great opportunity!”