Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Setting Goals: Cracking the 7 Minute Mile

If I learned anything about life from my high school basketball coach, and believe me I probably learned more about life than I did about basketball, it was the importance of setting goals. He broke each season down into individual goals the team could strive to achieve and showed me that life very much proceeds through the goals you set. You can't always achieve all of your goals unfortunately, but to not have them is to not have a direction in life, something tangible to work towards. And when you are working towards something, you are much more focused on getting there to the best of your ability with maximum effort.

Two years ago I started participating in triathlons. Trust me, it sounds a lot more significant than it really is. These are very short: .3 mile swim, 15 mile bike and 3 mile run. Not so much an Iron Man but still good chunks of exercise being done one after the other.  After the NYC Marathon in 2003 I had always thought that triathlons would be something I would enjoy. I really like the variety of the training you have to do and because the distances are short the training sessions can be done in manageable segments in between work and home responsibilities.

Breaking the 7 minute mile barrier had always been a goal of mine but I had never been able to achieve it. In all of my trainings and in all of the 5k races I had run in my adult life, I had never cracked 7 minute miles. I eventually filed it away in the back of my head and assumed that as I got older this goal would get harder and harder to achieve. Certainly I never expected to do it after having swam .3 miles and biked 15. But sure enough this past summer during the Timberman Triathlon I found myself with gas left in the tank turning for home in the run and I emptied it. Not only did I crack 7 minute miles, I crushed it! My time was 20:23 and my overall pace ended up being 6:47/mile. I did the second half of the race 2 minutes faster than the first. And this was after having swam and biked! I was beyond thrilled.

It's not that I ever gave up trying to achieve my goal. I continued to train as hard as I could.  I pushed myself every step of the way. But I definitely lost focus of that particular goal and stopped thinking about it. Yet, it was at this point that I ended up achieving it. Perhaps I need to stop thinking (and if you know me you know it's more like obsessing) about it in order for it to happen.

Career wise, goals are imperative. If they weren't, employers wouldn't ask "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" during interviews. They not only want to know if you are projecting yourself in a career in the field but also they want to see if you have a sense of purpose and direction guiding you. So no matter where you find yourself in your career, be sure to set goals. It's completely fine to not achieve them or to alter them down the road, goodness knows I have done both, but if you don't have them at all you'll have nothing to go after every morning when you wake up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pull Up a Facebook Stool and Have a Drink

James Power is the co-owner and broker of record at Advantage Relocation Consultants, providing exclusive buyer and renter representation in the New York City Real Estate marketplace. He specializes in employee relocation and is an avid user of Facebook and social media in general. He was kind enough to guest post a counter argument supporting the personal and professional value of using Facebook.

I recently took the MBTI personality test, a professional assessment that breaks down your personality into types. I am an ESFP, or Extraversion/Sensing/Feeling/Perceiving. I think it’s a little comical to break down my personality into a paragraph, however, when I read the results I definitely said to myself “That’s me!!” ESFP’s are outgoing, friendly, accepting, exuberant lovers of life, people and material comforts. They enjoy working with others to make things happen, bringing common sense and realistic approaches to work, and trying to make work fun by doing things differently. They are also flexible and spontaneous, adapt readily to new people and environments, and learn best by trying a new skill with other people.

My results say a lot about why I am an avid user of Facebook, both personally and professionally. Personally, I am exhaustive about keeping in touch with people.  That is to say, everyone. In this respect, Facebook was made for me. I need to know what everyone is doing. I am not talking about people like my closest college roommates that I still communicate with on an almost daily basis, but rather I am referring to my first college roommate with whom I was crammed together into a cement box of a dorm room when we were 18 and just about every other person I've ever met. I enjoy seeing pictures of weddings even though I wasn’t invited.  I like seeing pictures of people's kids and showing them pictures of mine and seeing what’s on people's mind. If they want to share with me what they had for breakfast that's great too! Once I meet someone, chances are it will not just be a passing acquaintanceship as I try to build long lasting friendships with people that I care about and who interest me.  Facebook feeds this social addiction to keep in touch.

Yes, of course, there are some awkward Facebook moments. I recently became Facebook friends with someone I knew in grammar school. I had not seen this person since the 8th grade and we scheduled a play date with our kids because I posted where I was going to be and it just happened to be right around the corner from where she lives. We met, talked a bit, caught up (as much as you can since we have not seen each other in over twenty years!) and it was definitely a little uncomfortable. But it was also awesome. Here’s someone I hadn’t seen or thought of in years and we connected! We both realized that chances are we will just be Facebook friends and we will not take it to the next level. I have nothing in common with her husband, and to say that this person and my wife are alike in any way is just silly. All of this aside, since we were close in grammar school, there is a piece of me that likes the connection we have on Facebook because I am energized by relationships no matter what level they are on.

Professionally, Facebook has proven to be a lucrative tool as well as simply a great way for me to network. I own a real estate company called Advantage Corporate Relocation and since the day I started in the business I have always felt like I am one connection or phone call away from something big. It is this feeling that keeps me energized and motivated to continue promoting, selling, and marketing myself and my business. Facebook has an amazing reach that can benefit all of us professionally. 1 in every 13 people have a Facebook account.  That’s 1 in 13 people in the WORLD! That is astonishing. As we all know, having an online presence right now is imperative. I attended a seminar last fall and was told that not having a TOTAL ONLINE presence (i.e. FACEBOOK/TWITTER/BLOG/LINKEDIN) is like owning a business in the 1970’s-80’s and not having an ad in the Yellow Pages. The Internet has become our Yellow Pages. Business is happening online and Facebook is the key player.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is where it’s at now days. When you Google (yes, Google......I did not say open the YELLOW PAGES...frankly I am not even sure we are listed in the Yellow Pages) my company name, my website and my Facebook page come up. From a business and professional perspective, a Facebook page ranks right there as something we all need.

I am guilty of only having 500 friends. Imagine that for a second...only 500 FRIENDS! Also, I am guilty of not using Facebook to its full potential as are, I find, most people. But to not use it at all is to completely lose out. You never of my connections could know someone that will be the connection that catapults my business to the next level where I have been trying to take it for years. The tipping point where I am not the Real Estate broker......but the Real Estate Magnet.  LinkedIn is the business meeting. Facebook is the cocktail party. Pull up a stool and have a drink.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

More than 800,000,000 use Facebook. Why don't I?

(Gasp! Whispers! "He doesn't have a Facebook page?" "How could you not be on Facebook?" "Dude, it's 2012, get with the times." ).

I have never been one to do things simply because everyone is doing it. In fact, when I was younger if everyone was doing something that was good enough reason for me to not do it. I have vivid memories from junior high of walking down the hall wearing tie died shirts and telling my friends that I was listening to Freakie Styley by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on my Walkman. Oh the looks I got!

This brings me to a long running conversation with a friend regarding why I don't have a Facebook page. Honestly, for the longest time, I didn't even realize I didn't have a Facebook page. Nor did it occur to me that it mattered. Increasingly, however, as social media evolves further into every day life I am realizing that this issue is deserving of some further consideration.

The first indication beyond my conversation with my friend (who you will meet later by the way) that my absence from Facebook might be worthy of addressing was in a job interview when the interviewer flat out asked me "Do you use Facebook?".  (Ummmmmmm...huh?...) While I was more than prepared for that interview, I was not prepared for that question. Since then, I've thought about whether to get with the times.

So to finally address this subject, I am going to make my case for why I'm not a Facebook user:
  • Why all of the sudden would I want to be on Facebook?:  I don't quite understand the need. Is it to keep up with my friends and what is going on in their lives? To let everyone know what I am up to? To reach out to old acquaintances from the past and to allow them to find me? With the exception of perhaps a small handful of people I've lost touch with I already feel pretty connected to my friends. Will Facebook deepen that connection?
  • Time: By the time my kids are fed, bathed and in bed, my lunch is made, and my clothes are laid out for the next day (things you need to do when you get up as early as I do) I am exhausted and it's roughly 8:00pm or later. If I don't check my Facebook page then, I would have to check it and use it a lot at work, which is a habit I am wary of getting into.
  • The Decision to NOT Be Someone's Friend: Someone sends me a request to be friends and I have no interest in accepting it. When I ask Facebook users about this it doesn't seem to matter to them. They say you just ignore the friend request, which means you are also getting ignored. I am not sure I like the idea of sending someone an overt message that I don't want to be their friend nor do I want to receive that message from others.
  • Why again should I do this?: I've yet to be presented with an actual compelling reason how and why a Facebook page would improve my life. Things have been going just fine thus far without it so why start now?
  • Privacy:  While not an original reason of mine, in reading up on why others don't use Facebook I learned that there are some legitimate concerns regarding user privacy and Facebook's practices of protecting and sharing your browsing and personal information.
To present the other side of this argument I have invited my friend to write guest post supporting why he thinks I should join the nearly 1 billion people as a Facebook user. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

To The Class of 2012

I had the pleasure of attending a Career and Networking Seminar held by my college's alumni association last week. Yes, this is the same seminar I attended during my career change referred to here.

At the seminar I met some of the class of 2012 and I realized that there's a lot in my blog posts that may be of use to them as they slide, or crash as the case may be, into the work force over the coming months.  So to help them out I am going to try and offer them some useful content and perhaps address how they might apply what I am talking about to the early stages of their careers.

To start with, I found this blog post that should be of some use: 10 Tips for New Grads Entering the Workforce. It's written by Allison Green and I find her blog to be incredibly useful and timely.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Post Script to Overcoming Career Setbacks

There are two significant details regarding the end of my story about overcoming career setbacks.

First, the hiring manager that rejected me for the job told me during our followup meeting after the interview process that she was leaving her position to take another job. She'd be leaving just after the start date for the position for which she had just rejected me. The person that did get the job would be taking the position essentially without a manager until a new one was hired.

Second, about 6 months after being rejected for the job I learned that the person that was hired upped and walked out one day. It's not often that you hear about people quitting their job these days in this economy. While I don't know the exact reasons why this person left so abruptly after such a short time, it's not hard to imagine that a lack of a manager played into it and that working conditions were not optimal.

Knowing those two things, I can comfortably say that it ended up being a good thing that I didn't get hired and that a better job that is more right for me is waiting out there. Maybe, just maybe, that hiring manager did me a favor by not hiring me. And maybe, just maybe, the people consoling me saying that things happen for a reason were right!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Overcoming Career Setbacks

Unless you are extraordinarily lucky, there's a pretty good chance that at some point in your career you're going to be confronted with some type of setback or adversity. You might get laid off. You may get passed over for a promotion or denied the chance to work on a project. Thinking now about how you'll deal with it in advance of it actually happening will help tenfold as you try to recover from the setback and move on.

Here's my example:

I was mingling at the company holiday party with a department head who asked me what my career plans were and if I would be interested in learning more about her department. I had actually identified her department as a potential landing spot for me in my next career move so I was thrilled to learn that she was thinking of me as well. Over the next couple of weeks I played all of my cards perfectly by the book.

I set up a meeting with her to chat about me, her department and an opening she had. I did my due diligence into her department by speaking with a friend who had recently worked for her. I prepared for each encounter I would have making sure I knew my key talking points. I was more than ready to present my skills and how I felt I was right for her department and equally ready to hear why she thought of me and what she had to say about being a member of her team.

During our meeting I did have one reservation because of a weakness in my skill set that would create a larger learning curve than she may want. It really wasn't a weakness so much as a lack of experience in certain skills that other candidates may have. If this was going to be an issue for her I wouldn't bother applying but she assured me that indeed it was nothing to worry about. Over time, we both agreed, I would have no trouble making up for this deficiency.  She said she likes to diversify her team and she saw obvious strengths in me that would compliment her current team members thus compensating for any short term weaknesses. We had a great initial conversation, found a match between my interests and skills and her needs and she encouraged me to apply because she thought I'd make a great candidate. So of course I did.
 I ended up as one of 3 finalists.  I knew I had nailed the interviews (all 7 of them...yes 7 interviews with a total of 10 different people!) including a training session I was asked to develop and present. The job was perfect for me and I was perfect for it. While I was waiting to hear back about whether I got the job, the few friends and family I had told about it were assuring me that I'd get it. One went so far as remind me that the hiring manager came to me about the opening. You don't get turned down for jobs when they come to you, it just doesn't happen.

When I finally heard back, I didn't get the job. The hiring manager indicated that I was her second choice and that she ended up hiring a person who was stronger than I was in the one area of weakness in my skill set, the one she had assured me wouldn't be a problem. I was crushed and frankly felt a little bit betrayed. She had come to me about the job, encouraged me to apply, indicated a weakness in my current skill set wasn't a problem and then rejected me on the basis of that very weakness. I hadn't felt the bottom of my professional life drop out this fast and this furious before. The same friends and family that were days before assuring me I was a shoe in were now looking at the bright side trying to cheer me up and I wanted no part of it.

Was it OK for me to wallow in misery for a while? Heck yeah it was! No one likes set backs and no one should be asked to overcome them with grace, ease and expediency. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get over them eventually and have a plan to do so. If you allow yourself to hide inside your own pity party too long you risk putting yourself too far behind thus making your recovery from the setback that much harder.

To help you out here are some things to think about so that you'll be prepared when the time comes:

Go ahead and feel the disappointment. It's a natural reaction. Remember what it feels like to have wanted the job or the promotion you didn't get and then catalogue the feelings of disappointment and rejection.  Remember them when great things start happening to you again so that you can maintain the proper perspective. Recalling the depths of your failure during times of great triumph make your successes all the sweeter. It might also help to set a timeline for your disappointment so that in a week or two weeks you can tell yourself it is time to start moving on. After all, you don't want to get carried away.

Don't hold it against the people trying to show you the bright side. They are just trying to help. I know it is frustrating to hear positive thoughts when you feel so lousy.  And you know what? They are usually right. So listen and remember what they are saying because as time passes you'll realize that things do happen for a reason, when doors close other will open, and it will get better. Thank them for caring because you are lucky to have people in your life thoughtful enough to want to pick you up when you are down. Let them know that you know they are right and that you are sure in a short time you'll be right back on your feet.

Learn from this experience. My current manager suggested that after I felt better about being rejected for that job I should ask the hiring manager to sit down for a chat so I could ask about the process and learn why I wasn't hired, what I did well and what I should work on. Eventually, I did this. While it wasn't easy, it definitely was helpful. I did, however, wait a few weeks before approaching the hiring manager to make sure I was in the right state of mind. I ended up explaining how disappointed I was after being approached about the job, encouraged to apply, assured that my weakness wouldn't be a problem, and then rejected because of that very same weakness.  She completely understood and we had a great chat. The conversation turned the negative into a positive. While you don't always have this kind of access to a hiring manager or boss who has just turned you down you might be surprised at a person's willingness to talk with you if you give it a try. My current manager does a lot of interviewing and told me that she wishes more interviewees would call to chat after the fact because she'd be glad to help them. So try following up so you can learn why this setback has happened. Then you can make sure it doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Making a Career Change: Step 11 Your Job Right Now Is Getting a New Job

Previously: Step 10 Applying for Jobs

Step 11: Your Job Right Now Is Getting a New Job
Obviously and inevitably it all comes down to this. Hopefully you've found this process rewarding and helpful. There really is no end to making a career change and managing your career. You just need to keep repeating the processes over and over in order to keep your career fresh and alive and the same goes with the process of making a change. Keep repeating the steps as needed until you start seeing your desired results.

I wish there were more that I could do for you from here but it's now time for your own persistence and positive attitude to take over. This I am well aware is not easy. It's more than OK to get down every now and then as this process moves forward but you can't allow yourself to give up. There will certainly be setbacks as there are in all things in life. Learn from them and allow them to make you stronger. And then get back up and get after it again. Your new job is out there and it will find you and you will find it. Until then, stay focused, stay positive and keep at it because you never know when your next break will come.

For your convenience I've linked to the previous steps in the process so that you can reference them all in one place:

Making a Career Change: Step 1 Get a Handy Dandy Notebook

Making a Career Change: Step 2 Looking Back

Making a Career Change: Step 3 Looking at the Now

Making a Career Change: Step 4 Looking Inside

Making a Career Change: Step 5 Looking in the Mirror

Making a Career Change: Step 6 Looking to Others

Making a Career Change: Step 7 Putting It All Together

Making a Career Change: Step 8 Looking to Your Network

Making a Career Change: Step 9 Informational Interviews

Making a Career Change Step 10 Applying for Jobs