So, You’ve Got a Crappy Boss. . .

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

I recently published an article on LinkedIn entitled The Worst Leader I’ve Ever Known.  It was an abridged re-write of an article I did a while back here on CareersOnAssignment.  One of my readers of the LinkedIn article raised the point that some mentors, schools and confidants will advise a person in a tenuous situation, with a bad boss, to stick it out and adapt to the environment.  So, I thought that I would respond to that point here on the blog.

First, I will point out that I wrote an article some time ago about personal career inventories.  That is probably where I would advise a person to start when they find that they love the company but the boss is completely unbearable.  A personal career inventory is basically the name that I have given to author Richard Bolles’ Flower Diagram; an artifact of his time-honored tome, What Color is your Parachute?  So, yes, I suppose my first thought it that it might be time to leave, and not stick it out.  But never:

  • Leave without another job (unless the boss abusing you, being intentionally dishonest, and it could impact your career or doing something illegal)
  • Leave without inventorying yourself and your network
  • Leave without notice and without going through the exit interview, with transparency and honesty (again, unless you are being abused – in which case you ought to have an employment attorney – I know, I had to get one once in my career)

Folks, eight to twelve hours a day, at least five days a week is a heck of a long time to be miserable, and for what?  Because you might get a promotion?  Really?  With an oppressive supervisor, how likely is it?  When you feel exhausted simply from dealing with a poor leader each day (and I did), when you are seeing your medical professional or taking anti-anxiety medication just to be able to go to work (and I was just about at that point), when you find that all you can do is come home and tell your significant other how awful the boss was today, it has gotten ridiculous.  There are millions of other companies and organizations out there and if you have maintained your Emergency 10 (see my article), then there is no reason for you to be carrying on like this.  That’s what I did. . .when a former supervisor turned knuckle head, I pulled out my Emergency 10 list.  Within 3 months, I had 4 interviews and accepted a job that changed my life for the better, in many ways.  I was one of the first to leave and within a very short time, well over 100, probably 1/3 of the workforce, had followed suit.

But let’s suppose you are going to stay.  Maybe you see hidden opportunity beyond the oppressive boss and you also have a mentor at an even higher level or elsewhere in the company who has given you assurance that he or she will help you move forward in your career, and that dealing with your present supervisor is just a matter of “putting in your time”.  Well, then, I suppose it is best to play into the very worst characteristics that we see in these leaders.  I have listed a few, below, along with some ideas that might make your time under their unreasonable and oppressive rule, more fruitful for your career:

So, your boss is top-down – Well, unless you have friends in higher places, or someone who will help you move to another division or department, you are going to have to respect the top-down ways of your present supervisor.  Carry out their orders, and then compliment them on their wonderful choice of direction.  Really, there are few other ways of dealing with someone who always thinks they are right and that their answer is the best answer.

So, your boss is a bully – This is an interesting one because some bosses are bullies because they actually like when people stand up to them.  That was the issue with one of the worst leaders that I had ever known.  He loved when people would stand up to him. He thought it was a sign of a tough employee.  What a ding dong!  Anyway, it is hard to know if this describes your boss, unless you have examples of those who stood up to them in the past.  So what do most bullies like?  To get their way and to make you scared.  You can use non-verbal body language around these bullies to demonstrate deference.  Keep your arms in, keep your chin and eyes down, make yourself small around them and never interrupt them when they are speaking.  If they are the type that do not want you to stand up to them, they will pick up on your body language and even feed off of it.

So, your boss is ambiguous – A bully who is ambiguous is a tough one.  If they are unclear in their orders, asking questions might be construed as insulting their leadership.  “What do you MEAN I wasn’t clear!”  Ask any questions with deference.  For example, if they gave you an order that left you unclear which of two directions to take, reiterate that you want to do things exactly as they’d like and while both options see viable, you’d like to clarify which option they (emphasis on “they”) would like you to follow.

So, your boss is narcissistic – If you are going to stay and put up with it, you need to get used to the fact that it is all about them.  They raised the money, they made the good decisions and you just did not carry out the decisions properly.  Their family is the best and you should want to know all about their conquests.  I once had a boss who referred to his wife as his “trophy wife” and to his son as “The Stud”. Good God, what  Neanderthal. Recognize that everything that is good, came from your bosses’ office and anytime you can compliment good work, it will play to their narcissism.  Are you getting sick to your stomach yet?  Well, I will go on. . .

So, your boss is condescending – A top-down leader is always right.  As I mentioned above, if something does not go right, the reason is simple;  you did not carry out the work properly.  Your bosses’ degree and college is better than yours, their house and family is better than yours and their choice of career path was also better than yours, and you should also sit and listen to and like stories about all of the above.  Someone who is condescending lacks humbleness and so they love when people will sit and listen to them talk.  So that is likely going to be part of your daily assignments if you are going to stick it out with a poor leader.

I think the message is clear.  You studied you learned, and you want to advance in position and salary.  This fool of a boss stands between you and those opportunities.  If you buck his/her trends, then chances are, you are going nowhere unless it makes him/her look good and feel victorious. So the big question is, “Do you have others in the organization, at the same or higher level who have the power to help you.?” Heaven forbid, never, ever let your boss know that you have had these conversations with other leaders.  The rest of your short time at the company will be a living hell.  After all, why would you want to turn to anyone else beside them for mentorship?

Unless you are in such a niche industry that yours is the only firm you could be working for, it seems to me that the best option is to polish the resume, pull out the Emergency 10 list and start your search.  But before you do, perform a personal career inventory If you made the mistake of adding your boss on Facebook or LinkedIn, that is really going to cut down on the things you can do with social media and that is one of your best tools for networking, today.  Turn to trusted friends and colleagues in professional organizations to discreetly help you begin your search.

No one should be forced to adapt to a horrible situation, especially they possess a wide array of transferable skills that would be valued each day, rather than suppressed.  Also, anyone who lives in country, like the U.S., that is rife with opportunity, the idea that you have to stay with the same company, or even in the same industry is passe.  Today, seven out of every 10 professionals who have had a bachelors degree for at least 10 years are no longer working in their undergraduate area of expertise.  Seven out of 10!!That means that you do not even have to stay in your industry.  Your transferable skills will be valued in many circles.  You just need to work with a career expert or a knowledge professional who can help you see the possibilities.

Forty, to sixty hours a week is a long, long time to be miserable.  And I would recommend “adapting to poor leadership” if you have no other options.  But more than 95% of the people I have worked with in career counseling do have other options.  But the uncertainty of the job market frightens them, but at some point one has to put that uncertainty on one side of the scale, and the angst of dealing with horrible leadership on the other and see which one weighs more on their heart, their head and their career.

It’s your future (not theirs).  Take charge.

 

 

New College Grads and Jobs: It Takes a Village

Author – John Rindy, MPH

In the 1960s and 70s colleges had these wonderful offices called “Placement Offices.” They literally placed new graduates in jobs. So, if you were a few weeks from graduating, you could drop by the Placement Office and, so-to-speak, pick up your first work assignment. But today things have changed and changed dramatically. Employers do not recruit that way anymore and so colleges and universities have had to adjust. Career fairs, alumni networking events, campus-specific job boards and on-campus interviewing, paired with a perpetual insistence that you are “either networking or not working” have largely supplanted the placement model simply by necessity. Most jobs today are never posted anywhere, because they are filled from within the organization or through the hiring manager’s network, so if someone graduates from college without a solid network of those with hiring influence, their job search and thus employment rate is likely to be negatively impacted.

A few years ago, a friend who worked at a for-profit technical college was excused from her job. The reason? “The placement rates just are not where we want them to be.” Was she really responsible for students “getting jobs?” When I consider all of the things that have to happen to make someone truly employable in today’s job market, I wonder if her circumstance was even reasonable. No one, unique person is responsible for anyone getting a job after earning a college degree. Many, many factors coalesce during the college years for students to have the very best opportunities for employment upon graduation. Here are just a few of those things:

The Faculty and the Learning: At any university, faculty have to do their part by designing and delivering effective curriculum. Arguably, some of the better curricular designs are, at least, informed by the professional world where the students will end up working. Members of college faculty can also choose to view part of their responsibility as creating connections for the future employment of their students but this is more of a cultural thing in certain institutions and departments and is not a universal expectation among all institutions and academic departments.

The Student: The student needs to show up for class, study, and ask questions. A grade point average in excess of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale will also increase their chances of employment in most areas of study. Students need to do practical work like internships and engage in other experiences such as study abroad, service learning and student organizations. These “other experiences” form the basis for the stories that they will tell while articulating their skills during a job interview. Further, the student needs to keep a clean criminal record, avoid unusual body modifications and remain open-minded about the types of jobs they might pursue.

The Family: Supportive families can make all the difference as to the performance of students during their college years. Many studies have shown that parents remain the single most influential factor in student success during the college years. So parents need to ask good questions, encourage students in very specific ways and be prepared for countless count-to-ten moments and dualistic “I hated it here yesterday but love it here today” midnight calls. Families can also work to create connections for their student by introducing them to those in the world of work who possess hiring influence. Expectation is also critical. Parents should overtly and clearly express an expectation that the student will seek and earn a first professional job after college, rather than assuming it as an implied outcome. Sending a message of “We love you but when you graduate, we expect that you will work to find a job” can be more effective than one might think.

The Career Office – No longer called the “Placement Office” at most institutions but instead “Career Development” or “Career Education,” our offices produce events, hold one-on-one appointments, offer a variety of campus presentations and learning sessions, networking programs, workshops in building and using LinkedIn profiles and much more. But the student still needs to take advantage of these events or services. Further, once the student has learned, for example, the proper techniques to use while interviewing, they actually need to act upon and apply the advice. There is nothing a college career office can do to force students or new graduates to take and apply the advice they have been afforded.

A lot goes into the formula of determining how a newly minted college graduate will do in the job market. Faculty, parents, the career office, the institution, as well as employers, the actual job market statistics and then student themselves each have at the very least an equal role in supporting the ultimate employment of the student. While it is easy and sometimes convenient to pin employment rates upon an institution or even more specifically an academic program or a career office, employment is an outcome for which the responsibility is shared by many. So as I reflect upon the misfortunes of my friend at the for-profit school, I sense a certain injustice and wonder to this day, who else did not do their part in that circumstance? It takes a village.

It’s your future. Take charge!

Resumes are not Just about “What I Did.”

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

Take a look at your resume.  Does it list things that you “have done”?  Organized and led meetings.  Waited tables.  Worked cash register. Met with clients. Mopped floors. Sold products. Assisted customers.  If so, you might be missing out on opportunities, not only because your resume might not be all that appealing, but also because you probably have not taken the time to answer the more important questions; and here they are:

Why did you do those things?

What talents or practiced skills do you now bring to any job because you did those things?

Let’s take a look at one of the examples listed above.

Waited tables.

Why did you wait tables, beyond the obvious?  Why did your boss want you to wait on tables?  “Served customers with promptness, accuracy and precision, while managing food service for up to 8 tables.”  So, now we have taken “Waited tables,” and answered both questions.  Why did you wait tables?  To serve customers.  What practiced skills do you now bring to any workplace?  Promptness, accuracy, precision, time management and the ability to organize several tasks simultaneously.  That just might be more appealing to a future employer than “Waited tables” especially if you do not intend to wait tables in your next job.

Now there are exceptions to this advice but even among those exceptions it is important that to expand the bullet points in a resume to reflect talents beyond the base skills sought in the job description.  Accountants and IT/IS and Computer Science professionals would probably be a good example.  Firms that hire these professionals usually do want a list of what you have done.  Java, C++, accounts payable, general ledger, corporate tax and so on.  So yes, it is important that you express that you have skills and knowledge in these areas.  But include examples in your resume, or cover letter of how you exercised these skills.  Further, in your bullet points, do not just list that you “know” a certain programming language but be sure to demonstrate that you have grown in your abilities along the way.

Remember, a resume is not just about what you did.  It is about how you have grown.  It is about demonstrating that you know why you did the things that you did in your last job and it is about knowing what additional skills – transferable skills – you would bring to your next employer.

It’s your future.  Take charge.

 

Heading to College? 8 Ways to be Amazing.

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

By now, most of my readers know that I despise the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” when asked of a middle school or high school student.  It is a dumb question and one that simply cannot be answered with any degree of certainty or knowledge – it is like asking “What is the four digit lottery number going to be next Wednesday night in Tennessee?” In 1930, it wasn’t a dumb question.  Most people went into the mills, the mines or the Army. And if you went into the Army, when you came back, you went into the mills or the mines.  That was likely what you were going to “be” for the rest of your life.  Today, the world of work is absolutely nothing like that.  I recently came across a statistic that suggested that well over half of the present day U.S. workforce has been at their present company less than five years.  More than half of our workforce!  And that percentage will continue to grow as people tend to stay with their employer only four to seven years.

So, my solution is to teach students to answer that question in one of two ways, “I am going to be amazing” or “I am going to be many things!”  When I started to think about the “amazing” part, it occurred to me, maybe I should write a reflection on how new and enrolled college students can be “amazing.”  After all, I have been going to or working at a college since 1984.  I ought to have at least some idea.  Right?  Well, here are 8 ways, that new college students can be amazing:

1. Filter what you do through a futuristic lens and not a present day lens - For example, when your friends haul you out to get that first tattoo, remember that whether we like it or not most employers frown on tattoos.  If the tattoo is in a conspicuous place, you just cut your job market by a certain percentage and you may not have even finished your first year of college.  If you are going to work in a professional setting with the public, you might have just cut your potential market by over 50%.  Now, I am not just picking on tattoos here.  Filter all of your decisions through a futuristic lens. Respect authority, laws and those who have knowledge and skills to share.

2. Love – That’s right, love your roommates, love your study group, love your professors and your tutor and your advisor.  Even love the lunch line person who takes your meal swipe. You will waste a whole lot of energy and sleep in your life harboring anger and hatred, or bullying and picking on, or insulting and making fun of people.  Once you get used to telling people that they mean a lot to you, it gets easier and easier to do, and to truly mean in your heart. When you reach the workforce as a leader, you will be prepared to bring that tough love that is so desperately needed in today’s world of work.

3. Study what makes you hungry to learn more – Too many students major in things because mom and dad told them to, or because they perceive that somehow they will make lots of money, or gain prestige.  Then they sit miserably in courses that either do not interest them, or are challenging them well beyond their abilities because they figure “I just have to put up with it to get the prize.”  History majors go on to be CEOs just like business majors. My mom was a teacher, but when it became painfully evident that I was not cut out for teaching, I switched to a major where I could be very successful.  It will pay dividends in your career, later.

4. Be courageous – I recently visited a company and listened to a presentation by the managing director.  I loved his comment “The opposite of courage is compliance.” Grow in confidence by growing in knowledge.  It will not happen over night.  In fact, it might not happen the first couple of years.  Eventually, though, you will feel confident enough to stand up, hold your ground and even turn the tide of your student organization, and eventually, your company. But please read number 5.

5. Show humility, but not false humility – Someday, if I get the chance to read your cover letter, I don’t want to see the word “I” appear more than 3-4 times in the whole letter.  You are what you are because someone taught you.  You learned sports, music, dance, art, math, language, and even video games from other people – either someone taught you, or someone authored the book or video game that you learned from.  You put in effort, but the effort channeled the knowledge and skill that someone else imparted upon you.  Once you have your degree, don’t throw it in peoples’ face.  Instead share your knowledge, build people up and never knock them down.  The best leaders are humble, benevolent and share what they know by mentoring others.  They are not bold, loud mouth, life of the party people.

6. Listen – Author Susan Cain recently released a book called “Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World that won’t Stop Talking.”  Our culture values talkative, extroverted types.  Look at the U.S. Congress, look at really outgoing sales people. These are the people we expect to win, to get the jobs, to lead.  In fact, truth is, the best leaders in history were much better listeners than speakers.  Read Cain’s book and also read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great.  It will really change what you think about the quiet, listening types.  Class clowns lose, in many ways.  Take your studies seriously, listen (don’t just hear, listen. . .it takes effort) to people who know more than you.  Everyone in the world knows something you don’t know.  If you keep talking, you will never learn from them.

7. Say “Yes!” – Would you like to be the volunteer chair for our student organization?  “Yes!”  Would you like to help me and another faculty member with our research project? “Yes!”  Would you like to rush my sorority? “Yes!”  Would you like to go with me on a 14 day study abroad to Morocco?  “Yes!”  Do things you never thought you would do (legal things, please). In the next four years, you will have more opportunities than you will the rest of your life.  Get used to saying “Yes!” because “Yes!” also wins in the workplace.  “That’s not in my job description,” is the absolute worst phrase you could ever say to your boss.  Say “Yes!” and you might be exhausted, but eventually, you will also be promoted to leadership roles.

8. Question much of what you believe and have been told about others – All Asian people are ___________.  All black people are ________________.  All white people are ______________________.  Those Arabs are all _____________________.  Why do you believe the things you believe?  Did your grandfather tell you that?  Did a club or organization you or your family belonged to tell you that?  Have you studied the facts to assure that it is true. . .I mean have you physically gathered real, solid data to prove that they are ALL like that?  Did you live with a white person, a black person or an Arab?  Did you spend a week, a month or a year with them?  Listen.  Much of what you believe is, at best, a mosaic of the hundreds of thousands of encounters you have had in your life and the things you have heard the most from those closest to you.  Here is the truth.  No one knows the absolute truth about the social world that we see.  What we believe, how we see the world is merely one interpretation of the world.  Even people we are close to, interpret their world differently from us, albeit slight in some cases.  Question everything, but do it respectfully no matter the situation.

Those are just a few ways to be amazing during college and even into your professional life.  Too many people go to college to get a degree.  A degree gets you absolutely nothing in the world of work.  Companies want to hire the whole person and it is easier to hire you when the whole person is a futuristic person, who loves their co-workers, shows passion for what they studied, is humble and yet confident and courageous about taking responsible risks to move the organization forward, who listens more than they speak and who says “Yes!” to new challenges, even you take on something you never dreamed you’d be doing.

It’s your future.  Take charge!

Very Basic Dos and Don’ts for LinkedIn

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

Generation Y has a tool that I never had at the beginning of my career.  You see, in order to meet other professionals back in the ’80s and ’90s, we had to belong to professional organizations, go to meetings, go to national conferences, pick up the phone and actually call people, and so on.  Banish the thought! But seriously, if you wanted to build your professional network it took a very present and physical effort.  Today, not so much.  Today, we have LinkedIn.

In the last few years, I have had a chance to help hundreds of people with their LinkedIn profiles, and the opportunity to view thousands of others.  Goodness!  What a wide array of things I have seen ranging from “Wow!  That is a great idea!” to “Holy crap!  Why would anyone put that on LinkedIn?”  So, I thought I would just prepare a nice dos and don’ts checklist by which you can evaluate (or build) your LinkedIn profile.  Ready?  Here goes:

  • You should absolutely have a photo on your profile
  • Your profile photo should include you, and only you (no one else – so skip the wedding shots –  and not your dog – and not a half-picture of someone standing next to you either – just you!)
  • Your photo should be a picture of you at your very best, in your most professional attire (attire relevant to your field)
  • Your photo should not be a Glamour Shot, you in a prom/bridesmaid dress, fraternity/sorority wear, cocktail party wear, a t-shirt, bathing suit or anything like that
  • Your photo should not try to be cute, use cartoons, use weird, abstract images of you trying to be profound, strange arm-length selfies or you with purple hair, gauges or piercings
  • Never, ever take your photo at some weird angle, in a mediocre attempt to be artistic and never mess with the image or lighting. . .for God’s sake, just be normal for once in your life! LOL!
  • You should make a custom URL (click edit, and then the edit link next to your LinkedIn URL and customize it)
  • Add your custom URL to your email signature so that with every email you send, people can click on your profile
  • You must have a summary and it should be a reflection of your brand (one of my other articles talks a bit about this)
  • If you are a recent graduate, your education section should come next.  If you have been out of school more than 5 years, your experience should come next.
  • Your education section should include the school, your degree and your major; add a description of the program only if particularly unique
  • Only add a “Courses” section if you are lacking certain practical work skills;  a courses section should basically be used to say “I did not do this, but I did learn how to do it.”
  • For God’s sake, please, please, please do not, do not, do not list all of the courses you have taken – maybe 2 to 5 max
  • Your jobs should each have bullet points (create the bullets in MS Word and then copy and paste them) – avoid paragraphs – it can be too hard to scan through them unless you keep them to the point and fairly short
  • Bullet points should be action-oriented and should reflect skills and characteristics and not just reflect “here’s what I did – waited tables, cleaned floors”
  • If you wrote some great papers, took some great photography, did a great, professional video, add a projects section and link to these
  • If you speak a foreign language, at least at a minimal conversational level, add a foreign language section
  • Do not, do not, do not, list tons of skills for endorsement; only list 5 or 6 at first and try to get endorsements for those; then others will recommend new skills and as you have their endorsements, you can add those to your profile too, so all of your skills have at least one endorsement
  • Make sure endorsable skills are not bland and common (communication skills, leadership, blah, blah) – add skills needed in your industry (ones from your brand)
  • Remember that part of your brand is thinking “What would others say about me?”; thinking along these lines will help you gain endorsements
  • Add an organizations section, if you belong to organizations, but please list a short sentence under each explaining what the organization does
  • Also add to your organization sentences, a skill or characteristic that you have that has been enhanced by being a part of the organization
  • Volunteerism sections can include separate volunteer activities done in your organizations but do not overdo it; no more than 4 or 5, please, and describe each
  • Interests:  use the additional info/interests section as a metatag section; list words through which you would like to be found in a LinkedIn search
  • When listing key words in your interests section, do it like this: word, word, word, word – list words from your chosen occupational area
  • Many people use the interests section to list “camping, rock climbing, auto racing” and so on – don’t do this unless it will get you hired
  • Personal details:  guys, you can list things like married and single and so on; ladies, put absolutely nothing in this section
  • Recommendations – write no recommendations unless you know the person deeply and accept no recommendations unless they know you deeply
  • Do not write recommendations for a friend just to be nice, unless you have truly worked with them and know the quality of their work

 

Well, that is a few checklist items.  Maybe in the future, I will jot down a few ideas about different ways to use your LinkedIn account.  Oh yes, by the way, if you are setting up a new LinkedIn account.  LinkedIn tries to get you to click buttons that allow LinkedIn to reach into your Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail contacts.  I usually recommend that you “SKIP” that step.  Do not send blanket invitations to people to be a part of your network.  LinkedIn should be about quality of contacts, not quantity of contacts.  In any case, do build a LinkedIn profile, and do attend to it every single day.  Eventually, we will no longer use paper-based resumes.  So, it is time to start to get more familiar with the cloud-based tools that will make a huge difference in expanding your network.  Remember, today, 7 out of 10 jobs come through contacts.  Only 2-3 jobs out of every 10 are ever posted, anywhere.  You need to know people and LinkedIn is a great way to do it!

It’s your future.  Take charge!

 

The Four Ps

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

You know how you read something on the Internet and then you can’t find it again?  Well this article is a perfect example of this.  I read an article on LinkedIn by a CEO who was tired of reading blah, blah, generic resumes.  Now to some degree, this sets off sirens and buzzers in my head.  We career pros often discourage flashy resumes with lines, color, graphics, photos and such.  This is not because we are boring people. . .well most of us are not boring people. . .but because all of these little artifacts can confuse resume scanning software.  Today about 40% of large firms are using scanning software as a means of a “first read” on your resume.  Why?  Because they get thousands of resumes and there is no way their HR departments could screen that many documents each day.  But if you use graphics in your resume, or templates, it confuses resume scanning software and can eliminate you from consideration, regardless of your qualifications.

But I digress.

The original author of the article was not so much trying to encourage visual flash, but instead encouraging a bit more content pizzazz. He described the old stale, or “cliche” as I recall him noting, overused words like “works well in teams” and “strong customer service focus”.  I mean everyone and their brother says these things, and once you have read 100 of these, they all start to look the same.  As I reflected more deeply on the article, I really liked the approach that the author suggested.  In essence, if you want to get his attention, you need to respect the 4 Ps.  I have listed them below, but framed them in my own way (because I cannot remember the way he framed them, quite frankly).  Your resume should demonstrate:

Persuasion – Not only examples of when you demonstrated persuasion, but your entire cover letter and resume should be persuasive.  How?  By being closely tied to the job description, the company mission, values and services.  That’s right, you cannot have a “good general resume” that you send out for just about any job.  It takes research and intention.  Speaking more specifically about persuasion, the ability to be persuasive is one of the top 20 skills sought by employers according to past surveys conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.  You need to sell your ability to sell, but at the same time, your employment documents should be selling the “whole and real you”.

Personality – I do recall the original author noting how bland and lacking in personality resumes have become.  A resume should be a reflection of you.  Maybe include a key skills and characteristics section, but do not list a bunch of generic skills and characteristics like “easy to work with” and “MS Office” and “ability to work in a team”, but instead list those things that are more unique “perseverance when challenged”, “inquisitive and driven by learning”, strong initiative, remaining until the job is complete”.  These are less likely to appear on the average, dry, generic resume.

Performance – Numbers speak volumes.  Did you manage a certain number of people?  Attract a certain number of volunteers?  Oversee a certain level of budget? Raise a certain amount of money?  Attain a certain rating, or ranking?  Lead a team to some measurable superior performance?  Well, let’s get it on the resume and express it in a way where it can be easily translated as a skill that is relevant to the role you are seeking.  But remember, a one-time number is a snapshot in time. Your potential employer wants to see that you show a trend toward performance.  A trend toward metrics and measurable outcomes and a trend toward working in a culture of assessment.

Persistence – Quitters never win.  Another one of those phrases you hear over and over again as you grow up.  But it finally pays off here.  No one wants to hire a quitter.  When were you challenged?  Do you have examples of when you rose to the occasion?  So if you were a waitress, did you “Wait tables” and “Take orders”?  Who cares?  But if you, “Oversaw guest satisfaction and services for up to 8 tables, assuring precise order taking and timely service, while resolving customer disputes”. . .and you worked at that job for 4 years. . .well my friend. . .that is a great bullet point that demonstrates persistence and perseverance. Sounds a lot better than “Waited tables.”

Be careful now.  This is not a license for you to dress up your resume with bells and whistles and distracting boxes and colors.  Unless you are going to work as an artist, a graphics artist or a public relations specialist (in which case you should have a website and not a resume), keep your resume scannable.  Also be attentive to the basics:

  • Recent
  • Relevant
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Consistent

But moreover, allow your personality, your achievement and your characteristics to come through loud and clear.  As the CEO in the original article noted, “No one wants to read one more lousy, dry resume.”

It’s your future.  Take charge.

Determine Exactly What The Future Holds For Your Career

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

I really do not like stringing people along, so I am going to be upfront right here, right now, in the first paragraph.  The title of this article is a complete bait and switch. I lured you in by promising you something that cannot be done.  That’s right, I am not going to tell you what you are going to do for a living, nor am I going to refer you to some magical website that will help you out of this quandary.  I pose the following question to set the theme for the article; “If fortune tellers are truly clairvoyant, why are they still fortune tellers?  Shouldn’t they be hitting the lottery just about every day if they can see future events?”  Similarly, if I could just tell people what majors are best for them, or what they should “be” in their career life, I certainly could have retired long ago.

I wanted to take this short article to explain a little about my profession.  A career counselor is not a person who:

  • Tells you what you are going to be
  • Tells you what to major in
  • Tells you the sorts of jobs where you will be ultimately successful
  • Makes the unpredictable, predictable

We do not do any of these and yet I think there is a perception among some that we have knowledge and tools at our disposal to make the unpredictable more predictable.  Here is the truth.  If I really had to define our role in one sentence, what a good career counselor does is provide tools that help each person embrace unpredictability, and ultimately deal better with unpredictability.  That’s it.  That is all we do. Whether I am counseling on major choices, career choices, or advising on resume construction, all I do, all day long, is help others deal with a very unpredictable world.  So, it is important as you work with a career counselor, that you, or your child have this in mind.  We cannot overtly tell people what they are going to do for a living or what to major in for two main reasons:

1. We cannot predict the future and the world is ever changing around us, and frankly,

2. It is completely against our code of ethics to tell people what to do with their lives.

I write this article with a specific story in mind.  About 7 years ago, friends of the family asked me to work with their college-bound child.  Dad was a very domineering figure, mom often went along with dad, and their son. . .well, he wanted to study art, and it was not sitting well with dad at all.  “He needs to have a second major” he insisted.  Actually I did not necessarily disagree with dad, but I explained that it did not matter if the child did not have a second major on day #1 because he would likely be finishing his liberal arts courses for the first year, anyway.  I met countless hours with the family, on at least three different occasions, I allowed the student to take some of the career inventories at my disposal, we applied the work of Myers-Briggs, Holland, Strong, and every name in the career research book. Still, with all of this work, I could only get the student to pare his choices down to three possible second majors.  Frustrated, the dad began to call professionals at the school that his son was about to attend and badger them “My son had better have a second major selected and declared by the first day of classes or I am not sending him there!” he demanded.  I did not work at the school where his son was headed, but I knew plenty of people there.  This domineering character was used to getting his way, and doggoned, we was bound and determined to find someone foolish enough to take a stab at predicting his son’s future, choosing the perfect complement of majors for his son and then assuring his son’s success into the corporate world.  Good luck!  He wanted someone to make the unpredictable, predictable, and this does not exist anywhere in life.

Friends, I know college is expensive; very expensive. But if you are looking to college to bring predictability about the future, then you are looking in the wrong place.  In fact, if we are doing our job in higher education, a student will be exposed to more thoughts, ideas, people, concepts, cultures, beliefs, calculations, history, methodologies, leadership and brushes with self-reliance than ever before in their young lives – that opens up more possibilities rather than narrowing them down.  Further, while all that is happening, you and I are changing, the economy is changing, new job titles are being created, more nations are doing business with more trading partners, governments are changing, currency is changing, work styles are changing, leading companies become lagging companies and vice verse. . .folks. . . .there is absolutely no way to predict what you or your child will be or do in the coming years.  College simply opens the possibilities of what someone might do, and to complement college, we career counselors can help folks deal with the idea of an unpredictable world by providing tools, inventories, data and best of all, a good pair of listening ears and deep discussion.

Want someone to hand you the best major for your child or the best career path for yourself?  Consult a fortune teller, they may not be as tightly bound by ethical restrictions. Want to really make the best decision for yourself or in concert with your college-bound child when it comes to majors and careers?  Prepare to embrace unpredictability and see the opportunity that exists in a whirlwind world in which new, previously unimagined possibilities are created each moment.

It’s your future.  Take charge!

 

Do Everything They Do

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

Think you’re too good to do what the guy below you in the hierarchy does?  Well, it is a shame, because you just missed out on one of the top ways of demonstrating leadership.

I get a real charge out of some who have attained the level of director, or vice president in companies, or even in my industry, higher education, who no longer think they need to do the fundamental work that everyone who is lower them them on the corporate ladder does each day.  I remember talking with a career professional from the west coast not long ago, “Do you actually have time to meet with students?” she asked me.  “What do you mean?” I asked.  “I mean, do you see student appointments?  I do not have time to do that.”  I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake her and say “We are in education!  What the heck are you taking about, do I have time to see students?”

Now before readers get all bent out of shape, I also recognize that there are some jobs in higher education that really, by nature, do not encounter students all that much.  Let’s be clear, here.  If you are a vice president of student life, you had better love students, want to meet with students and make students the center of your world.  If you are chief financial officer, you had better not only be able to read and interpret financial statements, but you had better still be able and willing to prepare them.  You might be director of the YMCA, but I want to see you teaching a fitness class, checking in guests at the front desk and yes, even mopping up the sweaty floor or throwing salt on an icy parking lot, when called upon.

Why is it that as some are awarded a promotion, or maybe even earn a promotion or a title of status, they also forget the work that they used to do.  They forget the paradigm they used to live in. They forget the conversations they had with people at the ground level, who get the work done each day.  In short, they lose their humility, for the sake of fitting in with the cost sensitive, top-down, “just give me the numbers” crowd.  What an awful shame it is, no matter where it happens. It is self-serving and it is professionally ignorant.

I would remind any aspiring leader to remember from whence they came and maintain their willingness to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and still include those at the ground floor in the grand plan, rather than assuming that the promotion also means that they now have some supreme knowledge that allows them to usurp those who actually get the work done each day.  Here are things that I do, to a large extent each year, that everyone on our staff also does (on top of my administrative duties and committee work):

  • Yes, I see students; last year, out of 7 counselors, I saw the third most students in our office
  • Yes, I speak in classrooms, during the day and even in the evening (I usually do not even ask our staff to do evenings, though some still volunteer)
  • Yes, I work Saturdays; usually our graduate students work these events with me
  • Yes, I type my own letters, do my own mail merges, enter my own counseling notes and even clean up after myself after lunch
  • Yes, I work at jobs fairs on-campus and off-campus, I help organize them and I am there to help solve problems when they arise
  • Yes, I carry boxes, pull dollies, help students move in on move-in day, and even drive the 12 passenger van on field trips for our office
  • Yes, I let others plan events and then just act in the capacity in which they need me to serve – that’s right, they tell me what to do on those days
  • Yes, I will support any of our events or the events of another department; I will stand there, I will work with students and never complain about it
  • Yes, I let my staff influence my decisions every single day, and no, I rarely let the bottom line rule an outcome
  • Yes, I write my own PowerPoints and other presentations, just like the rest of our staff
  • While I do not do my own travel and reimbursement, I have done it, and could do it again, at any time

By the way, that probably describes about 1/3 of my job.  So, I don’t want to hear it leaders.  Get your tails in gear.

I will leave you with these two questions.  How can a leader expect their fellow staff members to do their jobs cheerfully, if they, as leaders are not willing to pitch in, in a big way and do exactly the same things that everyone else in the office does, with the same enthusiasm and skill?  And here’s the last question.  What would have happened if Jesus said to his disciples, “Here is the book, just get out there and do this list of things.  I will stay back here in Nazareth and sort “administrate” from here”?  Give me a break! Forget not from whence you came my friends.

It’s your future. Take charge!

 

When Leaders Fail, Leaders Fail

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

I begin with a quote by Jim Collins, from his book Good to Great; Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . .and Others Don’t.

“We’ve all observed the following scenario.  We have a wrong person on the bus and we know it.  Yet we wait, we delay, we try alternatives, we give a third and fourth chance, we hope that the situation will improve, we invest time in trying to properly manage the person, we build little systems to compensate for his shortcomings, and so forth. But the situation doesn’t improve.  When we go home, we find our energy diverted by thinking (or talking to our spouses) about that person.  Worse, all the time and energy we spend on that one person siphons energy away from developing and working with the right people.  We continue to stumble along until the person leaves on his own (to our great sense of relief) or we finally act (also to our great sense of relief). Meanwhile, our best people wonder, “What took you so long?””(Collins, J., 2001, p. 56)

This problem is exacerbated at the top of an organization.  Leaders have little time to deal with issues like these.  Worse still, if the cancer in an organization happens to be the top dog, a board of trustees rarely visits the organization, so it is much easier for them to ignore the situation as if nothing is wrong.  After all, “I only need to get through those three or four board meetings a year.”  These are actually the very worst situations because as an organization and its members suffer, day in and day out, board members (at some, but certainly not all organizations), who are charged with being stewards of an organization, charged with ultimate fiduciary responsibilities have the luxury of divorcing themselves from the real situation on the ground.  At times they use spreadsheets and their “pet metrics” to justify their unwillingness to act on what might have already become a visible and spiritually toxic and draining situation at the ground level of an organization.

When leaders fail, leaders fail.  What I mean by this, is that at the top of organizations there is often cowardice. “We can’t remove a board chair!” “We can’t remove a president.  What would shareholders and the community think?”  “Removing the top dog will make us look bad.”  These are all common thoughts by board members and others charged with fiduciary responsibilities.  The irony of this line of thinking is that as these so-called leaders continue to justify their inaction in their own minds, the hundreds, or thousands of employees who suffer each day under the rule of a toxic leader become increasingly convinced that those with fiduciary responsibilities are completely inept.  So, while those with the power to end a toxic situation sit back and convince themselves that their hesitation or even cowardice is justified by some set of contrived metrics, the entire organization increasingly views them as ultimately ineffective.  When leaders fail, leaders fail.

Many of us have been at the top of these organizations.  I know, I certainly was, many years ago.  While I was not a board member, I was an executive officer of a corporation and I was beyond “at odds” with the decisions of my co-leader at the top of the organization.  Looking back, my solution was to basically throw my hands up and seek employment elsewhere.  What a mistake on my part.  I left hundreds of employees behind, when in fact what they really needed was for me to act.  So, yes, many of us are guilty of making hasty, or even selfish decisions in these cases.  I have learned a great deal since then – mostly be observing some fantastic leaders and unfortunately, some really horrible leaders.

The “Do What’s Hard Principle”

A number of years ago, after I left my role as an executive officer, I adopted a mindset which I have come to call the “Do What’s Hard Principle.”  It is really a simple concept.  As a leader, you look at a situation and examine the easy routes, and project the potential outcomes.  Then you look at the hard routes.  The routes that will cost time, money and feelings and maybe even cause you to lose face with others.  If the potential outcomes would be superior by “Doing What’s Hard”, then that is the choice you make.  The hard part about this is that when you sit down and think about each situation, it typically turns out that the “hard way” is often the best solution, and most people do not have the stomach or the thick skin to follow through.

Here are some guidelines to help determine when it is time to do something the hard way and remove a leader:

  • God did not intend for us to be miserable 8+ hours a day. Are most of the people in an organization dissatisfied with coming to work?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Is your organization unable to hire and hold on to upper level and mid-level managers for more than a year or so?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Does the leader have what I call a “selective obsession with numbers”?  This means that some are held accountable and others are not. It also means that they pull out numbers, occasionally erroneous or misleading numbers, when it is convenient to do so and ignore them when it no longer serves their personal interest.  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Is there a record of great people leaving the organization?  Have people who really made a positive difference in the organization moved on?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Are recent successes truly attributable to the organizational leader, or to the groundwork set by a predecessor or others in the organization?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Are there an excess of legal, human resources and other litigation matters that have arisen only since the leader arrived?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Does the leader embarrass the organization, its members and its heritage?  Time to do what’s hard.
  • Is more time spent on daily drama in an organization than serving the customer? Time to do what’s hard.

I make the point again, ultimately, it is so important that those charged with fiduciary responsibilities become aware that in these situations, as they sit idly by, convincing themselves that nothing is wrong, an entire corporation, or community stares at them wondering why they refuse to act.  I will close with another quote from the same chapter of Good to Great:

“Indeed if we’re honest with ourselves, the reason we wait too long often has less to do with concern for that person and more to do with our own convenience.  He’s doing an okay job and it would be a huge hassle to replace him, so we avoid the issue.  Or we find the whole process of dealing with the issue to be stressful and distasteful.  So, to save ourselves stress and discomfort, we wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Meanwhile, all the best people are still wondering, “When are they going to do something about this?  How long is this going to go on?”” (Collins, J., 2001, p. 56).

It’s your future.  Take charge!

Eventually There Needs to be a Discussion about College Major

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

In my last article I suggested that we should stop asking kids, especially high school and younger, what they are going to “be” in life. I pointed out that in fact since they are going to “be” many things, it is sort of a ridiculous question. There is no way that the average 17 year old can answer the “What are you going to be?” question with any level of valid certainty. An old friend responded to that article with appreciation but with a very salient point. Paraphrasing, he made the point that with the seemingly endless amount of student debt that our young people are assuming, we need to have at least a discussion about academic majors at some point. And we are in agreement.

Before I continue, I need to point out another side to the college cost story here. One would think that not having a discussion about future careers would ultimately add to college costs because by not offering kids proper guidance, we are setting them up for frequent major changes, adding and dropping courses and falling behind in studies. In fact I propose that the opposite can also happen. I know, because it happened to me. You see, I answered the question, “John, what are you going to be?” “Band director” was my answer, to my neighbors, my friends, and my extended family. Unfortunately, within a quarter or two of classes, it became apparent that I was not cut out for the job. And yet I had told everyone, with a high degree of certainty that I was going to be a band director. I felt obligated to continue limping through my studies because of that pseudo promise. I limped and limped for three years before finally leaving the major feeling like a miserable failure. In the end, after bopping through a few more majors, I graduated after six years of college, with a two-year degree in business management. Talk about college costs and student loans! All because I was ashamed to give up on a so-called dream that I had touted would be my most certain future. So, now my readers can see why I am rather passionate about this topic.

When I encounter new students at orientation days, or during admissions days, I ask them questions, but never “What are you going to be?” I might ask “What do you plan on studying?” or “What are some of the areas of study that interest you?” These are more open-ended questions and since I am familiar with the areas our college has to offer, it can lead not only to some great conversation, but it also opens the door for me to explain why my work as a career counselor is relevant to them their first year, all the way through commencement and beyond. But what about discussions between parents and their children? Well, here is a formula that I always promote. I call it the three Ds equation:

Good Data + Deep Discussion = Great Decisions

Data: Today, we have the ability to measure a student’s interests, personality, values, skills, and leisure preferences. Want to see how it works? Go to my office’s website http://www.sru.edu/career and click on our FOCUS assessment. The access code is “rockon”. Have a youngster, at least in high school, take all five of the self-assessments and then, when they are finished with all five, click on the “See my top career choices” button below the assessments and scroll down. The tool combines the power of data from five separate assessments to suggest the areas that a student might begin to explore, in terms of their future. But it does not stop there, and no one should ever make a major or career decision based only on this type of data. There is also other data such as Bureau of Labor Statistics predictive data and other employment data that a capable career counselor can help lead you to.

Discussion: This “D” can take many forms. Here is what I say. Ask your selected college or university if they will offer one on one career counseling to students before they even arrive on campus. If they won’t then raise your eyebrows! Many career offices are not very busy at all and really have no excuse other than being short-sighted. Seriously, I have seen some career offices that only see a few students each day. Our office sees well over 2000 individual appointments each year with a team of only 3 professional staff and 4 less-than-half-time graduate assistant career counselors, yet we still make room for appointments for incoming students. School counselors are usually too overworked by their administrators (on the wrong things, like scheduling students) to be able to have these deep discussions. So, it is up to parents, friends, mentors and professional career counselors on campus to work with the students. Avoid telling your child things, instead lead with questions, explore different job descriptions at http://www.onetonline.org and ask what they like or what they do not like about each. Explore what subjects that they like, as well as what subjects they think that have been successful in. If they are stuck on a certain career, ask them to describe what they think the occupation involves every day and then check the accuracy against the bullet points in Onet. I like to show a student several jobs in a specific area, say accounting for example, and have them rate them on a scale of one to ten. Then I ask them to evaluate which descriptive bullet points they liked the most and which they liked the least in the daily activities described. Offer to find a one-day job shadow for your child and make sure they have a list of good questions to ask that day. But allow them to shadow a number of professionals in the field; not just one or two.

Here are other discussion topics related to career choice that you can have with a youngster about to finish high school:

  • Do you want to work around people, or not so much, and why?
  • Do you want to travel in your job (locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally) and do you know what you give up when you have a job like that?
  • Do you want a job that you can work at successfully with a Bachelor’s Degree or are you willing to think about graduate school (Onet will tell you what % of the U.S. market for each occupation presently holds Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees).
  • Do you want a job with really high variability each day, or a job that has many of the same, precise tasks to do over and over again?
  • Do you think you will be willing to work varied shifts or long days (and define “long” for them)? Why or why not?
  • Do jobs with high risk (working with the lives, kids or finances of others) interest you, or are you more inclined to lower risk jobs?
  • How important are things like a big salary (define for them and put in context) and advancement opportunities (define this for them) for you. (Do not interject your viewpoint here parent. Do not!!! Your desire for a prominent position has absolutely no bearing on your child. They are not you, and may not value a large salary as you might, or vice versa.)

There are many other questions, but I will stop there. The point is, only the combination of data, plus discussion will result in great decisions. Lastly, and I believe I started to make the point above, I should point out that everyone’s happiness pie recipe is different. As you discuss, you, the parent should be talking about 10-20% of the time and the child should be talking the rest of the time. Your job is to ask questions and then listen. Never use the words, “I believe”, “I feel”, “I think”, “But I say” or anything that inserts your influence into the discussion. Your kid might not be interested in a huge salary – maybe they want to consider social work. Your kid might not be interested in a highly visible and prominent occupation – perhaps they would prefer to serve as a mental health counselor. You kid might express interest in an occupation that will require for them to move away from home – you need to get over it. It is their life.

In any case, ask, listen, and lead them to new experiences and new ideas about the world of work. In the end, they will learn to make more informed decisions in everything they do.

It’s your future (and theirs). Take charge (and teach them to take charge, responsibly)!

Stop Asking Kids What They Are Going To “Be”. Just Stop It!

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

Why don’t most of us become the things that we said that we planned on becoming when we were 17?  I recently came across this quote by radio personality Garrison Keillor, “Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.”

Author and theorist Dr. John Krumboltz, developer of the Theory of Planned Happenstance approach to career counseling, a theory that I subscribe to quite readily, reflects upon a number of “realities” that we conveniently ignore as we encounter children.  In his book, Luck Is No Accident, Krumboltz points out a few key points:

  • Less than 2% of us actually turn out to “be” exactly what we said we were going to “be”
  • The world changes everyday
  • The people around us change everyday
  • Our community and the economics that surround us each day change dramatically
  • New jobs, that had never been envisioned in the past (e.g. Social media specialist) are being created each day
  • Most college-bound youngsters “choose” majors and career paths without ever actually experiencing the jobs that they are considering committing to

Krumboltz makes an incredible point in the book when he states, and I am paraphrasing for the sake of impact, “Forcing a teenager to make a public statement about what they are going to “be” (i.e. Be for the rest of their lives, without any formal life experience) is no different them asking them to describe the characteristics and name of their future spouse.”  What a powerful statement.

Here is the truth.  For the most part, even current college students cannot possibly predict what they are going to “be”. For more advanced adults, how many so-called “dream jobs” have turned out to be nightmarish.  A couple of phrases I like to say are:

“The grass is always greener, but you still have to mow it.”  – I believe that there is no such thing as a dream job – when you get into just about any job, there are always positive and negative aspects.  You create a dream job, when you, by means of happenstance, find your way into a career that you can shape and make your own. You do not realize that it is a dream job until on your way home one day you think “Wow!  I really value the things I did today,” whatever those values are.

“Stop asking people what they are going to ‘be’ because truth is, they are going to ‘be’ many different things.” – As testimony to this, I think about a former student that I had in a graduate course that I taught. I teach in a Master’s of Public Health program, and one semester I discovered that one of my students was a DVM. That’s right, she was a veterinarian!  She tried it out, she did it successfully for many years and then thought, “It’s time to do something else.”  Now, this is just amazing.  Vet school is about the hardest professional program to enter.  Students with 3.9 GPAs get turned down all of the time, and it is much more difficult to enter a DVM program than an MD or a DO program! Yet, she will end up “being” something that she probably never imagined before starting vet school.

There is no way – absolutely no way – that we can expect a 17 year old child to choose from the tens of thousands of occupations that exist out there.  Heck, they are not aware of 99% of them, let alone having ever experienced them!  As I counsel some of the students at the university where I work, I often notice the difference in the way I think, verses the way that they think, when we are amidst a career counseling session:

My thinking: You are so lucky.  You will have this great transferable degree that can be used to do so many exciting things, and explore various career pathways throughout your life.  You will probably start with a job that you never imagined, and possibly one not directly related to your degree, or maybe an occupation you did not even know existed when you started college.  Then, happenstance – chance interactions with people as you do that job – will create new opportunities that will lead you places that neither you, nor I could possibly sit here and predict.

My students’ thinking:  I have to choose my first job.  I have to plan.  I have to make the unpredictable more predictable despite everything around me is changing dramatically every single day.  I have bills to pay – these student loans are going to start to become due 90 days after I graduate.  What are the two or three occupations that most graduates go into?  Where can I get a job doing those things?  How much will I make that first year? What are my chances of getting any of these jobs?  Where are these jobs posted so that I can go look for them there?

To me, it is painfully evident that what happens outside the high school and college classroom is equally, or perhaps more relevant to where each career will flow.  If I engage with no one throughout my studies, then not only will I have no clue what roles are out there in the world of work, but I will not have created those happenstance opportunities where someone might offer me the opportunity to go down a path, that could have led to an amazing set of career options.

So, why bother to blog on this?  Well, when I was 17, I was living in a fraternity house at college, and had to make a choice.  I was offered a job delivering pizzas at a new pizza shop near my school.  At the same time, my sister was working for a small laboratory and had reported to me that the lab was looking for someone to drive around and pick up blood samples from doctors’ offices.  It would have been easiest to take the pizza job, and I almost did.  Heck, I did not even have my own car.  I shared one with my sister.  But a friend told me that he would drive me to an interview at the lab.  Well, I ended up working for that lab for the first 12 years of my career, and was promoted at least 4 times.  During that job, I met a man who, after graduating from medical school went on to form his own company – he later invited me to leave the lab and serve as CEO for that company.  Why?  Because happenstance had brought us together, and we recognized certain valuable qualities in one another. So, there I was, with a two-year degree in business, serving as CEO of a multi-state health care company.  I didn’t even study healthcare!  Eventually, I worked in the environmental industry, by planned happenstance, and then higher education, by planned happenstance, where I have served as a professor, a dean and a career director.  Go figure.  All by happenstance!

Most of us are not going to “be” what we thought when we were in high school.  So it is time to stop asking youngsters the question.  Too much is out of our hands.  Instead, find a youngster and introduce them to someone, to something, to new ideas and adventures and careers.  Let them job shadow, and listen to them. Ask open-ended questions and let them come to their own conclusions that it is neither prudent, nor realistic in most instances, to tell people what they are going to “be” and that it is OK to answer that question with “I am exploring all sorts of great opportunities.”  Truth is, they are going to “be” many, many different things.

It’s your future.  Take charge.

Cocky or Confident?

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

A couple of months ago, I was at an event where I had a chance to mention some highlights of my department.  After the event, an acquaintance noted, side-bar, “Wow! That was pretty cocky of you, how you presented your department.” Now, I am not going to describe to exact event, nor am I going to explain what it was that I said about my department – I am concealing this because I have a number of readers in various circles and I do not want to single out anyone.

Where is the thin line between confident and cocky?  I have been giving this some thought and I came up with a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are cocky or confident:

When you say something, are you trying to better yourself or your team, in the eyes of others? (It should be your team.)

When you offer stats, are the stats factual and a good representation of your team’s performance? (If so, chalk it up to confidence.)

Are your words/thoughts/presentations full of “I” and “me” or are they full of “we” and “us”? (If you are “we” focused, then it is probably confidence.)

Is the end result of what you are saying intended to promote others, support others and ultimately help others? (If so, we are talking confidence.)

In this particular instance, while I am glad my acquaintance brought her perception to my attention, my comments met all of the criteria above.  When I probed for a reason why she felt my comments were cocky, it turned out she was comparing her own department’s performance to the numbers that I was articulating and she was uncomfortable about the differences.

Those of us who are faith-filled know that the Bible is pretty clear about God’s adoration for the humble, and the meek.  At the same time, we are also tasked with doing good things throughout our lives. One thing I often tell graduating college seniors is that “No one is going to tell your story for you, most of the time.  So, look for those channels by which you can get out information about the good that you do in a company or organization, but use those channels to do the most good for the most people, and not just to promote yourself.”

It’s your future.  Take charge.

 

Why I Love my Job: a Reflection on Leadership

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

Caveat, you probably need to read between the lines in this article, for two reasons: first, I have been reflecting on how much I love what I do for a living but this article is about the people and the structure behind that passion, it is not supposed to be about me; secondly, I just finished a 14 hour workday today, and sometimes themes become a bit more obscured when your gray matter is low on batteries.

So, who comes home from a extra long day and writes an article about how much they love and appreciate their job?  Before anyone offers advice on treatment options, hear me out.  Lately I have been thinking about not only my job but what factors make my work a true pleasure.  I believe that embedded in these factors are probably some hints to great leadership.  During my hour-long drive to work and then the evening commute home, I have had time to give this some thought.  Here are a few of the things that seem to contribute to my work satisfaction:

5. Visible outcomes – If it moves, we measure it, but sometimes we do not even need to measure it.  I work in a career office and even if we create and promote an event, seeing 400 students show up for a program that we created is satisfying.  It is even more satisfying when a student says, weeks later, “I got a great internship because I attended that new event.”  But you know what?  You need to get off your duff and measure things – it takes a great deal of effort – measurement pays off big time in the long-run.

4. Focused, professional and fun co-workers – That seems to be a tall order; so many positive characteristics.  Yet I think that the best workplace can also bring out the best in people.  Our office is so busy, we do not have time for drama or idle minds and hands.  Moreover, we are very careful about whom we invite to work in our office – they must be an exceptional fit for our four-pillar FISH! philosophy.  Before starting my current job, three years ago, I admit that I took things less seriously, but in this new environment, I am more serious, more organized and yet, surprisingly, I am having a lot more fun.  My co-workers, both within and beyond my office are exceptionally dedicated professionals.  What a pleasure it is to work with them each day, drama free!

3. Appreciative and critical feedback – When you work in an organization where risk-taking is encouraged and applauded, then it is so much easier to accept critical feedback. After all, your job is not at risk just because a new program only attracted 10 students.  So you make an adjustment and figure out how to do it better next time.  Further, I find a high level of appreciation in my organization.  People send cards!  That’s right, cards!  I, as well as my closest co-workers each have a drawer full of thank you cards from co-workers, administrators, students, alumni and even parents.  I too keep a pack of such cards in my top drawer, and often reciprocate.  It is a “Thank you!” culture where people truly seem to strive for win-win situations. Today, alone, I received two separate emails from my supervisor thanking me for my work on projects.  I am not a person who is driven by money, but if you just recognize and value my work and support me, I will work my tail off for you and my stakeholders.

2. Laissez-faire (translated “let them do”) supervision – By no means is our executive leadership “laid back”.  To the contrary, as I mentioned earlier “If it moves, we measure it.”  That was in quotes because it is one of my supervisor’s mantras.  But I learned early on that if you demonstrate that your decisions are based upon study, fact, critical thought and inclusive decision-making, you tend to win the support of our top leaders.  So, do not let the term fool you, our brand of laissez-faire is really “Let them measure, let them prove, let them risk, let them do and let them be praised and appreciated.”  Leaders take note, laissez-faire leadership also tells people “I trust you.  I hired you because you are a capable, good fit.  Now get to it!”  If you do not trust your people, you are either a miserable micro-manager and ought to stop trying to convince people you are a leader, or you did a really lousy job hiring your staff. Period.

1. Supportive supervisor – Isn’t that the same as number two?  Not exactly.  I can talk to my supervisor about anything.  She knows my quirks but she also knows my strengths.  She knows what motivates me, and she knows what ticks me off, and she cares about it!  She admires and heralds examples of collaborative efforts within and beyond our division and she includes me and other middle managers on major decisions, on major committees and touts our offices’ accomplishments to our president, our provost and our deans on a fairly regular basis, and, by the way the executives tend to acknowledge us in reply! Now that is what I truly define as “supportive”.

I have acquaintances who work in shockingly toxic work environments, and it breaks my heart.  In the past few years, I have dedicated many evening hours to helping some of those folks escape their work situations. All of these people are superb professionals themselves, which leads me to ask the question, “Who is causing all of the problems in these workplaces?”  Maybe this is a chance for a leader to self-analyze.  If we examine the opposite characteristics of my list above, we can imagine environments that lack support, discourage risk-taking, are selfish and entitled, that are full of micro-managing, top-down unappreciative bullies who at the most, offer a nasty review maybe once per year.  All of this serves to create a workforce that is paranoid, scattered in their thoughts and actions, and one that is badly prone to energy-draining negativity and loads of time-consuming water cooler drama.  Who needs it?  What a waste of a great life, when we could be serving, loving and leading instead.

It’s your future.  Take charge!

Count to 10 Moments: The Lost Art

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

“. . .not only are you wrong and clearly incompetent, but you are the poorest excuse for a co-worker I could imagine – we are going to lose this account because of you, and guess who is going to take the blame? ME!!!!  Some friend you turned out to be.  I will NEVER trust you with another project AS LONG AS I LIVE!!!!!!

I can remember the time I told what was probably an inappropriate joke to a client many years ago.  That night I got a call at home from my boss of eight years.  He wasn’t pleased.  He hadn’t really gotten the true story from the client, frankly, but it didn’t matter.  I was millimeters from the unemployment line.  We tend to fire off things we regret for one main reason: because we can.  That’s right.  Think about the times that you later regretted your words and actions. Chances are, you really did not go very far out of your way.  It was simple to walk to the next cubicle and let someone have it, or in anger, you picked up the phone, called that client and blasted them.  Maybe you made the same mistake I did; you became carried away in the moment and took a tasteless joke too far, at the wrong time, in front of the wrong company. Most of us have done it and some of us have done it many times.  It really depends upon your experience, your maturity and probably your level of extroversion, or propensity to sort of go on and on about things, unfiltered.

These days, “because we can” has taken on a new meaning and a new level of irresistability.  We carry with us, in the palm of our hands, a tiny device that has a hundred times the features and functions and probably hundreds of times the computer storage capacity of the Saturn Rocket that propelled Neil Armstrong to the moon.  Yep, it is our cellphone, iPad Mini or other digital communication device.  I noted to a group of students recently that today, on college campuses, one of the main sources of conflict and fist-to-cuffs, is not stealing someone’s girlfriend, or someone’s laptop computer, it is misunderstandings brought on by our inability, or unwillingness to count to ten, to let things settle for a day, to ponder and reflect as to whether a situation really warrants the personal attack that we have keyed into our IM, our text field, or our Twitter account.  Meanwhile, our index finger hovers over the “send” button with an eager compulsion.

With our Generation Y friends, this takes on a particular challenge.  Because younger people, below the age of 21, literally do not have the the frontal lobe physiological development (the frontal lobe is involved in analyzing and projecting whether a situation could be deleterious), nor any level of real-world professionalism to guide their actions, the idea of having that power to respond immediately can not only be completely irresistible but can in fact be a career altering mistake.  These moments of poor decision-making can take on a life of their own, especially if that Tweet, Facebook post or IM is captured by one of the growing number of private firms that collects, stores and sells access to our very worst digital moments, to the human resources departments of large companies.  That’s right, just about anything you have posted online, even if you have removed it years ago, is probably already on file with companies like Social Intelligence Corporation, who, for a fee, are more than glad to use these unflattering lapses (and photos) against you in the job hunt process.

Boil any personal or workplace conflict down, and nearly every time, you will find poor, incomplete, or inappropriate communication at the heart of the conflict.  A CEO who is top down, nasty and a “my way or the highway” type.  A boss who cannot take criticism and stops talking to her direct reports.  The board members who show up at the company three times a year and have nothing to offer but criticism.  Most of these situations call for thoughtful, planned responses, yet in nearly all of these situations, many of us would be compelled to fire off that nasty text, email or even face-to-face rant.  Well, it is unprofessional.  There is no other way to say it.  It is stooping to the level of the lowest common denominator, and, if it is through our phone, it is allowing ourselves to be at the mercy of a tiny digital machine, combined perhaps, with our indignant need to always win in each situation, or to always be right (and right now).

An age old answer to this dangerous compulsion is something my mom and dad taught me; “John, take a count-to-ten moment before you do anything rash, because if you don’t, then 100 times out of 100 times, you will only make the situation worse.”  Better yet, dear readers, sleep on it for a night and store it in the “draft” folder.  I have found that 100% of the time, my attitude and most of the text of the email or Tweet seems to change rather dramatically the next day.

It’s your future.  Take charge.

Good Leaders Know When to Say “No!” to “Reply All”

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

I have joked – well, sort of – among my peers about my distaste for the “Reply All” button, which is unfortunately available in most email systems. Well time has come to make the point more public.  My poor email box simply cannot take it anymore and soon, people who truly need to reach me will not be able to do so with all of the “Reply All” fluff that I get each day.

About two months ago, I was working with a friend and former colleague at another institution on a project.  After weeks of work on the project, a few of us came to the conclusion that the project was simply not worth the time that we were spending trying to put it all together.  So, my friend issued an email, by listing several people in the “cc” area of the email address, to a group of those people whom we considered “concerned” about the project, saying that the project would not be continuing and explaining the reason. That was really his biggest mistake; he should have used “bc” instead as it prevents “Reply All” messages.  A couple of days later, a minor contributor to the project clicked the “Reply All” button, berated and embarrassed my friend and colleague “in front of” about 10 other people, while adding two other executive leaders from both universities to the “cc” list.   In my book of unbelievable moments, it went down as one of the most unprofessional actions I have ever witnessed in 20 years of corporate leadership and 10 years of higher education leadership.

Understand that I see “Reply All” as a sort of social injustice.  Other people, often hastily, decide what is important for us to see, inconsiderate about our already-full email boxes, and then they load us with unrequested information, often for the sake of their own convenience.  “Wow!  That was harsh!” you might think.  No.  It is actually true.  How about a little research – my readers know I love data.  I visited with 15 professional friends and asked them if they had ever used the “Reply All” button on their email system.  All 15 had at some point in time, as have I, reluctantly.  I then asked them why they used the button.  As I jotted down their answers, a pattern became very clear.  In fact, I could categorize their reasons into three broad categories (in order of frequency):

  1. To cover my butt
  2. To expedite – so I do not have to hunt for something later and send it to someone who requests it (i.e. It is easy to do)
  3. Because a group of people really needed to know something

The results were not surprising, only the order.  I remained hopeful that most people really shared information by “Reply All” when it was exceedingly apparent that they had thought through the action prior to sending the messages.

I will just pause to reiterate what my friend should have done.  His message was the perfect opportunity to use “bc” or blind copy.  In a blind copy message, no one can even see who is on the list.  The “Reply All” feature will only send a reply to the original sender and not to anyone else.  It is one of the very few good and acceptable uses of “bc”.

So, when should you use “Reply All”.  I will summarize the thoughts of various authors on the issue.

Use “Reply All” only if:

  • Your response will cause other people to actually act
  • You know that everyone on the list will be interested in the reply (If you do not know everyone on the list personally, then don’t do it; it is rude as you have absolutely no way of knowing if it is of interest to them)
  • If the reply is going to 10 or fewer people (if more, then use “bc”)
  • You have something absolutely critical and substantive to add to a discussion
  • You disagree with what a group is proposing

Do not use “Reply All if:

  • Your response will have absolutely no effect on other people
  • You are sending an item requested by the sender (If the original sender is merely collecting answers/files, then you do not need to “Reply All”)
  • If you are just sending a “thanks” or “ok” (God! Please!)
  • You find that less than 70% of the people are actually participating in the “Reply All” discussion (I will be one of those non-participants, by the way)
  • You agree with what is being proposed (That is assumed by not replying)
  • You are doing it to cover your butt or tattle on someone
  • You intend to reprimand, call out or berate another or return nasty comments

Your use of email and netiquette says a lot about your expertise, your demeanor and your leadership.  If you are a frenzied, “cover my butt”, hurrying from one thing to another thing leader, then you probably are one of the “Reply All” abusers who are causing the rest of us problems.  And for you folks who embarrass and berate by “Reply All”, do you know that correcting a co-worker in front of others is probably the worst thing a leader can do to a team member, let alone adding executives to the “cc” as if A) they care and B) they have time to solve something you perceive as world-ending problem.  Knock it off!

Remember, every action you take in the workplace is received and perceived by many.  Overuse of “Reply All” simply demonstrates that you do not understand the tool, and thus shows disrespect for others on the thread.  So do your best to keep your fingers off of, what I call, “that evil little button.”

It’s your future.  Take charge!!

Today, you are either Networking, or Not Working

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Author, John Rindy, MPH

Today I attended a large regional job fair.  Having encouraged about 100 students at my institution to attend, I, along with some of our other staff members also attended, in order to pitch in and work various stations at the fair.  My first assignment was the front door, greeting entering employers, and directing them to check-in.  I knew many of the recruiters and so I took time to strike up a conversation on a number of occasions.  One of the career pros, who was also stationed at the door, also engaged me in a conversation about making connections.  It was during our discussion that she uttered the phrase, “I tell my students, ‘Today, you are either networking or you are not working.’”  It was just too simple and yet too amazing not to bring it back and share it on Careersonassignment.

As the day wore on today, I witnessed around 1000 college students, interacting with about 300 recruiters from around 130 different employers.  If we did not need each other, if we did not need people in our networks, all of that activity would have been in vain.

Hearkening to a recent job fair at my home institution, I formally polled employers asking them many questions.  One of the questions I asked was for them to rank the ways they prefer to recruit.  Of course job fairs, through my network, newspapers and online ads, job postings on college websites and randomly mailed resumes were among the various choices.  I asked our employer recruiters to rank their preferred method as #1 and so on.  What were the top two hiring methods selected by recruiters, by far?  Job fairs, and using their network dominated the rankings.  Which were dead last?  Newspaper and online ads, and randomly mailed resumes; the exact advice we career professionals have been giving to job seekers for years.

A while back I did an article on introverts, based upon my understanding of the Susan Cain book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking.  I hold fast that whether a person is introverted or extroverted has no bearing on their responsibility to build a network.  A college degree does not get you a job.  A resume does not get you a job.  A cleverly-crafted cover letter or fantastic LinkedIn page does not get you a job.  Nearly eight out of ten times today, it is people!  People get you jobs!  People connect you to opportunities.  People review your resume, recommend you, endorse your skills on LinkedIn and interview you.  So whether you are a bubbly social butterfly, comfortable in any setting, or a thoughtful quiet, and reserved professional, you are still responsible for building a high quality (not necessarily high quantity) network of others with hiring influence.  Extroverts, keep hitting those job fairs and business and professional mixers and society meetings.  Introverts, spend at least an hour each evening on LinkedIn, clicking on profiles of people you might like to meet.  Remember, on LinkedIn, conversations happen in your own time, on your own terms and when you feel like being conversational.

Today, given the tools at our disposal, it is inexcusable to graduate from college with no network and no prospects, unless you have done absolutely nothing outside of the classroom. So, the next time you click on one of those horrible national jobs boards, or run out on Sunday morning to buy a newspaper so you can search the want ads, or think that spraying your resume everywhere and praying that you get a job is a good approach, remember this fateful phrase: Today, you are either networking, or you are not working.

It’s your future. Take charge.

 

Execution: What they Never Taught us in Business School

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

An old friend and I used to joke that business can be pretty much summed up this way:

  1. Have a meeting
  2. Make lists
  3. File a report
  4. Have a meeting on the report
  5. Make lists of reports
  6. Craft a strategy (and put it on the shelf)
  7. Hold focus groups on the strategy
  8. Have meetings about the focus groups
  9. Make lists of findings and report on the meetings and focus groups
  10. Make lists of meetings and reports and strategies and focus groups
  11. Repeat

I had a good chuckle today. I was talking with my intern, Riley, and I used the phrase “mired in the minutiae”; she asked what in the heck I meant by it.  I explained that the minutiae is the stuff that is constantly swirling around us everyday. We get caught up in it all and find ourselves “busy”.  Isn’t that good?  Isn’t it good when we are busy?

Let’s cut to the chase with this topic.  I remember way back in my early university learning when I moved colleges and decided to study business instead of music (a very good choice it turned out to be, by the way).  We talked about case studies and paradigms, and strategy and all of those buzz words.  We talked about planning, and thinking through what we were going to do with a business in the future.  But it recently occurred to me that we never talked about executing anything!  Fast forward to my more recent experiences in the corporate and higher education world.  Oh, how many strategic planning processes I have been part of, where we created the book and then set it on a shelf to gather dust.  After all, as it turned out, we were “too busy” to do all of that extra stuff anyway.

I recently listened to an audio book from Franklin Covey – part of it was narrated by Covey himself, God rest his soul.  It presented the four disciplines of execution; actually getting things done.  I thought this would be a good place to share those four disciplines:

Draw a line in the sand:  This means that you and your team choose two or three goals and only two or three goals at a time to try to accomplish.  If you all agree to focus on those goals amidst the whirlwind (the minutae) then at least everyone knows what is important in addition to the day-to-day.

Choose your measure: Of course you need to know if you have hit a goal, but what about on a daily or weekly basis.  You need a lead measure that predicts the lag (the goal itself) measure.  For example, the book explains, the scale is a lag measure (also called an “Oh crap!” measure) if you are trying to lose weight.  What would be predictive of the lag measure?  What would be a good daily lead measure?  The number of calories you eat.  The amount of exercise you do.  These are more up-to-date measures.  You can literally monitor them all day, whereas weight, you can only measure when you step on the scale.  Oh crap!

Display the score:  People are more apt to see through the minutae if there is a scoreboard they can see.  The book described the average corporation mired in minutae as “bowling through a curtain”. Sure you might like bowling, but if you can’t see if you hit any pins, what fun is it?  Indeed!  The same goes for an office team.  The presentation also made the point that if you watch kids playing on a playground basketball court, you can always tell if they are keeping score, even if you can’t hear them.  They are playing tougher, making better shot selection, getting more emotional, using more teamwork and yes, even celebrating a basket more, together.

Build in open and oral accountability: Staff meetings should include a period where each person in the office articulates aloud one or two things they are going to do in the coming week to affect the lead measure.

I don’t know if there is a magic bullet to actually help us leaders move from planning to execution, but I do know that too many people fail on the execution side of the equation.  Maybe these four simple disciplines can help someone to at least see where they are lacking in their own execution amidst the daily whirlwind.

It’s your future.  Take charge!

Solving Problems is an Exhaustingly Bad Habit. Stop doing it!

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

That’s right, I said “Stop doing it!” How many times have we sat around the office complaining about problems, focusing on what’s wrong and thinking of our organization as a perpetual problem to be solved?  How many times have we driven home thinking of work problems, and had trouble sleeping because of the deficits we experience in our workplace.  Truth is, when we see organizations as problems to be solved, it is easy to see that eventually, all we find are more problems.

Traditional problem-solving focuses on a deficit-restoration model.  We are performing below some set standard.  So, we figure out what is wrong, apply a solution and restore the organization to the status quo.  The goal with problem solving is to take an organization that is performing at the “D” or “F” level and restore it to a “C” organization – one that we can all “live with.”  As it turns out, there happens to be a better way.

Let’s take that same organization that is experiencing problems, and address the problem as an opportunity;  not an opportunity to restore the organization to the status quo but to create an exceptional organization well-beyond the status quo.  Suppose, next, that we gather all of the folks who work there and ask a question like “What makes your very best work day, your very best workday?”  Suppose we continue asking questions like “Tell a story about a time that you provided the absolute best service to our customers,” or “What are the very best qualities of our team?”  We might also ask, “On your very best work day, what do you value about working here?”

The process I am talking about is called “Ai” or Appreciative Inquiry.  What we actually do with all of this data is work to agree to a common reality that we uncover through asking positive questions.  Essentially, we agree as a collective on what characteristics describe the very best of who and what we are as an organization.  Now, suppose we digest that information, and then attack the question, “Given what we know about the best of what we have experienced, what does the very best future look like?”  More discussion ensues. Then we explore “Now, what will it take to get there?” and finally “How do we implement this?”

Ai researcher and visionary Dr. David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University points out that if we spend time seeing our organization as problems to be solved, then problems are all we will find.  This eventually degenerates morale, sapping valuable energy and making the organization a miserable place to work.

So, there is another way.  Ai is not a deficit-restoration process.  Instead, it looks beyond restoring the status quo and essentially asks and then answers the question, “If we were to create a situation where we are always existing at the same level as our very best experiences, what might the future and our organization look like?”

I am as guilty as the next person at spending time problem-solving.  As I learn more about this curious, yet amazingly simple philosophy, I am trying desperately to change my habits.  I will leave my readers with an incredible concept related to Ai.  I have read and heard this many times as I have become a practitioner of Ai. “The moment we start asking questions, we start to change. If our questions are negative, we will change in the negative direction but if our questions are positive and focus on strengths and opportunities, rather than deficits, we will always move the organization toward the positive.”  Light bulb moment!

It’s your future.  Take charge!

Where is your Commitment? The Case of the Disappearing Dr.

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

The great thing about blogging is that from time to time, you can bring to your readers a real time case that highlights a point you have blogged about in the past.  Just recently, the president of a Midwestern university, announced his intention to leave the role, not even a year after assuming the presidency. He will be leaving to accept the role as president at another Midwestern university.

Recall, dear readers, that I blogged about, among other things, knowing when it is time to quit your job (and how to do it), and also, my definition of commitment.  As I consider this case I think about my feelings when families break up. Parents without children can consider themselves and the impact of a break up on the extended family, but parents with children. . .well. . .that is something else.  You see, I equate this higher education professional’s act of saying “Yes,” to accept the role of president to taking on an entire family – the school, its students, faculty and administration, the school’s alumni and the entire community.  Some readers may have disagreed with my blog definition of commitment and some will disagree here.  Parents with kids, must place their kids first, regardless of marital discomfort (excluding the criteria that follows) and the leader featured in this blog should have put aside his own dreams and wishes for the betterment of his adopted family.  Once you accept a presidency, your wishes and dreams take second place to your constituents.

Criteria for Leaving Employment (a Marriage)

It is one thing for an assistant director, or faculty member to decide to pack up and leave an institution, but it is a different story and a different level of scrutiny when a president does this.  I have stated my “acceptable” reasons for leaving a job abruptly, and this goes for a marriage, with or without kids: Verbal, mental, physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, or gross infidelity.  That is it.  Otherwise you owe it to your constituency to live out the contract (employment or marriage).  That is right, your happiness notwithstanding. What I mean to say is that once you are beholden to a massive constituency that relies upon you for guidance and leadership (i.e. children or students and community members) their needs trump your own happiness. Period.  It is my belief that when you accept children into a marriage, or an employment contract as president or chancellor of a university, you also sign away 100% of your rights to put your own needs and desires first, with the few exceptions listed above.  To abandon your adopted family, as president, is purely selfish and grossly unprofessional.  An individual signs away their right to be selfish when they accept such a high appointment.

Examining the Role

While college presidents are well compensated, financially, in my estimation, being the president of an institution of more than a couple thousand students is an exceedingly difficult job.  What I mean is that while most of us can stop”being” our work role at 5:00, a president never has a moment when they are not “president”.  When eating dinner at a restaurant, people interrupt them, at church they want to bend their ear afterward, they are expected to attend endless dinner parties, fundraising events, weekend and evening events, awards banquets and commencement ceremonies.  What makes the Case of the Disappearing Dr. even more unusual is that this particular individual was a university president before accepting his present appointment.  He knew what he was signing.  He was adopting a huge family and yet, in the end, he still elected to placed his desires and happiness above tens of thousands of his adopted constituents.

Commitment Revisited

If you return to my blog reflection on commitment it is easy to see why I find the Case of the Disappearing Dr. so inexcusably selfish and maybe even a tad arrogant.  Anyone whom this fellow has mentored in the past has got to be questioning his choice to forsake his commitments.  Allow me to sum up what commitment should have meant to the good doctor:  Commitment means that you must work whenever, wherever, and however to assure that your constituents are served with passion, professionalism, presence, patience and a commitment to hard work and their very best interests, in fulfillment of the entire contract, your personal wishes notwithstanding.

In closing, I suppose the good doctor may not have fully considered his choice to accept the role that he will soon abandon.  I think it begins with deeply knowing oneself.  Perhaps if he had searched his heart more deeply, in the first place, all of these unpleasantries would have been avoided.  It seems to me that all leaders should be more self-aware before taking on such roles.

It’s your future.  Take charge.

A True Leader Shares Knowledge

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Author – John Rindy, MPH

Mahatma Gandhi once said “A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches”.  Wow!  Don’t get me started Gandhi! Nothing is more discouraging to me than people who use their knowledge to set themselves on a pedestal, to arrogantly put distance between themselves and others, or to act as appointed judge and jury upon others.  Knowledge should unite and encourage and never be worn as a badge of superiority.

A candle can light many other candles without giving up its own light. Here I speak of a concept called institutional learning.  Institutional learning happens when we share knowledge within an organization, in that it lives on and can be used even after the original learner has left the organization.  For example, suppose my employer pays for me to go to a conference.  When I return, I can then apply everything I learned.  But suppose I decide to leave the organization a few days later.  All of that knowledge and the money invested in my learning, walks out the door with me. This is one of many reasons leaders should set an expectation of knowledge sharing, or institutional learning. Knowledge should be institutionalized whenever possible, rather than just individualized.

Good leaders not only encourage learning but also demand that others share what they know.  A leader who cares not about the common sharing of knowledge is destined to lead an organization that is siloed, protective, territorial and a place that no one really wants to work.  So whether your knowledge comes from a conference, a course, a certification or a doctoral degree, remember, it should never be held up as badge by which one demands respect.  To the contrary, these symbols of higher learning should be viewed as a bestowal of greater responsibility, and a profound opportunity to humble oneself, and as Gandhi said, “develop rapport” with your learners, rather than using your knowledge to show others how superior you are. Chances are, if you are arrogant enough to think that your degree or certification makes you superior or special, most others are likely thinking just the opposite, behind your back.

It’s your future.  Take charge!

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