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Career-Life Times, Issue #15 -- Your Most Important Asset
April 16, 2005
Welcome to the latest issue of CAREER-LIFE TIMES! Thank you for subscribing! I hope you find this little publication to be informative, useful and entertaining.
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* Your Most Important Asset
When you're looking to get hired or get promoted, what do you think is your most important asset? Your experience? Knowledge? Skill? Talent?
While all of those are advantages that will help you achieve your goals, there's one thing that's more important than all of them combined.
I attended a board meeting recently. It should've been spelled "bored." Just about everyone's eyes were glazed over or nearly closed with fatigue as one dull presentation after another was foisted upon the board members, staff and audience.
Then something changed.
Someone who had never spoken at a board meeting before got up, went to the lectern, fired up her PowerPoint presentation, and totally blew everyone away! People perked up in their seats and listened attentively to her every word. When she was done, people clapped! (If you've ever attended a public agency board meeting before, you'll know how remarkable that is!) The board president said, "I've seen hundreds of presentations. This is the first time I've ever seen one that elicited applause!"
Was this presenter more experienced, more knowledgeable, more skilled or more talented than all the others? Absolutely not. As a fairly new employee, she was actually inferior in all of those areas.
What made the difference? Her attitude. She was enthusiastic, positive, upbeat, energetic and truly excited about what she was talking about! It wasn't the quality of her presentation that impressed people, it was how she made them feel. Her enthusiasm was contagious, so the audience greatly enjoyed listening to facts and figures that, presented by someone without her energetic attitude, would've bored them to tears.
Everyone in that room will remember and think very highly of her--not the more experienced, knowledgeable, skilled or talented presenters--because of her attitude.
You know why companies conduct time-consuming, labor-intensive job interviews instead of simply hiring people based on the qualifications presented in their resumes? One of the reasons is to find someone they'll enjoy working with. This can only be conveyed in person, by your attitude.
Think of your own coworkers. Who do you enjoy working with? The smart guy who has all the answers but acts superior? The woman who's has the most experience but whines or complains whenever she's asked to do something in a new way? Or the person who always smiles, listens to you, stays positive, friendly and supportive no matter what?
How's your attitude?
You may have read this before. It's been circulating around the internet for years. I have no idea who wrote it, or whether it's fact or fiction. But it's an inspiring story about attitude that I think you'll enjoy...
Michael is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say.
When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"
He was a natural motivator.
If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"
Michael replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today.
"You can choose to be in a good mood or... you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood.
"Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or... I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.
"Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or... I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."
"Yeah, right. It's not that easy," I protested.
"Yes, it is," Michael said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.
"You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood.
"The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life."
I reflected on what Michael said. Soon thereafter, I left the company to start my own business.
We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.
After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.
I saw Michael about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied.
"If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"
I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.
"The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon to-be-born daughter," Michael replied. "Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live."
"Weren't you scared?" I asked.
Michael said "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Michael. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. I said "Yes!" The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, "Gravity!"
Over their laughter I told them, "I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."
Michael lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.
Attitude... after all is said and done, is everything.
Looking for the perfect job? Create it!
Rather than spending hours and days combing the classified ads or online job postings for your ideal job, you just might find it with your current employer.
I've done it. My clients and old co-workers have done it. You can, too.
To illustrate, here's an example from my career.
Eight years ago, I worked as an English teacher and teacher trainer for an international firm. I was fairly happy, but always yearned for a job as a writer.
One day, I was at headquarters and met up with a textbook writer who had observed my classes the month before. She was doing exactly what I wanted to do, so I questioned her about how I might land a similar job. After a 10-minute conversation (which turned out to be a job interview!), she asked me to proofread some revisions for a new textbook. I happily accepted.
That proofreading project led to another, which led to a writing assignment, which led to a full-time writing position within weeks. I had created exactly the job I wanted, by finding a need and proving I could fill it.
It happens every day. Like the client of mine who went from package courier to sales rep. Or the cashier who became a buyer. Or my friend, who went from receptionist to graphic designer.
To create your next job with your current employer, remember these three points:
* The job you seek may already be available internally. But you'll never know unless you ask!
* If the right job isn't available, it can be created, if you prove to management that you have the right skills and determination.
* Every conversation you have at work is a potential job interview. If enough people in your company know what you want to do, and think you can do it, you just might get the chance... sooner than you think.
Best of luck to you!
[NOTE: Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1995, he and his team have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in all 50 states and 23 countries. For more information, click here: GreatResumes.com]
Many interview guides will tell you to answer that question with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, "I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do," or "I'm a perfectionist."
Interviewers have heard these canned answers over and over again, so theyíre likely to backfire on you. Theyíll think: (1) Youíre not being honest about your true weaknesses and are just regurgitating someoneís advice; (2) You feel that expecting others to work hard and striving for perfection (or whatever other disguised positive traits you use) are "weaknesses," which makes you look ignorant, naÔve and/or lazy; (3) You donít know how to do an honest self-assessment; or (4) Youíre delusional and think you donít have any real weaknesses!
So state a true weakness! No one is perfect, so donít try to convince anyone (especially yourself) that you donít have one.
However, I cannot overemphasize the importance of not listing a key element of the position as a weakness! If you do that, you might as well send yourself the rejection letter.
Pick a neutral weakness about something thatís not critical to the job. Mention that. Then emphasize what you've done to overcome the weakness.
This shows that you are honest, that you recognize areas in which you need to grow, and that you are actively seeking ways to improve yourself.
"I honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an outstanding job for you in THIS position. But in the past, I've had some trouble delegating duties to others. I felt I could do things better and faster myself. This sometimes backfired because I'd end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I've taken courses in time management and effective delegation, and I've managed to overcome this weakness." [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for a supervisory position]
ďI honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an putstanding job for you in THIS position. But Iím very weak in math and have to rely on a calculator even for basic computations. I always have one with me just in case a calculation is needed.Ē [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for an accounting position or one that requires math skills!]
[NOTE: This is an excerpt from "How to Give Job-Winning Answers to Interview Questions," an element of my "Job Interview Success System," which is mentioned in the Resources section, below.]
Sometimes a hiring process will include having lunch with the hiring manager. Despite anything said to the contrary, this is part of your interview! This can be a very tricky situation.
Impressions made in a restaurant are just as important as those in an office or meeting room.
If you don't want an "eating mishap" to ruin your chances at a new job (or a promotion if you're dining with the boss), follow these tips:
1. Avoid ordering messy foods.
This includes long pasta, of course, but also anything with stringy cheese... you know, the kind that stretches up with your fork from the plate to your mouth.
Watch out for soup, anything with a sauce or other "drippable" ingredient. No matter how careful you are, you know an invisible hole can magically appear in your spoon and cause you to drip all over yourself!
Even a salad can be hazardous! Have you ever tried to spear a cherry tomato with your fork and squirted yourself, your neighbor, or watched the tomato go flying off your plate? Not impressive. Avoid cherry tomatoes.
2. Mind your manners.
First, let me say I am definitely NOT "Miss Manners." These are just common-sense tips, not something you'd learn at charm school. (So don't send me an email with the "proper" etiquette, OK?)
This may be considered old-fashioned and unnecessary by some (especially women's libbers, if there's still such a thing), but I think it's still a nice courtesy for a man to pull out a chair for a woman. Either sex can offer to take someone's coat and hang it up. In general, just be nice, thoughtful, and courteous.
Thank the servers.
If you're in a fancy place with 6 different forks, 3 knives and 2 spoons, don't freak out about which to use for what. In general, they're placed in the order in which the food that you use them with will be served... implement furthest from the plate being used first. So when the salad comes out first, grab the fork furthest from your plate. Or just watch what the big shot does and follow his/her example.
If your food comes out first, don't start scarfing it down while the other(s) wait for their food to arrive. If they're courteous, they'll invite you to go ahead before your food gets cold. Likewise, if someone else has been served and is waiting while your food is delayed, invite them to go ahead and eat.
Don't reach... ask someone to pass.
Don't use your bread to mop up sauce, soup, or anything else.
Don't slurp or burp. Ever. Yes, this may be acceptable in some countries as a way to show appreciation for good food, but if you're in the U.S., don't do it. Even if the big shot does.
3. Watch the cost.
It doesn't matter if you've been told, "Order anything you'd like, this is on me." Do not order the most expensive thing on the menu! Even if the big shot does.
4. Beer or wine?
Have you seen that commercial where several guys are at a restaurant with a big shot and he asks what they want to drink? They go around the table and all order a non-alcoholic drink except for the last guy, who orders a Sam Adams (beer). The big shot is "impressed" and orders the same.
Hah! Never fall for anything you see in a beer commercial!
Would you have a beer or glass of wine at the office? (You better say "No!") Despite the surroundings, food and drink, if this is a business function (and it certainly is if you're interviewing or discussing business with your boss), do NOT order alcohol! Even if the big shot does.
Remember, the bottom line is that it's not about the food or the drink -- it's about making a good impression!
(That's hard to do with spinach stuck in your teeth, so don't forget to clean 'em with your tongue often! :-)
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Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes
your hopes rise to the stars.
Enthusiasm is the spark in your eye,
the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand,
the irresistible surge of your will
and your energy to execute your ideas.
Enthusiasts are fighters, they have
fortitude, they have strong qualities.
Enthusiasm is at the bottom of all progress.
With it, there is accomplishment.
Without it there are only alibis."
Mark is at work one day when he notices that his co-worker, Jeff, is wearing an earring.
Mark knows Jeff to be a normally conservative fellow, and is curious about his sudden change in "fashion sense."
Mark walks up to Jeff and says, "I didn't know you were into earrings."
"Don't make such a big deal, it's only an earring," Jeff replies sheepishly.
Mark falls silent for a few minutes, but then his curiosity prods him to ask, "So, how long have you been wearing one?"
"Ever since my wife found it in my truck," Jeff replied.
What bugs you most about where you work? I love my job. I really do. But I doubt there's anyone anywhere who isn't bugged by some aspect of what goes on in their workplace.
For me, it's when managers say by their actions (not their words): "Do as I say, not as a I do."
For example, they lecture employees about providing exceptional customer service to each other, but then show up late for meetings, ignore requests for information, fail to communicate with their staff -- in other words, demonstrate terrible customer service themselves! It also bugs me that I don't have a window to gaze out of in my basement-level cubicle. :-)
What bugs you the most? Let me know by sending me an email (my address is below).
I'll share the buggy stuff in a future issue. Maybe it'll make us feel a bit better -- or worse? -- by seeing what other people have to put up with in their jobs!
So, what did you think of this issue?
Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions?
I really appreciate your feedback. Please
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P.S.S. I apologize for the glitches (especially in links) you may see if you receive this as straight text. If you can receive your email in the HTML format, choose that and it'll look a lot better. Don't worry, I won't have any slowing graphics.
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