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Archive for September, 2012

Please Stand By! Be Right Back!

September 28th, 2012 1 comment


Due to some small health issues, I have not been able to write the Career Opportunities column or produce the podcast recently. I’m very sorry for the interruption, especially at a time when there is so much to say, and needs to be said, about careers.

Don’t fear, though, I am using my handy pen and notebook to collect ideas even during this time, so I can get back on track as soon as possible. I hope to be back — better than ever — in about 2 weeks.

Watch this space — and the CareerTips Twitter feed, Facebook Page and Google+ page for updates. I might even post some short tips and links there in the meantime.

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Archive – Keep your head in the game

September 16th, 2012 Comments off

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Spring is here, and I am finding myself at the ball field each weekend for Little League practices and games. In fact, as I write, my son Joe is catching for his team. Watching a group of 7-9-year-olds struggle with the fundamentals of a game can be very enlightening. You quickly begin to see parallels between new ball players and new high-tech careerists. Using sports metaphors in business is a bit cliché, especially for someone as un-athletic as myself, but writers continue to use them because, sometimes, they are most appropriate.

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Recently due to technical issues, Career Opportunities was dropped from the iTunes Podcast Directory. The show has reappeared but all previous Ratings and Reviews have been lost. If you enjoy Career Opportunities, please click the graphic above and leave a new rating or review to restore Career Opportunities into the list of top career podcasts on iTunes.

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One message I try to reinforce repeatedly with my son is the need to “keep your head in the game,” even when he is in the dugout. There is much to be learned from observing the game – probably equal to actually playing the game. If you don’t know the situation of game when you come up to bat, or you have lost track while playing right field, you are more likely to be surprised or make errors of judgment. The same is also true for business. It doesn’t matter how junior a position you might hold in your company, you need to be paying attention to all levels of your business. You should be aware of the actions of your co-workers, your supervisor’s relationships with their managers, your manager’s relationships with executives and even the actions, goals and plans of your CEO.

On the baseball field this might translate into knowing how many outs there are, where the next play is and who is next at bat. Just like in business, though, many distractions can leave you wondering just what is going on. It is up to you to actively re-focus on the game whenever you feel yourself wandering. There are a number of ways to do this.

Do you read news stories about your company? How about memos from upper management? Are you aware how your supervisors and managers interact with one-another? Which relationships work? Which have rough edges that cause day-to-day problems? You might think that paying such close attention might distract you from your work, but, instead, it can help you to be more effective. The more information you have about your company and the strategies being promoted, the more you can independently support those strategies in your daily work.

In the worst case scenario, where you are only interacting with your co-workers and immediate supervisors, your lack of knowledge about the state of business outside your department can threaten your career. Imagine a situation where, for whatever reason, your supervisor is unclear about their role or actively trying to thwart policies from upper management. If you don’t keep your head in the game, you might not realize there is a problem until your supervisor, and your entire department is fired. If you are aware of what is happening outside your department, you can try to insure that your work is meeting the overall corporate needs, even if your immediate supervisor is unaware or uncaring.

If you stay engaged in the “game”, not only can you protect your position, you can also learn a lot. You might be a manager yourself some day. Why not learn all you can now? How does your manager deal with their staff? How do they deal with upper management? Would you do the same? What would you change? We can learn from both good and bad examples. Just because you might be an entry-level support technician, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start to imagine what you career might be like in a few years. In fact, the future success of your career depends on it.

If you are not paying attention on the baseball field, you can easily get smacked with a hot line drive that you never saw coming. You don’t want to be blindsided in business, either. Being engaged in your work and your company is the best way to avoid this. So, at the risk of overloading this column with too many baseball metaphors – keep your head in the game, know how many outs there are and who might be the next player ”put on waivers.” If you can stay focused, even with all the distractions that day-to-day business brings, your career “game” is sure to benefit.


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Jobs Available – Listings of all types at

September 12th, 2012 Comments off

Looking for a job? There are a host of job listings available on every day.

Enter the keywords you are searching for and your location to get fresh and focused listings.

Career jobs

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Don’t Disqualify Yourself – Podcast

September 11th, 2012 Comments off

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There are plenty of opportunities in your career to be rejected. You might have your ideas for a new project rejected. Your application for a new job or new promotion might be rejected. Life itself  is full of rejection. It is an unpleasant, if unwavering fact of life. That said, I find that many people seek to avoid rejection from others by disqualifying themselves before there is a chance to be rejected. Unfortunately, disqualifying yourself is one of the most damaging actions you can take in your career. It often means that you are throwing away opportunities that might otherwise expand and enhance your career.

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This thought about disqualifying yourself came from an experience with my son recently. He is in the 3rd week of his Freshman year at a new high school and one of the first events was casting for the Fall play. Since both my wife and I are theater people (I even have a college degree in theater) we assumed he would be eager to try out. Unfortunately, word had spread that Freshman “never get cast in the Fall play!” My son took that to heart and wouldn’t even audition. He was too intimidated and ended up disqualifying himself from consideration before he even entered the auditorium. Of course, it ended up that at least 1 Freshman did get cast, despite the “word” on campus.

I see this type of self-disqualification all the time. We don’t apply for the new job because we have convinced ourselves we are lacking in one skill or another. We don’t reach out for the new, strange opportunity that presents itself because it is too far outside our normal life. We decide not to do something merely because others have told us it can never happen and we prove them right by not even trying.

The truth is, you never know what is going to happen when you apply for a job, reach out to a new opportunity or simply try something new. So much of the process is hidden to you. Relying on hearsay and rumor to make your decisions is ridiculous, if you really think about it. You couldn’t possibly know that the company needs to fill the position immediately and is willing to take someone with less experience. You can’t know that the theater director was looking for a particular type of “look” for a role — a look that only you fit. You won’t know if a new opportunity is right for you unless you take some time to investigate it, so why not spend some time looking around and kicking the metaphorical tires?

The truth is, self-disqualification is the easy way out. When you disqualify yourself you don’t have to face rejection from outside. You don’t have to face uncertainty. You don’t have to face someone else winning while you lose. You also guarantee that your career — and perhaps even your life — will stagnate. You will spend your life circling around the same, small business, the same small world and watch others move ahead in their careers. You might even bemoan your fate and wonder how life can pass you by while rewarding everyone around you. Instead of worrying about everyone else, though, you need to look at yourself and your actions. You might be acting as your own worst enemy.

Rejection is a part of life and not something that can be avoided. If you want to grow in your life and career, you have to risk a little rejection in the process. Chances are that rejection will not be nearly as painful as your fear has made it seem. Sure, it can be disappointing, but if you are constantly out there searching for your next opportunity, each rejection will seem that much smaller. The rejection will simply be one among many — part of the process — instead of one, all consuming rejection, that feels like the end of your career.

Are you disqualifying yourself from life and work opportunities? Are you allowing fear and rumor to prevent you from growing in your career? Are you allowing others to scare you away from opportunities that they are too scared to chase themselves? Your job in the coming years is to simply “show up” when opportunity presents itself. It is not your part to disqualify yourself from an opportunity before you even get the chance. Let others make the decision of your suitability for a given role. You may be pleasantly surprised that others aren’t quite so eager to dismiss you as you are yourself.


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Archive – Zoom In

September 6th, 2012 Comments off

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Over the years I have written several columns encouraging you to step back and try to get a bigger picture of your work and your career. While this is still good advice, reversing this concept can also be useful. There are times when you need to zoom in on your work and inspect the minutia that are often ignored. Not only will this intense focus yield its own reward, it will also help you to gain a deeper understanding of the big picture.

Please rate and review Career Opportunities in the iTunes Podcast Directory!

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Recently due to technical issues, Career Opportunities was dropped from the iTunes Podcast Directory. The show has reappeared but all previous Ratings and Reviews have been lost. If you enjoy Career Opportunities, please click the graphic above and leave a new rating or review to restore Career Opportunities into the list of top career podcasts on iTunes.

Thank you so much for listening and showing your appreciation for the work I do.

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One at a time

The key to zooming in is to take one item – one form, one web page, one program, one task – and study every aspect of it, down to the last detail. Do you really need that form? Do you really need to do this task? What needs to be cleaned up or upgraded on a server? Do we need it at all? Can it be consolidated? What attention does this one user or one PC need?

Within minutes, you will have an entire roster of tasks, projects and ideas to implement. Some will be specific to the individual item, but, and here is the best point, most of the items will apply to tens or hundreds of similar items across your department or company. Maybe you notice that particular program is out of date. Chances are, many other PC’s have the exact same problem. Does a staff member or co-worker find a form or procedure to be useless or redundant? This is probably true for others, as well.

So, what started out as a narrow focused zoom in has suddenly provided you with a sweeping view of the issues in your company. You might have thought that you were thinking about one small problem, but I find that the small problems are usually big problems in disguise. Like scientists who can see the similarities between water swirling down a drain, a hurricane and a solar system, one thought leads to another and another and another.

Take it home

As you can probably tell, zooming in doesn’t only apply to your work in the office. While you may try to leave your work at the office, this is one aspect you could, and should apply at home, too.

One place to start is with a home utility bill – telephone bills are great for this. Examine the bill carefully, noting every tax, every fee, every line item. I can almost guarantee that you will run into something you do not understand – a fee for some oddly named service, additional costs that should have been free — and more. If you can’t understand what a fee is for, call your company and find out. You will be amazed how many times you find errors, omissions and outright mistakes. Even worse, you will need to check your bills regularly. You have to remember to zoom in or you will miss many of these errors.

Now, take your newfound magnifying lens to other aspects of your life. What services or products are you paying for that you don’t really use? Do you have magazines that continue to pile up even though you never find time to read them? How about satellite television you never watch anymore? There are hundreds of little problems just like this waiting for your attention.

Just as before, though, zooming in on one specific area can lead to major benefits throughout your work and your life. Once you identify problems in your home life, many of these will translate to your work life, as well. Even more, similar problems can have much grander consequences when multiplied by the number of workers you have. One telephone line with extra charges is bad enough, but 100 lines with extra charges can threaten your bottom line.

We all need good balance between seeing the big picture and inspecting the details. Each aspect is equally important and each informs the other. Big problems lead you to small issues and small issues lead you to the big. Don’t forget to zoom in on occasion to make the best use of all the tools at your disposal.


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A New Era for Career Opportunities

September 4th, 2012 Comments off

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July of this year marked the 15th year of Career Opportunities as a column and the 8th year as a podcast. This seems like the perfect time to start a new era of Career Opportunities. By accident of timing, I now have a perfect, in-house, test subject who can work with me to create and validate new ideas and new columns about careers.

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My son, Joseph, entered high school a few weeks ago and as might be expected, this new environment has set off a host of questions that hadn’t concerned him much before. Sure, in the past, we had talked about the typical “what do you want to be when you grow up?” questions, but as a high school Freshman, these questions take on a more concrete and practical application. These are no longer the questions of a small child fascinated with fireman and doctors, but now the questions of a young man starting to deal with one of the most important issues in his life — his future career.

Joseph is in the Tech Focus program of his new high school, chosen probably because of his exposure to technology of all sorts through myself and my work. Though he is more of a gamer — both playing and creating — than I ever was. Where I discovered my interests and learned my skills in the early days of PCs, he has grown up with computers of all sorts and developed his own unique interests. We shall see if he remains in technology as he grows older. He is also a builder and maker of things — immersing himself in Lego for many years now — and loves learning how things work. Perhaps engineering will come to interest him more as he grows up.

I discovered his new interest in his future career when he started asking some deep questions about jobs, work and careers the other day. His high school is focused on helping each child find their interests so they can properly prepare for their college education in the future and I am sure this started him thinking. As I have often discussed here in the past, we talked about how work today is made up of many jobs, often spanning many careers. I would guess that anyone Joe’s age is probably looking at 4-5 completely different careers over the course of their lifetime. The world changes quickly these days and, in the best cases, our lives change quickly, too. What may serve us well today may need to be abandoned or re-created in the future. It is important to be open to such ideas. We should never feel trapped in any career just because of decisions we made several years earlier.

I also stressed to him, as I have to you, that he needs to find work that deeply interests him in some way. Supporting yourself through work is a critical part of life, but I believe that work goes well beyond providing mere subsistence. Work occupies so many hours of our day. It only makes sense to make it as fulfilling and productive as possible. Even when you are starting out in your career, if your work is less than fulfilling, you need to be pursuing your own ideas, your own work, your own career outside of whatever subsistence work you might be doing. You owe it to yourself to “build the career that you deserve” regardless of your current level of job.

As I write this 15th year of Career Opportunities, it will be enlightening and energizing to have a test case living under my own roof. I hope we can discover some great new ideas through our career conversations in the next few years. I think that seeing jobs, work and careers through his eyes will help me to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges — and amazing opportunities — careerists face today. What could be better than a live-in advisor who can help me discuss career topics and then actually implement the ideas we develop.

I have often jokingly referred to my son as our own, little, in-house, sociological experiment and so I think the high school years are going to show us some amazing results. I’ll continue to share our experiences together here (and in the podcast), along with other career topics that affect both young and old. I am greatly looking forward to all the new questions, discussions and experiences the next 4-8 years will bring. Come along on the ride with us!


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