How did your New Year’s resolution for 2015 hold up? How’s the one for this year going?
If you’re like most people, the resolution you made last year didn’t do much to change your life. Or much of anything else. That’s ok. You’re still here and a brand new year has begun. New Year. New Life? It can be if you let it.
Before you give up on your resolution, take a moment to look back at the year that was. We all wanted something for ourselves last year—to eat better, work out more, make more money. Or we just wanted “things to be different.”
So what changed for you this year? What stayed the same? What’s better? What do you wish was different?
I like to make a list before the New Year starts. It’s the best way to stay in check. Looking at my list, I see I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to, and that’s ok. I did accomplish several things so I’m happy about that. Your list is just that, a set of goals you can refer to during the year to see how you’re doing, because we often forget what we’re intending to do in the chaos that ensues in the first week of the New Year.
If you really want to change your life this year, don’t make a Resolution!
Resolutions are too broad, undefined, and can’t be measured easily. If I say “I am going to change my life this year” or “I just want things to be different,” neither of those things mean much without some definition and parameters: What part of my life will I change? What will I do to change it? How much will I change it? By when will I change it? How will measure the changes I make?
I like to make a list with three categories: Personal, Spiritual, Career, and set quantifiable goals for each, e.g. workout 3x/a week for 45 minutes, improve 1 business process at work, meditate 4x/a week for 10 minutes, read one business book/month, etc.
You can set as many or as few goals as you want, as big as writing a book or small as reading a book. The sky is the limit on this, because they’re just goals that give you something to strive for and serve as a roadmap. If you don’t accomplish them all, just move them to the top of next year’s list and celebrate the ones you do achieve. Even accomplishing just one goal is still better than zero.
Break out the Champagne
If you really want to change something this year, you have to be clear on what that is and how you want to change it, and hold yourself accountable, otherwise, your life will be much the same next year.
Next year when you raise your glass to the New Year, toast yourself and the goals you achieve—and prepare to achieve even bigger ones in the coming years!
Here’s to a year of great success!
New Year. New Life? Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Silicon Valley is not a place where one is invited to show frailty or despondence. It is…’the place where everybody is killing it all the time.’”
–From One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush, Wired.com, 4.22.2014
To crack the code in Silicon Valley, you really have to do your homework. Basically trying to land a job there is a part-time job in itself and I guess it should be as they are trying to get the most resourceful, creative and innovative people in the world.
Here’s some of what I’m learning in my ongoing quest to break in:
• Your resume may be great for your part of the country or your industry, but to get noticed in Silicon Valley, it must be re-crafted and re-spun exactly the right way and targeted to each specific job to which you are applying. There’s no room for laziness. It will take extreme dedication and commitment to land a job. In Houston I had it easy, one resume with a broad range of skills and experience could almost always land me the job I wanted—and a great rate to boot. Not true there. Hence, I now have 15 different resumes! One traditional looking and one cool graphical, interactive version. Check it out here.
• Currently I’m reading Laszlo Bock’s book, Work Rules, to gain a better understanding of the culture in the Bay Area from someone who knows it better than most. The book is great to boot, and it really makes me want to work at Google, because it sounds like such a great place to work. Laszlo Bock has also posted advice on his blog about the biggest mistakes he sees on resumes. Definitely worth a read, whether you want to work in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley or not. It’s valuable info no matter where you want to work.
• Maybe you already know this, though I did not. Silicon Valley is not all cool startups. There are many old-school companies there too, which is good because they’re established and likely easier to transition into if you’ve grown-up in corporate America as I have. If you are applying to one of those companies, then a more traditional resume will likely work, but it still has to make an impression because you are competing with thousands of other candidates. Bottomline, to get a job there you have to be really good at marketing yourself. And if you have a degree in marketing, the expectations for you are even higher for you as far as how you present yourself and sell your skills. Having an MBA from Harvard alone will no longer do it, you better be established on social media long before arriving in “the Valley,” and some knowledge of marketing analytics.
• If you do happen to be applying to a startup, before you apply, you should understand what they do, but really understand what they do—DO NOT WING IT! Also know what they’re passionate about, and how they work, so your cover letter can convey you are passionate about what they do and why you are a good fit for their company. I have an impressive resume, but was told by a recruiter from “the Valley” that I came off as too corporate, that I wasn’t presenting myself as someone innovative. She was right. Just because you’ve been successful in your current job, doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in there.
• Also, startups are at different stages of development and funding. It helps to understand what that means, as their needs will be slightly different depending on what stage they’re in—and how much money they have. I worked for an early stage startup for cheap just to get experience and a better understanding of how things worked. It really helped—and opened my eyes too. It’s not as glamorous as you think. Bootstrapping is real—so if you’re used to having big budgets to fund your projects, get ready for a rude awakening. Guy Kawasaki’s book Reality Check is a great resource for anyone interested in working for or launching a startup.
• One other thing, if you are applying to a tech startup, you should get to know their tech solution or app or whatever they are selling. If you haven’t already realized this, companies are tracking everything you do, download, how much time you spend on their websites, and how you are using their apps. All that is taken into account when considering you for a job. Why would they want to hire someone who doesn’t even use their app on a regular basis? Google does this more than anyone else. They are tracking you throughout the application process and looking to see if you are really studying them and for how long, and if you are connecting with people at Google, and so on. The positive side about this is that you know what’s expected, so you just have to commit to doing it.
• By the way, I’m learning Silicon Valley really is a conceptual place, but also a geographical location, though not everyone agrees on where that is exactly. To me it is anywhere from Southern San Francisco to San Jose. Paul Graham of Y Combinator is fond of saying that the center of Silicon Valley is: “…wherever there is at this moment the greatest concentration of the people who are going to make the next generation of stuff.” So it’s kind of nice to know Silicon Valley covers a large geographical area. Cause that means there’s more opportunities!
In a nutshell, the first two months of my job search have basically been a very good and intense learning experience. “Do this, not that.” “Highlight this experience and play down that one.” “Format your resume this way, no that way.” And so on. But I’ve learned a lot. Best of all, people have been generous with their advice and seem to want to help me. For that I am very grateful, cause I did not expect that, especially since I am a lot older than the average age at most start ups—which is about 26, and even younger at Facebook.
I know this will take some time, but I’m committed and confident that I will land a good job there. I’m not giving up until I do.
Stay tuned for more!
It seems a lot of people are in transition right now–the entire world actually. Around the world, women are seeking independence and equal rights, and citizens demanding transparency from their government and leaders. Here at home many still don’t have jobs and more companies are downsizing, the price of oil is way down, impacting a lot of other industries and forcing many to make career transitions, or retire early.
Even I’m in transition. After working in the oil and gas industry for 12 years, I am planning to transition to Silicon Valley (SV). No small feat—as I’m learning from my job search. Fortunately, I’ve received some great advice and encouragement from people already working there—some of them total strangers. So for that I am extremely grateful. Thank you so much to everyone who’s agreed to talk to me and give me feedback. You’re golden.
Most people think I’m crazy to get out of an industry where I’ve not had to look for work in 10 years. When one job ends another one has always been there waiting for me—and where I get paid extremely well for what I do. For that I am grateful too. Then again, I have always followed or charted my own path.
I’ve wanted to get out of O&G and go into consumer technology for a couple of years, but my own fear that held me back. Like many, I was afraid my skills wouldn’t transfer. After all, to most of the world, Silicon Valley seems like a surreal concept, much like Oz. But come to think of it, the corporate world as a whole seemed that way to me 20 years ago too.
SV is something we hear about all the time but still struggle to grasp exactly what it is and how it works. Is it really a valley? A city? More than one city? Well, it’s all those things, and a concept as well. Hence, it’s shrouded in mysticism like a secret society that most of us could never crack or be invited into. At least that’s how I’ve seen it, until recently when I attended the start up LAUNCH Festival conference in San Francisco.
Again, I wasn’t expecting people to be so friendly and open, probably because I’d lived in L.A. and because SV is so ambiguous. I expected it to be more dog-eat-dog. And maybe I’ve been influenced by the series on cable by the same name. I do have to say that the conference was exciting—great to be surrounded by smart and innovative people trying to launch their ideas and tech dreams. Corporate America, while they say they want to be innovative, struggle to embrace innovation because it means they have to depart from the familiar—from “the way things have always been done,” and when you do that you risk being frowned upon by your peers and colleagues. Few are truly willing to stick their necks out to do that. Very few!
While I believe our “old-school” corporate culture is finally dying out, thanks to millennials in the workplace. There is still a lot of that way of thinking prevalent across America—even among people I know. It’s scary to break habits and chart new trails while everyone else is against you or secretly exclaiming you’ll fail. That’s why Silicon Valley is so appealing to me. There, they are willing to risk it all and fail. And even when they fail, they just start over again with a new idea, until they succeed, which is the antithesis of what we’re used to doing in day-to-day life. Most of us are used to succeeding at all costs, even if we have to change everything and everyone around us to make our failures look like successes.
I’m familiar with a culture that embraces failure. I had many in my lifetime—and expect to have more—and yet I still ended up a success. Someone aptly put is as, “You had the potential to be a tremendous failure, and yet you turned out ok!” And they were exactly right. Although after several failures everyone had pretty much decided that I would never amount to anything. So keeping myself motivated when the rest of the world had given up on me was not easy—but I did it. And I plan to do it again.
Next time I’ll post some of what I learning as I try to break into the great Silicon Valley. One thing I am doing right away is reading Laszlo Bock‘s book Work Rules. He basically tells you how to effectively apply for a job at Google. Worth its weight in gold!
Stay tuned for more…
More companies are going through layoffs—though they are still doing so quietly and methodically, so much so that most people don’t even notice. One day you go looking for a coworker and they are no longer there. They’ve been gone for weeks. Months. And you didn’t even notice. So how do you survive layoffs? And save your job… Surviving layoffs starts long before a company even considers them, and they are not just motivated by economic reasons. Layoffs are now about making companies even more efficient even in good times. One way to do that is to trim the fat–the slackers. Every company has them. So they layoff a bunch of employees and turn around and hire some new ones. Not as many though. They don’t have to because they hire people who are high performers. Those who can, and will, do more with less.
Companies have learned that high performers are always looking for next BIG challenge. Hence, they can throw any problem at them and they will try to solve it. Better still, high performers identify problems on their own and propose solutions—problems that their employers didn’t even know they had. Are you one of those people? If you aren’t one of those types—and it’s ok if you’re not, most people aren’t, you can still change. And should, since this type of efficiency improvement process is part of corporate America going forward. Things will only get tougher for people who are not high-performing employees as the world economy moves faster and faster. So what can you do? Change. Learn. Grow. 5 Tips for Surviving Layoffs 1. Be flexible. Take on extra tasks that challenge you and force you out of your comfort zone 2. Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions, ideas, but do it constructively and positively. Don’t attack. Eastern philosophy refers to this as “embracing the tiger,” meaning that when you embrace your fears, the process begins a dance rather than a struggle to avoid them. Try it. It works. 3. Be diplomatic. When you play nice with others, people like to work with you. That’s worth a million. It’s sometimes worth more than a fancy resume! 4. Be honest about your fears and concerns in taking on new challenges. It’s ok. Most employers want you to succeed, not fail. They can guide and support you. 5. Make the first move. When you see times are getting tough, go immediately to your boss and find out what you can do to help make things more efficient, or support the transition. In the beginning of my career, I was not one of those types. I didn’t want to do anything more than what I’d been hired for, unless I was paid more money. So much so, I obsessively scoured my job description on a regular basis to see if anyone was trying to take advantage of me. Sound familiar? I wanted my nights and weekends free all the time—without work infringing on my good time and I was determined to keep it that way. But I also wanted to make a lot of money to spend during that free time. Unfortunately, that approach didn’t get me very far, very fast, so I realized something had to give. Keeping a job is like playing a chess game Jobs and careers are like a chess game—all about strategic moves. You make one, they make one, etc. And eventually someone wins. Then you start a new game. And all those games are in essence part of a giant tournament in the national and international marketplace. You win on one level and you move up the roster to a higher level and play against smarter, faster thinkers. And so on. And at each level you learn to be more strategic—learn how to win faster and bigger. And get more of what you want. If you just sit back and don’t study the chess board and watch the moves others are making, or have the potential to make, you fall behind—and ultimately, layoffs come in, shut down your game and you lose. Don’t lose. Start taking steps today! g_ROD
1. Show Drive and Ambition: Take on work others don’t want to do. Employers will value you–and reward you for it too.
2. Always do your Best: Even if your job sucks and you hate it
3. Don’t Burn Bridges: Always leave your job on good terms, even if they fail you. You want them to say positive things about you.
4. Never Speak Negatively About Previous Employers: Take your grandma’s advice. If you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything.
5. Don’t Post Your Life Drama on Facebook: It scares off employers. They have enough drama in the workplace already. They don’t need yours too.
6. Always be on the look out for the Next BIG Thing: If you wait until you’re ready to leave your job to look for another, it’ll be stressful and emotional, but if you’re always on the look out, then it becomes a luxury. The sky’s the limit!
7. Stay Open to Learning: If you stop reading, acquiring new skills, and researching after college, you won’t be much competition for most people. And you will likely never make six figures.
8. Apply for Jobs that are Over Your Head: A good challenge will help you learn and grow–and best of all boost your confidence.
9. Never Quit Your Job Before You Have Another: We’re all more appealing when we have a job.
10. Know Your Destination: Each new job should be a stepping stone to your ultimate destination, and each one should help you learn something new and move you up the corporate ladder or advance you on your career path. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth taking.
BONUS: Never switch jobs for less than a 20% increase–but ask for 25%!
Recently someone I’ve been casually advising on career development asked me, “Should I go for the passion or choose more money?” The age-old question we’re all faced with at some point—and one that can come at any point in our careers.
When we’re young, it’s easy to just ‘go for the money.’ “Show me the money!” as it were, is what was foremost on my mind when I finally graduated college. I figured if I had the money, the rest will fall into place. Of course that desire was driven by the fact that I’d driven a really crappy car for several years, that broke down repeatedly and sucked up what little money I did make. So when the time came that I was faced with that question, it was a very easy choice to make. I grew up a capitalist at heart, because I came from a large family that required a lot of sharing, frugality and thrived on a culture of hand-me downs. So even at age ten, I knew I wanted to make my own money—and lots of it!
It’s funny though, years into my career, well actually just 10, although it seems like a lifetime, that question has come up again for me too. It probably doesn’t come up for most people in just 10 years, but because I’ve had so many different jobs and worked at many different companies, my career feels like a 25-year career condensed into 10. I’ve learned a lot, face a lot of challenges, grown as a consultant and advisor, and learned how to see the big picture and the minutia as well. Though having had that compressed journey sometimes creates frustration because I want things to move faster—and they don’t—so I begin to question where I belong now, and if I want to keep doing what I’m doing and working in the same old ways.
Even though I get frustrated, I try to focus on the positive. I’ve had the opportunity to shape my career the way I wanted. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck to it. Now I’m beginning to see the rewards in that—and seeing that people do value what I do and how I do it. As I’ve said many times before, I was lucky that I got to weave my passions into my career, but before I got to do that, I suffered several years of very low wages and people not understanding where I fit-in to their business or the value I could deliver. I learned you have to educate people on the value you bring, because they don’t have time to sort out your career for you. People who have a clear vision of where they’d like to end up, or at least a good idea, are the ones that have the most control over shaping their careers. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’ll be hard to navigate everything that’s thrown at you at your job. You need a good vision to keep you motivated and driven.
If you don’t have a vision, then you should just be open to learning, and be flexible with the jobs you do get. There’s something to be learned at every single job you have—even if it’s a restaurant job or scooping ice cream, because the biggest challenge at a job is getting along with different kinds of people in different types of environments and situations. Because no matter how smart or educated you are, if you aren’t good at building and maintaining relationships, you will likely not become a great success. To do so, you have to be a team player, even at times when you don’t feel like it. And you have to get along with people who are challenging—and sometimes don’t even like you. I learned a lot about these valuable lessons while waiting tables, so for that I am very grateful.
So, what should you choose: Passion or Money? I would say trust your instinct. I learned recently that the part of our brain that helps us to make decisions does so by gut instinct, the limbic system. It does not process language or rational thought, so it goes solely on intuition, “feeling.” So it seems intuition plays a much bigger part in our lives than we imagined—than we wanted to believe. And that’s ok. That’s not denying the value of information, data and experience. I spend a lot of my time doing research, and talking to others, but no matter what people advise me, I have to trust my instinct to do what feels right for me—cause no one else is me. No one else has lived my life. And ultimately, I’m the one who has to live with my decisions and choices, good or bad. So I really have to trust myself, first.
If you take a job that you don’t really want, or like, just because of the money, then just know that no matter how much they pay, it’s still going to suck. You’ll just have more money. But if you take a job that you think you will love, you will probably always love it and look forward to going to work—and you will likely be happier, and you may thrive on many levels, but you may struggle with money. It’s a tradeoff. There’s always one. Will always be one—even when you’re 60, you’ll still be navigating tradeoffs: more money for retirement or more time with spouse….
The bottom line is, we should choose something we can believe in. Whether it’s a company, a product, a team, a project, or a vision. If you believe in it, then you can truly get behind it and stay motivated, even through the tough times—because there will always be tough times. No job is perfect. No job is a dream—except in your dreams.
If you take a job and it sucks, but you still do your very best, there’s always a reward for doing so. Always—even if it’s just the knowledge that you took something that wasn’t ideal and by your own power, turned it into something great. That brings a certain kind of satisfaction and pride that no amount of money can deliver. I know, because now that I’m making good money, I’m once again searching for a way to get that kind of satisfaction again and trying to figure out what’s next for me. Success doesn’t always bring what you think it will, nor does it always feel the way you thought it would. So it seems we’re always “gleaming the cube” so to speak, always on the edge.
Be careful what you ask for. You may get exactly that—and nothing else.
I wish you the best on your journey. Enjoy the ride!