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    Entries in career (155)


    Cards of Change

    I came across the site Cards of Change, a collection of images of business cards uploaded by people in some kind of career transition or crossroads, usually caused by a layoff or other involuntary circumstance.

    Participants take one of their former business cards and imaginatively and creatively edit, adapt, and improve the card's content in a kind of 'rite of passage' that visually and tangibly helps to mark the passage from one career stage to the next.

    The site's mission is 'to collect as many business cards and stories of positive change of people who have recently been laid off and connect them with new opportunities from potential employers, business partners and people who make the effort to look on the bright side of life.'

    Of the many hundreds of cards loaded to the site, there is most often seen an excitement, optimism, and enthusiasm from the recently separated workers.  In many cases reading their adapted cards, cards that with a few pen strokes and cross outs they have turned from 'business' cards to personal ones, we get the sense of relief and release.  We can feel along with the card owner the weight of stress or pressure of having to be someone else for business, and the lightening of their spirit once they saw that weight removed.

    Of course the stress and pressures of being out of work had not likely set in yet as the card owners took to constructing these new creations, but still, I imagine the physical act of transformation of the old into something new has to be seen as at least starting the transition process on the right note.

    The other observation I had from reading through the card collection was that there were and still are a lot of unhappy people out there and when presented with a better and more enriching (both financially and emotionally), opportunity, many of seemingly productive and happy workers will race to the door.

    I wonder if many of us were provided the opportunity or the necessity to design our own cards would they look at all like our 'official' ones? Or if we could, would we start crossing out words and phrases, replacing them with ones that match our truer selves?  

    I recommend checking out Cards of Change, I bet you will spend at least a few minutes looking at the cards and tiny stories.



    Builder or Custodian

    In the world of big-time college athletics success on the field or court often results in ancillary benefits to the institution in the form of increased donations, an uptick in applications for admission, and in the case of so-called ‘Cinderella’ type schools that have not been traditionally strong, a surge in awareness and name recognition for the school to a wider audience.

    In the college ‘money’ sports of (American) football and Men’s Basketball, a successful season or two, or a deep run in championship competition can be a springboard of opportunity for coaches at these smaller schools to make the jump to a larger school (and substantially raise their compensation), and can also create exposure for players at these small schools that perhaps might lead to a shot at professional contracts in the NFL or NBA.

    Not unlike many industries or even geographies, there is a kind of hierarchy in college athletics; schools ‘know’ their place in the hierarchy by virtue of their level of competition, the conference and peer institutions that they choose to organize and affiliate with, and this hierarchy guides and influences the players they can recruit, and the quality and experience of the coaches they can employ.  Schools (and fans, alumni, students, etc.) all know their ‘place’ in the hierarchy, and while their is occasionally some institutions that ‘climb’ the ladder to higher levels of affiliation and competition, most of the upward mobility is personal, e.g., a successful coach at a lower level of competition gets a similar job at a bigger, top-flight school.

    Last spring Butler University, a liberal-arts school with less that 5,000 students made a remarkable run to the Championship game of Men’s College Basketball, only to lose by two points to perennial power Duke, 61-59.  Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, was purported to be a candidate for several ‘bigger’ jobs (he stayed), and star player Gordon Hayward was seen as a potential NBA star (he left, and now plays for the Utah Jazz).  The movement of coaches and players from these small school successes is not really news anymore, and not terribly interesting (even to me).  

    But another piece of employee transition news from Butler caught my attention over the weekend - the surprise resignation of Butler’s President Bobby Fong to take the over the same position at even smaller Ursinus College (I had to look it up too), a school of about 1,700 students located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Fong has been President of Butler for 10 years, a period that has been marked by rising enrollments, a successful $150M fundraising campaign, and capped off last spring by the exciting run to the Men’s Basketball Final Four and the Championship game.

    If Fong were a player or coach on the basketball team, we’d expect his next move to be ‘up’; to take over at a big school like Michigan or South Carolina.  But to drop down to a tiny, off the map school like Ursinus?  In sports, this would be considered a step back, a career hiccup, or even the first step on the road to obscurity.  But look a bit closer and we see that what matters to Fong is the job he will be doing, not necessarily who he will be doing it for.  After 10 years of building up Butler, Fong wanted to start all over again the process in an environment where he would have that opportunity.  The money quote from Fong - “"You always want to be able to help an institution improve, and I tend to be a builder. I am not a custodian."

    Super line, and one that reveals much about Fong as a leader, and that can also help anyone better understand and assess potential career moves.  Sometimes moving ‘up’ only means you get a nicer office to sit in while you simply look after things and try not to screw up. Sometimes you have to take a step ‘down’ in order to keep building.

    Good luck at Ursinus President Fong, and if you make the Final Four again, I will demand an NCAA investigation.



    Career Summiteering

    My friends Mark Stelzner and Laurie Ruettimann, are taking a page from some of those classic 'Our Gang' episodes, the ones where Spanky and Alfalfa and Darla decide to put on show for their pals, by launching a new, and unique event called The Career Summit.

    But instead of a half-baked, amateur show starring a dog, Mark and Laurie's show will be a valuable, relevant, and information packed experience and resource for job seekers and folks currently working, but quietly, secretly, thinking about doing more. Heck, that is pretty much everyone.


    From October 26 - November 17, Career Summit attendees will get access to over a dozen live webcasts on important career management topics, and continued access to the recorded archives of each session. Session leaders include Jason Seiden, Paula Caliguiri, Alexandra Levit, Jonathan Fields, and many more.

    What is great about the format of the career summit is that it brings in such a fantastic collection of experts on career issues, packages the content in a way that is accessible, and provides incredible value, dozens of hours of content at a really reasonable cost.

    Sure, I agreed to post about the event because I want Mark and Laurie to succeed, but they, and the 20-odd experts that are participating in the Career Summit want you to succeed.

    So if you are looking for something new, or think you could use some help and guidance in trying to find that dream job (who doesn't?), I encourage you to check out the Career Summit.

    Or, you could waste more time on 'Our Gang' DVDs.

    Your call. 

    Postscript - If anyone can verify that is a young Mark, Laurie, and Seiden in the picture on he right, I would appreciate it.


    No one asked me but...

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour Show, we will welcome Alison Green, the creator of the fantastic 'Ask a Manager' blog.  

    The show is live at 8PM EDT tonight, September 9, and can be listened to from the show page here, using the widget below, or by calling in on 646-378-1086.

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    On the show Alison will take calls and field questions live much in the spirit of the 'Ask a Manager' blog, and listeners are encouraged to call in or Tweet their questions (use the #HRHappyHour tag).

    To try and make my 'show preview' post a bit less boring, I asked Alison to forward to me a random reader question from the 'Ask a Manager' files so I could take a shot at giving the answer. 

    So here goes - and in the way of disclaimer, I am totally unqualified to give serious advice, please follow my guidelines at your own risk:

    A reader writes:

    I've been invited to an interview for a senior-level job by a potential employer who is only willing to cover part of my travel costs to the interview. Because the invitation was silent on this topic, I had to raise the reimbursement issue. I was surprised about this based on my prior experiences as a job seeker and on my own HR experience. Based on my application materials, it should have been clear that I would have to fly to the the interview.

    I initially responded asking about whether they wanted me to make travel arrangements and submit receipts or have them make the airfare purchase directly. They responded that I should make arrangements directly, and that I should send them the cost so they could decide what portion they could cover. I submitted my projected costs and asked if I could interview two days later in order to obtain a lower price. They replied that they could cover 60%.

    I've already accepted the appointment, since delaying to negotiate wouldn't work in my favor as an applicant, and could make my share of the expenses go up if fares increase. But I'm concerned that if the
    interview goes well, it may spell trouble down the road. (E.g. have I put myself at a disadvantage during salary negotiations by signalling desperation? Once on the job, will I be working in an institution
    where reasonable expenses aren't built into budgets?) Obviously, I haven't gotten to that bridge yet, but these concerns are real.

    Is this a red flag, or just par for the course in an employers' market?

    Let's see what we have here - an interview in a different city, no real indication of the likelihood of landing the gig, and having to reach in to your own pocket (at least 40% of the way down), to even get the interview.  

    Here is my simple answer - it sounds like a major red flag, and unless this is a dream-type job that you have been after for ages, or will set you up in your career progression or personal life, I would trust your instincts and take a pass. The fact that the employer knew that your participation in the interview would require airfare and other transportation expenses and waited for you to mention reimbursement comes off as unprepared, inconsiderate, and/or cheap. And then arriving at a seemingly arbitrary 60% reimbursement factor seems bizarre - either cover all the costs for your travel, or simply state there is not available budget to cover the costs and leave it up to you to decide.  How about a video interview for gosh sakes?

    At any rate, it reads fishy, smells fishy, and quite likely is fishy.

    Well - that's my answer - what do you think?

    I wonder what the 'real' Ask a Manager would think?  Tune in tonight to find out.


    Social Media and the Student

    My good friend Deirdre Honner, the HR Maven is giving a speech to 800 MBA students today, focusing on 'Social Media and the Job Search'.  I am sure she will do a fantastic job sharing her insights, strategies, and resources to help equip these students for a better chance of success in their upcoming job searches.

    Much has been written about how to leverage social media in the search, some excellent resources are here, here, and here.

    So rather than try and improve upon, or at least add to the existing body of information on using social media in the job search, I'd rather try and talk to what I think are some strategies that make sense for the MBA (or really any college or grad student) to leverage social media, more to support their studies and by extension, position themselves for upcoming job searches.

    Get Familiar - a key to leveraging social media in your studies and beyond is first understanding the environment in your specific area of interest or expertise. If you are focusing on accounting for example, are there Ning networks, or professional association communities where like-minded practitioners congregate?  Or are there a few key LinkedIn groups that you should join?  Some disciplines like Marketing have a very vibrant Twitter presence.  Or it could be the local organizations that present professional development events and social meetings are the best approach. The key is to start listening and observing to determine the best ways to invest your efforts. Understanding a bit about how your particular interest is represented in social media is a key to understanding the best use of your time.

    Collaborate - in school it is certain that much of your time and energy will be spent on group projects. Learning how to effectively collaborate with peers, under time pressures, and at times with limited ability for face to face meetings is a critical skill to master both in school, and in the corporate world. A mastery of working in groups as well as managing group performance will likely be the primary differentiating skill in management in the future. Heck, it probably is that way today. I think the most successful team leaders will have a good understanding of two key aspects of team collaboration, one, the conditions that are necessary to foster effective collaboration, and two, the core social technologies that are available to support these activities.

    Claim - It is standard advice for students and job seekers to setup up a LinkedIn account, and possibly a Twitter account to use for networking and connecting with recruiters and other professionals.  That is of course a sound strategy, but if you are really interested in making more of an impact in social media and positioning yourself as a future leader, you really should consider starting your own blog. For me, no one heard of me, took me all that seriously, or sought me ought for advice or opportunities until I had established some credibility in the space via this blog. I do think in many ways having a business focused blog is a key to set you apart from the crowd. It can demonstrate your reasoning ability, your mastery of your subject matter, and of course your writing capability. Being 'public' with your thoughts on a blog forces you to improve.  You absolutely will get smarter by blogging.

    Connect - Certainly the prime motivator for students and early career professionals in using social media is to network with other professionals. These can be professionals in your specific area of study or expertise, your geographic region, or some combination. When I need some advice, assistance, or the name of someone in a particular organization in order to solve a problem, or otherwise improve my course content, or my ability to deliver, I turn to my network first. And I have to say in the last year, my network has never let me down.  But I can only leverage that resource because I (try) to consistently give back to my network and to the community at large, (see 'start your own blog' above).  I promise you will get back way more than you give in the long run.

    So that is my advice, but really the best advice I can really give is listen to Dee, she has seen it all, and I would pay to hear her speak and you guys are lucky to have her as a presenter.

    And in the spirit of connecting and giving, feel free to connect with me, my contact information is on the blog, and I will be happy to help in any way I can.

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