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    Entries in work (196)

    Thursday
    Jul192012

    Watching LinkedIn Connections on a Sunday Night

    Do you have any remaining doubt that the always on, 24/7, connected at all time via iPhone or iPad life has almost completely taken over your professional network?

    Well if you do, then I recommend taking a look at your LinkedIn feed this Sunday night. I am drafting up this post at just after 10PM ET on Sunday, July 15th, and just a few moments ago I took a scan of my LinkedIn network update feed.

    Quick observation - my LinkedIn feed is littered with 'Person A is now connected to Person B' updates. More than one or two, probably about two dozen or so connections being made after 10PM on a Sunday night in the middle of the summer.

    Sunday night, which used to be the time you were crashed out from a big weekend of fun and family, maybe catching something on TV before turning in, maybe, for the younger crowd, trying to wring the last bit of fun out of the weekend before the work week hits in full force on Monday. But now, at least in part due to smart phone apps and iPads, Sunday nights are now a time where we can simultaneously be with the family sitting on the sofa watching whatever it is that is popular on TV, (I have on an NBA Summer League game on, so forgive me for not knowing what normal people are digging right now), and making sure the care and feeding of our networks doesn't need to stop for whatever passes for our real lives.

    There's nothing really novel in this observation I admit, the always-on social network is old news at this point. 

    But what is changing, at least a little, at least by implication from what you'll see on your LinkedIn feed late on a Sunday night, is the subtle expectation that if you really want to get ahead, or at least stay even with the pack, (the pack that even if they are your 'friends' on Facebook all will be quite happy to see you fail), is that you too better be grinding away on Sunday night yourself. 

    Your mortal enemies are out there at 10:31PM, making connections with people you're dying to meet.

    They're out there sending little private messages thanking each other for the connection and arranging phone calls, or worse, meetings over coffee or a beer.

    They're beating you at 10:35 on Sunday night, and what's worse is all you really want to do is turn on Bravo, have an ice cream and shut down your mind for a while.

    The game hasn't really changed. It just never seems to take a break, and the score keeps flashing in front of you as the LinkedIn connection updates scroll by.

    Tuesday
    Jul102012

    Unscathed, and still thinking you did the right thing

    Of the many seemingly endless debates that rage in the workplace/human resources/careers blogosphere, ('How can HR become 'strategic'?, 'Do I need a cover letter?', 'My boss/colleague/HR lady is a jerk, what should I do?), one of my favorites is the one centered around the 'Following your passion at work', discussion.

    The 'passion' dialog seems to be split fairly evenly, perhaps the 'You should stop what you are doing and follow your passion' crowd might have the upper hand, (slightly), but that could be because they seem to shout about it the loudest, and it just seems like something we should pursue, or at least aspire to. But often, even the most well-reasoned and reasonable arguments for chasing your passion usually fall a bit flat for me. If I tried to apply the most common passion arguments, even taken loosely, I'd either be trying to catch on with an (unaffiliated) minor league baseball team as a soft-tossing lefty reliever, or hauling a BBQ smoker behind the pickup while working the county fair circuit selling sandwiches. Neither option really seems like a wise choice at this stage.

    Probably the most even-keeled recent take on the subject was from blogger and owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban, with the piece titled, 'Don't Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort', that recommends pursuing that which you most often find yourself pursuing, if that makes sense. It actually is a really good piece, tempered only with the knowledge that through hard work, good fortune, and impeccable timing, Cuban himself has countless options that he is free to chase, including things others might term 'passions.'

    But past the passion/effort/I just need to keep the mortgage paid and kids fed discussion, which like the other endless workplace debates eventually, maybe already, get extremely tedious, I wanted to offer up one slightly different, and I think completely realistic, honest, and refreshing take on the matter, pulled from a profile of comic Marc Maron on the Vulture blog. Maron, who you'd classify as a working comic, not a household name, but beginning to become more well-known and recognized or a popular series of podcasts that have featured many comedy superstars, offered this telling observation about how he sees his work, success, and in a way seems to reconcile the 'passion' argument really neatly.

    “Look,” Maron says before going onstage, “I just want to get out of here unscathed. I just want to leave here still thinking that I did the right thing with my life. That’s my only goal, to have a check that doesn’t bounce and still believe I’m on the right path.”

    Nice. Unscathed, with a check that doesn't bounce, and at least a small feeling that you have made (mostly) the right choices and are generally heading in the right direction.

    Maybe not passion, but definitely sensible. Definitely reachable. And a question that can be easily asked and answered by most of us each day.

    Did I get out of here unscathed? Did the check clear? Am I heading in the right direction?

    What say you? 

    Tuesday
    Jun192012

    Notes From the Road #7 - On Chatty Cab Drivers

    Quick dispatch from sunny Las Vegas where I am attending and presenting at the Oracle HR User's Group, (OHUG), annual conference.

    On the cab ride in from the airport yesterday  I was either lucky or unfortunate, (depending on your point of view), to have a classic chatty cab driver. The kind of guy not only interested in sharing a few choice nuggets about his city, fun things that might be happening in town, the most recent and noteworthy local news items, and whatever else is on his mind. The chatty cab driver scenario usually ends badly, particularly if you've been traveling all day and just are not in the mood for small talk.

    Yesterday my cab driver, a man of about 55 or so years old I'd guess, somehow, (I am really not sure what set him off, I only said something incredibly mundane and boring like, 'Wow, kind of windy today'), got set off on a little monologue about the value of hard work, the need for more people to suck it up and just quit complaining, and simply find something, anything valuable and positive to do with their time, and just do it and shut the hell up.

    I believe his exact, (or near enough), quote on the topic was something like -  

    People need to drop the ideology that you have to get your dream job. There's no such thing. And even when you think you have it, in 2 years you'll just want to chase some other dream. Look at me, you think I dreamed about driving a cab in the desert? You do what you have to do.

    It was an interesting and realistic take and whether or not you agree with the folks (mostly life coaches, I think), that proscribe chasing your dreams or doing the work that you are passionate about, every time you talk to a real working person about their careers and their choices it always provides some great perspective. 

    You think I dreamed about driving a cab in the desert?

    No, I don't think you probably did. Probably hardly anyone does. But as you said, Mr. I-did-not-catch-your-name Cab Driver, and as you rightly conclude, sometimes, maybe more than you hoped for, you do what you have to do.

    And honestly, lots and lots of people doing what they have to do make life a heck of a lot easier for those of us who feel like chasing (often elusive) dreams. So thanks for the ride and the conversation.

    Back to Vegas. I have the Heat minus 3.5 tonight.

    And Matt 'akaBruno' Stollak likes Michigan State to win the Big 10 this Fall.

     

    Monday
    Jun182012

    What's your day look like?

    If it looks anything like the day awaiting our friend 'Karen' here in the image on the right hand side of this post, then I can state with near certainty, that your day is going to stink.

    The image is from an Apple ad for the iPhone 4s and its virtual assistant Siri, that I noticed on the back cover of the April 2012 edition of Men's Journal magazine. Why the ad copy decided to show 'Karen's' day on the iPhone calendar app instead of someone more likely to be a Men's Journal reader, (Dave, Stan, LeRoy, maybe), is the obvious question that came to mind. But putting that minor detail aside, (I'm guessing the same ad probably ran in lots of publications, so trying to nail each outlet's demographic might not have been important), the other thing that jumped out at me when I saw the ad was how horrible Karen's day is shaping up to be, and how that many of the folks reading this post on a Monday morning are looking at similar, dispiriting kinds of schedules.

    This is an Apple ad, the paragon of cool, the leader in the latest technology, the company that has defined innovation, engineering, and design for the last 5+ years, and what do we get from the ad touting the wondrous capabilities of the new iPhone and the magical Siri?

    A rundown of the classically over scheduled, back-to-back set of meetings where people are talking about things that have already happened, and with little opportunity to actually spend some time thinking, kind of Monday that so many of the managers and leaders in organizations have in front of them today, and probably for most of the rest of the week.

    Apple wants you to ask Siri 'What's my day look like?' Well the 'day' they offer up for our pal Karen, full of status meetings, project briefings, and production updates, and a I doubt it will really happen lunch with 'Emily', (I have $100 that says Karen eats at her desk 9 days out of 10), pretty much renders the wonder and potential of new tools like Siri pretty much moot.

    In fact, if Karen realized she was staring down a Monday so uninspiring, maybe she would have asked Siri to phone in sick and tried again tomorrow.

    So, what's your day look like? Full of updates, status, and briefings like Karen here? 

    Or will you actually have time to do something cool?

    Happy Monday!

     

    Thursday
    May312012

    The skilled trades need a famous commencement address too

    May is commencement time in the USA, and in conjunction with the hundreds if not thousands of college and university commencements taking place across the country we are treated to reports and videos of numerous commencement addresses delivered by a wide range of speakers ranging from famous business people, media personalities, politicians, and more. And each year one or two of the college commencement addresses resonates in some way, whether from the message itself, or from the combination between the message and the speaker him or herself, perhaps making the story more powerful by virtue of their obstacles overcame and ability to reach and inspire the graduating students. Jaime Escalante

    My cynical nature tends to mostly ignore these commencement speeches each year, because to me, if you peel back the outer surface layers that differentiate the 'speaker life story/type of personal achievement' from each other and get to their core message, well, that message seems pretty much the same. Again I am a cynic, but after a while and the fourth or fifth re-telling, the admonition to 'be true to yourself, follow your dreams, everything is possible, follow your passion....' message seems to get a little bit stale. I spent enough time in higher education to understand why colleges hire, and make no mistake, most of the commencement speeches are highly paid gigs, a big time inspirational and famous speaker to give the same message the local public school principal gave in 5th grade, it's because the parents want to be entertained and feel like they are extracting the last shred of value for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have shelled out for Junior's education.

    I'll tie this back to two college commencement addresses way back in the day to see if the point can be better made with specifics. When I was just finishing my Junior year in college I hung around to attend commencement as I wanted to take advantage of all the parties witness many good friends of mine receive their diplomas. The commencement speaker was the legendary actor Jimmy Stewart. Most of the parents were really excited to see Mr. Stewart, as he was one of the most famous actors of the parent's generation and the one just prior. I am sure he said some interesting things, he had a great voice and delivery, even at that later stage of his life, and I seem to remember people being pleased with the choice of speaker.

    The following year at my graduation the commencement speaker was the high school teacher made famous by the movie 'Stand And Deliver'. Not the famous actor, Edward James Olmos, but the actual teacher who inspired the story, Jaime Escalante, who was not very well known at the time, although via the moderate success of the film at least the story had some familiarity. Mr. Escalante's speech was excellent, and most importantly for then, as indeed for today, I think in many ways the choice of someone like Mr. Escalante more appropriate and relevant, (assuming you can make any kind fo argument for the value of any commencement speaker).

    I was thinking about this for another reason as well, the recent release of the Manpower 'What Jobs are Hard to Fill' survey, (I know that is not the real name, but you know which one I am talking about). In the survey we see that some of the Top 10 hardest jobs for companies to fill today are in skilled trades, sales reps, drivers, mechanics, nurses, and yes, teachers. The Top 10 list is mostly those kinds of completely necessary, important for a modern society to function properly, are unglamorous, and typically are not the populations from which fancy college commencement speakers are chosen from.

    And that is kind of too bad. While Mr. Stewart was a fine speaker and a good-natured guy, he, and most of the other commencement speakers don't really hold up too well as role models in the sense of graduates' career aspirations and plans.  The country doesn't really need many more aspiring actors or singers or Reality TV stars. 

    According to the Manpower report however, the country does need lots more tradespeople, teachers, mechanics, and accountants. Maybe we should be hearting more from these kinds of professionals at commencement time.

    Sadly, Mr. Escalante passed away in 2010, so he is no longer able to try and inspire young people to follow down this path.

    Edward James Olmos is still alive though. Maybe he can play that role made famous in Stand and Deliver again. He at least still has some name recognition.