Category: Recent graduate

Do This In The Interview If You Really Want The Job

Be creative.  Just because an interview is formal and makes you nervous doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative in the interview.  If you want to memorable, be creative and find fun ways to highlight your talents and abilities in an interview.  In fact, being creative and showing your authentic self is a quick way to separate yourself from the crowd of other candidates and stand out as one of the best.  But how do you do it? Here is one idea:

Of course, we don’t all have friends who are willing to go to such lengths to help us land a job.  But you can still be creative and set yourself apart.  Ask yourself a few keys questions:

  1. What can I do to better understand the company, the position and the hiring manager?  Everyone is looking up the company on the internet and reading the job description.  Did you check out the hiring manager or other company employees on Linked In?  You may have someone in common in your network that could provide insight or even a reference.  Did you speak to current employees who work for the person that is interviewing you?  Consider what other unique information is available that relates to your interest in the job and the company.
  2. How can I present myself in an authentic way?  Think about who you are and what you bring to the job.  How could you best represent this?  Choosing what you wear, how you approach the interview, information you bring to share in the interview and how you  interact in the interview are are ways to set yourself apart. For example, if you have a hobby or special interest that you pursue in your free time and it relates to the role or your performance then make sure to bring it up in the interview.
  3. Am I giving honest and real answers?  One of the worst mistakes you can make in an interview is answering questions the way you think you should or the way you think others would or the way you think the interviewer wants you to.  This is obvious with the old standby interview question: “what is your greatest weakness?”  Resist the urge to give a phony answer like “I tend to work too hard or I am so productive that I rarely leave enough work for my co-workers to do.” Really?  It is obvious that answers like these are not genuine.  We all have areas we could improve on.  Pick one and discuss how you are working to improve.  Be honest and you will find a job and an organization that is a much better fit for you.

When you work hard to land an interview for a great job, make the most of it by finding creative ways to showcase your talent and passion.

“Resist the urge to confirm to the way you think people are expected to behave in an interview.  Be creative and enjoy the time with the interviewer. “

People hire people they like.  It is hard for people to like us if we hide who we really are. So go ahead and have some fun and be creative.  In the end it is just a job interview – take some creative risks and have some fun!

What example do you have of being creative in a job interview?



How to Have Better Meetings

Everyone dreads going to meetings at work.  When I speak to groups on communication and influence, business meetings always come up as one of the top things people complain about.  Most of us agree that we spend a lot of wasted time in meetings.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When I ask people why they feel so negatively about meetings, I hear things like ‘they use up time I could be getting real work done’ and ‘we never make decisions’ and ‘it seems like we meet just to meet and nothing gets done’.  Surveys consistently show we often view meetings as a waste of time.  After suffering through many similar meetings (and causing others to sit through my horrible meetings) I set out to find a way to have powerful and impactful meetings.  Here are three steps that I uncovered that will help you have better meetings.

1) Start with a clear outcome.  Be crystal clear what you want to achieve in the meeting. Write down the outcome that you expect by the end of the meeting.  For example, is the outcome of the meeting to make a certain decision, begin a relationship, share specific information, to collect ideas or to close a sale?  Be very precise on the expected outcome.  This will help you know what to include in the agenda, how long to meet, who to invite and how best to go about achieving the expected outcome.  It will also prevent the meeting from going into unproductive topics and ‘rat holes.’

2) Check before the meeting.  A week or so before the meeting is scheduled, call a small sample of the planned meeting attendees.  If the meeting will be with about 10 to 15 people then you would call about 3 people.  In a quick 5 minute phone call, share your intended outcome for the meeting and ask the other person if they agree and also ask what result they would like to see from the meeting.  Make note of what the other people say.  Adjust what you have planned for the meeting if need be.  Thank them for sharing their thoughts.

3) Follow up after the meeting.  A day or two after the meeting, call the same people you spoke to before the meeting and ask how the meeting went.  Was it useful?  Was it a good use of their time?  Was the planned outcome achieved?  Use the feedback you get to adjust the actions from the meeting if necessary.  Also use the feedback to improve your future meetings.

If you try these three easy tips you will start influencing people in a very positive way.  They will be impressed that you took the time to phone them and ask their opinion.  They will notice that you are a person who cares about improving your performance and theirs.  Your meetings will be productive and the people who attend your meetings will remark on how much better they are than most meetings they attend.  Good luck!

Question: What tips can you share from your own experience with meetings?


Excuses are a Career Killer

A friend of mine who is an senior executive said to me the other day, “Everyone has excuses for what they do or don’t do.  I would give a huge raise to any of my direct reports if they just did what they say they will do, period. No excuses, just get it done.”

Excuses are career killers.

what's your excuse?

When I was in graduate school I had a professor who gave points for participation in class. During the first 15 minutes of class he led a discussion and gave points to every student that participated in the discussion. One night I was flying back from a work trip and was late for class and missed the participation time. After class I explained to the professor that my plane was unexpectedly delayed, it was raining so traffic was extra heavy, yet I did everything in my power to make class on time and just missed the discussion period. The professor listened and responded, “I totally understand. Sounds reasonable.  Thank you for letting me know why you were late tonight.” Relieved that he accepted my excuses, I smiled and asked him if I could submit something next class to make up for missing the participation points. The professor smiled back and said, “No. You are either here for the discussion or not. I don’t accept any excuses.” Lesson learned for me.

That professor taught me a valuable lesson – when you make a commitment you either follow through on it or you don’t. There will always be a multitude of reasons (also called excuses) why we fail to follow through on a particular thing we said we would do, but in the end they really don’t matter. Many of us fail to achieve our goals and dreams because we fail to follow through. We say things like it was too hard, I tried but didn’t have enough time, I don’t know how, I didn’t know it would take so long, or I intended too but…

Regardless of how many excuses they could make, successful people know that it will not change the outcome. Even justified excuses will not make a project or person successful. When things go wrong, the successful person sees the opportunity, not a reason for quitting.  They own that it went wrong and get busy making it right.

Unsuccessful people spend a lot of energy and time making excuses – blaming others, the customer, the economy or even traffic. Even if the excuses are all true, it won’t improve the outcome. No matter how justified you are, never make an excuse for any outcome. Instead, just apologize.  If you can still deliver what you promised then do it immediately.  If the opportunity has passed, then plan a way to ensure that next time you will do what you say you will, period. This is the only way to long term success. Your career success is based on building a reputation of integrity, including delivering what you say you will.

If you want to achieve success others don’t, you must be willing to do what others won’t. Everybody around you may think it is acceptable to blame traffic for being late regularly. Instead, choose not to make that excuse. Change your routine, wake up earlier, take a different route – do whatever it takes.  Not making excuses is one of the most important disciplines you can develop. Managers consistently describe ‘following through and delivering what they promise’ as one of the key attributes for career success.

So the next time you decide to commit to do something, do it – don’t let ‘justified excuses’ trick you into thinking it is okay not to do what you committed to do. Be on time for meetings, call someone back when you say you will, show up for the team meeting fully prepared, do the homework you said you would, etc… If you practice keeping your word with little things at work everyday, you will quickly find others viewing you as someone who delivers, period. And that is worth gold.



How to Find Work You Love

So often we chase the wrong things in looking for a job or in building our career. Money is often the main thing we consider.  While being paid for the work we do is important, it is not the most important factor in finding a great job.  The most important factor in having a great job is passion.  Do what you love.  But how?



When I think back to my first major career decision it was what to study in college.  I really loved history and considered studying it.  However, my well-meaning friends and relatives asked me how I would make money with a degree in History.  After all, they reasoned, it is nice to study something you enjoy but what about making money.  So I took their advice and studied for and received a degree in Economics.  I enjoyed economics (not as much as history) and the path to a well-paid business career was clearly outlined in front of me.  So I took that path.  In the early years, that path included doing many jobs that I did not particularly enjoy in exchange for promotions and higher salary.  The irony is that, in the long run, when you do what you love the money will follow.  Pursue what you love to do.

With that in mind, here are four ways to do work you love:

  1.  Start with passion.  Take the time to consider what you are passionate about.  Do you love being outdoors, learning new concepts, want to run your own business, or enjoy working with your hands?  Ask yourself what you like to do.  What are you passionate about?  How do you enjoy spending your time?  Make a list of the four or five things you most enjoy doing.
  2.  Identify and research work areas that fit your list of things you are passionate about.  Don’t try and find a specific job that is available and see if some of your list fits.  Start with industries and work your way down.  Keep it broad.  For example, do you like working with kids, being in the outdoors and using leadership skills?  Research programs like Outward Bound, working as a trail guide or opening your own adventure tour company catering to kids.  There is no one right answer.  Be creative and do your research to see what industries or careers are out there.
  3.  Network.  Not the old fashioned kind of networking where you ask a friend to help you get a job.  Become a part of the world that you want to work in.  For example, join industry groups, do informational interviews of people already doing what you are interested in and go to conferences and trade shows in related fields.  Join Linked In and participate in groups and discussions related to your area of career interest.  The important thing is to connect with people who know more about your area of interest than you do. This will help you identify and develop the skills and contacts necessary to create a dream career.  Often by merely becoming a committed part of the work community you are interested in, a job offer will come available.
  4.  Just do it.  You can build skills and experience by doing it now, even if that means on the side or in your spare time.  For example, if you are a school teacher but want to run an outdoor adventure camp for kids, you can work somewhere similar during your summer break or use vacation time to visit similar camps and learn more about them. Ask those in your new network (see 3 above) how best to get started.  Do one thing every week that gets you started down the road to a career or job you love.

I believe that God created each of us with unique talents and abilities and that our passion and joy are the clues left behind to help us identify these talents and abilities.  Start thinking about your career in terms of what you love to do and you will end up with a career you love.

Question: Are you passionate about the work that you do?  Please comment below.

The Best Career Advice that I Have Ever Been Given

Years ago when I was finishing my senior year of college and was preparing for my first real job, a favorite professor of mine gave me the following advice.  He said, “The company you are going to work for owns your job.  As long as they pay you what they promise, they can make you push a broom, answer the phone all day, or anything else they need whether you like it or not.  They may own your job, but you own your career.  Never confuse the two.”


Over the past twenty years I have often thought about that advice from my professor.  It has been very useful.  A few times in my career I forgot the advice and confused my job with my career.  That usually ended up with me finding myself in the middle of a corporate reorganization and scrambling to land a position.  When I remembered and applied the advice, I had many great opportunities to choose from and consistently enjoyed the work that I did.

If you can consistently separate your job and your career, you will have more career opportunities and long term success. In order to do work you love it is important that you take active ownership of your career.  Here are some suggestions to help you own your career:

  • Have a 5 year plan.  Start by writing out the details of your future work life as you would like them to be in 5 years.  Write down the type of job you have, what company you work for, the specific things that you do and how much you earn.  It is important to be detailed in describing what the career goal you want to live in 5 years looks like.
  • Identify the big gaps.  As you compare your future career goal to your current job, what big things are missing or need to be improved.  Do you need some education or training?  Is there specific work experience that would help you achieve the future career goal?  Do you want to change to a different industry or career area?  These big needs will take time to complete so identify them and getting started on them right away.
  • Plan it out.  Arriving where we want in life doesn’t just happen.  When you want to drive to an area you are not familiar with you follow the directions on your GPS.  It is the same with achieving new career goals.  Assess where you are currently and plan out a route to get there.  Over time your route will change and you will need to factor in unexpected events, but always keep the goal in sight and adjust your plan as needed.
  • Ask for help.  Find people that already have the career you have and interview them.  Find out what advice they can share with you that would help you achieve your goal.  If you develop a relationship with these individuals over time, they will become powerful supporters in your personal network.
  • Enter that career world now.  Find ways to begin preparing and becoming a part of the world career world that you want in the future.  For example, if you are a sales person and want to be the sales manager in in five years or maybe the VP of Sales in 5 years, what can you do now?  You can take leadership courses, read books about sales and sales management.  You could go to sales conferences and spend time with sales managers and vice presidents from various companies. Don’t wait – start creating the career you want now.
  • Ignore other people’s negative career rules.  As you begin to create the exciting career that you want in the future, well meaning but misguided friends and coworkers will often discourage you by saying something is not possible or too risky or not the way things are done.  These folks do not have the career they want because they believe the things they are sharing with you.  Ignore them and focus on taking steps towards your future career.  For example, a friend of mine was recently selected as a sales manager after less than a year in a sales role with a new company.  All of his colleagues told him him had to ‘pay his dues’ and put in 5 to 10 years to become sales manager.  He ignored their rules and went about achieving what he wanted.

A career is a long term proposition that is completely within your control.  I encourage you to do every job you have to the best of your abilities while always focusing on your longer term career goals.  Only pursue opportunities and accept roles that move you towards your career goals.

Question: What is the best career advice you have ever been given?