Stay enthusiastic on repetitive and boring work

Pull a lever, check for quality, repeat

I couldn’t force myself to do this job. You do the same thing for hours on end, sitting on a bar stool or standing. You insert a small disk, pull a lever, and then do a quality check. It sounds horrible to me.

How do they get people to do it?

The way they get people to do it is by paying them over short intervals. They give them free drinks, breaks, flashing lights, and short term rewards.  As a matter of fact, people pay to do the job. It is more commonly known as playing the slot machines at a casino.

How does this apply to my job search? My life?

No one would play a slot machine if they were paid nothing and got negative feedback and only frustration all day.  Your job search wears you down if you only give yourself negative feedback all day.

In your job search, figure out how to reward yourself for a job well done.  A job well done can be calling 5 businesses, sending out 7 resumes, going on one interview or having lunch with someone. Don’t wait until you get a job to celebrate. Reward yourself for small victories.

I am a professional job hunter. For the last several years, when I make a call to a brand new person, I get to toss a dollar coin into a cup and hear the ring of the coin. I really do. I get to go for a walk when I hit 20 coins.  When I get to 30 coins, I have hit my goal for the day.

I celebrate. Every day.

Pick the hardest part of job searching. Reward yourself for doing something essential that you would rather avoid. You may not be able to make it fun and exciting, but I bet you can at least make it tolerable. Short term rewards can help you break through walls of resistance in your job search.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal make a list of things you need to do, but sometimes avoid.

Now make a list of rewards to make those activities more palatable.

How to Job Hunt Efficiently

This is an addendum specifically for job hunters to the previous post. I thought of some more information I wanted to share.

A huge mistake I see is people using exclusively one resource to get a job. There are a lot of good options to use to go job hunting nowadays. Monster, CareerBuilder, and Indeed have all been huge at some point. In the ancient past of the dinosaurs, job ads were big in newspapers. There are even recruiters and staffing companies like myself.

Use your time efficiently and you can get twice as much done in half the time (and I’m serious).

Some research says only about 25% of job board ads are filled.  Spending 25% of your time on those methods makes sense.  The rest of the jobs are filled before they are advertised. So if you want to get a really great job you have to look where most of the really great jobs are filled.

Most sweet jobs are filled by networking, calls to managers at companies that aren’t advertising, recruiters, and getting famous.  I’ll be talking about these methods in a few days.

People tend to use a resource until they can’t squeeze anything more out of it. If you have access to more resources, use all of them at once. The more you use a resource like Indeed, the less useful it becomes because you’re looking at all the same jobs that were on there before.

Split up your time between your resources. It lets you get the best of each.

In the same vein, split time between days/weeks. It gets you the top each time. This is particularly useful with online job boards.

 

Something To Do Today

Try something new to look for a job. Use new job boards (easy), or start calling up businesses that you’re interested in working at. Don’t bother with whether or not they say online that they’re hiring. Most jobs aren’t being advertised online.

I don’t have enough time!

The average person requires 8 hours of sleep. That same person (probably) works 8 hours per day. The last 8 hours of their day are filled with Facebook intermixed with eating.

Time is your scarcest resource. Every minute you use or waste is gone. You can’t save time and use it later. The next hour is gone in 60 minutes, regardless of what you do.

There’s very little time, so use it the best you can. Six hours of sleep severely hurts productivity in the rest of the day. Get your 8 hours. Some people need more. Less than 1 of out 100 can manage on less than 8.

“How did she get so much done??”

She didn’t waste time. I’ll admit I spend time browsing the interwebs while at work.  Not a great use of my time. There are also “productive” time wasters that I tend to get stuck on. I’ll list a few of them here.

  1. Email

I love checking and cleaning out my email. It’s a huge waste of time to keep doing it. A good practice is to check your email at SPECIFIC times each day.

  1. Checking statistics or metrics

I like checking the response and open rates on emails I send WAY too much. I can stare at them for 15 minutes easy without learning anything new or useful. Don’t check unless you’re going to do something with the information.

  1. Waiting for responses

“I’m waiting to hear back from my boss” so you should do something else that’s productive in the meantime.

There are a lot more time wasters disguised as useful because they’re work related. Think for a second: is what you’re doing really that important and useful? People who get important things done get raises.

Something To Do Today

Write down everything you need to do. Not necessarily needs done today, but if you’ve put it off, needs done this week, or more. Break down any larger projects into multiple items that can be done in less than a day. This is everything you could do during work today.

Write five things from that list that need done down on a separate, full size sheet of paper, in order that they need done the most. Stick that paper in the middle of your desk. Bonus points if you tape it in place.

This isn’t just a To Do list. Don’t work on that list out of order. Start with the first item, and don’t work on anything else until you finish. You’re only allowed to work in order.

Office Politics and Networking

Cat fights are petty and mean. Stay in the game, and build a network instead

Office drama: it’s like high school, but with smarter people and thousands of dollars on the line.

There’s someone in the office (say, Joe) that you need to stay on his good side if you want your projects to go through. Joe has connections beyond what you have, and that enables him to do a lot.

Important people have lots of connections

Joe can be frustrating, especially if he doesn’t like you. His boss gave him the power to make these decisions. The CEO of a company can’t make every decision, so he finds good people to make decisions. When they get overwhelmed, they get someone they trust to make some decisions for them. Each layer must trust the lower layer to make good choices.

Joe knows enough people to delay the project. He either directly controls the project or has the influence to get it delayed, or to push certain projects through.  People like him know the most people, the most projects and information, and the priorities of the higher-ups. That’s how they got into that position.

Their boss believes they will try and do what’s best for the company

Doesn’t always work out like that. Other times, either decision is equally good, so the deal breaker is whether they like you.

Anyone in a position like Joe is has a powerful network. They know the right people in the company, and those people like him well enough. Generally, they also control a limited resource. There isn’t enough of something, so they have to make decisions on what does or doesn’t make the cut.

Not enough sales space? Not enough programmers? Money? Lack creates critical people because they have control over something essential and have to make decisions on what gets cut.

Important people control limited resources like money or workers

Everyone in the business needs what Joe has because there isn’t enough to go around. Joe ends up as the center of the network.

There are several things to learn from these people.

  1. Controlling scarce resources gives you power
  2. Dealing with that power can get you entrenched, promoted or fired
  3. You always control one scarce resource, your time

Your time might be the scarce resource. If it is, use it wisely. The system changes wherever you work, what department you work in, and more. Create a network and it can enable you to get your projects done better and faster.

As you learn the politics, it you can learn who you need to worry about and avoid. Networks and politics are nearly the same, but politics is where personal grudges get involved. Stay out of the mess and build a network. Get to know the important people. Ask what you can do for them, so they will trust you.

Something To Do Today

If you dare, ask around about politics in your current job. Who runs the show? Who’s really in charge, even if they don’t have a title to show? Ask if you can speak to them over lunch and how they got where they are.

There’s a lot you can learn, and it can take you on your next step to a promotion.
___________________

Sorry for the late post! Got busy rebuilding the PC. I’ll be posting again tomorrow, back on schedule.

Reading for –dummies– people with too little time

My tagline is “the more I work on me, the better my life gets” and the best way to work on yourself is reading books.

In school, I’d always feel guilty if I skipped part of the reading. Summaries are all online nowadays to make things worse. Teachers always tell you to read the whole book. Often, they’re wrong.

In a college class I only needed to get two answers right on an extra credit test about a book to convert my grade to a solid “A”. There were 10 questions.

I picked up the book and looked at the cover.
That was everything I needed to read.

I realized I had heard a review of the book and its contrarian theme the week before. I decided to take the test without ever opening the book. I got 6 questions right. It was an easy “A”.

Did I cheat? No! I knew the important part: the author’s bias. I knew his opinion in advance of reading anything. There wasn’t much I needed to know from the book. Only two questions and I got what I wanted. I didn’t even need the “Cliff Notes” version.

You’re out of school. You don’t need to get a perfect score on every test. I’ve heard that you only use 10% of what you learn in college, but you don’t know what that 10% is going to be. That’s why you read the whole book in college.

In the real world, read that 10% (maybe 15% if you want to make sure) and barely skim the rest so you can find it in the future if needed.

Easy 1-2-3-4 to read as much of a book as you actually need

  1. Start with the front and back cover. Is this in an area you really need to learn more about? Read the intro if the book has one. It’ll give you a better idea of what you’d be diving into.
  2. Onto the table of contents. What chapters are useful, especially for the current situation?
  3. Try reading the first and last page (or even paragraph) of every chapter that you’re unsure is useful. Look at any charts, graphs, or other images.
  4. Only read the short list of chapters that you’ll learn the most from. Cutting out half a book is common, especially if you’re well versed in the larger subject area.

“But Bryan, I just don’t have time! Even for that!”

 Me either. So, buy audiobook versions of your books. Then listen to them in the car while you drive. You can’t trim out as much but hearing it in passing isn’t going to hurt if you weren’t using that time already. There is so much time available! Get reading in while you’re driving.

Train yourself. Over the decades, I’ve spent well over $15,000 on training books and videos. That’s before the at least $50,000 I’ve spent on live training. I have no doubt they’re the only reason I’m still in business as a recruiter.

You don’t need a lot from a book. One page, one line. One little idea is all it takes for you to learn enough for a raise or a new job. If you run your own business, one idea can make you millions. You only need to find that one idea.

Admittedly, sometimes that idea is to read the whole book! And maybe several more. It can take a lot to learn a new skill, but it can make you a lot of money in return.

Something To Do Today

 Go find a book related to something you’ve wanted to learn more about. Scan through it like I said. If it’s the one you want, get it as an audiobook and listen to it every day as you travel to and from work.

Working doesn’t make you successful. Working on yourself makes you successful.

Quit or be fired?

“You can’t fire me, I quit!” Why yes, you did just quit. You also just quit your chances at unemployment checks while searching for a job.

Get fired with enthusiasm instead.

People have this idea in their head that by quitting, it will look better for potential future employers. They will still call up your old company and hear about why you got fired (or rather, were going to get fired). No one’s going to say “He resigned right before we fired him” and it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

 NO ONE cares if you quit instead of getting fired.

Between jobs, most people end up strapped for cash. It ends up pushing them to accept a worse job than they want. Quitting removes their chance at getting an unemployment check without going to a hearing to explain why they deserve them. A little extra cash can go a long way. No one cares if you quit. It only keeps you from getting unemployment.

Get fired with enthusiasm. It pays better than quitting with enthusiasm.
There is no real benefit to quitting. None!

 Quick exception: if you can get a sweet severance package, do it. Try to get in writing that you’ll receive a big fat wad of cash with benefits. In this case, get a lawyer. A few hundred dollars will go a long way to make sure you’re getting what you’re promised. It will be money well spent.

Get fired with enthusiasm. Please.

To get past all of this, get a job lined up before quitting. “I’m good enough, I’ll find a job right away” said everyone who quit. And 6 months later, they’re hired by the local McDonald’s. Check out your non-compete if you have one, first (hint: avoid one at your next job!). Try contacting people you know who could help you find an opening. Get your resume out there, and contact a recruiter.

Something To Do Today

Do you expect to be fired or laid off?  Start searching for a job now.
__________________

Short one today, hope you have a great weekend!

How to get stuck at your AWFUL job

Ball And Chain, Restrain, Heavy, Icon, Symbol, Prisoner

Counteroffer! You quit your awful job, but your old boss suddenly tells you about plans for future promotions, glory, and fame! The actual President (not of the 

United States, but close enough) came to ask you to stay. It makes so much sense to stay, right?

In the words of the world-famous Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”

90% of people who take a counteroffer are
looking for a new job in 6 months.

The rate approaches 100% after a year. Counteroffers are forced. They desperately need someone in your position.

You quitting is a “Fear Factor” moment for your old boss. They are scared and desperate. For the next three months, you have an excellent job! Then they ignore their promises. Even worse, you get canned. They were using the time to find a replacement for you.

You’ve been eating cockroach puree for years at that job. Their compensation to get you to stay is a 20% raise and an office. Will that make the cockroach puree taste better? Nope. There is a point where money can’t pay you to keep your job.

A few weeks ago, I had someone working in a large city say they were making well over 500k per year. They also said they’d accept a job offer as low as 120k. This guy had been eating cockroaches for so long that he was willing to cut his pay to a fifth of what he was earning before.

Recognize your limit. Money doesn’t make you happy,
but your job can make you miserable.

He probably wouldn’t accept any counteroffer from that company because it’s just not worth it, and he recognized that. On the other hand, I’ve had many, many people stay because of fabulous counteroffers when they were just about to leave. Absolutely amazing, just like I said before: promotions, fame, glory! Not to mention a hefty raise.

And… they quit. Again. At the new job, the pay was lower, less vacation, all with more boring responsibilities. The real issue was the company. The company didn’t change. Opportunities stayed the same.

They were only treated well when they were
(accidentally) blackmailing their boss.

As you read a few posts back, you don’t want to work at a place where you must threaten your boss to get what you deserve. Don’t take a counteroffer if you’re seriously underpaid or underappreciated. They won’t change. If you go back to them, they’ll treat you as poorly as before, assuming they even give you what they promised.

I must admit, I see some counteroffers and say, “How can they refuse to stay?” Inevitably that person is soon gone. Why? Their job was so bad that it took a huge bribe to get them to stay. The size of the bribe indicates the true foulness of the position.

Think about it. If you are offered a huge reward to stay, you were robbed for the previous year. Will they also offer a year’s back pay as an immediate bonus? If they do, how about for the year before that? How guilty is their conscience?

Don’t accept a counteroffer. The chances are less than 1 in 30 that it will work out. No matter how much they pay you, a cockroach milkshake is still a cockroach milkshake. Whipped cream with a cherry on top doesn’t fix the problem.

Something To Do Today

Put together a portfolio and ask your boss for a raise or promotion if that’s what would keep you there. If they won’t give it to you freely, don’t accept it as the fruits of a counteroffer.

Beat Resume Scanners

Computers reject 2,000,000 resumes in less than a second.

Make sure your resume is not rejected

How to get your resume seen online could be a book.  That book hasn’t changed in the last 5 years.  Here are the basics:

  1. Include every keyword that is in the job listing
  2. Figure out a way to repeat the most important keywords
  3. Resubmit your changed resume occasionally

 Keywords are critical

Computerized filters are being used more often as they improve.  Every platform has them available for all employers.  If your resume does not have every important keyword or acronym, the computer eats it and spits out a form letter saying, “Thank you for your time”. No human sees your resume.

Put a list of certifications, education, software used, tools mastered, and techniques employed at the end of the resume.  Include every abbreviation or keyword in the ad.  If you are missing a minor keyword, consider saying at the end of your resume, “I understand CDF and JCL but have never used them.”  It may get you past the computer filter.  If you are submitting your resume directly to the hiring manager, you might take the list off.

 Repeat important keywords

Your resume will be ranked by keyword usage.  When my query brings back 300 hits, I want to see the most likely resumes first.  I sort on “relevance” and cherry pick the top resumes.  The best way to be ranked highly is to intelligently use the keywords multiple times.

 Resubmit your resume

Job boards usually show the most recently submitted resumes first.  If your resume has not been submitted for 3 months, it is at the bottom.  Worse, recruiters may assume you have a job if your resume is that old.  They won’t call you.

Just these three changes may change your invisible resume to a real interview magnet.

Did you make it this far? If so, re-read this article and only look
at the bold words. This is what your resume looks like to a computer.
To a computer, you want the most keywords.

 That’s a lot of keywords!  As I mentioned above, use lists. Lists and summaries are the easiest way to reuse keywords without looking repetitive to a real person once it makes it past the computer.

On a job description, keywords may be listed as skills, proficiencies, aptitudes, or something else.  Periodically, you’ll see an awful job description that’s exclusively in brick sized paragraphs. Try and pick out the most important words. What skills, abilities, and personality features are they looking for?

Then rewrite your resume for each job you REALLY want!

Write each keyword down before writing your resume. Your resume should be personalized for the job you’re applying to.

Something To Do Today

Go read the job description of the last job you submitted your resume for.  Did your resume have all the keywords?  Did it repeat the most important keywords?

Get the raise you deserve

Blackmail your boss?

While I worked at EDS, a man quit three different times. He entirely left the building and briefly worked for another company for a few weeks. He’d walk out with a clear message to his (previous) manager that he didn’t want to leave the job and could be enticed to stay or return. Each time, that man got the raise and promotion.

Blackmail? I think so! And, it worked! It didn’t backfire… at least not directly.

Morale in the company tanked. Every worker realized “If I want to get that raise, I have to quit”. That’s not the sort of place that most people want to work at. People did leave, and for many of them, permanently.

Blackmail DOES work! That is, if you want to work for a company where you have to threaten your boss.

Don’t ask for a raise. PROVE you deserve one!

You shouldn’t need to threaten to leave to get a raise. Put together your resume like you were looking for a job. Collect your accomplishments in a portfolio. Get recommendations from friends and coworkers. Show them to your boss.

 When you can prove you deserve a raise, go get one. Talk to your boss. Show them that they would have to pay more to hire an equal level replacement, so they should be paying you more. Right now. Don’t threaten to quit. Give them your portfolio and the time to make the right decision.

^^There’s nothing more convincing than simple proof^^

At least one month down the road, ask them what they’re planning on doing (if you haven’t gotten the raise, of course!). Just ask. Don’t threaten, don’t demand, don’t beg like a dog. Ask.

Your boss might not give it to you. Maybe they can’t. Perchance they think you don’t deserve it. Don’t blackmail your boss. Let them have the opportunity to make the right choice and be heroes. If you don’t get what you deserve, go look for a new job and don’t look back.

Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

Something To Do Today

Upgrade your resume. Look for new accomplishments and skills to add.

Show me the gold – your portfolio

As a recruiter, I had recommended Ben for a job as a programmer. He’d been programming constantly for 6 years. He could prove his skills with C++. He had produced a video game that was more complex than many in the stores at the time.

I was enthusiastic and said he was a junior, which is perfect for a simple 3 month programming job. The hiring manager agreed to interview him. I forgot (seriously just forgot) to mention that he was a high school junior, not a junior in college. Out of courtesy, the manager let the interview go on anyways.

Ben’s portfolio (the game), enthusiasm, and knowledge
were so great that the 16 year old kid got hired.

Let’s not forget he was cheap, too.

How can a high school junior get a job meant for a college junior? An enthusiastic mistake and a portfolio. You create your own enthusiasm. Don’t try to make mistakes, but do capitalize on them. The portfolio is not as easy as it looks.

Your portfolio is separate from your resume. Your resume is a list of accomplishments. It says what happened while you were at a job, a list of improvements.

A portfolio is proof. Graphic artists will take a folder (nowadays, probably electronic) full of the best examples of their work. Programmers can share websites they’ve built, or other programs that actually run, like Ben’s game. A portfolio is demonstratable. Use your portfolio to prove that you have amazing abilities.

Collect your best examples and put them together on a thumb drive, a folder, online, or somewhere else. Show people your portfolio! When I talked previously about building enthusiasm so people recommend you, this is how to do it! Talk about how awesome and fun building your favorite project was!

Take your favorite thing you’ve ever worked on, what brings
a smile on your face just to think about, and share it.

Employers have interviews to make sure that you can do the job. If you lack the qualifications that they “require” they won’t hire you. You don’t fit the job description. But here’s a secret:

If you can prove to them you can do that job,
they WILL hire you anyway.

 Years later, Ben ended up using his portfolio to get a previous high-level Google executive to co-found a business with him. His portfolio this time wasn’t a game. It was LucidChart. How good was his portfolio? Take a look here.

Ben had a college level programming job in high school.
Then he had a man from Google asking to start a business with him.

 This all happened before he graduated from college. There is an amazing amount that can be done with a portfolio that can’t be done with a resume.

Something To Do Today

 Ask your boss what you could put in your portfolio that absolutely proves you deserve a raise. Put together that portfolio and see if he gives you that raise. If he doesn’t, show that portfolio to other employers. Maybe they will give you the raise (or rather, a job) when your boss wouldn’t.

Prove you deserve it and they will give it to you.