Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This 20-Minute Assessment Can Improve Business Success

In career makeover workshops, I talk with many people who are laid off and looking for their next opportunity. Although the economy is bad, I am always impressed with the number of people who want to start a business. Many think it is a good time to capitalize on deals for exisiting businesses for sale, suppliers willing to give good discounts, lower rents and scooping up good employees at negotiable rates.

The fundamentals of starting a business like finding professional services such Accounting, Legal and Marketing can be found on every quick-start business checklist out there on the internet. However, too many people seem unaware of or uncomfortable discussing the necessary personal traits and success behaviors. By no means does it guarantee success, but it does help people think positively about traits they need.

This quick assessment, I developed a few years ago, albeit non-scientific, is one way to take inventory of personal and professional abilities necessary for business success. It is based on the well accepted principle used successfully in job interviews - Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

Create a spreadsheet with five columns and label them as follows:

Column #1. Must-Have Traits.
List the following 20 traits in the column. Feel free to add others you think are important.
-Self discipline
-Good judgment
-Hard Worker
-Multitask effectively
-Networking ability
-Openness to new ideas
-Political Savvy
-Interpersonal skills
-Risk tolerance

Column #2. Rating:
On a scale of 1-10, rate yourself on each of these traits - with "1" meaning you have concerns about your strengths and "10" meaning you have confidence your skills are strong in this area.

Column #3. Example:
Identify the best example in your past that demonstrates your strength with regard to this trait or skill.

Column #4. Strategy
Define a plan of action to address your shortcomings in any trait where your self score is less than a 6 - especially if you consider it important to your business.

Column #5. Sensitivity
To help focus and prioritize efforts, rank the skills and traits based on their relative significance to your potential business.

Column 3 is quite possibly the most important. It forces entrepreneurs to not just say how good we are, but to actually identify specific examples to demonstrate how we have acted in the past. If we score ourselve with a high rating (6 or higher) BUT cannot identify great examples in your past to support that ranking - rethink your self ratings.

Once you have completed the exercise yourself, ask someone whose opinion you value or potential business partners to complete a similar chart with their observations about you and each other. Compare the results should give you a good idea of skills you have mastered and those which are potential weak areas you might need to address to improve you or your team's chance of success.

Brainstorm potential solutions and be open to the fact that it might come in many forms. One entrepreneur might choose to join business clusters to share ideas, while another could decide to create a board of advisors. If on a team, you might choose to defer someone's strength in one area while they defer to yours in another. No one path will fit everyone or every start-up business model.

Facing our fears head on will significantly improve our chances of success as entrepreneurs. The last thing we want as our businesses begin to grow is to find out that doing this personal inventory is long overdue and our skills bank is close to running on empty. Begin taking stock today!

Monday, June 29, 2009

12 Job Search Tips from Cris Janzen

Cris Janzen crafted this list of 12 Job Search Tips that I thought would be valuable for regular readers of the BullsEyeCareer blog.

If you click on the title of this post you can visit her blog and get more of her job search wisdom.

1. ABN - Always be networking.

2. Define your passions, not just your capabilities.

3. See your job search as a process with logical steps in sequence, rather than as a problem to be solved.

4. Decide how much time is realistic to spend on your job search, given your other commitments.

5. Set daily and weekly goals, and monitor your progress toward them.

6. Set boundaries and honor the commitments you make to yourself to meet your goals.

7. Front-load your week with activities. (You'll thank me later for this one!)

8. Work daily to stay positive.

9. Remember it is a numbers game. When in doubt, mail it out. (Don't filter too much! You could be wrong.)

10. Create a place where you can work in your home, or find a place where you can. (a library or coffee shop, etc.)

11. Establish your "work hours," and go to work. (The transition is important, because there is always laundry to do!)

12. Take the bad (interviews) with the good - there is no such thing as a wasted interview, as one of your goals should be learning and improving for the next one.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Forget to Impress the Boss's Assistant on Interview Day

A recent survey by OfficeTeam confirmed what we in the career business have known for a very long time - Diss the Assistant and you may not get the offer.

Job seekers should know that in addition to impressing hiring managers and other key decision makers they meet during the job interview, they should make a strong impression on administrative assistants who are the major gate keepers into organizations.

According to the survey, more than 60 % of executives said they consider their assistant’s opinion important when evaluating potential new hires. Why wouldn't they? Execs rely on their Assistants for other things, so why not this?

I go a step further and tell job seekers to not only be nice to the Assistant as office etiquette demands, but be courteous also to parking attendants, security staff or facilities crew. You never know who is in these roles.

I met a business owner at a conference once who shared with me that he and his father ran a small auto supply company. They were interviewing for a new sales rep. Before an interview, his father was in the lobby of their company wiping up a coffee spill. One job seeker literally stepped over his father's hand to get to the receptionist's desk. When the receptionist said, "You almost stepped on him." The job seeker said, "Why don't you guys do cleaning at night anyway?" He didn't get hired.

I always share that story with candidates since you never know who you are dismissing or who has influence.

Executives were asked in the OfficeTeam survey, “How important is your assistant’s opinion about the job candidates you interview for positions at all levels?” Their responses were:

-Very important—21 percent
-Somewhat important—40 percent
-Somewhat unimportant—18 percent
-Very unimportant—16 percent
-Don’t have an assistant—4 percent
-Don’t know—1 percent

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Soft Skills That Could Land You the Job

Do you think "soft skills" don't matter? It's just about how you can do the job, right? Wrong. Here are just six of the other things employers might be looking at as they interview you.

-Leadership/Team Building. These are not just for supervisors but for candidates who want to demonstrate an interest in that career direction.
-Team Player. This just seems so overstated but it is true. Team players make offices work and move forward. Silos can kill a positive workplace culture.
-Goal-Oriented Self-Starter. The article states, "while employers don't necessarily want loose canons or mavericks, they do appreciate people who don't need to be told what to do and can set their own tasks and follow through."
-Excellent Communicator. This one is a no brainer. Or should be. No matter what the task. Communication skills - verbal, written and non-verbal are important. Read - How Body Language can Bury You in the Interview. The article states, "the ability to write a coherent memo or email, give clear verbal instructions, and help meetings run smoothly -- or, at least, not sabotage meetings -- will probably be needed." Excellent communication skills go along with understanding of office etiquette.
-Flexibility/Multi-Tasking Ability. Think about being able to "walk and chew gum" at the same time," as the saying goes. Especially in tight economic times, candidates must come with the ability to bring value beyond their specific job description.
-Sense of Humor. This just makes the day go faster. Author of 'Career Wisdom", John McKee says, "unless you're applying to Comedy Central, you don't have to make them double up laughing." Getting folks to crack a smile ever so often, can keep you sane.

Keep soft skills in mind in the job interview.  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

NBA Finals Inspired Some Motivational Quotes

The NBA finals are in full swing between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic. The game tonight reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Michael Jordan that I share with college students all the time.

It seemed appropriate to compile an inspirational list of quotes from some of our favorite Basketball players and coaches. Aside from Michael Jordan's quote, I added other favorites including one from C. Vivian Stinger, who was a 2009 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
1. "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

2. "Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates." Magic Johnson

3. "A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals." - Larry Bird

4. "I live my life trying to never appear to be a small man." - Julius (Dr. J) Irving

5. "I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot." - Kobe Bryant

6. "Once you've done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line. That means not only being brave, but being compassionate towards yourself, your teammates and your opponents." - Coach Phil Jackson.

7. “What I kept pressing upon them is one of the greatest gems there is — a diamond. A diamond, whether it's man-made or comes from coal, is a result of pressure. I wanted them to understand the more pressure is put on you, the more of a diamond you can become.” - Coach John Chaney

8. "Kids don't play every second like it's their life. Those kinds of people are probably the ones who think that in the last seconds we're going to come back, or wait until we do this or do that, but they don't understand how quickly it escapes.” - Coach C. Vivian Stringer