Work / Life Balance – A Key to Career Success

On May 25th, I was very privileged to be a panelist at LEAD – a women’s leadership group within Bank of America. The event was designed to provide insight about balancing career and family demands. The group was focused on what LEAD refers to as three pillars – professional, physical and internal.

There were so many great questions from the attendees and super pieces of advice, it’s a bit risky to say this one was the best, but I will offer my opinion on the one suggestion that – at least in my opinion – summed up the core of everything important we discussed. Laura Brueggemann, the Head of Group Fitness and Lifetime Fitness in St. Louis, MO offered a piece of advice that I think provides a great overview for the whole work-life balance puzzle many of struggle to unlock.

Laura said – “If you walk an hour a day, six days a week, it will change your life.”

Choices about our needs and values drive work-life balance

What I really love about this advice is its basic simplicity, and the fact that we can take control over our personal, professional and physical well-being with some easy to implement behaviors – like walking an hour a day. So much of the work-life balance material and writing seems so complicated and abstract. Laura got right to the core of a simple solution that all of us can implement – walk.

This got me thinking about so many other aspects of this work-life thing, and truthfully, when you cut away all of the theory and abstractions, taking control of this vitally important part of our lives and careers comes down to some equally simple, honest and straightforward solutions.

Career Management

Balancing the competing and frequently contradictory demands of work and home is one of the toughest things we face. And – in my opinion anyway – this balancing burden usually falls most unfairly on women. But – I firmly believe striking this balance is a vital and crucial part of everyone’s long-term career success. It certainly has been and remains very important to me.

Striking this balance requires the ability to understand and then articulate your needs. And by “needs” I mean those professional and personal requirements that you cannot compromise and must address to be happy, productive and successful. In my experience – mostly recent experience, by the way – I managed to understand my personal and professional needs when I substantially simplified my internal inquiries and questions to answer. So rather than worry about what my professional development needs might be, I ask myself am I happy? When I have been happiest before?

What I learned when I simplified the questions, is that the answers tend to be more linked to my core values and honest reflections of my true, basic most crucial needs. The key questions – for me anyway – turn on what does my family need from me? And what do I need from my career to meet those needs? Oddly enough, the answers look a lot like, “Walk an hour a day, six days a week, and it will change your life.”

For me, this looks like – more time at key hours of the day at home, more reliance upon web-based communications so I can maximize my time away from the office, more insistence on separating myself from work by disconnecting the PDA. Just like walking, once I got these behaviors turned into habits, the work-life balance puzzle really got less complicated.

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Innovation Requires Collaboration

Collaboration - One of the Keys to Successful Innovation

Kiplinger Personal Finance just released a list called “10 Best Cities for the Next Decade.” It is a fascinating list. In order, the editors at Kiplinger Personal Finance say these are the top 10 cities:

  1. Austin, Texas
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3.   Washington, D.C.
  4.   Boulder, Colorado
  5.   Salt Lake City, Utah
  6.   Rochester, Minnesota
  7.   Des Moines, Iowa
  8.   Burlington, Vermont
  9.   West Hartford, Connecticut
  10.   Topeka, Kansas
This list is really an interesting study on a couple levels. First, contrary to a lot of the popular mythology about the absolute need for low taxes before business can succeed, several of these cities are in “high tax/high service” states. Some of the cities are – conversely – in states with comparatively low overall tax rates. But taxes – either high or low – were not a central consideration for the rating.

The cities on the list are identified as follows – “In Kiplinger’s latest search for top cities, we focused on places that specialize in out-of-the-box thinking. “New ideas generate new businesses,” says Kevin Stolarick, our numbers guru, who this year evaluated U.S. cities for growth and growth potential. Stolarick is research director at the Martin Prosperity Institute, a think tank that studies economic prosperity. “In the places where innovation works, it really works,” he says.”

So a major driver for these interesting cities in the innovation environment that exists. And what helps turn these communities into innovation incubators has three broad elements – smart people, great ideas and a collaborative environment.

According to the editors:

[W]e’d argue that it’s the third element — collaboration — that really supercharges a city’s economic engine. When governments, universities and business communities work together, the economic vitality is impressive.

Now how’s that for a concept? Government, business communities and universities working together and in collaboration to foster local economic environments where innovation unfolds might represent a model for everyone. Further – this model ought to serve as a great lesson for organizations struggling to find success in this economic enviroment.

What drew me to the article, was the great emphasis the editors placed on the power of the collaborative relationships between and among the key players – governments, business communities and universities. On a more “granular” level, I submit that organizations who are truly innovative, likewise have a strong culture of collaboration. Innovation lives and breathes in that sort of nourishing environment. Innovation and creativity thrive when ideas are floated and exchanged freely. Organizations can stifle innovation very quickly by imposing processes and using systems that do not facilitate smooth and easy collaboration.

So – what can you do? Answer – find situations where you can collaborate with colleagues across organizational boundaries, silos and barriers. You might be surprised to find some really great ideas in places you’ve never looked before.

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Using Facebook in Your Job Search

With a reported membership of 400 million ACTIVE users, defined by Facebook asusers who returned to the site in the last 30 days,” Facebook is the undisputed king of social networking sites. But for many of my clients, Facebook remains their “social” site and Linked In is their “professional” site. While I understand this attitude, I truly believe job seekers make a mistake NOT by taking advantage of the amazing scope and reach of Facebook as a job search resource.

So – how can Facebook be used in a job search?

Let’s answer that question by starting with another question – what is the single most effective way to find a new job? The answer – networking. I’ve seen lots of numbers tossed around – 80% or 70% – and I truthfully don’t know the exact number. But it’s a lot. A lot more than answer job postings, that much is certain.

So what is the most heavily used networking site on the Internet? Answer Facebook.

From my perspective, 2 + 2 = 4. And in the context of a job search, that means if networking is the most likely path to a new job, and Facebook in the #1 social networking resource ever, Facebook should figure into my job search planning.

1. Get your Facebook account “ready for prime time.”

There are two elements to every Facebook account – what and who. What information and activity will I display on Facebook? Who will I let see the what? One objection I hear when I talk about using Facebook as a job search tool is, “I use this for my family and friends.” Another – “I don’t want people seeing all that “stuff” about me on Facebook.” Well – who do you think controls the what or the stuff that gets on Facebook? You do.

The What – content and postings.

Let me start by saying I’m not advocating that nobody should put up fun vacation pictures or family event photos on Facebook. It is SOCIAL networking, so please be social. That’s the idea, right? So, if you choose to post that nutty picture of yourself shooting tequila at a bar in Panama City with those nice Norwegian sailors – by all means post the photo. But if you choose to post that content, make sure you tighten your privacy settings so only the people you really want seeing that photo can see that photo.

For those of us in job search mode, however, I think some different thinking is usually advisable – that way you don’t have to worry as much about embarrassing or even damaging content derailing your search. In general, I recommend posting only things you are comfortable with 400 million people seeing and reading. That usually means the funny vacation pics don’t get posted for “everyone” to see.

Your profile and personal information are also potential sources for embarrassment. I am not certain letting people see your marital status or that you are interested in relationships is smart for job seekers. So – either delete that information, or make sure your privacy settings protect it. The education and work history ought to track your resume, AND I recommend using very similar language from or for your Linked In profile. You are promoting a professional brand, so use this chance at Facebook to do so.

The who – privacy settings.

Facebook has come under a lot of criticism lately for its new privacy setting controls. Facebook has a built-in bias for disclosure. That’s not good or bad, but it is very important to understand. The privacy settings are complicated. It’s possible there will be MORE changes soon – so stay tuned. That said, you need to work your way through the settings. This morning, I found a great resource to check my own settings – ReclaimPrivacy.org. It allows you to scan your Facebook privacy settings, and make changes based upon your personal preferences for privacy. I had one setting in red – VERY public – that I changed. Otherwise, I was in good shape.

2. Friends – lists.

I have a small but growing network of contacts at Facebook, and they are carefully organized into four lists – business network, social friends, HS friends and interests. You can organize your friends into as many lists as you wish, but I think it’s very important to do so. In general, I recommend two broad types of lists – a list for business contacts (and friends CAN be on more than one list), and your social network, and I even have that group organized into three groups based upon the contact and communications I want with them.

Once you’ve organized your friends, you’re ready to get going.

3. Activity – posts, updates and links.

As you post things or share links, think about WHO you want to see the information. If you find a link (maybe to this post) you think your social network might find interesting, target the post accordingly. When you type in the update box, a menu will open below the space, and you’ll see a little padlock on the right side. This is the security setting for this specific update. You can see that in the screen capture to the right.

By using this setting, you can target specific posts, updates, links or even questions to your network based upon your objective and target for the information.

4. Search and Pages.

Facebook has a very good search feature, and I use this a lot to find people – both in and out of my network – who work at target companies. You can use the advanced search to narrow your results.

When you do a search for a company, you may get a company page. This is a great thing to find. A HUGE number of companies – especially those in retail and the consume products areas, maintain fan pages at Facebook. Explore these pages! If it’s a company you are really targeting, read the “INFO,” see if there are discussions, etc. And then participate. When you DO connect with a person at the company, it’s nice to tell them something you learned about the company from Facebook.

CONCLUSION

There are 400 million active Facebook users. Do you think one or two of them might be able to help you? I do. This is NOT a comprehensive guide to using Facebook in a Job Search , but I hope it will help get you started.

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Using a WordPress Blog to Promote Your Brand

I know. You’ve already seen a gazillion blog posts and articles about branding. And there are some good resources out there about getting started with WordPress (and I WILL provide links to some of my favorites!). In my work with job seeker I see a lot of really good information that is not communicated to the market very well. For instance, if you are a marketing professional, a web developer, a graphic artist or ANY professional with visual work product you can share and promote, you really NEED a website of your own in this market. But, starting a website can cost some money – hosting fees, domain registration, design, etc. That’s where WordPress can be an excellent resource for you.

Why WordPress? For me – that’s a pretty easy answer. It’s free AND it’s reasonably easy to use. The link above will take you to a pretty easy to use comparison of various blogging tools. I am not a technical person, so I am not going to try to explain the steps of setting up your site. Other resources are better for that. My personal favorite tutorial is at www.SiteGround.com.

Here are a few things I recommend – again from a totally non-technical perspective to make a WordPress web page work for you.

1. Select a theme carefully. There are many excellent themes or templates you can use. The choices can be a little intimidating, so remember, WordPress has a wide audience, so many of the themes reflect this diversity. Select a theme that effectively promotes your brand. I chose a simple, clean, minimalist theme. It suits my efforts to market myself. I am a big fan of minimalist web design, and you might want to read a little about this theory of web page design as you get started.

2. Pages & home page. Your “home page” is the space within the blog where your “posts” or updates articles ought to appear. Pages are designed to be static and are perfect vehicles for displaying portfolios and/or examples of your work. You don’t HAVE to post articles to make use of the site, but a little activity will help push the blog forward on search results. Here are some suggested pages you can use: contact information, resume or CV, slide shows (might be good to offer a substantive title), portfolio, web sites, etc.

3. Custom URL. For a really good explanation of some simple steps to get started, I recommend Marci Reynolds’ excellent post on the subject at J2B Marketing. I will say, however, that moving a domain from GoDaddy to WordPress was not quite as easy as some might suggest. There are four things to remember:

A. Domain registration is not free, but it’s also not expensive. Follow Marci’s advice, and just get the basics and I recommend Go Daddy.
B. You must “point” your domain to the WordPress servers. It took me a while to sort this out, but here is a link to a WordPress article that helped me solve the problem. You need to enter the NAMES of the WordPress serves in the appropriate boxes at GoDaddy, and from there it’s a simple matter of follow the prompts.
C. UPGRADE your WordPress account is necessary to add your own URL, but it’s not expensive – about $10.00 a year or so.
D. You have to go to your DASHBOARD and use the link that says “Register Another Blog” to find the correct starting place. It’s NOT intuitive, but once I found the right place to start at WordPress, it was not too hard to finish.

Okay – hope fully these hints and links will get you going. The screen shots below will help you find the right places to start at your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress My DashboardMy Dashboard - Domain

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Resume and Linked In Profile Cliches – BE GONE!

STOP Using Cliches

I am a highly motivated, dynamic self-starter, results-oriented, hard-working, dedicated, team-player with excellent multi-tasking and communications skills. I have 20+ years experience in fast-paced environments.

And I never met a cliché I didn’t like.

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a profile at Linked In, Facebook or a resume. Worn-out phrases and clichés do not effectively communicate your value or your unique qualities. They do effectively prove that you are not original and cannot communicate extremely important concepts in memorable or meaningful ways.
We see two broad types of clichés. There are the worn-out phrases that are supposed to describe skills, and there are the very boring terms that express characteristics. Neither type of cliché helps promote your unique brand in the market – either job or professional. So why do we use clichés? I think they are crutches we use as substitutes for the hard thinking and difficult work involved with developing and communicating our brand.

What is easier? Saying that I have “excellent communication skills”? Or explaining exactly what that means. For instance, do my communications skills persuade? Inform? Motivate? Close deals? Educate? And if my communication skills do one or more of these important things, what type of results have I delivered?

So a more effective statement describing “excellent communication skills” might be:

I use verbal communication skills to persuade and influence colleagues and clients to take affirmative actions towards the resolution of strategic problems such as the development of marketing plans and sales team reorganizations.

This language sounds better and communicates more than, “I have excellent communication skills.”

Every cliché is some sort of shorthand. The trick to writing without relying upon clichés is to dig beyond the shorthand and identify the core of the message or concept. Then explain the core of the concept or idea in terms and language that fits you, your style and promotes your brand. The example I use for communication skills is just one possible way to effectively communicate a core concept about high-end communication skills.

So, as soon as you see yourself falling into cliché ridden writing – stop. Ask yourself, “What is at the core of this idea?” Then offer a more detailed statement around the core competency you are explaining and make sure you add a statement that helps the reader see you delivering value and results.

Here’s a quick list of some of my “favorite” clichés and a quick reference of some helpful questions to facilitate some more in-depth thinking around these “gems” of resume and profile drafting.

“Team Player”
Do you enjoy team oriented relationships?
Do you get a sense of satisfaction from sharing ideas?
Is serving in a well-defined role important to you?

“Self Starter”
Do you take initiative in ambiguous situations?
Are you willing to manage yourself?
Do you thrive in open-ended assignments with little to no direct supervision?

“Hands-On Leader”
Is this a description of your management/leadership style?
Do you lead by example?
Are you able to demonstrate and show team members or direct reports what is expected of them?

“Strategic Thinking”
Are you at your best when working on projects that require pulling together ideas and concepts from multiple sources?
Are you good at seeing and making connections between and among things that appear to others to not be related or connected?
Do enterprise-wide projects hold your interest and attention better than narrowly focused projects and assignments?

“Energetic”
Is this a description of your work style?
Are you most engaged when you have multiple projects to complete?
Do you thrive on lots of interpersonal contact and projects?

“Multi-Tasking Skills”
Do you meet deadlines?
Can you take several projects or assignments from start to completion simultaneously?
Can you lead some projects while contributing to other projects in different roles at the same time?

These are just a start. How many clichés can you add? Can you offer some advice on how to get to the core of the concept or idea contained within the cliché?

So – in closing:
I am an effective and enthusiastic writer using communication skills to drive results, in a hard-working and dependable manner. My 20+ years experience helps me multi-task so I can think out-of-the-box about being a terrific people person.

Or:
I am motivated to encourage my readers and clients to find creative and fun ways to express themselves in resume and profile writing. In general, my clients and readers discover that following some simple, but effective, tips and suggestions increases the readability and effectiveness of their resumes, and they usually see an increase in traffic across their social media profiles.

Post sponsored by, Cliché’ B-Gone! Your resume and profile development experts at BPI group.
Chris Osborn – a recovering “people person”!

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3 Tips for Writing an Effective Linked In Profile

The Future of Resumes – 3 Tips for Starting a Linked In Profile

In my last post, I proposed a new definition of the term “resume.”

Resume – a description of an individual’s career that defines that person’s personal and professional brand, qualifications, skills and accomplishments. It should be accessible on demand and in real time by an interested party, such as networking contacts, prospective employers or prospective clients.

If we accept that the current job and career management market requires a new way of thinking about how a set of qualifications are presented, it makes sense to talk about how to started with marketing qualifications in the current and emerging market. So – how do we get started with a new “resume”?
Getting started means developing a profile, and for the purposes of this conversation, I’d like to focus on developing an effective Linked In profile. According to Linked In, there are more than 55 million accounts in that social media community. So building a profile that’s visible and effective can be a very important tool, and it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for that next great career opportunity or you’re simply looking to build an effective professional network. Building a Linked In profile is – at least in my opinion – as close to a requirement for most of us as you can get in today’s marketplace of ideas and opportunities.

Here are three tips on getting an effective profile started:

1. Build your brand. What is it you are selling to the market? Visitors to your profile should not be forced to guess what you do, what you do best and what you want to do next.
2. Tell your story. Your profile should not be a simple restatement of your resume. Why bother if that’s all you’re going to do? Let visitors “see” what motivates you, what you’re passionate about, and a bit of your personality. You can do this by writing a profile that reads conversationally.
3. Focus on key words. Think carefully about what search you would enter at Linked In or Google to find yourself. What are those crucial key words that get to the very heart of who you are and what you do best? Then, build your profile around those terms. Use three or four in your headline. So instead of, “Operations Professional,” you are, “Director of Operations | Motivational Leader | Efficiency Expert.” Make your headline sing out the core key words tied to your brand.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to writing a great profile, but if you’ll try these tips, you ought to see an increase in the traffic across your own profile as more and more people find you.

Good Luck!

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The Future of Resumes

Word Cloud from text of post

Future of Resume - Word CLoud from http://www.wordle.met

The Future of Resumes

Let’s start with numbers. According to Linked In and Facebook respectively, there are 55 million & 350 million members at those two social networking sites. We are seeing more and more recruiters and hiring managers go to social media sites to view profiles before even ASKING for a “resume.” In this new job market reality, maybe it’s time for us to rethink how we define the term “resume.”

Resume is traditionally and widely defined as a “written document” that serves as a “brief account” including “career qualifications” usually transmitted as part of a job application. This definition is clearly rooted in a view of the business world that might not be as accurate today as it was even a few short years ago. Traditional resumes are – indeed – written documents we’ve handed out to people either in face-to-face meetings or by e-mail. Just a few years ago, job boards, like Monster and Career Builder permitted us to post a resume for prospective employers to find and download. That move to on-line accessibility represented a huge step away from paper only resumes. But we haven’t moved our definition of resume much beyond a definition bound by the limitations of distributing one resume at a time to one person at a time.

Social media changes everything. Really – everything in the current job search world. So – let’s try this as a definition of a resume for 2010:

Resume – a description of an individual’s career that defines that person’s personal and professional brand, qualifications, skills and accomplishments. It should be accessible on demand and in real time by an interested party, such as networking contacts, prospective employers or prospective clients.

What we need to do is recognize an important marketing principle related to career transition. It’s about going where your target audience is. The key audience for job seekers is on-line at places like Linked In and Facebook. Remember those numbers – 55 million (Linked In) and 350 million (Facebook)? Not every one of those people will be helpful recruiters, hiring managers or contacts at targeted organizations. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that more helpful recruiters, potential employers and great networking leads are there and reachable than you can reach with a traditional, one-at-a-time approach to resume circulation.

Are resumes – the traditional ones – dead? No. We will need to develop and maintain a well-written old-fashioned resume for the foreseeable future. But you also need a well-written new version of resumes – social media profiles – in the emerging and future market place. I am not advocating a technology is the only answer approach here. What I’m saying is that it’s critical to recognize that successful searches today require an effective, well-written, web-based presence. For some of us, that might mean our own web-pages, a blog and multiple social media profiles such as Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. For others, Linked In alone might be effective.

But none of us can afford to be absent from social media any longer.

Chris Osborn, BPI group

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