Archive for the ‘Proactive Steps’ Category

  • What Is One of Your Most Powerful Assets?


    Positive Thinking! Yes, it may sound a bit hackneyed but if cultivated and nurtured it truly can change your life, your work and your well-being.

    The trick is not just to “think” in a vacuum but rather to mobilize positive thoughts so they become habit forming.

    Leo Barbuta, author of the Zen Habits blog offers a valuable condensed guide to help develop your positive thinking habit:

    • Realize it’s possible, instead of telling yourself why you can’t.
    • Become aware of your self-talk.
    • Squash negative thoughts like a bug.
    • Replace them with positive thoughts.
    • Love what you have already.
    • Be grateful for your life, your gifts, and other people. Every day.
    • Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
    • Don’t compare yourself to others. But be inspired by them.
    • Accept criticism with grace.
    • See failure as a stepping stone to success.
    • Surround yourself by those who are positive.
    • Complain less, smile more.
    • Imagine that you’re already positive.
    • Then become that person in your next act.

    Once this becomes second nature to you, you will realize that it is your nature and every next step you take will be much easier.

  • Good Leadership and Moral Clarity in the Clear Light of Spring


    Spring has sprung in Maine - at last!

    Yesterday, a reader emailed to comment on my post, Dancing to the Music of Leadership. I called the video brilliant and offered kudos to its creator Derek Sivers.

    My reader said, “Not sure this works for me —put a funny-looking mustache on the guy, have him wear a brown shirt, and you get another kind of crowd-pleasing ‘leadership’…  Crowds are not always right.”

    I responded: “You are so right. Your comment gives me goosebumps. But, moral clarity aside, I do love the simplicity in Derek’s commentary regarding how a movement is formed.”

    While I am delighted my reader pointed out something I should have grasped and addressed in my comments on this video, I also stand by my kudos for Derek’s ability to communicate in plain simple English just how a “crowd” or movement happens to follow a charismatic, entrepreneurial leader. It is, as many have said, easier to deal with the devil you know…

    The more we understand the underlying dynamics of a movement, the more opportunity we have to nip the malevolent ones in the bud. One the other hand, if we don’t have a clue, we might find ourselves swept away with the brown shirts or today’s tea cups before our moral clarity genes kick in. Once you’re in a “movement,” it can be cumbersome to extricate yourself. Here in the midst of New England’s mighty maples, we’d say you’ve been caught in the sap’s downward flow when you should have waited for the sugar to rise.

  • Diamond Dewdrops and Dragonflies: Would You Fare as Well under the Scrutiny of a Macro Lens?


    Copyright: Miroslaw Swietek

    Glistening in the early morning, dragonflies, flies and beetles take on an unearthly quality as the dew gathers on their sleeping bodies. Captured in extreme close-up, one moth appears to be totally encrusted in diamonds as it rests on a twig. These remarkable photographs, published in the UK’s Daily Mail online were taken by physiotherapist Miroslaw Swietek, an amateur photographer, at around 3am in the forest next to his home.

    Writers espouse that “God is in the details,” but the same is true for job seekers. Appearances do matter, and it’s not just the obvious details such the shine on your shoes, the length of your skirt or when your trousers last saw a decent crease. You must also consider the less obvious and what they reveal.

    If, for example, you are anxious about your age, did you ever think that the employer may be more worried about your obsessing over it: that, if you are overly concerned about what others think of your age, you could become distracted from the job at hand? This scenario (pointed out to me by “Ask the Hunter” guru, Nick Corcodilos) is a lot different than the employer’s seeing your age as a serious drawback. Yes, age bias does exist but you need to stop obsessing, take control and get ahead of the story.

    Try to reframe the years. Repurpose that chronological statistic in age-positive words such as experience and wisdom. Even more important don’t hide your passion. Show that you care, you have a tremendous amount of energy and you are highly motivated to lead a purposeful life.

    Provide specific examples of ways you have applied your experience to business or community challenges. Your research should have uncovered problems the future employer needs resolved. Build your insights into a mini solution-based plan.  Keep it mini; don’t try to blow their socks off with a full-fledged strategic plan. Remember you are trying to engage not overpower, and often the best solutions are organic and collaborative so leave plenty of room for teamwork. Enthusiasm is contagious. Before you know it, your age and experience will be perceived as assets – like the dewdrop diamonds on the wing of Swietek’s dragonfly.

  • Seniors Who Rest on Their Laurels Don’t Stand a Chance in Today’s Job Market


    Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resume, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past accomplishments into present-day assets.

    Maybe you were a brilliant analyst, but do you know that Google Analytics is not about the company’s earning ratio?

    Perhaps you were a direct marketing mogul. That’s wonderful but do you know how to optimize social media marketing today?

    If you are serious about working in your 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, we know you’re interesting, courageous, eager to continue learning and contributing to the world around you. The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you bring your skills up-to-speed so you can find a good home for that passion.

    Check out adult education or community college programs.

    Here in Maine, the MCED (Maine Center for Enterprise Development) is an entrepreneur-centric resource for simplifying the process of launching a successful start-up. Other states have similar programs.

    The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are another great resource. Use this map to find an OLLI in your state.

    Your passion – your desire to find meaningful work – is only as good as your plan. And that plan requires a tremendous amount of due diligence.  That research begins long before the interview. It involves finding out as much as you can about the company where you think you’d like to work.

    What are their goals? Are they in line with yours? Check out their marketing materials. Then, find customer feedback.  Is the company accomplishing what it says it will do? Are its customers happy, apathetic, dissatisfied or extremely dissastisfied?

    What is the company culture and work environment? It’s easy for the company to project whatever image it wants in a marketing campaign; you need to find out what people are saying about the company, its management team and its employees. This is where your networking pays off. Talk to someone or someone who knows someone who can give you the inside scoop.

    Once you’re satisfied that this could be a good place to work, you need to learn who are the company’s biggest competitors? What challenges is the company facing in the next 6 months, next year and next two years. This information is key so you can tailor your working resume to meet those needs.

    First, make sure your resume prominently conveys that you have the skills (which you’ve so diligently brought up-to-speed) to do the job. You must write with the reader in mind. If the reader/hiring manager isn’t interested, your resume will hit the reject pile in seconds.

    Also – and this is critical – you must make a compelling case that your skills, background and experience make you the best candidate to do the job profitably for the company.  Provide meaningful data to document your assertions.

    All of this is necessary to actually get the interview. Once you are in the interview, you can make a much better case by asking the hiring manager what he or she sees as the biggest challenge facing the company. Then present a mini-plan (informed by your earlier research) describing how you would address the challenge if you were in the job.  This is where all your due diligence pays off. Your plan contains specifics garnered from your research which demonstrate your knowledge of the company and also your genuine interest in working there to help them solve the problems they face.  Your plan is not a generic blueprint that you could apply to any scenario.

    Yes, this is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to do it perhaps you really do not want that job as much as you thought you did.

  • Singing: The Poetry of Speech


    That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
    The poetry of speech.
    ~Lord Byron

    The National Center for Creative Aging pointed me to a fascinating article about “Singing Seniors Finding Their Voices,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson for the Boston Globe.

    In normal aging our voices can change. Joseph Stemple, professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, said, “aging muscles weaken and vocal cords no longer close completely – creating an airiness or breathiness in speech. Each syllable takes a greater portion of breath.”

    Ironically, the pops and squeaks and lack of control seem to mirror the opposite end of life when a boy’s voice changes as he enters manhood. The results can be excruciatingly embarrassing. This is not a great problem when seniors are with family and friends but can be a daunting one when interviewing for the job of your dreams. The unpredictability can make a serious dent in your confidence.

    The good news is that,  just as you can build up your biceps, you can strengthen your vocal chords. Elizabeth Anker teaches singing to seniors in a class in Boston. The program is a collaboration between Longy School of Music and the United South End Settlements.  Anker’s class focuses on ensemble singing and harmony, but also on techniques that can strengthen voices that are naturally changing with age. The class is free, supported by a grant from the MetLife Foundation Creative Aging Program.

    Read the article, watch the embedded video of the “Singing Seniors,” and listen as 63 year-old student, Dory Tobias, describes how “It lightens your soul!”

    The poetry of speech…

  • Body Language Counts! Beef Up Your Nonverbal Communication Skills!


    There’s a reason Elmo got the big nod from the White House to be the spokesperson “stressing healthy habits to prevent H1N1 (aka swine) flu,” and the sultry porker, Miss Piggy, did not.

    Who would you believe: Elmo, with his childlike innocence and perennial optimism, singing, “Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!” or the Divine “Miss P” trying to stifle a sneeze with her poofy pink boa?

    Body language does count. Certainly, it’s not a panacea for lack of skills or experience but, if the hiring manager has to choose between two equally qualified candidates, your wet-fish handshake may seal the deal – and not in your favor.

    Your body language mirrors your confidence or lack thereof. Don’t think the interviewer won’t notice if you’re slouching in a chair, open briefcase at your feet and looking like a deer in caught in headlights, while you’re in the waiting room. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to spring out of a chair (as you must to greet the interviewer) with any degree of grace. Even if you could master it, you’d then have to bend over and collect your papers – assuming you have not tripped over them – while the interviewer discreetly tries to dry the residue of moisture from your fishy handshake. It’s much easier and more effective to stand while you are waiting and keep your eyes on the door to the room. That way, when the interviewer walks in the door, you  need only take a step or two forward, reach out your dry hand, look the interviewer in the eye and execute a firm handshake while saying hello like you mean it.

    Maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Don’t let your eyes wander about the room as if you were sizing it up for your office.

    Engage in the discussion, and it is a discussion not an interrogation. If you appear bored, your interviewer will be also.

    Do not swing your legs over one another and keep swinging. Avoid tapping your feet or your fingers. There’s no need to be nervous. This interview is as much for your sake as it is for the hiring manager’s. It is your opportunity to learn if you like this organization, this job and if it is a good fit.

    Try to keep your hands calm. Naturally you’d avoid wild gesticulating to express enthusiasm, but also try to refrain from tugging at your tie or picking at the lint on your dress. There should not be any lint on your dress!

    At the end of the interview, stand, shake the manager’s hand again and say thank you – even if you don’t mean it.

    You may think this is just a lot of common sense which anyone would know and do, but you’d be amazed at how fast some of the simplest social etiquette flies out the door when you are nervous because you really want this job and are afraid of doing or saying anything that might blow it.

    The best way to remain calm and confident is to try and imagine that you are interviewing the hiring manager to learn if this really is the job you want. This should not be too much of a stretch because that is exactly what you are doing!

  • Job the Obscure: How to Find and Navigate the Underground Job Market


    Yes, I was and still am an unabashed English major. I love literature, language and words  – specifically finding a way to contextualize new concepts. And, if Thomas Hardy can help us peel back the layers of secrecy protecting the hidden job market, I am all for it. Remember Hardy’s themes in Jude the Obscure: class, scholarship, religion, marriage and the modernization of thought and society? Strikes me that many of those 19th-century themes still challenge us today.

    A huge advantage that we have and Hardy’s characters did not is our ability to cross – to a certain extent – over class, education and social barriers as we try to secure the job we want. Networking is key to negotiating these hurdles. First and foremost, conservative estimates are that 80% of jobs are never posted in classifieds or job boards. That “hidden” 80% is filled by referrals from one trusted individual to another through networks.

    Networking helps you successfully market your identity, skills and experience. Whether it is the traditional one-on-one meeting or virtual introductions via social media channels, networking also provides a way for people with whom you’d like to work to get to know you and for you to get to know the behind-the-scenes story of the organization where you’d like to work. It’s all about good fit, and that works both ways. It’s not just about you trying to fit the mold to secure the job.

    Your networking should be purposeful. It takes on-going commitment and nurturing. A few valuable beginning steps were posted by our Canadian blogging colleague, Stephanie Clark:

    Her first advice is “Get Started!

    • Ask for an informational meeting with someone who is doing the job you want. Use the meeting to ask questions about necessary credentials, industry trends and so on. Do not ask for a job; build a relationship.
    • Research companies to identify which ones you would love to work for. Contact your immediate network of friends, family, and neighbours, and ask who knows of someone employed by one of these companies. Ask them to ask their circle as well. Remember that we are all connected through a scant six degrees of separation.
    • Join professional organizations, alumni groups, social clubs, volunteer organizations, sports teams—whichever suits your style. Network within these.
    • Read with an eye for new business news, calendars of events, construction projects, interviews with local business leaders—and follow up on promising leads.
    • Go for it. If you see a job that you truly fit, approach the receptionist or call the supervisor. If you can’t speak with the right person, perhaps you can get your resume in front of the right person.
    • Create an online presence with profiles on LinkedIn, MySpace or Twitter. Write a blog, post articles on and create your free resume webpage on
    • Create a business card for networking purposes that contains not only your contact information, but also your Value Proposition. Carry it at all times and hand out a few daily.

    Hiring is a social act. Most hires are based not only on skill and past experience, but also on chemistry. If you don’t “fit” the company, you’re not offered the position. Networking allows you to establish a connection before the interview process. It also proves that you are a go-getter, and that you know how to communicate and develop relationships.

    As you go about meeting people make sure that you maintain an atmosphere of mutual exchange, not personal gain. Be present, not thinking of your next appointment; be selective, not trying to squish as many contacts as possible into every day; and make the effort to establish ongoing relationships when you feel a connection. Share ideas, information, and resources—helping with true value establishes your true value!”

  • Never Too Old to Tweet!


    Social media still have you flummoxed? Banish your bewilderment with this great array of free online tutorials and info-packed articles from the Case Foundation.

    While the foundation has geared these resources towards helping nonprofit organizations understand the best ways to leverage social media, every bit of advice is just as valid for individuals striving to master these key tools and optimize their own brands.

    I’d recommend skipping their somewhat gratuitous introductory video and diving directly into the introductory articles such as “Be A Beacon.”

    With these basics under your tool belt, drill down into the platform specific videos, such as Social Media in Plain English from Common Craft. They pack a lot of easy-to-understand information in two-minute segments.

    This is a great opportunity to learn at your own pace and test one platform – Blogs, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube – at a time. You may like one or you may like them all. If you use more than one, be sure to link them to one another (ie. connect your Blog to your Twitter account) to enhance your brand and maximize your visibility.

    Happy Tweets!

  • Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! – A Book on Bread and A Recipe for Life


    Judith Jones is one of the most “savvy” and indomitable 83 year-olds whom I know. Last night, I had an opportunity to meet Judith again when she shared some of her reminiscenses with an audience here in Maine at the Portland Museum of Art. The museum had invited Judith to speak in conjunction with their exhibit, “Objects of Wonder: Four Centuries of Still Life,” because so many of those still life paintings included food. All that sounds rather insightful but I dare say they had not figured that Judith Jones is anything but a “still life.”

    Judith is senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf publishers in New York. She joined Knopf in 1957 and her 53-year career is still going strong! Today, Judith is the most renown cookbook editor in the United States, if not the world. The list of authors she has edited reads like an international Who’s Who in the art of cooking: Julia Child, James Beard, Marion Cunningham, Marcella Hazan, Ken Horn, Madhur Jaffrey, Irene Kuo, Edna Lewis, Joan Nathan, Claudia Roden, Nina Simonds, and Anna Thomas, among many others.

    Judith was born into a blueblood household in which the cooking was done by maids ensconced in kitchens tucked in far-off corners so the “smells” would not seep out and permeate the home. This was also a time when no upstanding person consumed French food, because Judith notes, “with all those sauces, it surely had something to hide.” Judith says that one of the most daunting confessions she ever had to make to her mother was, “I love garlic.” Her mother was appalled.

    Judith managed to escape this culinary wasteland by moving to Paris after graduating from college. She persuaded her parents to let her go for a three week visit. She fell in love with the city, the food and the Parisians’ passion for cooking and eating. At the end of her three weeks Judith “lost” her passport and had to postpone returning home. In the time it took to replace her passport, she cannily managed to secure a job reading manuscripts and subsequently extended her stay for three years.

    It was a heady time in Paris. World War II had recently ended and the people reveled in the freedom and access to goods and food lost during the war years. Judith recounts a joyous moment when she was standing in line in a bakery and the owner stood behind the counter holding a baguette of bread fresh from his oven. He lifted it over his head, broke it in half and proudly revealed its warm, aromatic and fluffy white interior to his patrons. Everyone cheered! Wartime shortages had precluded such luxuries as white flour. Judith was enamored of this new life where people took such joy in a simple loaf of bread.

    One of her most memorable “working” moments happened when she rescued Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl from a “reject pile.” Judith might have been new and inexperienced, but she was fearless about what she believed in – and she believed Anne’s story. She insisted the story be published in English in the US and it was.

    In 1957, Judith finally managed to tear herself  away from Paris. She returned to New York and accepted an editorial position at Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. In the beginning she worked primarily on translations of French writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Over the years she has worked with many distinguished authors, including Elizabeth Bowen, John Updike, Peter Taylor, John Hersey, William Maxwell and Anne Tyler. But food was never far from her heart.

    When Houghton Mifflin turned down Julia Child’s manuscript, Alfred Knopf brought it to Judith’s desk, saying “I think you might understand this better than anyone else in the office.”

    Judith loved the massive tome by three unknown ladies – one American and two Frenchwomen, Louise Bertholle and Simone Becks. She wrote in her memoir, The Tenth Muse, “I was bouleversee, as the French say – knocked out. This was the book I’d been searching for.” She convinced Knopf to publish the manuscript, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the world of food has never been the same since.

    Judith has written many articles, essays and books of her own. She is the co-author with Evan Jones (her late husband) of: The Book of Bread, and Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! In 2007 Judith published her memoir, The Tenth Muse: My life in Food, and in 2009 she published another beautiful, groundbreaking book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

    When Judith is not at her desk or her stove in New York, she is at home in a rural corner of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, where she and a cousin are raising Angus cattle, which she calls “the girls.” She is healthy, fit and downright spunky. She calls this time of life her “ripe old age,” as opposed to her “old old age.”

    Dare I say, we should all ripen as well…

    Judith has already received the “James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.” I think they may have jumped the gun for who knows what else this 83-year-old dynamo will achieve in her years to come!

    NB: In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of Judith’s editors. I asked her and her husband, Evan, to write a book on bread for children, and when they delivered the manuscript to me it was as much of a magnum opus as Julia’s for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not easily daunted myself, I asked Judith if I could submit the tome to a colleague to be published for adults and if she and Evan would work with me to pare the manuscript down to a second book, appropriate for children. We did and the result was two award-winning books.

  • How to Capture and Hold Your Interviewer’s Attention in 20 Seconds!


    Mary Civiello’s tips on How To Capture a Crowd posted in a Fortune Magazine blog are a must read! They are just as applicable for a small audience: namely your interviewer or the interviewing committee.

    Her very first question is a stunner: 1. Can you give your presentation in 20 seconds even though you have 20 minutes to speak?

    Civiello says, “Start your preparation by asking: What is the one thing I want them to remember if they remember nothing else?”

    Read and memorize each of Civiello’s four tips and, while you’re paring your presentation down to 20 seconds, remember our SSW advice: You Are Your Brand: Be Authentic!

    Be honest about your skills and personal values.  Think about your interview as a blind date. Do not use your resume or social media marketing tools to create a false persona. Never advertise yourself as a young and sauve bon vivant when you’re really an older, highly experienced, albeit shy and introspective research analyst. Do not post a snap taken 20 years ago on your LinkedIn profile. The shock will knock your interviewer off his or her pins and they won’t believe a word you say.

    Stephanie Clark, a career consultant in Canada, recently addressed the importance of authenticity for long-term best results. Referring to how pressured job seekers feel about the interview, she said:

    Why not relax about it all, do something or behave in a way that is authentic to you and how you feel, and let the chips fall where they may? No use trying to manipulate a situation … by being anything other than you! If the person doesn’t respond favorably … perhaps it is best to move on.

    I would much rather work somewhere where my quirks, personality, and style were welcomed, appreciated, needed, than somewhere where they found my approach not aligned with theirs. Such a situation, aside from potentially being a confidence buster, isn’t likely to provide workplace successes. No success, no great content for the next resume, the need for which would likely come soon enough, given that the fit was all wrong!

    Stephanie has lots of great articles on her website:

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