Yes, the former King of England’s skeleton was recently discovered in a shallow, unmarked grave under a modern parking lot. Humiliating as that is, the scariest part of this story may be that the King’s prolonged royal fall was due, in large part, to just one man, William Shakespeare. The great playwright wrote in his history play, Richard III, that Richard personally ordered the killing of two Princes, his 9 and 12-year old nephews, in the Tower of London to clear his way to the throne. Despite the fact that this was never proven, in point the King was never charged, Shakespeare’s villainous label has stuck for more than 500 years.
Shakespeare said, “All the World’s a Stage,” and he used this platform to celebrate or skewer many brands. This would be impossible for one man to do in today’s totally networked culture. Technology has created a seismic shift in the ways in which information and opinion are conveyed. Social media has created access to vast amounts of information, producing unprecedented transparency. It’s an opportunity for you to think in terms of how best to stage your brand for maximum benefit.
We call this Brandraising (a term we learned several years ago from one of our favorite blogs, The Duck Call), and the following tips will help you raise your brand:
1. Establish Your Character, Originality and Authenticity.
2. Identify and Showcase Your Skills and Talents – the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes you are born with, which are part of your essential make-up, and those you’ve learned through experience.
3. Let Your Voice Be Heard and Seen. In this multi-media world you need to create a spoken, written, and visual message, which is relevant and consistent. Each and every word and image counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.
Great learning tools:
The Spoken Word – This workshop “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?” on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio will help you fine tune your storytelling through the spoken word. You will learn about the importance of your voice – the sound, cadence, pauses and inflections – to achieve high impact particularity for all your non-visual communications.
The Written Word – Read E.B.White and William Strunk, Jr.’s The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide, which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919. The guide begins with sixty-three words that could change your world of writing: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his [her] sentences short, or that he [she] avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”
Picture It – Pictures, logos, videos and information graphics tell your story – your brand – in much less than a thousand words. There are many free online how-to articles about designing effective logos, choosing your social media photos, and creating videos to engage your audience. YouTube, for example, has some great tutorials for creating digital stories, and a section within YouTube (sponsored by Google and American Express) that allows a small business to create digital stories with professional-quality video, replete with graphics, editing, and sound.
4. Review, Edit, Rewrite. Always remember that, like a traditional on-the-ground network, your virtual brandraising network needs nurturing and on-going maintenance. Keep it fresh and up-to-date. If you limit your postings to once a year or even once a month, it connotes a certain lack of interest and commitment or, even worse, that you really don’t know what you are doing!
5. Listen to Your Critics. Once you post what you consider a wise or erudite tidbit, be open to feedback – both positive and negative. That interchange or exchange of information and insights is the real value added – the way we learn.
6. Stay Ahead of the Message. Know who you are online. If you think you control your online fate by not participating in any Social Media Networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, you must think again. Even better, try popping your name into Google’s search window.
These strategic steps are designed to help you to use this downtime to invest in yourself. These are not soothing tips to help distract you from your feelings of anxiety. If you’re out of work and don’t want to be, the loss of identity can be overwhelming, but, as the late, John Gardner said, “you have more power in you than you know, so pull up your socks and get on with it.”
In this case “pulling up your socks” requires more than pluck and optimism. To proactively and purposefully re-boot your career, you need to begin with some hard-core introspection. You need to assess the depth of your experience, to understand how your skill sets relate to and can be applied to what you’d like to do next, to identify what you don’t know that you need to learn, and to have the courage to move forward.
1. Accept the reality. We’ve all read the stats that, if you’re over 40, it could take a year or more to find new work.
2. Explore what makes you tick. Do a formal assessment such as: Myers Briggs, The Birkman Method or Clifton Strengths Finder to determine your strengths, values, priorities, motivators and align your goals.
3. Mine your hidden talents. Someone once said, “The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas.” What ideas do you have quietly percolating on a back burner? Do you have a hobby that could be a good business venture? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
1) Rebuilding the world one toothpick at a time. Stan Munro was out of work, when he began building things with toothpicks. He started with small churches, progressed to cathedrals, and then whole cities made entirely of thousands of toothpicks. He was invited to display his artwork at a museum in Spain and is now exhibiting his toothpick masterpieces in museums all over the world.
2) Decluttering your speciality? As you clear out stuff, think about selling those treasures on sites like eBay, Craig’s List, Tradesy.com, and Etsy, at yard sales or give away what you don’t need. Perhaps you have a real knack for it and can help others set up systems to declutter their lives. Then, too, you could set up a shop and sell their things online for a commission, if they’d prefer not to get into the online marketplace.
3) Create a blog. Not only will it sharpen your social media skills, it could turn into other writing assignments, a book or maybe even a movie. The Meryl Streep movie, “Julie and Julia,” began as a blog about a disgruntled office worker blogging about trying every recipe in Julia Childs’ The Art of French Cooking.
4. Become a Skills’ Learning Magnet. Do not rest on your laurels. Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resumé, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past kudos into present-day assets. “Real knowledge,” Confucius said, “is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
First, determine what skills you need or need to re-tune. This might seem a daunting task, but good help is available at the O*Net Resource Center. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a free online tool developed under the sponsorship of the US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA) through a grant to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. The O*NET program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O*NET database, containing information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database, which is available to the public at no cost, is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation. The database also provides the basis for their Career Exploration Tools, a set of valuable assessment instruments for workers looking to find or change careers.
5. Put a lid on your shy genes. As we mentioned in an earlier post, “You have to step out of the batting cage to hit a home run!” Volunteer, but don’t just volunteer to stamp envelopes. Join a committee at your neighborhood school, church or business club. Get involved to connect, learn and use this opportunity to test market your idea or product. For example, if cupcakes or natural snacks are your passion, offer to provide refreshments and listen to your customers’ “feedback.”
Don’t let your fear of being wrong paralyze you. Thomas Alva Edison did not think of his experiments in terms of success or failure, but rather as learning. In his efforts to create the first storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments!
It takes courage to believe in your self, to start something new. Thinking of “The Wizard of Oz” celebrating its 75th birthday and record of the most watched movie of all time, I remember this quote about the cowardly lion from Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying…’I will try again tomorrow.”
Pitch is both a verb and a noun.
Verb: One can pitch an idea, a story, a song, a ball – one’s self.
Noun: The pitch is an idea, story, song – your self.
They are two distinct art forms. One can have perfect pitch, as in singing the true sound of any note in a piece of music, and still not understand the song.
Others can have a profound connection with a song and miss the true notes. If you’ve watched “The Voice” more than once on TV, you’ll have heard the ultimate criticism, “Pitchy!” When one of the judges declares a singer’s voice “pitchy” – not true, nor flat nor sharp but all over the place, it’s the kiss of death.
Don’t be tone deaf. When pitching yourself for a job you need to nail both the notes and the story. You must focus on your content, delivery, and above all – your value. The perfect pitch is so much more than what you know; it has to be about what you can do with what you know for the organization where you’d like to work. (See our earlier post on Leonardo Da Vinci’s radical working resumé.)
Three tips to get you off on the right note:
1. Create a compelling story: Put your best foot forward. The competition is fierce and you need to be able to demonstrate you are the best of the best. Focus on what you have to offer and why it will be of value – what’s in it for the organization. You know all about using active verbs but do not forget the blockbuster nouns – key words – that capture you, your strengths and your industry savvy.
2. Do your research: Know what problems/challenges your company-to-be needs to address and position yourself as key to delivering a distinctive, pro-active, sustainable solution.
3. Data: Don’t forget to include real evidence: metrics to quantify your successes and specific examples to qualify your accomplishments. You want to demonstrate the impact – outcomes and not just outputs – you can achieve to make a real difference.
It’s time to reclaim the positive aspects of pitching. You’re not a used car salesman trying to off-load a wreck. Nor are you a fickle, pie-in-the-sky visionary. As Yann Martel’s character, Pi, says in his book, Life of Pi,
and the spectacular new movie, “I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.”
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Music is the soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents.”
Soooo, warm up your vocal chords and pitch the music of your life and work!
Author and teacher, Angela Maiers, is a passionate advocate of life-long learning, and this lesson she shared with a group of first graders is just as valuable for us with 50+ more years down the road. Angela and the first graders talked about power of curiosity, and more specifically the power we hold as learners when we know how to ask the right question.
She says, “Being in charge of the questions we ask matters. Successful thinking and learning require questions to be framed in a wide variety of ways. The ‘framing’ of our questions dramatically influences what we can and are able to understand. Just teaching students to question is not enough. It is critical to explore where different questions take us as learners.”
We have become skilled at answering questions. Think about the experience you have in test prep. Think about all your interview prep sessions. How many sites do you Google for sample questions before an interview, to minimize any surprise questions? That’s a great way for the interviewer to learn about you, but what have you learned in the process?
I remember telling my own children, when they were stressing over the questions a college admissions’ officer would ask them, that it was even more important for them to ask questions about the college – courses, professors, culture etc. Gradually, they understood that they were signing up for four years of living and learning – at an, even then, pretty steep cost – and it would behoove them to ask a few questions. They had a moment of enlightenment as they realized they, too, had something special to offer, and their questions about the institution where they wanted to invest their hearts, minds, time, and money also let the interviewer see and understand the assets they were bringing to the table.
The same experience applies to you, whether you are interviewing for a job or for a loan to start your own business. Let your interviewer know the assets you bring and ask the questions that will prompt them to sell that job or loan to you.
Maiers says, “It is important for us to know how the types of questions we ask impact and influence the answers we are capable of getting.”
Different kinds of questions she describes are:
· Clarifying Questions
· Sorting and Sifting Out Questions
· Strategic Questions
· Planning Questions
· Elaboration Questions
· Comparing Questions
Specific cues he offers to stimulate questions are:
Once you have some answers, test them by taking a few steps forward. You may have to back-up and try again, but first, ask yourself why these initial steps did or did not work? The answers will put you in an even stronger position to take those next steps.
Just Start Asking!
Happy Birthday Emoticons! A picture is worth a thousand words and you’ve been telling stories for 30+ years.
The father of Emoticons — or emotional icons — was Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In 1982, he proposed that the following character sequence be used as a joke marker: : – )
These characters were quickly added to the lexicon.
The emotional characters spread like wildfire, capturing every conceivable expression with a keystroke or 2 or 3…
Simple as they are, these pictures convey a lot (maybe not a 1000 words but a lot) about what you’re trying to say in your communiques. In the same way, your photo on a site like LinkedIn is your professional emoticon, and it behooves you to think with care about what the photo you post conveys.
First and foremost, “professional” is the key word here. Whether you’re looking for a job or connecting with professional colleagues, you can be sure that your photo will be seen. The question is “how” will it be seen.
Save the cute puppies, your precocious toddlers, wild dancing, and fashion bling shots for the family album – hopefully tucked safely away in some trunk in the attic. Remember, there is no such thing as privacy online. Your photo is part of your brand, and unfortunately, a goofy picture may turn the people you hope to reach off before they ever get to the brilliant words with which you have crafted your professional acumen.
For some valuable, practical advice, check out this article, 11 Tips for Choosing Your LinkedIn Photo, by Norine Dagliano at CareerRealism.com.
You don’t need to hire a professional photographer. Find a friend who’s good with a camera, with whom you can relax and smile with confidence. You want to be accessible and engaging so those finding you online will be eager to hear what you have to say.
This Fast Company article, 6 Tips For Hiring Star Talent From A Top Hollywood Casting Director, by Mina Hochberg describes how the particular genius of casting directors is showcased in “Casting By,” a documentary which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Wisdom from that film and from top casting director Ellen Chenoweth,” Hochberg says, “shows you what Hollywood casting can teach you about finding, interviewing, and hiring your next star.”
When Hochberg writes, “A film’s success depends on perfect casting just as much as a company’s success depends on hiring the right talent,” I thought these six tips should be posted in every HR office.
1. Don’t wait for candidates to come to you.
2. Don’t always go with the most obvious candidate.
3. Don’t dismiss a promising candidate based on a bad interview.
4. Fight for your first choice.
5. If possible, take your time.
6. Look for strengths that the candidate might not even be aware of.
See the film if you can, but, until you can get to a screening, read this article, try to put yourself in the casting/hiring director’s shoes and imagine what he or she is looking for in a star and make it happen!
It’s time to put that old saw that older entrepreneurs are at a competitive disadvantage in a world of social media and digital communication to bed. It’s time to create your strategic position in the social media marketplace. You don’t need to tackle every platform at once. You can Tweet your way in by testing your social media mettle with those pithy 140 character manifestos.
Twitter offers a unique opportunity to:
1. Promote your brand and your expertise in bite-sized nuggets.
2. Listen to your customers.
3. Identify trends and position your business accordingly.
4. Become an area issue expert – a thought leader – and connect with a highly targeted group that is directly relevant to your interests.
The beauty of Twitter is that you’re not just telling the world you are an expert. By tweeting information in an authentic and transparent manner, people will take note and begin to follow you. Twitter is good about alerting you as to who is on your trail. Even more, Twitter lets you review your “follower’s” profile. Then you can decide if you want to be followed by that individual. If not, you can block them or, if you think you’re being spammed, alert Twitter and the powers behind the Tweets will investigate.
And don’t forget to re-tweet. What you choose to re-tweet indicates what you find interesting or provocative and becomes part of your brand. Plus, it signifies that you are aware that you do not know everything and are open to learning more. Other Tweeters like to be recognized for their expertise, and the more you share the more people will be willing to share with you.
Now that you’ve tested your Tweets, check out this array of free online tutorials – 101 Basics for other social media channels. Another nugget is Social Media in Plain English from Common Craft. They pack a lot of easy-to-understand information in this two-minute segment.
These online resources present 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.
Five key steps to your social media marketing success:
1. Identify your audience.
2. Know what you want to say and, of course, have something to say that will be of interest or value to your audience.
3. Determine how you want to convey your message (humor, info, facts, data, personal experience, aggregated wisdom) and then assess which platform (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc) will work most effectively for you. Don’t jump in with both feet. Dip a toe in to test the water and make sure you can wriggle all ten comfortably before you dive in to another platform.
4. Always remember that, like a traditional on-the-ground network, your virtual network needs nurturing and on-going maintenance. Keep it fresh and up-to-date. If you limit your postings to once a year or even once a month, it connotes a certain lack of interest and commitment or, even worse, that you really don’t know what you are doing!
5. Be prepared to let go. Once you post what you consider a wise or erudite tidbit, be open to feedback – both positive and negative. That interchange or exchange of information and insights is the real value added – the way we learn.
Every time I use the word “senior” to describe our generation, people flinch or cringe. “How did this happen?” I asked a colleague last week. When we were seniors in high school we felt like kings and queens of the mountain. A senior in college was even better. We were the class imbued with all the wisdom those hallowed halls could offer before stepping into the “real aka business world.” Once installed in the business world, we could not wait to achieve senior status: be it Senior Editor, Senior Manager, Senior Partner – Senior whatever. Senior was the epitome of excellence and achievement. Then, when we hit age 50, to be called a senior was a kiss of death. You were now over-the-hill, redundant or worst of all invisible.
Seniors tried to counter the negative stereotype with adjectives such as “Older Adult.” Talk about redundant; it’s like saying a child is a little toddler. Then, people seized on the word Boomer as a less vapid alternative to Older Adult. Talk about pathetic. Boomer sounds more like a slightly deranged character in the 1994 American epic movie, Forrest Gump, than a revered and respected senior citizen.
I remember being struck by a comment the late Betty Freidan made to an audience of hundreds at an NBA (National Booksellers Association) meeting. She said, “All of the prejudice I have encountered in Feminism pales – absolutely pales – in comparison to what I have experienced in Ageism.” That was back in the early 1990′s, and we certainly have not made much progress in the ensuing 20+ years.
Let’s look at a little aging reality here. Superman’s first appearance was in Action Comics #1, in 1938. Wonder Woman was introduced in All Star Comics #8 in 1941. No spring chickens, these two are still super acting 74 and 71 respective years later.
I know these riveting details, because I read the recent Wall Street Journal article, A Haven for Aged Super Heroes. The article was about Metropolis Collectibles Inc., a firm in New York City, which buys and sells vintage comics. Especially noteworthy, is the fact that Metropolis recently sold the aforementioned 1938 Action Comics #1, which debuted Superman, for $2.2 million. Talk about the value of an “Aging Superhero!”
A month after reading the “Aging Super Heroes” WSJ piece, the New York Times published History Hits the Campaign Trail. Their article describes how, in this miasma (my word) of political campaigning, Obama and Romney continue to “invoke the opinions of long-dead white males in powdered wigs.” The article notes, “While it’s been a long time since any of the founding fathers made a personal appearance on the campaign trail, they continue speaking from beyond the grave through the mouths of present-day candidates, weighing in on matters as disparate — and perhaps unimaginable to them in life — as health care reform, gay marriage and abortion rights.” It seems highly ironic in these times of rampant ageism, that politicians fighting for their political lives need the wisdom of these aged statesmen to validate their positions.
Last but far from least on the ludicrousness of ageism, I call your attention to a dazzling matter of “Advanced (as in age) Style.” We highlighted this book a few weeks ago, but I’ve just learned of a video – in which you can hear each of these fabulous fashionistas, Grande Dames [in their 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 100's] describe how they feel the secret of life has nothing to do with age. It is, rather, all about the art of being oneself forever!
I’m off to buy a new hat…
Your resume is your story. To bring it to life you must maximize your focus, relevancy, particularity – and, as always, your authenticity. Keep in mind Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”
I’ve recently read three unique pieces with key insights for this task.
The first is NY Times‘ columnist, David Brooks’, The Power of the Particular.” Brooks describes a Bruce Springtseen concert he attended in Spain,
“The oddest moment came mid-concert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, ‘I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!’”
“My best theory,” Brooks says, “is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call ‘paracosms.’ These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.”
“We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate… Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.”
“It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all.”
This workshop on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio helps us fine tune other aspects of our storytelling to achieve high impact particularity. You can tell a lot about yourself over a great deal of time, but if you need to capture someone’s attention quickly, you need to capture what counts in a minute.
Their tips to achieve compelling brevity are:
Now we know that particularity and brevity are important, but they are meaningless without authenticity and relevance.
Martin Zwilling writes in Forbes about John B. Montgomery’s new book, “Great From the Start,” which highlights Mark Zawacki’s five rules of relevancy. Zawacki’s rules, while focused on business startups are equally apt for the startup of your new life:
You’re not ready for a tombstone yet, so chuck that old resume and create a dynamic and vital new blueprint for the next stage of your life.