• “It Never Occurred To Me Not To Work!”

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    Enid Nemy published a grand obituary about Liz Carpenter, a remarkable – some would say fierce – octogenarian reporter and feminist, in yesterday’s NY Times.

    Liz Carpenter, who spent much of her life working the corridors of power in Washington as a newspaper reporter, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson when he was vice president and press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson during her years in the White House, died on Saturday in Austin, Tex. She was 89.

    She was in the motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

    She wrote the brief speech Mr. Johnson delivered at the foot of Air Force One when he returned to Washington as the 36th president. (“This is a sad time for all people,” he said, adding, “I ask for your help — and God’s.”)

    For the next five years, she served as the First Lady’s press secretary.

    Widely known for her caustic and sometimes bawdy wit, Ms. Carpenter was irreverent about herself and her access to power during the Johnson years in Washington. She was also one of the few White House staff members who had no qualms about giving as good as she got, no matter the source.  “Why don’t you use your head?” Mr. Johnson once bellowed at her.

    She bellowed back: “I’m too busy trying to use yours!””

    “It never occurred to me not to work,” Ms. Carpenter said in a 1987 interview, shortly after she had undergone a mastectomy, adding, “I had a restless spirit that kept drawing me to new adventures.” She never hesitated, she said, “to charge hell with a bucket of water.”

    Read the full obituary. It’s a feisty tribute to Liz Carpenter, a life and a spirit to be remembered!

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

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    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

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    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 EzineArticles.com and create your free resume webpage on VisualCV.com.
    • 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!

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    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

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    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.

  • Women Launch New Businesses at Twice the Rate as Men

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    This reflects women of all ages but, even so, women entrepreneurs continue to lead  the Boomer pack.

    Not a shabby statistic to note on this auspicious, 100th anniversary of “International Women’s Day.”

    In the US, March is “Women’s History Month,” but that did not become official until 1987. Even worse, this celebration began as just a week in 1978. For a country that espouses forward thinking, it seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time to rally behind our international counterparts.

    Nonetheless, we are happy to have caught up, and would like to add our support with this great Entrepreneurial To-Do List from Brad Sugars at Entrepreneur.com. We recommend you check off each of his seven key steps before you wade into the entrepreneurial waters. One essential step we love is know your numbers and theirs!

    Last but not least, as Sugars says in the conclusion of his article: “There are few truly new things under the sun. So build on the intellectual capital of those who have gone before you.”

    A nod to women’s history, perhaps???

    Suffragist Parade in New York City

    (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

  • Social Capital on Display: A Norwegian Parable about Social Entrepreneurs

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    This astonishing and true story, about Jan Baalsrud a Norwegian anti-Nazi Resistance fighter in 1943, is the closest parable I have ever read about the trials and tribulations of a social entrepreneur.

    NY Times columnist, David Brooks, retells Baalsrud’s epic to capture the essence of Norway’s long-standing Olympic Gold Medal success, but Brooks also describes the story as an “interesting form of social capital on display.” He writes, “It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.”

    Determined to succeed for a cause greater than ourselves – isn’t that the essence of a great social entrepreneur?

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

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    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: www.newleafresumes.ca

  • Simple Productivity: The Little Rules of Action

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    Fellow blogger, Leo Babauta, at Zen Habits, says, “Too often we get stuck in inaction — the quagmire of doubt and perfectionism and distractions and planning that stops us from moving forward…. And while I’m no proponent of a whirling buzz of activity, I also believe people get lost in the distractions of the world and lose sight of what’s important, and how to actually accomplish their Something Amazing.”

    We hope Leos’ “Little Rules” will help you create “Something Amazing,” or – at the very least – help propel you forward in your quest for meaningful work:

    1. Don’t overthink. Too much thinking often results in getting stuck, in going in circles. Some thinking is good — it’s good to have a clear picture of where you’re going or why you’re doing this — but don’t get stuck thinking. Just do.

    2. Just start. All the planning in the world will get you nowhere. You need to take that first step, no matter how small or how shaky. My rule for motivating myself to run is: Just lace up your shoes and get out the door. The rest takes care of itself.

    3. Forget perfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of action. Kill it, immediately. You can’t let perfect stop you from doing. You can turn a bad draft into a good one, but you can’t turn no draft into a good draft. So get going.

    4. Don’t mistake motion for action. A common mistake. A fury of activity doesn’t mean you’re doing anything. When you find yourself moving too quickly, doing too many things at once, this is a good reminder to stop. Slow down. Focus.

    5. Focus on the important actions. Clear the distractions. Pick the one most important thing you must do today, and focus on that. Exclusively. When you’re done with that, repeat the process.

    6. Move slowly, consciously. Be deliberate. Action doesn’t need to be done fast. In fact, that often leads to mistakes, and while perfection isn’t at all necessary, neither is making a ridiculous amount of mistakes that could be avoided with a bit of consciousness.

    7. Take small steps. Biting off more than you can chew will kill the action. Maybe because of choking, I dunno. But small steps always works. Little tiny blows that will eventually break down that mountain. And each step is a victory, that will compel you to further victories.

    8. Negative thinking gets you nowhere. Seriously, stop doing that. Self doubt? The urge to quit? Telling yourself that it’s OK to be distracted and that you can always get to it later? Squash those thoughts. Well, OK, you can be distracted for a little bit, but you get the idea. Positive thinking, as corny as it sounds, really works. It’s self-talk, and what we tell ourselves has a funny habit of turning into reality.

    9. Meetings aren’t action. This is a common mistake in management. They hold meetings to get things done. Meetings, unfortunately, almost always get in the way of actual doing. Stop holding those meetings!

    10. Talking (usually) isn’t action. Well, unless the action you need to take is a presentation or speech or something. Or you’re a television broadcaster. But usually, talking is just talking. Communication is necessary, but don’t mistake it for actual action.

    11. Planning isn’t action. Sure, you need to plan. Do it, so you’re clear about what you’re doing. Just do it quickly, and get to the actual action as quickly as you can.

    12. Reading about it isn’t action. You’re reading an article about action. Ironic, I know. But let this be the last one. Now get to work!

    13. Sometimes, inaction is better. This might be the most ironic thing on the list, but really, if you find yourself spinning your wheels, or you find you’re doing more harm than good, rethink whether the action is even necessary. Or better yet, do this from the beginning — is it necessary? Only do the action if it is.

    Thank you, Leo!

  • Bare Words: Pare Your Writing Down to the Essentials

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    Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I am a lover of words and writing. I try to be open-minded about the art, but this weekend I was struck by two less than artful abuses.

    The first was New York Governor, David A. Paterson’s ludicrous pronouncement, “I pledge I have not obfuscated.” Whatever happened to “lied”?

    The second occurred as my grandson and I drove to his 5th grade breakfast fundraiser.  As we were cruising along in the dawn’s early light, he proudly announced he was a PTP.  Science wizard that he is, I thought this must have something to do with the Periodic Table of the Elements. Not so, he smiled and said that’s “Pancake Transportation Personnel.” Are “waiters” no more?

    The late, E.B. White, master author and essayist, would have been horrified. White was adamant about clarity in writing.  One of his cardinal rules was:  “Avoid fancy words: Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

    White and William Strunk, Jr., wrote The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919.  As we struggle with résumés, cover letters and all other communications related to capturing and positioning ourselves for our job searches, we need to keep this little gem of a book at out fingertips.

    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 sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

    In this weekend’s NY Times excellent essay, Writing a Résumé That Shouts ‘Hire Me’, by Phyllis Korkki, the advice is “be concise, tight, lean and clean” – an echo of  the 1919 Elements of Style, credo: Make every word tell.

    Muriel Barbery in The Elegance of the Hedgehog has written a remarkable passage describing a Maori rugby player that is a perfect metaphor for telling words. He “was like a tree, a great indestructible oak with deep roots and a powerful radiance – everyone could feel it. And yet you also got the impression that the great oak could fly, that it would be a quick as the wind, despite, or perhaps because of its deep roots.”

    As you write, take care to choose words that are grounded, words that are clear and concise – telling words which ignite the imagination, radiate and resonate so everyone can hear you.

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