• Pitch – Is Yours Perfect or Are You Tone Deaf?

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    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!

     

  • The Power of Knowing How to Ask the Right Questions

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    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

     

    Blogger Jesse Stanchak offers more insights as he writes, “Questions are easily the best tools you have at your disposal for priming the pump of creativity.”

    Specific cues he offers to stimulate questions are:

    • Take a cue from the Jewish Seder. A traditional Passover Seder involves the ritual asking of questions, the most famous of which is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” That question is at the heart of all story telling…
    • Take a cue from Reddit… Two of their best-loved boards are Ask Me Anything and Explain Like I’m Five
    • Take a cue from the reporter of your dreams… Sit down and interview yourself. Ask yourself all the questions you wish real reporters would take the time to consider…
    • Take a cue from your readers. What are your fans always asking you?…

     

    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!

  • Your Professional Emoticon

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    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.

    1. Don’t use an old photo. There are few things worse than meeting someone for the first time and not recognizing them because the profile photo is from 10 years ago (or longer)!
    2. Use a photo of YOU in your profile — not an object.
    3. Smile! Your face should radiate warmth and approachability.
    4. Photos should be professionally done, if possible (but not glamour shots).
    5. Wear your most complementary color. Bright colors can attract attention, but avoid patterns.
    6. Don’t have other people in your photos (and don’t crop other people out of your shot — there should not be any errant body parts in your online photo!).
    7. Make sure the background in the photo isn’t distracting.
    8. Relax. Look directly at the camera.
    9. Take multiple shots and ask people for their opinion on which one makes you seem most “approachable.”
    10. Tips for Men: Wear a dark blue or black dress shirt. No t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, or busy/crazy patterns.
    11. Tips for Women: Wear something you feel comfortable in. No t-shirts or big/busy patterns. Soft, dark v-necks look great. Black always works; avoid white.

     

    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.

    Emote yourself!

  • If Only Employers Could Think Like These Casting Directors

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    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!

  • Just Start!

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    Courtesy, TwistedPoly.com

     

    One book and two blog posts I read this week – and another classic tome – hold our entrepreneurial, career shifting toes to the fire – as in stop over assessing, evaluating and planning and Just Start!

    The book, Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future, by Len Schlesinger, President, Babson College; organizational learning expert Charles Kiefer; and veteran journalist Paul B. Brown is a stirring, practical pronunciamento. Each author shares his own deep and varied experiences and draws from a source where striving amid constant uncertainty actually works: the world of serial entrepreneurship. In this world, people don’t just think differently—they act differently, as well.

    Their dynamic manifesto begins in the epigraph where they invoke Lao-tzu, the Chinese philsopher’s, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It ends (but is it really an ending if you follow their practicum?) as they capture the essence of the book in 78 pro-active words in the epilogue:

    1. Know what you want.

    2. Take a smart step toward that desire as quickly as you can, that is, act with the means at hand; stay within your acceptable loss and bring others along with you if it makes sense.

    3. Make reality your friend. Accept what is and build off what you find.

    4. Repeat steps two and three until you accomplish your goal or until you decide it is not possible, or you decide you’d rather do something else.

    One of the blog posts I mentioned earlier is The Habit of Starting written by Leo Babauta on his Zen Habits blog. Babauta says, “The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it. That seems obvious: if you don’t keep doing a habit, it won’t really become a habit. So what’s the solution to this obvious problem? Find a way to keep doing it.

    When you look at it this way, the key to forming a habit is not how much you do of the habit each day (exercise for 30 minutes, write 1,000 words, etc.), but whether you do it at all. So the key is just getting started.”

    The second great blog post is Tim Berry’s What Business to Start? Look in the Mirror.  Berry writes, “So you want to start a business, but don’t know what kind? Sure, you can get a list of franchises or ask the experts what are good businesses to start. That works for some people. Lists of businesses to start are easy to find. My advice, however, is don’t look for a list of good businesses. Don’t ask what the big opportunities are. Get a clue. Go look in the mirror.”

    Last but not least, the “classic tome” is  The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki. Aimed at entrepreneurs of any age, it is one of the most enlightening and inspiring books I have read on this subject.

  • How to Master the “Twittersphere” Tweet by Tweet

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    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.

     

     

  • Improvisation and Collaboration

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    Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong – two jazz greats making music as one “Umbrella Man.”

  • Take Back the Glory of “Senior”

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    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…

  • What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

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    Courtesy, Elsa Franco - http://recreateyourlifetoday.blogspot.com

     

    It’s been many years since most of us asked, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

    Now, at the grown-up age of 50 and more, it’s time to ask, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

    It’s much easier this time. Just think of all you’ve experienced: successes, failures, loves, losses, joy and sadness. You’ve learned a lot in those 50+ years that will help you focus on what you’d like to do next. As you ponder, it’s important to remember what John F. Kennedy said about aging: “It’s not just about adding years to life. More importantly, it’s about adding life to those years.”

    Your first question should be: “What would I like to do for an additional 20-30 years?”

    Then, after you’ve pinpointed a few options, you need to determine if your talents match your aspirations.  Inventory your talents. We’re not talking about tuning in to the blitz of bizarre “talent” shows on TV today but, rather, that you consider the parts of your essential make-up:  the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes you were born with and which have been fine-tuned through years of experience and skills development.

    As one of our favorite bloggers, Joanna Maxwell, says, “If you want to find long-term satisfaction and success, it’s helpful to identify your talents (and equally, your non-talents).”

    She recommends: “Start by listing everything that comes easily to you, areas where you just ‘get it’, where you’re a ‘natural’. No matter how big or small, whether work-related or not, all these talents have a place. Maybe you are known for your sense of location, or your ability to read IKEA instructions, or your singing voice. Are you the one with no sense of rhythm, or a talent for saying the wrong thing when meeting with the boss? Are you the one who everyone relies on to soothe a disgruntled client, or organize the Christmas party, or wrestle with a problem til it is solved? Don’t include things at which you’re competent, but have no passion for…  if it’s not something you would do just for the pleasure of it, then leave it off your list!”

    To help get you into the nitty gritty talent analysis, you might, as Maxwell also suggests, look at Howard Gardner’s eight core intelligences, and identify which ones relate to your natural talents and which do not.

    1. Linguistic: words, spoken or written, including foreign languages. Adept at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates.

    2. Logical-mathematical:  recognizing abstract patterns, reasoning and numbers and critical thinking.

    3. Musical:  this goes beyond core musical talent and includes those who use underlying rhythms to structure a film or a teaching program, a book or a public event.

    4. Spatial:  ability to visualize with the mind’s eye and to use those images to conceptualize actions in the ‘real’ world.

    5. Kinesthetic:  excel in physical activities such as sports or dance; learn best by doing something physically, rather than by reading or hearing about it; good at building and making things; and keen sense of timing.

    6. Naturalist:  skilled in relating information to one’s natural surroundings; recognizing similarities and differences; detecting patterns; making distinctions; and categorizing things.

    7. Interpersonal:  knowledge of and ability to understand, anticipate reactions, work, connect, lead and influence others.

    8. Intrapersonal:  in-depth knowledge of yourself, what makes you unique; being able to identify your own goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses and use them to be effective in your life.

    After identifying your unique talents, you should create a profile, including such Maxwellian nuggets as:

    “I instinctively see the patterns in things, but struggle with too much fine detail. I love being with other people, but not too many at one time; I am good at one-on-one discussions or listening. I love the chance to do creative thinking in my work, preferably alone. I have a real green thumb and a way with dogs (but not cats!). I have a good ear for music, but am hopeless playing an instrument, let alone singing. I make a mean curry but have no hand for pastry, it’s too finickity for me.’”

    Inventory and profile in hand, it’s essential to focus on that key question, “What would I like to do for the rest of my life?” for, as Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you imagined!”

  • How to Frame Your Career So Your Resume Does Not Read Like an Obituary

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    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.”

    ***************************************************************

    “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?”

    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:

    • Focus on one subject [in this case it's you].
    • Use vivid language and concrete examples.
    • And if you can get away with it, make sure there’s a turn in the piece. (Poets call it the volta, a little shift in tone. A question is answered. A problem is solved. Perfect for news [of what you can do as demonstrated by what you have done].

    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:

    1. A startup needs to be relevant and stay relevant.
    2. A startup needs to find a voice relevant to its ecosystem.
    3. A startup must gain traction.
    4. A startup must form partnerships and alliances within its ecosystem. 
    5. A startup must maintain a laser focus.

     

    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.

     

     

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