Monday, March 21, 2011

Job Descriptions are Holding You Back

Think of a job description as a square hole that a company wants filled.

All of our lives we’ve been taught to cater to these job descriptions. That’s why you tailor your resume to make it look like you're the perfect fit. You strive for those extra credentials that will make you "stand out." You go to the right schools to be the perfect candidate.

And then comes a recession, and you may be 99% the perfect fit for a job, but someone else fits better. You are told over the phone that out of a thousand candidates, they only offered ten positions and all accepted. Of course they accepted.

Surely this is enough to make you angry. You’ve spent your entire life working hard in good schools, holding jobs and going to school at night, honing your skills, honing your resume to fit the job description that Corporate America puts on their websites.

Waiting for Corporate America to give you a chance is self-demeaning. Behind that web-site, behind the lavish corporate lobby is a person, aged anywhere between 25 and 35, saying yes or no. You are nothing more than a number. He doesn’t know who you are. He doesn’t understand the intangibles that you would bring the firm. You’re just another desperate face, assuming someone sees your face, trying your hardest to be what they want you to be.

I’m going to suggest that you forget about job descriptions and just be you. Stop begging firms to let you in. If you’re already seasoned in your industry and a firm won’t let you in, take their clients! You can give their clients more attention, and you can do it for a cheaper price. If you’re not a seasoned player yet, think wide. What venture can you start or join? What do you like to do? Corporate America won’t have you? Too bad for them. Go make something happen ON YOUR OWN.

By the way, there’s no shame in holding a crappy job while your working on getting other things going. Don’t believe the people who say you have to “dive in full time or don’t do it at all.” The reality is that you still need to eat while other things develop.

This will be my last entry for a while. I may write some here and there, but the flow of a new post once a week is going to stop. A couple of side projects, like I was talking about above, have started to come to life and require massive amounts of attention. I enjoy writing so I won’t be gone forever. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Competition vs Collaboration

I had the pleasure of hearing Derek Neighbors, of Gangplank, and Kristie Wells speak on a panel at SXSW about their philosophy on collaborating with others. Someone in the audience asked the panel, "at what point is it okay to tell others about my business ideas."  The fear being that someone might run off with them and make a lot of money.

Kristie Wells answered that if you wouldn't have the person over to dinner at your house, then be cautious.

Derek had a decidedly different answer.
Know what you want,
know where you’re going,
and always look for people who can help you along the way.

Then the panel asked the audience to turn to someone they didn't know and introduce themselves. Afterwards the panel asked if any connections had been made. A guy close to the front stood up. "Yeah, this guy is in my field and he's exactly who I needed to meet at this conference."  Everyone loved this.

My opinion lies somewhere in the middle. Be selective with whom you share vital details, but spread the word about the mission you're on. With tools such as Linkedin, networking is more powerful than ever. But there are plenty of sharks out there, especially when money is involved.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Modern Worker's Milking Cow

Micro finance loans, such as those given to the impoverished in India, are usually no more than a couple of hundred dollars. According to SKS Microfinance, a loan of $212 in India can go to the purchase of a milking cow.

The beauty of this model is that the person who bought the cow can now run a small, simple business. His mission is clear: This cow will produce the best milk India has ever tasted.

When you’re working with a cow you may have maybe twenty straightforward tasks you need to do. When you’re working in a mid-sized firm in the service sector, there are literally thousands of tasks that need to be done to keep things rolling.

When a cow is hungry, you feed it.
When your company needs cash, the accounting department calls on overdue receivables, managers fret over who they have to let go, and the sales team looks bad.

If the cow walks away, keep an eye on it.
If your company starts getting business in a market it hadn’t planned on, emergency management meetings are held, the marketing department redoes the website and collateral, and the employee mix may have to change.

At work, we all use our skill sets to add value to the firm. You may not understand everything that happens in human resources, but that’s fine. That’s not your specialty. Business is complicated and challenging. That’s just the nature of a diversified workforce and a developed economy. So when you get home after work and think that the day was pretty pointless, maybe it was. But maybe it was a day where you didn’t know it but you took care of your company in your own way.

You do not have your own cow. You have to share an amorphous, needy, temperamental cow (your firm), that is fighting with other cows (other firms), with people you did not select.

You are the modern worker.