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What should I be when I grow up?

June 24, 2010

What should I be when I grow up must be the biggest myth we fool our children with.

Sure there’s Santa, the Boogie Man and the Tooth Fairy, but those are mostly harmless. The biggest myth is the most harmful. It leaves students with unrealistic expectations and doesn’t help them focus on what truly matters.

I first remember being asked the age old question in second grade and about every year after that until I was in college. Of course by the time you are in college you HAVE to know what you want to do when you grow up… right?

There is always an aura of awkwardness when someone says “I’m an English major” and then someone replies “so…what are you going to do with that?

In order to avoid this we begin to make up answers to make ourselves feel better.

What better way to fight a myth than with another myth?

“I think I want to be an investment banker, a consultant, or a brand manager”.

Or maybe you take the easy way out and just say you want to do what one of your parents does. “My dad’s a lawyer I guess Law School sounds cool?”

Please tell me, what exactly is the day-to-day role of an investment banker, consultant or lawyer? You probably have no clue.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t prepare students for careers, quite the opposite in fact. What I’m suggesting is that we stop focusing on the “what do I want to be” myth and focus on the things that actually matter.

1. Your strengths (what are you naturally good at)

2. Your interests (what things you like to do)

3. And your actions today.

The truth is your strengths, your interests, and what you do today matter in order to get to where you want to be tomorrow. Five year plans? Hah.

The world is changing so fast the jobs that are here today probably won’t be in 20 years. (or they won’t be recognizable in their current form)

The truth is there is never a day when you finally “grow up”.

Ask any successful or interesting person you know this question and they will probably tell you they still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

Your career path is something that unfolds everyday. The important thing is to not focus on hollow titles or job descriptions, but instead focus on what your natural talents are.

For example – I love helping others, coming up with new ideas and solving problems.

Figure out what you have to do today to put yourself in a better position to utilize your strengths and pursue your passions tomorrow.

The career path is a series of steps on a ladder. With each new step comes a new level of understanding that may have been hidden on the rung before.

Take one step today and you’ll be what you want to be tomorrow. Remember, you can own your career path.

So.. what do you want to be when you grow up?

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The “Unspoken” Cause of Failure

June 7, 2010

This post is the first in a series of Monday book summaries.

I’ve been fortunate to read a lot of great books in my life. Every Monday I will be putting out summaries, takeaways, and critiques of today’s top business books.

Last Tuesday I promised this on Twitter… “I’m not going to finish another book until a review one online for you all. Read too much shared too little.” 8:29 PM June 1st via Echofon

Now it’s time to execute, which ironically is the title of the amazing business book by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.

To be honest I first read this book in college and didn’t get much out of it. It wasn’t until a year later when I got my first “real job” when I began to re-read and appreciate the importance of this book.

Below are my key takeaways from Execution.

“Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.”

What is Execution?

Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing “how’s and what’s” in your organization.

Execution is not only about questioning, but more importantly ensuring  accountability and tenaciously following through.

In the most basic form execution means exposing reality and acting on it.

This wasn’t a principle I learned in business school. But during my years of consulting experience I found out that most companies don’t face reality very well. It turns out this is one of the major reasons teams fail to execute.

Although this may sound like common sense (most business principles are) when people, politics, and organizational culture aren’t aligned, businesses can rarely solve problems they are faced with.

How can you execute when you don’t  know what is truly happening within your organization and marketplace?

That’s where leadership comes in…

Leading for execution is not rocket science.

The main requirement is that you as a leader have to be deeply and passionately engaged in your organization adn be honest about its realities with others and yourself.

Leaders should bring weaknesses to light and rally their people to correct them.

Execution is not a program of the month. A leader who says, “Okay, now we’re going to execute for a change” is merely launching another fad of the month, with no staying power. As my former sales trainer and good friend John Hall says, “Talk is cheap.”

Two ways you can check for Execution in your company

#1 Pay attention to what the Dialogue looks like in your organization.

Dialogue is the core of culture and the basic unit of work. How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organization will function.

Is the dialogue stilted, politicized, fragmented, and butt-covering, or is it candid and reality-based?

If it’s the former (as it is with many companies) reality will never come to the surface. If it is to be the latter, the leader must be on the playing field with the rest of the team, practicing it consistently.

#2 Check employee engagement in meetings.

Do people sit passively watching PowerPoint presentations? Do they ask questions, and is there a true debate?

People engaged in meetings ask “execution-style” questions, search out reality, and reach specific and practical conclusions. Accountability is also discussed openly and agreed upon by those responsible.

Perspectives should be heard, even if they disagree or are temporarily uncomfortable to hear. You need input from team members and this will help them take ownership of the project’s success.

Although I love John Hall’s advice, I’d like to amend it just a bit for this article.

“Talk is cheap, but dialogue is priceless”.

Do you see execution problems in your teams? What do you think of the summary?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Why do A students have C filled lives?

May 26, 2010

A for AppleIn school conforming gets you an A.

In life, conforming gets you lots of C’s.

How could that be?

Let me explain…

In school you receive A’s for doing exactly what the teacher says. You’re rewarded for fitting in, following directions and not making a ruckus in class. Do these things and you’ll receive an A.

Unfortunately lots of A students settle for C jobs.

Follow directions, do whatever your boss says, and you’ll live a life full of C’s. C stands for things like cubicle, cog, and complacency.

It’s easy to settle for C’s in real life. It’s the equivalent to A you used to receive in school. People stay in “C” jobs they hate, long after they’ve outgrown the opportunity.

“I should be happy I even have a job”, is something I often hear from discouraged employees.

True you should always be grateful, but being grateful should never be an excuse for staying in a job that’s not bringing out the best in you.

Most people don’t believe there are better opportunities out there. In reality there are endless opportunities out there in the world.

You just have to hustle to get there.

Your dream job is available right now, what are you doing to stand out from everyone else?

What kind of relationships are you forming? How are you adding value to the world?

In school you aren’t rewarded for having the most friends, asking tough questions of the teacher, or making everyone laugh in class. These things are actually punished, yet they may be some of the most important skills in life.

It’s a new game with a new set of rules folks.

If you are in a C job, please know that you don’t have to settle.

But, if you want an A level job you will have to hustle.

What have you done today to get one step closer to your dream job?

I challenge you to do one thing today, and then leave it in the comments below. I’ll do the same 🙂

10 Twitter Tips for Sales Centre Candidates

May 18, 2010

This post is for all the great people in The Ralph and Luci Schey Sales Centre at Ohio University.

The Sales Centre was one of my favorite things I did at college. The group is filled with really bright, motivated students, many of them who are my good friends. It’s ranked the #2 sales program in the country, but I think rankings are a bunch of crap.

It’s just a great program, period.

The Sales Centre

This past Thursday they put on their annual Sales Symposium. Last year I got to see Jeffery Gitomer, but this year I was even more excited they were bringing in Nate Riggs, a social media strategist based out of Columbus, Ohio.

Nate’s session is titled “Selling on the Social Web by Not Selling at all”. I already saw some of the work he did with the students and I am really impressed. (they even started their own blog for the event or you can follow them on Twitter here or see a cool video about the program here.)

I didn’t get to see Nate’s whole talk, but I wanted to give a top 10 Twitter tips for all the students that are going to be diving into this new community.

10 Twitter Tips for TSC’s

1. You have a choice for how you want to use Twitter. You can use it to talk about yourself and pretend like everything you do is news, or you could use it as networking and professional development tool. (totally up to you)

2. If you decide you want to lean into the dip, go ahead sign up here . Twitter can be a bit confusing at first, but within no time you will be a Twitter Pro.

3. When choosing a Twitter handle don’t use numbers on the end. No more bobby21987, instead come up with something simple to remember and spell. Here are some variations to get you thinking about how to pick a good name. @fennersells , @iamthejoshua, @thecoolestcool or just some form of your name: @bcroke.

4. Write a bio that is short, fun, yet professional. A twitter bio is a great place to share some of your personal/fun side while you are doing your “networking and news sharing”. Have a food obsession or favorite sports team, throw it in there. Look at other people’s profiles and see what you like and don’t like on theirs.

5. Add a web link that is going to take you back to your personal content hub. If someone would want to learn more about you, where would you like them to go? Some people may have a blog, other’s would prefer to put their Linked In profile.

5. Go follow smart people that share similar interests to you. There are a variety of different ways you can do this, but I’ll save this for another post. For now check out these two marketing/PR pro’s that I recommend following. @markwschaefer and @paulroetzer . (connected with both of them initially on Twitter before becoming friends in “real life”)

6. After you begin using Twitter through the web client, you may feel that it is a bit clunky (aka going to twitter.com sucks). Go ahead and download a Twitter application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. This will help you search and organize your tweets much easier. (if you have an I-phone, download Echofon. If you have a Blackberry check out Twitter for Blackberry–the official Twitter App.

7. Find an interesting article or quote and share it. Read other people’s articles that are being shared on Twitter. If you liked what you learned, go ahead and “Retweet” the article to your followers. When you mention someone’s name with an @sign in any of your tweets that message goes directly to them in what is called as a “mentions” column.

8. If someone mentions you (@yourusername) or re-tweets one of your articles, tell them thanks. Go out and give. Share other people’s work and comment on their blogs. If you like sales go find some top sales bloggers. If you want to be a fisherman, perhaps there are some of those blogs as well.

9. Remember, what you tweet is public information. It is stored online (and in the Library of Congress) forever. So be careful what you tweet, aka don’t be an idiot.

10. Some people may not like using Twitter, that’s fine. If you find no value out of the tool and can’t see yourself using it, then don’t. However, I know SOME of the Sales Centre students are going to be a part of the next generation of marketing and PR Pros who will utilize technology to build their brand, network and career.

*Newly added #11. Add a picture of yourself!

In the end it’s about learning, connecting, and sharing.

Now go out and have fun! Did you find this list of 10 helpful? What else would you add? Please leave a comment below!

Confessing my Love…

May 6, 2010

for Twitter.

Sounds pretty stupid huh? Maybe even downright pathetic, but sometimes you have to put yourself out there.

Contrary to popular belief, Twitter isn’t about what you are doing, it’s about what you are learning.

A place to spread ideas.

If you follow the right people, you can use it as a customized news feed, meaning: you get to read what the smartest people in your industry are reading. Not bad stuff to know?

Even better, you can join the discussion at the bottom of most articles, and get to know other like minded people who found the article interesting.

But most of you who are reading this probably already know this.

If you haven’t tried Twitter yet, its not about celebrities, or what your friends are doing. Sure you can follow them, but don’t complain to me when you find Twitter not very valuable.

And the name… sure it sounds dumb, but it turns out to be a great barrier to entry for people who don’t “get it.”

Have you found value from Twitter? Love it or hate it, leave a comment below!

Social Media Breakfast Toledo

May 3, 2010

Last week I had the honor of being a panelist for Social Media Breakfast Toledo’s event: How to get a Job Using Social Media.

I was really impressed with the meeting of the minds that took place at Thread Information Design. Special thanks to the founders of Social Media Breakfast Toledo: Patrick GiammarcoKevin Cesarz, and Mike Driehorst.

The event was focused around using social media for your job search. I was there on behalf of Career Bull, but I was a bit uneasy to try and give relevant advice for a room full of about 40 people with different backgrounds, industries, goals etc.

Luckily there were some really smart people on the panel and in the audience, which made for a great discussion.

The last thing I wanted to say at the panel (besides giving Issue 1 a shout out) is that every industry, company and person is different. There’s rarely a one sized fit all approach, so I apologize if the panel was too broad to truly help someone who was there because they “needed to find a job”.

Right now there is a spectrum of companies who are either more conservative or more “social” with their business practices. Although I love Twitter, I’m afraid to preach the benefits to people who may not get much from the tool.

However, if you are involved in any of the following Big 4 industries, I consider Twitter a must have.

  1. Marketing/PR
  2. Sales/Customer Service
  3. Technical people of all sorts
  4. ANY Artist/Creative

As for Bankers, Accountants, Administrators and Health Care Professionals… the jury may still be out.

Seth Godin once said, “If there is already a case study in your industry, you are too late”

What do you guys think? Is it more appropriate for some industries to plug into social than others?

Whats Issue 1 in Ohio? video explains

April 21, 2010

Do you like jobs? Are you from Ohio?

Join me, the entrepreneurship, venture capital and technology community of Ohio in support of the 3rd Frontier Program.

50% of the U.S.’s venture capital comes from California. Investment money they have used to develop companies like Google and places like “the Silicon Valley”.

We need some investment here in the midwest to create the next Google. The talent is here, the passion is here, but will Ohio provide its entrepreneurs with the capital and support networks necessary for growth?

My good friend (and future entrepreneur) told me the other day he planned on moving out to San Francisco Bay Area to get out of Ohio and into the startup scene after graduation from Ohio University (disclosure he just also doesn’t like the cold).

However that example sheds light on a much bigger trend of the brain drain that is happening in our state.

Talk to graduating seniors and they want to move to places where things are happening. Places like New York, Charlotte, and California are hot, but so is the entrepreneurship movement in Ohio. (we just haven’t made a big enough buzz yet)

Did I mention the program has a history of 22% return on investment?

Check out the video.