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This just in: If resumes and experience were leading factors, Barack Obama would have never been President

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

I firmly believe that curious, passionate, and determined people can learn anything to do any job. Character is much more important than resume bullets. This idea is rare in the job search and hiring processes, and I think that’s a shame.

A friend of mine who is abundantly talented told me the other day that she was worried that she wasn’t qualified for jobs that really interested her. To bolster her confidence, I said this: if corporate recruiters were in charge of placing the next President the same way that they place people in other jobs, Barack Obama would have never made it onto the short list much less gotten the job. In 2008, if we compared his resume and experience side-by-side with Hilary Clinton and John McCain, he wouldn’t have made it through the phone screen with HR. He made it to the highest office on grit, passion, intellect, and charisma. He rose by lifting all of us and inspiring us during a dark and frightening time. He was a junior senator who hadn’t even served a full term in the U.S. Senate, and that was his first federal office. He made it on character, not by his resume.

Politics aside, if Barack Obama can get into office and figure out how to do the job of President of the United State of America in the midst of the worst recession in our history (to name just one of his many incredible challenges), we can figure out how to do any job. Stop second-guessing your talents and abilities. Don’t take yourself out of the running by not applying to jobs that really interest you. Throw your hat in the ring, explain your passion and commitment to getting the job done, and go for it! It worked for Barack Obama during the highest of stakes. It can work for us, too.

This just in: Mastering the online video interview for your job search

Mastering the video interview

Mastering the video interview

Most of my interviews during my recent job search process were conducted via Skype and Google Hangout. This was a totally new experience for me, and I learned a lot along the way. If you find yourself having a video interview as you look for a new job, here are a few tips I learned during this process. (They’re equally as valuable for companies conducting video interviews, as you’ll see in the last tip at the bottom of the post.)

– Dress for these interviews the way you would for an in-person interview, shoes and all. (I even had my handbag with me!) Taking a line from my theater days – if you want the role, you need to wear the costume and wear it well.

– Know how your video works on your computer or mobile device. I used my laptop, though I could have just as easily used my iPad or mobile phone. Arrive early so that you’re ready to go as soon as the other party logs in.

– Make sure there is a very plain, nondescript background for the interview. Sit in a chair, not the couch nor in bed.

– Make sure the area is free from all distractions and excess noise, including pets, kids, roommates, noisy neighbors, etc. I love my pup, Phin, with all my heart, but he wasn’t at my video interviews.

– Smile, maintain eye contact, and let your personality shine just as you would during an in-person interview.

– And this one is just to add a bit of comedy, as in truth in comedy.Smoking, eating, and cursing during an interview is not professional. Don’t do it, and don’t take a job working with anyone who does. In my case, someone actually did all of these things while interviewing me. I’m glad it happened because it was a big red flag. It changed the way I viewed the company, and was one of the reasons I declined the offer when I received it weeks later. If that’s how they conduct themselves while interviewing me, I couldn’t expect much more from them while working shoulder-to-shoulder in an office.

Have you had any video interviews? What was your experience and what tips do you have for others preparing for them?

This just in: Clarity on what I wanted in a new job plus local search, resume, and cover letter tips

Job search

Job search

When I decided to close my consulting practice and devote myself to a job search, I thought a lot about what I wanted in this next chapter of my career. After that, I focused my search on the D.C. area since that’s where I wanted to move and then used a set of tips for my resume and cover letter to make them applicable to the jobs that interested me. (The following is what worked for me, but is by no means definitive nor fully comprehensive.)

How I gained clarity on the kind of role and the kind of company
To get clarity on the job I wanted, I thought about the jobs I’ve had in the past. Which ones did I like the most and why? Which ones did I like the least and why? What was it about being an independent consultant that made me want to close down my practice and engage in the job search?

I developed very clear and detailed answers that related to the role and to the kind of company, and these were separate answers. I knew I loved working with products, tangible or virtual, rather than with services, and the invention process is very important to me. I also love relationship building and one of my favorite roles is to bring a wide variety of voices together to build something that makes the world a better place. I am also very passionate about the innovative use of technology to solve problems, content development, education, and environmental conservation.

I’ve worked in companies that range from one person to 56,000 people in the private sector, nonprofit, and government. Given my varied career, I had a lot of data and information to sift. It was worth it for me to write out what I wanted on paper in my own handwriting. And then I refined that explanation until I had it down to three sentences: one that described the kind of role (product development and management), another that described the kind of company (either a startup or a more established company that is reinventing itself), and the final one that described the industry (mission-based company that builds a better world, education and environmental sustainability being the ideal).    

Why I decided to search locally
I met with a recruiter early on in my process. I knew I wanted to focus on Washington D.C. and she explained that it would be best if I could move to D.C. to job search. There’s a lot of talent in the D.C. area and companies rarely have to look outside the beltway to fill a role. Also, moving here to job search showed that I was committed to making this move and didn’t need a relocation package to do it. I was able to complete my job search in 7 weeks. It probably would have been a lot longer if I was searching long-distance. The money I spent on rent is likely less than what I would have spent on last-minute plane tickets. (And I’m very grateful that I have friends with a great apartment that was immediately available!)

Resume tips
Now that I have 17 years of work experience, it was time to move to a 2-page resume format. With more room, I could really detail my projects and accomplishments. Here are several formatting tips I received from a recruiter:

– Remove your street address and just go with the city, state, and zip. This is for safety reasons. You may elect to publish your resume on job search sites like Indeed.com.

– List areas of expertise at the top of the resume in a table.

– Right justify the dates of each role in the first line (the same one that has the title of the role left justified)

Cover letter tips
– Tie key parts of your experience and skills directly to the responsibilities of the job you’re applying to. I also suggest using the same key words used in the job description.

– Use your introductory paragraph to briefly and powerfully explain why the job interests you. If you can bring in a bit of personal and professional experience to this intro, all the better!

– Keep it brief and poignant. No more than one page long.

I hope these tips are helpful! Tomorrow I’ll share how I prepared for and conducted the interviews I had via Skype and Google Hangout (a new experience for me this time around!)

This just in: My new job and how I found it

Job search resources

Job search resources

I just completed the job search for the next chapter of my career. After 7 weeks of on-the-ground searching in D.C., I’m joining an education tech startup called STEAM Engine, Inc. as the Product Manager. I’m tremendously happy to combine my passions for education, environmental conservation, technology, and product management all into one job with a mission-based organization. It’s truly a dream job for me.

I know a lot of you are in the process of looking for a new job, or are thinking about looking for a new job, so I’m putting together a series of posts to share my process in the hopes that it helps you. To kick that off, I want to loudly and clearly dispel a common rumor: networking is tremendously helpful but it’s not the only way of finding a new job.

I found the role for STEAM Engine on Indeed.com. I sent my resume and cover letter via email as stated in the job description to the recruiter running the search. That’s it. I didn’t know anyone at the company nor did I know the recruiter. No one lobbied for me to help me get an interview. Would that have helped if I did have a connection? Maybe, but it wasn’t a requirement.

So, if you know what your dream job or dream company is and don’t have a connection there, don’t be discouraged. An inside track isn’t the only way to get your dream job. There are many ways it can happen, and passion and determination can take you there.

I was very fortunate to find quite a few jobs and companies that interested me here in D.C. The market is very strong, and opportunities are everywhere. I spent at least 6-8 hours a day every day on my job search, and most of that was done online. Here are the sites I regularly reviewed to find jobs that interested me:

Indeed.com
Idealist.org
Philanthropy.com
Alumni websites for my alma maters (Penn, UVA, and Darden)
Simplyhired.com
Ventureloop.com
Mediabistro.com

All of these sites gave me the option to set up alerts based on parameters I could customize. I reviewed these alerts daily to stay on top of any new openings. It also gave me the chance to see which companies were hiring so even if a role wasn’t a fit for me, I could click-through to the career section of the company’s website to see if they had another role that was a good fit for me.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about how I got clarity on the kind of role and company I wanted and how I explained my goal to others. I’ll also share some resume and cover letter tips that also helped me in my search. Got job search questions? Please send them over. I’d love to help in any way I can.

Happy hunting!

This just in: Marian Cannon Schlesinger, 101, is my new idol

Marian Schlessinger

Marian Schlesinger

Marian Cannon Schlesinger is 101 years old and the ex-wife of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., historian and special advisor to President Kennedy. She’s also my new idol.

“She’s still painting, writing, watching Rachel Maddow, and reading two newspapers a day,” said The Atlantic in a recent interview with her. What struck me most about the interview was her advice to free-spirited women: “Do your thing no matter what…Early on I decided being a painter was what I wanted to be but I wanted to be a lot of other things too. I wanted to write…play tennis…have a lot of friends [and] beaus. I think I’ve been very lucky. But I think that I’ve made some of it for myself. I never gave up. I wanted it all, in other words, and I think I really almost got it all too…Just keep going.”

Thanks, Marian. I will.

This just in: The career you choose impacts the state of the world

Build a better world by building a better career

Build a better world by building a better career

This week I’m in the midst of many big and heady discussions about industries that demand rapid and radical transformation: healthcare, education, and the state of the planet for starters. We cannot close our eyes to the enormous problems we face as individuals and as a society. The good news is that we have everything we need to change our fortune—technology, know-how, and our imaginations. The trick is to find ways to unleash and connect them on a massive, actionable scale. And that scale lies within all of us building meaningful and impactful careers.

It’s easy to develop a solution that solves part of a problem. We’ll help some people and manage the costs with a relative degree of effectiveness. For a while, the band-aid will hold. We could almost fool ourselves into thinking this is okay, that it’s the best we can do with what we’ve got. Mediocrity is ours for the taking and my suggestion is to shun it with every ounce of strength we’ve got. We can and must do better starting now.

We could watch the news about California’s austerity measures in the face of the most horrible drought in its history and say, “That has nothing to do with me. I live thousands of miles away and I have plenty of water where I am.” The truth is that California is the canary in the coal mine.California will be everyone’s realty if we don’t take action to reverse course now. Think of all that’s been wasted there sustaining thirsty lawns in the middle of a desert for the sake of aesthetics. I actually feel a pain in my heart thinking about it. What have we done? What are we continuing to do by just going through the motions of life as usual? And if we think we have war now, imagine what will happen when we’re fighting over water rights that literally draw the line between life and death. Without water, debates about nukes are irrelevant.

These same kinds of scenarios are also true in education and healthcare. Our public education stats are appalling because we have failed to engage students and care for all of their needs from having enough food to eat to living in a safe neighborhood to nurturing their imaginations. We may be experiencing the rise of a lost generation of talent and potential because of the state of public education, and we can’t afford that. In healthcare, we discard our elders, dismiss patient concerns, and believe that quantity, churn, and lowering costs take precedence over patient experience and compassionate care. How we treat the sick, the young, and the old says a lot about who we are as a society. And I want us to be better because I know we’re capable of it right now.

Let’s stop making excuses and start doing and making things that matter for the long haul. We’ve got all of the technology and know-how we need. We each possess the most marvelous machine ever created – the human mind. Let’s join them and use them to develop career that are callings, callings to build a better, healthier, happier world.

This just in: Moving to Washington D.C.

Moving back to Washington D.C.

Moving back to Washington D.C.

I have loved being in Florida this winter and having so much quality time with my family, particularly my two amazing nieces. I’m thrilled that I learned first-hand about the market here; it just isn’t a fit for me in the long-term and that’s not surprising. I’m abundantly grateful to my sister and brother-in-law who made it possible for me to try out Orlando. I couldn’t do what I’m doing without them.

Washington D.C. has always been a possibility for me, and I’ve decided it’s time to make a move back to that area this year. I’m looking forward to working with mission-driven organizations and talented teams there who want to build a better world. I’ll be looking into product development and marketing-related roles (consulting or full-time).

There are huge bonuses in D.C. beyond just career. I have many friends there and all along the Northeast corridor who will be back within an easy train ride, public transit, culture, the arts, a change of seasons, and the close proximity to my alma maters, Darden and Penn.There’s also a growing and thriving tech and entrepreneurial scene which is exciting to me. I’m under no illusions that any place is perfect, but for this time in my life and career, D.C. is a wonderful option for me.

My first priority is to get Phin fully healed from spinal surgery, and then I hope to be in D.C. with the cherry blossoms. So the next great adventure begins. As I’ve said before, 2015 is a year of change and surprise so this upcoming chapter is no exception. D.C. and Northeast friends, I’ll see you soon!

This just in: 2015 is already a year I didn’t see coming

Who knows what's around the bend in 2015?!

Who knows what’s around the bend in 2015?!

Whenever something surprises my 4-year-old niece, Aubree, she says, “I did not see that comin’!” in her trademark raspy little voice. I find myself saying that on a more than daily basis this year. At the end of 2014, I looked up my horoscope for 2015 and it emphasized that this year would be tumultuous to say the least. I dismissed that prediction as sensationalism, laughed, and moved on. Or at least I thought I did.

A word to the wise: when you doubt the stars, they get ticked off and feel the need to make their presence and power known. For entities that are over 4 light years away, these little buggers bring their force right to the doorstep the moment they feel disrespected.

We’re only one month in and the first word that comes to mind when I think of 2015 is “mayhem”. Nothing’s going the way I thought it would. My pup, Phin, had surgery, some of my clients are throwing curve balls at me right and left, I’m contemplating new career opportunities in new places, and some of my nearest and dearest people are having deep troubles and challenges. What’s going on?

What’s saving me now is what’s always saved me—the authors I read, the characters I write, and my friends. They give me hope, courage, inspiration, and the will to keep going. They’re lighting the path ahead of me one step, one word, at a time. And I’m learning that this slowly advancing light, however frustrating, is something to be treasured. It’s teaching me to trust in every day, in every experience. It’s not easy, and it’s about as fun as having my wisdom teeth removed. Still, I’m willing to go along for the ride. I’m willing to lift up my head and squint into the distance to see what there is to see.

Last week during a particularly low day, my friend Alex said that whenever she feels down she tries to envision her life 3 months from now. That quick technique helps her to keep going. The challenges of today are the victories of tomorrow, and the course of those victories largely depends on what we do right now with the resources we’ve got on-hand. We do what we can with what we’ve got.

I may not have seen the events of January coming, but I am equipped to handle them whatever they are. One at a time, day by day. In the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I’m getting by with a little help from my friends, real and imaginary.

This just in: Career lessons from Mrs. Doubtfire

Mrs. Doubtfire

Mrs. Doubtfire – career coach

I recently saw the movie Mrs. Doubtfire again. I’d forgotten how many powerful career lessons are embedded in that story. If you’re looking for a new job, or frustrated with what’s happening in your career, watching this movie might help to inspire and motivate you to embrace change. It certainly did for me.

– What seems like a step back can be a vehicle to leap forward. Daniel (Robin Williams) goes to work as a shipping clerk for an educational media company even though he was once a very successful voice over actor. That job leads him to the opportunity to bring the character of Mrs. Doubtfire to a wide audience.

– While we might feel hampered by personal obligations that make it difficult to make career changes, those obligations can be our salvation. Because Daniel had to earn a living to get visitation rights to see his children and get his own apartment, he had to work several jobs. This combination of demanding responsibilities helped him to become a better person and a better father.

– Be who you are and be prepared to contribute in a creative way, even if that’s not in your job description. Daniel could have kept his head down as a shipping clerk, but instead he voiced his creative ideas at the right time to the right person. This decision to share his ideas led him to the opportunity to get out of the shipping dock and back onto the stage where he wanted to be.

– It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, afraid, and upset. Use these emotions to your advantage by using them as fuel for change. Daniel exhibits all of these emotions, and rightly so. The key is that he felt them fully. And yes, he sometimes lashed out at others as a result. But most of the time he channeled the emotions to motivate him to learn how to cook, keep a clean and orderly house, and to work hard at his multiple jobs.

Mrs. Doubtfire has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it over 20 years ago. It was only this week that I realized what wonderful lessons it holds for all of us in the midst of a career transition, or thinking about one. If Mrs. Doubtfire can do it, so can we.

This Just In: The unusual and improbable journey of boxer Floyd Patterson

Floyd Patterson as I remember him

Floyd Patterson as I remember him

“You try the impossible to achieve the unusual.” ~Floyd Patterson, American boxer and youngest ever Undisputed Heavyweight Champion

When I was a kid, I went to the same church in New Paltz, New York as Floyd Patterson. He was an usher who collected the weekly offering and every week I wondered how someone so kind and gentle could punch someone in the face for a living. I would watch for some sign in his personality that he could even swat a fly. I never saw one; he was known as a quintessential gentleman by everyone in our small community.

He was very elegant and graceful with a broad and beautiful smile. He never sat. Instead, he always stood in the back of the church. I remember thinking he was rather small for a boxer with teeth that seemed too perfect for someone who had such a successful career in the boxing ring.

In those years, Floyd Patterson helped me understand that people are very complex creatures. With his example, I couldn’t and wouldn’t judge anyone through a one-dimensional lens. From him I learned that what we do isn’t all that we are. There is always more to us than meets the eye.

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