Category Archives: Career

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

This has been by far my most popular post in the nine months that I have blogged, and I thought it was time to revisit it and keep the conversation going. There are some incredible comments up for review. Some of my childhood friends even chimed in to challenge me with some of my content in the post. I would love you to take a read and  respond with your honest feelings on the subject. Maybe I will turn this conversation in to a mini e-book or something in the future because it sure captivated my readers. Enjoy!

I recently returned from a trip to my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Winnipeg is 8 hours north of Minneapolis, Minnesota if you are unaware. This is the first time in my career that I am able to work in my hometown since I moved away 11 years ago, and I was very excited to reconnect in my community.

Although most of the trip was awesome, I had a surprising conversation with somebody from my past that bothered me greatly. For those of you who know me well, I have “facial recognition software” engrained in my brain for remembering people who I grew up with. I was at the 100th anniversary of the suburb that I grew up in last Saturday and approached at least 15 people from my youth that I had not seen in 4EVER! That was so much fun. I digress…

I was at a trade show earlier in the week and ordered supper at a concession stand. I changed my drink order, and the person serving me smiled and gave a double take. They saw that I was wearing a name tag, and asked if I went to school in the suburb that I actually grew up in. I paused for a moment and said yes. Instead of saying that I did not remember them, I asked what their name was. After they replied, I instantly recognized their face.

The difficult part of the dialog is they hesitated to say their name out of embarrassment for the job that they were doing. I took a few moments to speak with them after receiving my drink, and saw them the next day as well.

21 years removed from high school, I was not expecting somebody to be working in that setting, and my “facial recognition software” was not activated at the time. If they were proud of the job that they were doing, and did not care what others  thought, they would have had no issue telling me what their name was.

There is a silver lining for this person. It is never too late to change career paths. The generation of  “go to school, get a job, find somebody, get married, have some kids, work at the same thing for 40+ years and retire” is long gone.

One of my best friends dropped everything in his late 30’s, started working towards a totally different career, and is now very close to completing his studies.

We can’t turn back the clock and hit “reset” to that day that we walked out of high school with that diploma in hand, but we can certainly hit the “reset” button RIGHT NOW and start working towards something more fulfilling.

If there is anything this experience really taught me, is that I have to keep working towards what I really want out of life, no matter how hard it seems sometimes. I would rather fall flat on my face and know that I tried, than think about it, and never do anything. I don’t care if you are in sales, management, general business, or doing whatever keeps you paying the bills, but be sure that you are happy doing it.

I will always keep trying, scratching and clawing towards surpassing my goals, no matter how tough things seem to get. Just ask those who played hockey against me when I was a one man wrecking crew pushing for victory as a kid!

  • How is your job/career going?
  • Are you jumping out of bed excited about what you are doing from the moment your feet hit the floor each morning?
  • If you had an unexpected meeting with somebody from your past, would you be embarrassed to tell them what you are doing?
  • If so, whatcha gonna do about it?
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Which “Version” of You Do You Want To Be?

If you have ever been in a funk during your career (especially now) you need to take a couple of minutes and read this.

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Think back to a time when everything was clicking with your current role. Reflect on why things were going so well, and what you were doing specifically (and how you were feeling) to make it all happen.

It is my experience that when people are confident, have a positive attitude and a bounce in their step, everything falls in to place over time. As I write this line, I think back to how great I feel when I am “on my game” while golfing! Dr. Bob Rotella has some incredible content on the mental side of golf. I see many parallels with the psychology of sales, and will continue to explore the similarities down the road.

I worked with a retailer in the past that put heavy emphasis on employees closing the sale with the first customer who walked through the door each morning. Why? Because that put them in a great mindset for the rest of the day. On a larger scale, if you make half of your sales quota in the first week of the month the pressure is off, and you can get to work and sell more comfortably for the next three weeks.

To be clear, relaxed does not mean taking it easy. More that you don’t feel the pressure of every sales call or every retail customer having to result in a sale immediately.

Many little things can throw us off and put us in to a funk for long periods of time. Remember when you did poorly on an exam or test in school? Did that make you a bad student? Of course not. I drew a total blank during one exam and failed the course.

That one blemish did not make me a bad student, but it certainly toughened me up, and I made darn sure that it did not happen again! The key is to shrug off those setbacks as soon as possible, and get back to your reality of success.

I wanted you to reflect on being in an awesome place with your role because you deserve to “return there” as soon as possible. I have wrestled with “self-doubt” demons several times during my career and felt that my current existence was just the way that things were going to be forever. Thankfully I would always snap out of it.

I am very respectful that the economy and other things out of our control can certainly affect our mindset and general demeanor for extended periods of time. But when every setback moves you further and further from your goals, job satisfaction and ultimately overall happiness, the negative spiral can be catastrophic!

If you need to hit “reset” with your current role …..

Splash some cold water on your face, take a good look in the mirror, and become that “you” that you really want to be again. You deserve it!

  • Are you at the top of your game with your current role?
  • Like a golf swing, are you “feeling it” now?
  • If not, what changes can you make as soon as possible to get back to the best “version” of yourself?

Career Quicksand – How Deep Are You Sinking?

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I have been lucky enough to work out of a home office for 11 of the last 13 years. The two years that I had an office to report in to, I would get stuck in traffic daily. It gave me many opportunities to look at other people’s faces, as their days were off to very “slow” starts too.

Some looked sad; others looked angry or frustrated, some had blank stares or even looked dazed. On occasion, some were smiling, while others where actually singing! It blew my mind how many people looked unhappy though. Is it realistic to believe that all of them looked that way because they were unhappy going to work? Of course not. Some must have been dealing with other issues too (some were of course frustrated by the continual traffic jams).

Most studies report that 7 or 8 out of 10 people do not like their jobs! One study in the sales profession showed that more than 50% of people should not even be sales at all! Are you one of those people getting out of bed dreading the next 8 to 12 hours every day?

Internet marketer Gary Vaynerchuk changed his entire career path because he was only 99% happy in his situation at the time. To me, that was an incredibly powerful statement. As people become more and more unhappy with their jobs over the months, years or even decades, it is like they are sinking further and further into quicksand. The more unhappy they get, the deeper they sink. On the odd occasion that they try to change jobs, they try a little bit, then just stop trying all together.

People typically want to make the switch, but “life gets in the way”. A job search gets put on the back burner. Others lack confidence, and don’t feel that they are good enough to have a shot at “career satisfaction”. Too many people settle for the status quo, and don’t take action. Some stay in a career that they just don’t like, becoming a “work robot” completing the same repetitive tasks at nauseum, for what seems like an eternity.

The next thing they know, five, ten or 20+ years have passed, and then wake up one day saying, “What the heck am I still doing here?” I can tell you from experience that being comfortable in a role that “pays the bills” does not equal happiness. Not even close.

When you are in love with your career, you should rarely be counting down the minutes until the end of the day, week, or until holidays start. I had a manager tell me that you should be excited to go to work, from the moment your feet hit the floor each morning. So many people over the years have said that “every day should feel like a Saturday”, or “your work should not feel like a job”.

It can be a good practice to check in with yourself every now and then.

  • How happy are you with your career?
  • Is it heading in the direction you would like it to?

If you feel “sunk”, the good news is you can always change your path going forward.

Remember, “You don’t drown by falling in water. You only drown by staying there.” – Zig Ziglar

  • What does your perfect job look like (yes, you can have the perfect job)?
  • How does that list compare to the job you’re currently in?
  • What one step can you take today to move towards loving your job?

 

 

Your “Indefinite Unsettledness” Will End – Mine Did!

Do you ever not feel quite right? Things just aren’t as they should be? Maybe it only lasts a day, perhaps a week, month or possibly even years. I had these feeling about my career for a little less than 3 years.

It was October of 2009 that I lost my job, and it sucked. It sucked big time, but I shook it off and was back to work two months later. But that job did not work out, nor did the second, or the third! I had worked for one company for almost eight years before that, and had never categorized myself as a quitter, but I became quite self-conscious with all the changes. But I kept fighting, and believing in myself that I could do whatever I wanted with my career and life.

I stayed in touch over the past three years with a manager at an account during that time period before I was fired. I would stop by, catch up, try to sell him products and services that I was representing at the time. He was never far from my thoughts. We had discussed me coming to work with his company on several occasions, but the timing was never right.

Well that time has finally come and I start my new role on November 1st with that organization. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I can look forward to work again every day from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning. When you change jobs every year for three years, you start to feel a little lost and temporarily forget what made you successful in the past.

Whatever “indefinite unsettledness” you may be feeling, it will go away, I promise you that. But only if you work at it. I had some horrible days; weeks for that matter over the past three years, but I never gave up. In fact, the best thing that came out of these past three years was picking up a note pad and pen, and starting to write. Now I have this blog, I am in Toastmasters, and I look forward to writing a book, possibly training, teaching and speaking to others somewhere down the line.

As abrasive as it sounds, you need to have that moment where you say something like “screw it, I know I can do this“. And keep fighting for what you really want.

Good luck and remember, if I can get past my “indefinite unsettledness”, so can you!

The Name That Tune “Beat Down” – A Lesson In Learning!

When you love something, you typically don’t have to learn it. It is almost as if you absorb the information, without having to bear down, understand and memorize the content. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you will know that I am a music fanatic. I have always done well playing “name that tune” at pubs, or with my wife making selections on our iPod during long road trips.

But my biggest victory occurred on a 3 hour car ride with three colleagues. They challenged me to a game and even used their own iPod. They were younger than me, and quite confident that they would beat “the old guy”. Long story short, it was not even close. I answered 90+% of the songs correctly (many after only hearing 2-3 second clips). They were flabbergasted, and I could not wipe the smile off my face. I have loved music since I was ten years old. They never had a chance.

With several of my sales roles, I loved what I sold. There was never really any learning involved. The knowledge “just appeared” over time, and I was having fun doing something I loved.

This is how I am today with hockey, golf, music and internet marketing. I do not have to memorize anything. The information just stays with me.

Think of how difficult it is to learn something when you do not like it, or are just not interested in it:

  • A course at school
  • Training for products, services or concepts at work
  • Music lessons as a kid

It did not go very well, did it?

If the negative feelings you have towards learning something are worse than getting your teeth pulled, how effective are you ever going to be at understanding the information? You may be able to learn it over time and perform a required role, but it will not have meaning to you. It will just be something that you have to do.

From an early age, my son fell in love with hockey. That was a “side affect” of having me as a dad. We watched it on TV, played in the basement, on the driveway and at the rink. He also took skating lessons and started to play on a team last year. Did I mention that he watched his first professional NHL game at one hour and fifty minutes old on the 7 inch TV screen in the hospital?

By the time that he was four years old, he could name any of 15 NHL players by me only giving him a number and team name as hints. We never had “memorization sessions”. He just immersed himself in the sport, and his knowledge of one of the greatest games on earth is coming to him as naturally as it did for his father.

The motivation for this post came from the courses that I did not like in school and struggled just to get passing grades in, and the jobs that I have had in the past where I did not like what I was selling.

  • Do you love the products and/or services that you sell  every day?
  • If not, should you be getting involved with something that you really love to do?
  • If you have been “festering in unhappiness” for months, years or decades, is it time to “hit reset”?

If you are sitting on the fence, maybe today is the day to take a leap of faith!

I really enjoyed this short blog post from Broc Edwards. He makes some very valid points comparing a job and a career. Enjoy!

 

fool (with a plan)

[Today’s flashback is a short piece I originally posted on September 5, 2011. Enjoy!]

I was watching Chris Rock’s “Kill the Messenger” the other night and was really struck by one of his comments. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that you know you have a career when there’s never enough time. You look at your watch and it’s already after 5pm so you plan on coming in early the next day. With a job, there’s too much time. You look at your watch and it’s just after 9am and the day stretches out ahead.

Absolutely brilliant! It doesn’t matter if you’re overpaid or underpaid, hourly or salaried, educated or uneducated, or what field you’re in or company you work for: if there’s never enough time to accomplish all that you’re excited about getting done, you have a career; if time is your enemy, you have a job. There’s a lot of…

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Job Search Day 2 – Don’t Underestimate A Career Aptitude Test!

Over the years when I was interviewing for sales and sales management roles, it was not uncommon for organizations to conduct career aptitude tests as part of the screening process. Although I never enjoyed doing these test, I quickly realized that most organizations put a decent amount of weight in to the results, so I started to put more thought in to my answers.

In general, the tests would cover these categories:

Leadership

This was more typical when I was applying for sales management roles. High scores in this category would show people who were competitive and could lead others at a high level. On the flip side, a low score would describe people who were less dominant and less assertive. I have seen this line of questioning when applying for outside sales rep positions as well. Employers loved to look for future leaders, and they would typically find them within a pool of candidates applying for outside sales positions.

Emotional

High scores would go to those candidates who were calm and even-tempered. A lower score showed that you had a sense of urgency and tended to be emotionally reactive.

Social

They are testing to see what your level of social interaction is. For a sales role, I think it is obvious that you want to score as high as possible. Being talkative by nature, outgoing, and generally engaging are traits that will give high scores in this category. If you are shy and don’t like engaging in conversations, you may want to look for a different profession!

Interpersonal

They are testing how sensitive and empathetic you are. If you are not sensitive to the needs of others and are not tactful, you will score lower. You will be perceived as more forthright and direct.

Task

How rule abiding and detailed focused are you? If you are conventional and meticulous, you will score high. If you are flexible and improvising, you will score lower.

Conceptual

When I first saw this category, my initial thought was how well could you handle different concepts and be open-minded. I was not too far off. They look to how imaginative and open to change you are. If you score lower, you probably prefer more predictability.

In general career aptitude tests tended to be 20 to 30 minutes in length. They were mostly multiple choice questions. I remember there being anywhere between 100 and 175 questions with these tests over the years. After doing a couple tests, I realized that they tended to ask similar questions many ways to uncover patterns in your answers. My advice is to be as consistent as possible in your responses. If you are stumped on any one question, I would not worry about it too much.

There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to think about the characteristics and qualities that they are looking for in an outside rep.

If you are outgoing, very social, motivated to succeed, and can work under limited supervision – those are probably key attributes that they are looking for.

That will be more desirable to an organization hiring an outside sales person than if you are:

Reserved, somewhat shy, like consistent income and need regular supervision.

As I mentioned above, organizations usually will use the test results as one of several criteria for selecting a candidate. I was hired for a role once, where the company put a lot more weight in the test results than I ever would have, but it worked in my favour!

I was down to one of the last two candidates for a role, and I got the job because I did better on the test. I was very fortunate because we were equally matched candidates.

This process was more difficult than any other test that I had ever taken before. The first test was taken during my first interview, and the second test was taken during my third (and last) interview. I think they both took close to one hour, and had 225+ questions.

Those initial feelings that you get about people in the first interview, and subsequently how they handle other interviews should have as much or more weight than test results, but that is just my opinion. I will save a more detailed commentary for a future blog post!

If I was sick, distracted for some reason, or just not having a good day, I would have missed out on a 7 year career that has changed my life forever. That would have not been fair to me, my family or the company who took the other candidate because they did better on these tests.

Job Search Day 1 – Don’t By Shy, Apply. You Never Know!

I had four hours to kill last week on an airplane, so I decided to revisit old content that I had archived. I was surprised by how much information I had on job searches; all the way from getting started on a search, culminating with evaluating offers. I will save most of it for the future. Perhaps release it in eBook format!

Until then, here are three of my favourite posts that I dug up and edited. Enjoy day 1!

I absolutely love being the dark horse in the interview process. If I was not expected to get a role, I took it as a personal challenge and stepped my game up to the highest level possible. It is always fun going through the process under those circumstances. There is no pressure on the underdog; just go in and do your best.  I would get this type of information by asking the recruiter who I was competing against for an opportunity. Sometimes it was better not to know, but on occasion I would ask and they would tell me.

I know for a fact that I was hired in at least one role that I had no business getting based on minimal experience in a technical field. It was down to four candidates, but I did not let the knowledge that the other candidates had solid industry experience affect my confidence in any way.

I had no pressure on me and did get the role which felt great. I impressed the toughest manager that I ever ended up working for in my career in that interview, and he gave me a shot. I have always told recruiters and/or hiring managers that all I need is the chance to impress during the interview process. Actions speak louder than words, and meeting people face to face confirms that I will shine, and am not just a bunch of credentials on paper.

Do not be afraid to apply for roles that need previous sales or industry experience. What do you have to lose? If they don’t want to meet with you, that is their choice, but at least you are giving them something to think about.

Remember, it is not uncommon for sales reps to work for several different organizations in a specific industry during their career because they have product knowledge and many business contacts. But bad habits can creep in to their day-to-day activities, and I am hearing from mangers recently that they will give more consideration to new reps entering an industry and/or sales all together. It is a breath of fresh air to bring new blood in and not “recycle” the same reps over and over.

Why is that?

New sales reps have a clean slate. They have no preconceived notions about the industry or particular customers. They are excited to have the opportunity to start in a sales role and grow with an organization. Many managers realize that they can train new employees, and teach them product knowledge, as long as they have the skill set to succeed long-term.

My most successful sales role started without industry experience or product knowledge. I was very nervous at first taking the role, but once I learned the product line and account base, it was smooth sailing from there. My tried and tested systems worked once again. I just had to “insert” the new products!

I have had the good fortune to correspond with Richard from time to time over the past year. I also read his blog when time permits.

This post caught my attention over the weekend. If anyone is thinking about owning a business, is attempting to “live the entrepreneurial dream, or wants a great read, this post is for you! Check out how Richard eloquently describes the need for a business coach.

Practicebetterbusiness's Blog

 

I Need a Business Coach

 

What is your intention and objective? What rationale are you using to determine your tenacity to reach your purpose?  Is your resolution resolute? Will your commitment and resolve match the desire of the want? What are you willing to do to reach your objective?

 

We all want success. I have never met any person that wanted failure. Sometimes success eludes us and it is difficult to understand and discover what is holding the success from overflowing the cup of wealth and desire. Often opportunities are pushed to the side and forgotten mainly due to our own ignorance to look past our own self absorb opinions. We live in this circle of what we know that binds and hinders our willingness to seek opportunities outside our realm of vision and beliefs.

 

Many business owners have hit the first of many curveballs thrown…

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Sarah has a wonderful blog going here, and I encourage you to check it out. After I read this post yesterday, I found myself contemplating the message several times. Enjoy, and take a moment to really think about it. Are you doing what you really love?

Find Your Dream Job

Lizzy Bell changed from an unrewarding life as an accountant to her dream job as a photographer and was interviewed recently by coach and journalist Suzy Greaves (during a bike ride from Lands End to John O’Groats!).

Lizzy’s story is such a great one for anyone stuck in a rut and wondering what business to start, I wanted to blog about it.  Especially following a recent survey that said being a photographer is No. 4 on the top 10 list of dream jobs.

So how did she do it?

Lizzy originally trained as an accountant and got a ‘proper job.’ “I’m not even that good at maths’ she laughs. “Like many people you end up in a career, you earn this money and you get channelled and things don’t maybe feel quite right and you just keep going and going.   I got to my mid to late 30s and…

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