Can Versus Will

This year isn’t about knowing you can. Those of us in developed countries with the foresight required to be reading professional development material all know that we can do anything we set our minds to. The question is “Will you do what you can do?”

I’m tired of seeing people who are less skilled, less competent, and less passionate than I doing better than me in the things I know I should be doing. So, this year, I’m knocking down doors to get where I need to be AND to get paid a fair amount in those spaces. Why? Not because I can but because I will. Will you?

And this isn’t just about your professional or entrepreneurial goals. In October, though I never had, I knew I could run 60+ miles but I didn’t know I would until I had 10 days remaining to run the last 35 miles. In college, though I never had, I knew I could graduate but it wasn’t until that fifth year that I knew I would. Make this stuff happen. This is your life. Put in the time. Ask for constructive criticism. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He called you by putting a fire in you to make something happen. That’s your calling. Step up to the plate. Now is the time. What are you going to do this year that you’ve never done?


Make knowing you will a priority.


On the Hunt

Everyone thinks I’m living my best life. And I kind of am. I’m happy. I am building a business that I truly enjoy. I’m able to work on projects that I really care about. The seeds for greatness have been planted and I’m reaping the rewards. Super duper cool, right? Well, that’s one half of the story. The other half is that I miss benefits and stability and a regular freaking paycheck. Now, with that comes me having to manage my happiness. Sometimes, and let’s be honest, working for someone else sucks, regardless of who it is. But so does working for yourself. It’s all about perspective.

Had to preface the meat of the post with that paragraph to say that I am on the hunt. And the hunt is taxing. To everyone who is on it, don’t quit. Don’t doubt yourself. Touch up on the things that you don’t do well and enhance those things which you do exceptionally well. Not getting a particular role is a blessing. It opens up the opportunity for you to be able to take the role that will truly fit you. Keep grinding, keep pressing through, and, when you get that dream job, all the nonsense will be worth it.


Make keeping it real a priority.

Choose Depth

Today, I was reading a piece by a conservative political blogger who concluded that a candidate’s age combined with a non-threatening biological issue were good reasons for exclusion from the political process. No point of issues or integrity were made, simply the candidates rumored lack of bowel control.

A few minutes before, as I was working on my résumé, from which I had previously removed my home address because, at this point in time, it serves no functional purpose on a résumé (as it did in decades past). Actually, I am wrong. It does serve a function – It makes the reader comfortable with the fact that I do not live in abstract poverty, a shelter or under a bridge (which speaks to the point that we are more afraid of homelessness and poverty than of a megalomaniac running the USA but that is another topic for another day).

Now, whether running for office while supposedly wearing adult diapers or failing to put a place of residency on a résumé, my point is as follows: How many highly qualified individuals does our society toss by the wayside because they don’t live up to our superficial expectations of what success is? Because their body doesn’t function normally (but not in a way that will prevent them from performing exceptionally)? Because they don’t want you to Google the fact that they live in the “hood” (or wherever they live because it is inconsequential)? I vividly recall sitting on a university’s panel with an HR professional who said she Googles the addresses of job candidates because, if they cannot keep a home that looks respectable on the outside, chances are they cannot run a department. What message does this send to the first generation college student whose address on his résumé doesn’t reflect the wealth that he knows some of his peers’ do?

Whose standards of success are we, as Americans, subscribing to? Such schools of thought perpetuate the fallacy that you must look and live in accordance within a predetermined set of norms that were established by men and women who look nothing like me and whose culture worked violently to eradicate mine. So, in order to get ahead, I should make sure my body looks, functions, and operates like theirs? To succeed, my home, yard, and family should be mirror images of theirs?

There are some cultural concessions I choose to make for the sake of my family. Other things, I am working to actively unlearn and reprogram. I don’t want my spirit to model that of murderers, slavers, and rapists like America’s forefathers, no matter how much of an impact they had on the world. I am content with the peace that comes from knowing that my ancestors equipped me with the emotional, physical, and cultural fortitude to be myself and to offer depth over shallowness.

How about, at this moment in history, we begin to look past the superficial in order to find the substance? I am certain that it will take more time but, in the end, it will be worth it.


Make choosing depth a priority.

Manipulate the System

I’ll kick it off by saying that being a young professional in today’s society is a double-edged sword that most Baby Boomers do not understand. I talk with my mom and grandma often and, when I am looking for a new job, they think it should be easy for someone with my skills and experience to find employment. And it would be very easy were it 1980 or before. Shoot, before 2000, you could walk into a company, shake someone’s hand, and make an excellent first impression when you handed a crafted résumé and cover letter to a receptionist or, if you were lucky, hiring manager.
That was then. Now we have to navigate through automated systems that often fail horribly at selecting the right person for the job. There are so many qualified candidates that human beings don’t put their eyes on applications until they’re sifted through by A.I. That’s the system, that’s the way it is, maybe we will be able to go back one day but, today, that’s reality.
Boom. I’ve covered myself. So what do we do now? We manipulate the unfair system to our advantage. We use the tools that do help us develop as young professionals to make ourselves stand out. We take the time to throw industry jargon into our LinkedIn profiles. We add key words from the job description to our résumé and cover letters to make sure our applications are selected by the A.I. systems. We go to the networking events so we can get in the rooms that the decision makers are in and, when in those rooms, we have something to say.
Technology makes things easier but it makes truly connecting more difficult. No one understands that more than those of us who learned with both a pencil at the first half of our childhood and a keyboard during our adolescence. We went to college, got out weighed down by debt, and the jobs weren’t there. Many of us are within 3 years of 30 on either side and we wonder why we haven’t made it to where The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show said we should be by now. Well, it’s because of tech. No one was ready for it. But, unless The Walking Dead is a premonition, it’s here to stay. So let’s hedge our bets and learn this new system. Take full advantage of apps like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. Invest in your professional development and personal branding. It’s the only way we’ll advance.
Oh… and don’t let Boomers or anyone else shame you for not “having it together” yet. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.
Make trusting the process a priority.

What Do They See?

I’m not advocating that you have a professional photo shoot every time you dress up. But if, in 2017, your LinkedIn profile photograph looks like it was taken on a Motorola RAZR, I’m going to need you to update it. The same is true for a résumé or a cover letter or a blog. If it doesn’t look like it was professionally done, you won’t look professional.

Right or wrong, these days as much emphasis is placed on how someone looks as is on what they know. So, whether we’re talking about the layout of your résumé or the aesthetic appeal of your brand’s Instagram content, employers and potential clients will always judge you based on the way you look online before they ever meet you off line.

Make sure you’re presenting yourself in the most intentional manner possible, while paying attention to whether or not your look aligns with what your target market is looking for. And, if you’re having a tough time doing that, reach out to me or someone else who takes their brand seriously. I’m definitely here as a resource.


Make professional development a priority.

It’s the Small Things

Yesterday morning, I met with a human resources professional for coffee.  Being that I’m in the field of professional development, I have to stay abreast of changes in hiring practices so she and I discussed the impact that small things make.  So, here are a few jewels that I picked up from her to share with you all.

1 – Arrive at an interview early enough to step into the men’s or ladies’ room and freshen up.  And actually freshen up.  If your hair is long enough to comb, comb it.  The wind may have hit it in an unflattering way.  Make sure you have chapstick on so that people are more focused on what is coming out of your mouth than on how chapped your lips are.  Pop a mint real quick.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.  Do all you can to make it great.

2 – Polish your shoes ahead of time.  Nothing takes away from your appearance like a nice outfit with terribly scuffed shoes.  Sure, you might brush up on the sidewalk when walking into the building but one scuff isn’t so bad.  People can tell when your shoes haven’t been polished in years though.  That could be the difference in you getting or not getting the job.

3 – Wear clothes that are made for your body type.  That is a whole post in itself but that is what professional development consultants (like myself) are for.  You need someone who is going to tell you the truth if you don’t know it.  For instance, I cannot wear every brand of shirt or suit right off the rack.  Actually, I had to go get a suit tailored just yesterday because my arms are longer than my torso and I always purchase a 40 Regular and get it tailored when I really  need a 40 Short based on my height (but if I buy a 40 Short, my sleeves are too short. #VerticallyChallengedPeopleProblems).  But you don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Which is why, before I learned, I was wearing jackets that were coming down to my mid-thigh.

4 (my addition) – Always follow up after an interview.  Even if you find out that you’re not as interested in the position as you thought you were at the time you applied, drop off a Thank You card or, if you can’t drop off a card for some reason, at least send a Thank You e-mail the following business day.  And personalize it.  It is imperative that they remember you, even if you don’t want the job.  You never know when you may need to be remembered by that person again.  It’s a small world and the internet makes it even smaller.

Are there any other small things that make a big difference that you want to remind people of?  Toss it in the comments section.


Make professional development a priority.

What Employers Are Looking For When Hiring Recent College Grads

To all my recent/soon-to-be college grads, this Forbes article by Sergei Klebnikov hits the nail on the head for you.  Feel free to share and leave a comment that speaks to your experience, either as a hiring professional or a recent/pending graduate.

Many employers today feel that recent college graduates are falling short in their preparedness to join the workforce. The qualities that result in job success are becoming harder and harder to find in college graduates, according to many findings from education research authorities.

“Over half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed,” says Josh Jarrett, CPO and co-founder of Koru, a job placement program for students out of college looking to enter the work force. The new start-up program, which has over 25 college partners and locations in Seattle, Boston and San Francisco, focuses on immersive learning programs that allow students to translate academic skills into professional use and bridge the school to labor market gap.

Fifty-eight percent of students said college should adequately prepare them for a career, according to McGraw-Hill Education’s 2015 Student Workforce Readiness Survey. However, only 20% of students at the time of graduation felt very prepared to join the workforce. According to a recent Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) study which surveyed over 400 private and non-profit organizations, less than two in five employers rate college students as well prepared (8 or above on a scale of 10). Fewer than three in 10 think that recent college grads are proficient in applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings or areas such as critical thinking and communication.

However, there is good news for today’s graduates. Another recent survey, by theNational Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), found that employers are planning to hire 9.6% more college grads this year than they did from the class of 2014. With this uptick in hiring, what can college grads do to improve their chances?

Many of the recent surveys have suggested that there are fewer than a dozen essential sets of skills which help. Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based leading labor market analytics firm, found that liberal arts and non-professional degree graduates in particular are having the most trouble finding employment opportunities after college.

In its report, they identified eight workplace-focused technical skills that are “in high-demand among employers” and which drastically improve labor market prospects, especially for liberal arts grads. These skills are marketing, sales, business, social media, graphic design, data analysis, computer programming and IT networking.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to learn them in a classroom. Nearly all can be developed during broader college experiences, such as extracurriulars, or can be learned through internships, explains Matt Sigelman, the firm’s CEO. “Simply by accruing even one of these you roughly double the amount of job opportunities available.” Similarly, Koru identifies seven of its own ‘competencies’ that help distinguish students – grit, rigor, impact, polish, teamwork, ownership and curiosity.

Some of today’s most in-demand employers look for a variety of skills. Large companies such as Goldman Sachs and J. Walter Thompson both cited that instead of hiring students with Ivy League diplomas, there is an emphasis on hiring self-driven individuals who show “an entrepreneurial spirit,” according to a Goldman Sachs spokesperson. Successful hires at JWT are “innovative problem-solvers” and “have awareness to other people and cultures,” says Stacey Klein, head of human resources at J. Walter Thompson North America.

Among some of the other key qualities listed by employers were teamwork, adaptability, and communication. A university recruiter at Microsoft, Anthony Rotoli, highlights potential candidates who are “willing to take risks” and “offer a fresh perspective.” Many of Microsoft’s college hires need to be “self-motivated and excited about technology” to succeed. In the NACE survey, 160 employers nation-wide responded with the specific skills they look for:

Reprinted with permission of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.

The NACE survey also examined employers’ hiring expectations by major. At the top of the list is engineering, with 72.1% of respondents looking for graduates in that field. Unsurprisingly, business (68.2%) and computer sciences (57.8%) are also successful majors in the job market. At the bottom of the list ranks health sciences, education and agriculture. Only 11% of employers were interested in hiring humanities majors, and 10% for the social sciences.

Despite this lack of enthusiasm to hire humanities students right after graduation, “Liberal education is better preparation for the global economy and the complicated world we live in precisely because it prepares students to be adaptable,” argues Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College.

With regard to the so-called debate’ between the liberal arts and STEM subjects – the real winners are liberal arts graduates with internship experience,  says  SymplicityCEO Bill Gerety, which facilitates matchmaking between students at large partner colleges, such as NYU and Notre Dame, and big brand name partners, like Google. While STEM grads have more opportunities and higher pay in the short term, the “real-world experience and outside-the-classroom learning” of liberal arts students give them “a unique edge,” he says.

Overall, the AACU study found that as opposed to the major or skills sets, what most employers continue to highlight is having both field-specific knowledge and a broad range of skills as most crucial for recent college graduates to achieve career success.

Reprinted with permission from Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success. Copyright 2015 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

A resume with both of these ranges can prove to be crucial – employers placed the greatest values on demonstrated proficiency in skills and knowledge that “cut across all majors.” Peter Cohen, group president of U.S. Education at McGraw-Hill Education, believes that today’s employers ultimately “need people that have skills that transcend the educational content they get.”

Source: Forbes

Make professional development a priority.