Patience Is A Virtue And Perfection Is An Unattainable Goal

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.”  – Victor Hugo.

One of the most asked questions of any candidate in a job interview is which of your personality traits that you are most proud of and which that you would like to improve upon?  For years the most popular response, and one that I have used more often than not is that “being a perfectionist I always strive for the best that I can be for my employer while the trait that I need to improve on is the lack of patience that periodically I can display.”

With age, experience and maturity one realizes that perfection is unattainable in our lifetime and that you can be proud of what you produce despite the fact that it probably could always be better.  With the demands placed upon all of us, a timely and appropriate end-product is very acceptable when it is quite obvious that next in line is another demand that you must respond to right now!  It was always my goal to create a perfect result but unfortunately that perfection always provided stress, anxiety and disappointment along the way.  Acceptability has become my new mantra and it appears to be the right approach for most people who are aware of the never-ending demands that are placed upon them in today’s society.

Patience is another personality trait that is a constant in employment interviews.  I must admit that for too many years my pet answer was that patience is a virtue and that it was an attribute that never found a home with me.  I wore the badge of honor thinking that others were just like me; that patience was a sign of weakness and that if you were to achieve much in this world that you must demand results now and not later.

Maybe it is because I have lived outside a metropolitan community these last few years or maybe it is because age has a knack of slowing you down, but I have come to the realization that everything doesn’t have to be achieved in a speedy context and that the job doesn’t get done any faster by standing over the person (for image purposes only) who is doing the job.

I remember the first day or two that I lived in the country and came upon a stop sign.  Of course I thought the car in front of me was too slow to move into the intersection and thus I beeped my horn.  I wasn’t surprised that the individual in the car in front of me raised his hand in response but I was taken aback when I noticed that what was displayed was the full hand, as in a wave of hello rather than a middle finger raised in anger!

We are never too old to learn and if I have learned anything over the years is that the best manager is one that can roll with the punches, be flexible when flexibility is demanded and never expect more from others than what you expect from yourself.  Perfection is a lofty goal and a goal that we should all strive for, but we shouldn’t stop the world just because we haven’t achieved such on every project.

The long line of tasks that need to be accomplished is forming right behind you and before you take two years to complete that perfect job, just think about everything else that needs to be accomplished right now.  With fewer hands to complete the task and what seems to be more demands placed upon all of us, maybe acceptability is the perfection of our current times.

And, oh by the way, I would advocate you finding a higher patience quotient as well,  if you are going to survive in today’s economy.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” – Saint Augustine.

Dan Borschke is  a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow (FASAE) by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

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What We Learn When Left At The Altar

There is an old English idiom: Always a bridesmaid and never a bride.  You might be asking yourself why are we talking about weddings and what do they have to do with a discussion about job search and career transition?  The bridesmaid idiom relates to that poor individual who gets close but never fulfills the ambition of wearing the wedding dress.  She may crave the spotlight but unfortunately never manages to get the recognition she so rightfully deserves.

For many who have been romanced by the possibility of a certain employment position during their job search, the bridesmaid analogy might be a bit over the top but after all, we do need to get your attention on these matters.  Unfortunately, every recruitment or search only produces one winner leaving all that remain to contemplate what they could have done to make the end result more favorable for them.

There are numerous reason for a selection committee to choose one person over another and of course there are times where there are no reasons at all for such a decision.  Many of the individuals who receive the phone call or e-mail that alludes to how difficult such a process this has been and that the decision was virtually impossible to make is not comforted by such rhetoric.  A rejection is clear and simple a rejection and what an individual really wants to know is why such a decision was made and what they can do to improve the odds next time around.

I recall discussing such a matter with a headhunter, who once told me that there was a group which once could not make up their minds between two candidates for the CEO job so they flipped a coin.  There obviously has to be a better way for such an important determination.  If this is the approach of the governing body, the true winner in this story might be the individual who didn’t get chosen for the job by the coin flip.

But of course if we don’t know why a decision was made how can we make sure that in the future we can be considered for such a position?  Could they have decided on the ultimate candidate because:

*  There was an internal candidate.  The person they know is certainly more attractive than the person they don’t.

*  Does age, gender or appearance have anything to do with the decision?

*  Maybe the eventual winner addressed the concerns of the organization more effectively?

*  Maybe the new hire was more engaging and articulate than others?

*  Preparation should never be discounted and maybe the new CEO was just that?

*  Or finally there might be no one outstanding reason for such a decision.

A “bridesmaid” in the job search process can drive themselves crazy attempting to find rationale for a decision when in reality there just might not be a cogent answer.  After all, when people are involved there is always the X factor – bias, expectations and prejudgment.  Decisions and determinations are not made by infallible people – if that was the case there would never be any openings to apply for in the first place.

Selection committees, like juries can be wavering and can turn on a dime because of any one particular reason.  Rarely is there a clear-cut choice (in those cases we thank the Lord for making the job so easy), rather it becomes the task of the selection committee to find the best candidate and that sometimes can be grueling at best.

It behooves a candidate who did not receive the nod for the job to ask why.  Of course be prepared to never receive an answer.  Most selection committees and recruiters will not want to discuss such a matter outside the conference room.  In today’s litigious environment no legal counsel will ever allow such decisions to be discussed in the light of day.

Probably the only possibility for an insight into the choice might be to contact the ultimate winner of the selection committee and see if you could prod some information from him/her over lunch.  If you know or know of the person, such a possibility is more likely than if the individual is a pure stranger to you.  Such an approach is worth trying but might also not be fulfilling at all.

You keep telling yourself that you cannot take a negative employment decision personally, though saying it and meaning it are two different things.  The selection committee was doing their work and unfortunately went a different route.  Hopefully you can learn from the experience and move on quickly.

Despite the fact that you might never determine why a decision was made, your involvement in the interview process can be a valuable benefit for the future.  Sure, you might not have been chosen for this job but you have learned from this experience and you will be able to use those learnings for the next interview.  Who knows, the next time you might be the one walking down the aisle!

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 100 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at:  dborschke@yahoo.com.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

A True and Distinctive Independence

On this day that we celebrate America’s 235th year of independence many continue to strive for their own, personal goal of independence.  For too many, that personal independence is financially oriented but as Henry Ford mentioned, so many years ago “If money is your hope for independence you will never have it.  The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.”

True independence does not come from money, though it certainly can’t hurt; independence comes from a state of mind and the abilities and experience that you can bring to the table.  For those in a job search, most recruiters are looking for those individuals who can provide benefit to the organization while also working well together with others.  Team work is a demanded trait but independence of thought and deed is an attribute that must also be displayed for a well-rounded and successful employee.

Not every job seeker can be an entrepreneur, consultant or independent contractor – it takes a certain personality and drive to work by yourself, for yourself.  No one advocates only thinking of yourself and your future as you work at an established institution, but a certain amount of independence of thought and deed goes a long way in completing your education and your career.

No one is truly independent, we all have responsibilities and demands placed upon us.  We all need to play by the rules and work alongside our friends and foes alike but nothing is limiting our careers to a certain road or a certain mindset.  When you are in transition, such an opportunity avails you of contemplating a horizon that possibly you never thought was available before.  What do you enjoy doing and is that something that can put food on the table, pay the mortgage and get the kids through college?

Too often individuals fall into a rut because that is what he has always done or what he has always thought he should be doing. The older one gets the more he thinks about the legacy he will be leaving behind.  Success can be defined in many different ways and it is unfortunate for some if they never realized that they could have done so much more and could have been so very different if they just took the risk.  “You could have been a contender.” (On the Waterfront).

A true entrepreneur will tell you that just having the unique idea will not guarantee you success.  You need to also have the drive and the motivation to succeed and the personality to take risks. Many people do succeed by taking the designated road but ultimately are they happy and content?  Some people accumulate success through no real deed of their own, they literally have success dropped in their lap – such a likelihood is remote and again are they truly happy?

On this day that commemorates American Independence, it would be worthwhile reevaluating your job search philosophy.  Are you pursuing all the possibilities?  Are you thinking beyond your past or your comfort level?  Are you just pursuing the almighty dollar rather than happiness?  These are all thoughts for a day of sitting around the bbq and discussing with friends what you really want to do with the rest of your life.

Have a great holiday and even better have a great career.  As Walt Disney once said, “Mickey Mouse is, to me, a symbol of independence.  He was a means to an end.”

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one on only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation for Fellow by the American Society of Association executives since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 100 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at dborschke@yahoo.com.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Vetting the Expert

The definition of an expert is any individual who is knowledgeable, proficient, qualified, professional, adept or experienced in a matter, profession or trade.  In today’s world of the citizen journalist or would-be expert who can be found throughout social media, it is imperative for all readers and participants in all communities to maintain the edict: Caveat Emptor. 

There are thousands upon thousands of self-proclaimed experts whose only claim to fame is that they had the initiative and the insight to be the first to a certain domain. Far be it from any of us not to allow individuals to monetize their talents, but the current onslaught of pseudo-experts in the employment field brings back distasteful memories of yesteryear.

Prior to the housing crash in 06 and 07, did we not see mortgage broker after mortgage broker providing the latest and greatest methods of getting you into that previously unaffordable house of your dreams?  We saw no money-down mortgages that astonished the mind and prompted people to ask How Could Such a System be Sustainable?  With some pundits now reporting that 30% of all mortgages or 40% of all second mortgages are now “under water,” I guess we doubters were not that far off base!  If you have any doubts of the harm such a greedy, “fast money scheme” bestowed upon America, you must see the exceptional HBO rendition of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail.

Once the Recession of 08 started, we then began to see “for profit” credit counselors who can make you solvent within 24 months.  Though no one would ever discount the desire to be successful in our Capitalist Society, charlatans who feed off of the suffering of the needy and the destitute with little or no results to show for it are the lowest of the low.

With unemployment rates at historic levels, job seekers must be careful not to fall into the latest and greatest service industry scheme – employment experts.  You see them everywhere on the internet.  These are the people who will assist you in finding a job in “record time.”  Career Coaches and Resume Authors have a viable service to provide and should not be tossed into the same conversation but it doesn’t take long for most job seekers to tire of the “added premium services” available on a multitude of web sites.

In a previous association gig where we maintained a job board for modestly compensated laborers, we heard time and time again of fraudulent approaches to get at your hard-earned money.  Our constant suggestion was that you should never have to pay for a job.  That approach continues to be my personal policy for those in higher-salaried searches as well.

As I approach nearly 100 job search and career transition blog postings, I have become quite knowledgeable and astute of the ways of the employment world.  Though I would never call myself an expert, comments provided me have done just that.  I have always given much more validity and credence to individuals who have “lived the life” and “walked the walk” than those who have written the book without experiencing the full “life-changing” tenure of a job seeker.  I guess that will always be the difference between empathy and sympathy.

My personal belief is that a consultant worth his weight is the individual who has been in the trenches and ultimately survived.  If you are going to be an advisor to a CEO, it would be much more valuable if you were once one.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and I have never bought into the old adage “those who can – do and those who can’t – teach”  but in today’s business world, even the Ivy League experts are putting their money where their mouths are.  You are seeing former business pros ending up in academia – on their own accord and not just because they can’t find a job.  These are the people who have experienced the world and have prospered and now want to repay the favor to the next generation!

When It comes to working with a Career Coach, a Resume Writer or others in the employment field – one of my first questions would be what is your success record?  How many of your clients have found employment and in what time frame?  I would also ask of their background – human resources or business or ever been out of work?  You need to vet your expert to determine if they are truly what they profess to be.  Think of it as an opportunity to practice your interviewing talents.

Job seekers are looking for every potential possible answer and approach, but it is vital to know what you are getting yourself into.  Before you pay for a “premium service,” make sure you know what you are getting and make sure that the service you are paying for is necessary for your ultimate goal of the appropriate place of employment at this time of your career.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 95 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be reached at: dborschke@yahoo.com

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

“Never Worry About The Next Job”

As Katie Couric leaves her post at CBS News she leaves behind a legacy of momentous interviews  (remember Sarah Palin in 2008) and on-the-spot breaking news reporting.  She also leaves behind a new book, The Best Advice I Ever Got, proceeds from which will benefit Scholarship America.  The book was developed from a commencement address she gave at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland from which she solicited the best advice you have ever received from a gaggle of newsmakers, celebrities and business professionals.

One of the most poignant anecdotes comes from current Sony CEO, and former head of CBS Howard Stringer;  “Never worry about the next job.  Do the one you have better than anyone else.” 

It is most unfortunate that many are so concerned about members, Board Directors and fellow staffers looking over their shoulder that you never can feel comfortable in what you are achieving and accomplishing for those who you are currently leading.  American Society loves a success story, we root for the underdog and we adore those who make a name for themselves.  We also love bringing those at the pinnacle of success down to our level.  Arrogance is a virtue most of us would like to eliminate.  We love a scandal and we love gossiping about it.

Much of the same can be said of those who succeed at their jobs.  We embrace their success but why is it that we feed off or even feed the beast by not always being as supportive as possible of those who make tough decisions that result in a positive bottom-line for the association or company?

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” era.  None of us can live off our laurels for very long these days,  but such a MO will fail to bring the best out of those who manage the entity.  A little fear is certainly motivational but if you live with it on a daily basis most experts will advise finding a new position or a new career.

Howard Stringer’s advice is one everybody should take to heart.  If you are proud of your accomplishments and you have done your best, then what else can they ask of you or of yourself?  Obviously we all have considered where we want to be next in our career but for most of us that is a fleeting moment in the shadow of any given day.  Our continual focus is an operational approach that will get us to the finish line at our current job.  There are too many fires to put out every day to worry about tomorrow and likewise, if you are worrying about tomorrow those fires may singe your toes before you know it, today.

For those who are in an employment transition, it goes without saying that your unending focus must be on finding a new home where you are comfortable and where you can make a difference.  During your interviews and research on the new organization, make sure that you take into consideration all aspects of what you have discovered and what you have heard.  You don’t need to get back into the fire now that you have found comfort with your departure.

Of course we all have a mortgage to pay but those who have been in a job search before will emphasize time and time again – don’t just take the first job offered.  The position might be the best thing since sliced bread but if your gut is telling you no, make sure you consider all ramifications of that offer.

*  Have you met the Leadership of the organization (past, present and future)? 

Have you determined how the last Executive departed? 

Are there unbelievable expectations being placed upon you? 

Have you been exposed to the financials?

Have you interviewed the staff?

When will be your first review?

Is it an organization that you need to ask for permission or ask for forgiveness?

Transitions are a great opportunity to find the next best place.  Don’t hurry into something that may not be what you ultimately would want.  Nothing is perfect or fool-proof, but please, please make sure you are happy with your decision.  There are too many examples of knowing that an employment selection mistake has been made during the first week on the job.  Like a marriage, you always need to work at it but if you are having second thoughts early on, well the likelihood of divorce is certainly inevitable.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 75 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transitions.  He can be contacted at:  dborschke@yahoo.com

Copyright: MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

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Your Greatest Enemy Is You

Mika Brzenzinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe with former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough and daughter of former National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration Zbigniew Brzenzinski has a new book on personal growth and careers in Knowing Your Value. 

Mika, who started her career as a reporter for CBS News and whose reports frequented 60 Minutes was fired unceremoniously by the Tiffany of Network News Divisions before landing on her feet with NBC News and their various cable outlets. Morning Joe became an instant hit for the struggling, liberally-positioned network after the demise of Don Imus and his racially-tinged remarks about the Rutgers University Women’s basketball team in 2008.

The politically balanced Scarborough and Brzenzinski duo makes for interesting viewing and intellectually challenging counter-programming to the typical morning entertainment shows found on the legacy broadcast stations at the break of dawn weekdays.  Both would be considered moderates in their respective political beliefs which is ideal for a worthwhile discussion of the daily political events.

She found herself without work for nearly a year in the transition from CBS to NBC and it literally changed her life, “This is a difficult business to get into and it’s even harder to get back in, but the year off forced me to step back and take stock of myself and where I wanted to be and what was right for me and my family.  I had some offers, but nothing I felt good about and nothing that fit into the family situation.”

In a revelation to her Williams College Alumni Newsletter in November of 2008 she rhetorically asked: “You know what I learned from all of that? ”  She continued: ” Never be afraid to take a step back or a huge step back and work hard to find the right situation.”

Though her new book emphasizes the professional balancing act of females and compensation disparity in American society, one can extend the message way beyond the singular gender.  One of the most revealing comments in the book was that “she was her greatest enemy.”  It only reinforces the underlying belief that if we are to succeed we must believe in ourselves and in our numerous and varied talents.  That is where the real value of oneself comes into play.

In marketing ourselves to potential employers it is vital to know not necessarily what the recruiter or search committee is interested in but more importantly what we value in ourselves.  Our talents that we bring to the table are unique and if we are to position ourselves above and beyond all those other candidates that are in line for the position that we have an interest in we must be creative, honest and demanding of ourselves.

Creative in packaging our uniqueness and experiences so that potential employers can visualize that we are something very different, very special and a person they will not be able to live without.  This is your brand and this is your opportunity to shine.  Do take advantage of it.

Honesty is far and away the most important  task that we have before ourselves.  We must be honest about why we find ourselves in this transition in the first place.  Was it my doing or could I have done something to prevent the occurrence?  Secondly, we need to be honest in what and where we want our future to take us.  Am I enjoying my working life or is it just a stop along my career path?  Though financially you certainly want to get back up on your feet as soon as possible it is important for you to be honest with what you want for yourself in the future or you might be back in this predicament faster than you think.

Demand continual redevelopment and refinement of yourself and demand that despite the fact that your career is stuck in neutral right now while you are in the middle of a lengthy search process, you need to continue to grow both professionally and personally.  Though you find yourself in transition, that is no excuse for a lack of growth.  Why not write that article or book that you have been promising yourself all these years?  Why not go back to school and finish up that Graduate Degree that you told yourself you would complete if you only had the time? Finally, why not expand your horizons and consider something new and different?  How about learning how to cook or master the computer or improve your golf game!  It keeps your mind strong, your perspective fresh and your life interesting while you keep looking for just the right new employment opportunity.

Your greatest enemy is yourself and once you finish that battle you can move forward to experience future successes.  It really is all up to you during this transitionary period.  Take advantage of the down time but be productive so that once you are gainfully employed that  you can move forward with excitement and anticipation for what is to come and not concern yourself of what was prior or what could have been.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 75 postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at:  dborschke@yahoo.com.

How To Compete With An Internal Candidate

I still remember an organization that I interviewed with more than 10 years ago that had one internal candidate and the rest of us who were participating with external perspectives.  It was eye-opening to hear from the numerous staff how they really weren’t fond of the internal candidate very much and how the organization would fail if she was chosen.  The comments were freely shared and spoke chapters about the environment of the organization.

Needless to say, the candidate who nobody liked was chosen by the Board of Directors and at last investigation of their website, she remains the CEO all these years later.  Either the staff learned to live with their cohort as CEO, the new CEO changed her personality with the increased responsibility or the disgruntled staffers moved on to other employment.  It does appear however that the organization has flourished and grown over the last decade with her at the helm.

Despite what many would call a fait accompli, the Board of Directors did bring myself and my wife to town, had me interview with the staff for 6 hours, drove my spouse to all the highlights of the city and even organized a luncheon with some of the power-brokers of the community in an attempt to provide what appeared from all angles as a fair competition among equal candidates.

The bottom-line was though there was internal strife, the Selection Committee decided on the less risky approach for the association CEO.  The candidate you know, even with verbalized deficiencies is generally speaking a more comfortable choice for a selection committee than an outsider whose resume they may respect but a person they will need to get used to.

Of course no one can assume that such internal strife was evident to the Selection Committee.  Disgruntled staffers may feel liberated in their discussions with outsiders but may not be so inclined to display their misgivings with directors they know and have an influence on their future livelihoods.

Though not always the case, an internal candidate does have the upper hand in a selection process and should always be a factor for those competing in a selection process.  With very few exception, one of my first questions I ask in a interview with a recruiter or selection committee is whether there is an internal candidate?  If I receive a positive response I then must assess whether the position is worth the additional work it will take to overtake the advantages an internal candidate will possess.  In most cases I will not throw my hat in the ring when an internal candidate is in the picture.

Many will argue the reverse and state that an internal candidate must compete during a selection process at a higher level much like a son who plays first base on his father’s little league baseball team.  The internal candidate must shine even brighter because more is expected of him/her is what some will contend.  But no one will argue that a known force does indeed get a nod more often than one coming from the outside world.

So how do you compete with an internal candidate for the position?  The old argument that an internal candidate is stained by the past within the organization and that there is a likelihood that such a candidate will not be as much of a “change agent” as an external candidate who enters the arena with a different perspective and without any preconceived notions is certainly a good start.  You do however want to determine whether the majority of the Board of Directors are interested in change for the organization before you verbalize such an argument.

There is no hard fast rule that an internal candidate, be it staffer or board member always gets the position.  I can certainly name exceptions to such a situation but all candidates should always be aware of who the other players are.

Positioning yourself in a favorable light to a group of strangers is difficult enough without the impression that not all is fair.  It all comes down to your homework and your research.  Your discovery must provide you all the needed information on who is involved and the best means to present your case.  If this scenario is starting to sound like a television court room drama, in many ways it can be pictured as such.  Any lawyer, not unlike a job seeker must be able to present all the facts and sell the jury on why his analysis is so much more believable than his opponent and ultimately sell the court on the positive attributes of his case.

Though no one’s life is at stake during a job interview, your reputation and self-confidence can certainly be at risk.  If you have considered all the factors and have done your homework, the opportunity of a new employment position is yours no matter whether there is an internal candidate or not.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 75 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.  He can be contacted at:  dborschke@yahoo.com.

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