Know your worth, and then ask for it.

Treat yourself to a 10 minute self-improvement splurge today and go watch Casey Brown’s insightful TED Talk on getting paid what you are worth. Casey’s tagline is worth having embossed on a poster:

No one will ever pay you what you’re worth. They’ll only ever pay you what they think you’re worth. And you control their thinking.

 

While Casey is an entrepreneur running her own business, her insights — and formula for success — are equally applicable to any working environment. It’s a classic good news / bad news situation. The bad news is that no one will ever pay you what you are worth. They will only pay you what they think you are worth.

The good news is, you control what they think.

Helping clients define and communicate their value in order to shape the thinking of others is a large part of how I help clients navigate their careers. Feel free to set up an exploratory call if you would like to know more.

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6 Ways to Up Your Networking Game

I was recently featured as a guest blogger on the AICPA1 website.

I used to be afraid of networking. As an avowed introvert with a moderate case of shyness, too often I would pass up opportunities to meet and connect with people. Much later in life I would discover that networking was an acquired skill and was well within my reach. I let go of my fear of rejection when I realized that networking was not about me, but was about building relationships and finding ways to be helpful to others. I can do that. You can too.

Read the entire article at the AICPA Insights Blog for six great tips on networking, especially at large events. 

 


1 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

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How to Bring Out the Stories That Are Hiding in Your Resume

Every resume tells a story. Actually, if you do it right, every resume tells four to seven stories, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Interviewing has to be the most grueling aspect of landing a new job. There are countless aspects to a good interview: the preparation, what to wear, the open, the small talk, the anticipated questions, the unanticipated questions, the close, and the follow-up. Interviews are high pressure situations in which the interviewer holds all the power.  As part of your preparation, you will want to make sure that, during the questions phase, you speak powerfully to your work experience.  So often, when asked about an entry on their resume, or how they might handle a particular situation, people respond with hazy, meandering answers.

This article is a tutorial that will help you arm yourself with several stories that will communicate and connect with the interviewer. If you think about it, you might also be able to use the story structure in your resume and LinkedIn profile as well. Take some time to work through this tutorial and develop four to seven stories. Then, when people ask about your resume, tell them a well-crafted story.

Let’s begin by being clear about what is going on during the hiring process: getting hired is first and foremost, a sales job. Selling anything is hard, and selling yourself is the hardest. Somewhere, somehow you have to convince a handful of people that you are the perfect person for the job. What do you say? How much detail do you include? What’s the best way to convince people — people you don’t even know — that you have value to provide to their organization?

We know what doesn’t work: too many details and mind-numbing facts about what you’ve done. Oh sure, you must include some details and facts. Unfortunately, facts alone rarely convince anyone. If facts won’t close the sale, how do you get people to see the value that you are able to provide?

The answer is … stories. You must relay what you’ve done — and what you’ve learned — as a series of stories. This point hit home for me several years ago when I saw an interview with David Simon, the creator of, what is arguably, the best television series of all time. He was explaining how, for twenty years, he was desperately trying to get people to understand the futility of our War on Drugs. Week after week he would publish intelligent, well-written articles about what he was seeing on the streets of Baltimore. And week after week his impact seemed to be minimal. Then he had an epiphany. In his own words…  

As a reporter, I was trying to explain how the drug war doesn’t work, and I would write these very careful and very well-researched pieces, and they would go into the ether and be gone. Whatever editorial writer was coming behind me would then write, “Let’s get tough on drugs,” as if I hadn’t said anything. Even my own newspaper. And I would think, “Man, it’s just such an uphill struggle to do this with facts.” When you tell a story with characters, people jump out of their seats…

Did you catch that? The key here — and the one that has been bouncing around my brain for the last five plus years — is when you tell a story, people jump out of their seats! There’s no question that the stories embedded in The Wire get the point across in a way that well-written, journalistic articles never could. Let’s bring that same power into our resumes and our interviews.

The Shape

Our lives, our job histories, and especially our resumes, are embedded with rich stories. To learn how to find them, we begin with a crash course in storytelling. Step one is to understand how there is a distinct shape to every story. For a quick primer there is no better teacher than the ineffable Kurt Vonnegut. Watch this delightful 4 1/2 minute video, paying special attention to the first story shape he describes: the ‘Man in Hole’ story.1

 

While there are a multitude of shapes a fictional story could take, I believe that the best resume stories have a “Man in the Hole” shape — although the Cinderella story shape might be ideal for turnaround situations.

The Structure

Now that we know what shape our stories will take, let’s dig the next level down and take a look at each story’s structure. Like most Hollywood movies, our resume stories will have a memorable title and be told in three acts.

  • Act I: Background: Set the stage.
  • Act II: Actions: Tell your story. 
  • Act III: Results: Happy ending.

 

The shape of a good resume story.

Developing Your Stories

We’ll come back to the title in a moment. For now, look through your resume and take a close look at each role you’ve held. Recall each company, each team, each manager, each project. What stands out to you? What stories do you see? Develop a Background-Action-Results (BAR) outline — in the shape of the ‘Man in Hole’ story — for each story-worthy entry in your resume. These questions may help.

Act I: Background

This is the moment at the beginning of the story where we get the context. Provide some color. Give us some background. Help us understand what it was like.

  1. What was the situation in the team / company / market when you took on this role, project, or initiative?
  2. What do people most need to know in order to understand your actions and your results?
  3. Why did they bring you in or assign you to this initiative?
  4. What was your initial assessment as to what needed to be done?
  5. How bad was it?

The Organizational State

Understanding the state of the organization is helpful here. Michael Watkins, in his excellent work Your Next Move, illuminates how every organization (as well as team and project) is in one of five organizational states at any given moment:

  1. Start-up
  2. Turnaround
  3. Accelerated growth
  4. Realignment
  5. Sustaining success

As part of ‘setting the stage,’ tell us the state your organization when you took the helm.

Act II: Action!

Relay the actions that you took. Let the hero in you shine. Tell us not only what you did but why you did it. It’s important to give some insight into your thought processes. Most importantly, take us from the bottom of the hole to the heights of high performance. 

  1. What did you do?
  2. Why did you do it?
  3. How did you do it?
  4. What were you thinking along the way?
  5. What were some of the obstacles that you overcame?

Be diplomatic. Often we find ourselves in less than ideal situations — perhaps a difficult boss or a highly dysfunctional team. Use euphemisms and choose your words carefully. People get it. Your interviewers will have had similar bosses and been in similar situations. Whatever you do, don’t go negative. You are telling a story about how you took on a challenging situation and turned it around to produce great results for the organization. At the very least, tell what you learned from a failure or difficult situation. Not only do great outcomes make great stories, but great learning opportunities do as well.

Act III: Results

Tell us the happy ending. Facts and numbers can be useful here. If, perchance, the results were less than spectacular, do not worry. Focus on what you learned rather than just the outcome. Ultimately, although the hiring manager will ask you questions about what you have done (i.e. in the past), what they are trying to figure out is what you learned and what you might do in the future. Make it easier for him/her.

  1. How did it turn out?
  2. What was the longer-term impact?
  3. What did you learn?
  4. How was the team / company / culture changed?
  5. What would you do differently if you had the chance to do it over again?

Pulling It All Together

Try it! Write down the BAR outline for four to seven stories buried in your resume. Notecards are good. PowerPoint is particularly good because you can zoom out to ‘Slide Sorter’ view and see all the story outlines at once. Spend several days developing and refining your stories and honing the outlines.

Give Each Story a Title

Now that you have a nice three-act structure for each of your stories, give each one a title. Each story must have a title! The reason has to do with the way our brains store information and the way we communicate with one another. A memorable title gives our brain a mental hook upon which we can hang the rest of the story. It’s the same way that a person’s name stores the entirety if their personality in our minds. Our brain compacts each story and files them neatly under each title.  

For your resume stories, come up with a two or three word name for each story, something that is distinct and easy to remember. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be specific. “Let me tell you about my work in product marketing” is not memorable; “Let me tell you about ‘the Swiffer Launch'” sticks in your mind. “My work at NASA” is too nebulous; “the Apollo Project” is unforgettable.

When we give our stories good names, not only are you giving the listener a mental hook to help them remember your story but we are also giving them an easy way to recall and discuss it with their peers — a sharable meme, if you will. Remember, getting hired involves convincing several people that you are the right person for the job. In the debrief that follows a series of interviews, the interviewers will discuss your candidacy. The mere mention of one of your story titles by one of the interviewers will bring the story back to the forefront for the other interviewers who had the good fortune to hear the same story.

Pick Your Favorites

Of all the stories hiding in your resume, pick two or three favorites that you will ensure get told at every interview. If the interviewer opens the interview with the classic opener, “Tell me about yourself,” hop on it as an opportunity to tell your best story. Give a brief background of your upbringing, your education, your career, and then say, “But the thing I am most proud of…” and then tell your number-one favorite story. Pretty cool, huh?

Over the course of the interview you will get an opportunity, whether asked directly or indirectly about your job history, to tell several of your stories. If you get to the end of your interview and you realize that one of your favorite stories remains untold, include it at the end. Tell the interviewer that there is one more thing  should need to know about you, and then recount your remaining favorite story.

Keep It Short

Your stories should run two to three minutes when spoken out loud. Longer than three minutes and you run the risk of providing too much for the interviewer to remember. Less than two minutes and there won’t be enough substance to your story to make it impactful.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Developing — and writing down — the outlines to your resume stories is step one. Practicing them out loud takes them to a whole new level. Ideally, you also want to practice them once or twice in front of someone else as well. Have a good opening, a fluid story, and a strong close.

Get Hired!

Finding the stories embedded in your resume can be hard. Figuring out what you’ve learned can take some work. The good news is that learning is always retroactive. We learn when we reflect back over what we have done with fresh eyes. Feel free to set up an exploratory call if you would like some help.

Finally, please share your stories and your successes — either in the comments below or via a more direct message. I’d love to hear from you. 

I wish you success.


Notes

1 If you enjoy the idea of story shapes, check out the delightful article called My Kingdom For Some Structure that deconstructs the shapes of many of the stories heard on NPR, complete with drawings on cocktail napkins.

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Beware the Sirens

Discipline is choosing between what you want now … and what you want most. — Abraham Lincoln1

fork roadsIt’s been more than thirty years since I read the Odyssey for a literature class in college. The details of the story have faded from my memory, but one passage remains as vivid as ever: Odysseus lashes himself to the mast of his ship in order to resist the incredible lure of the song of the Sirens.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were beautiful to behold and enchanting to hear. They were dangerous yet beautiful creatures who lured nearby sailors to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. A noted British author remarked, “Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.”2

The sirens are alive and well in our modern era. Their numbers have multiplied beyond count and they are no longer confined to the shores of their island. Modern technology has made them omnipresent and almost infinite in number. Their enchanting song wafts from behind our email screens, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, and whatever technological gadget or app that has your number. Sometimes I find myself drawn to my email inbox in a semi-catatonic state — not sure what what brought me there but unable to look away. The same can be said for the lure of my RSS feeds, or Timehop, or DarkSky, or one more game of Threes!

Like the sirens of old, our modern day sirens call to us with a song that is sweet and satisfying, but in the end laps both body and soul in a fatal lethargy. Many a productive morning — or day — has evaporated under the enchantment of my sirens. The only defense I have been able to muster is a two-pronged offense:

  1. Get very clear on what I what most.
  2. In every moment, chose what I want most over what I want now.

We are on cruise control most of the time in our lives, unconsciously choosing what we want in the moment, not even realizing we could make a deeper choice. Get clear on what you want most in your life. Then, strap yourself to the mast of your ship if you must, but develop the discipline to choose in every moment what you want most over the endless stream of temptations that you think you want now.

I wish you success!


1 It’s also possible that this quote should be attributed to Augusta F. Kantral — or someone else entirely. The internet can be funny that way. In any case, it is a profound statement.

2 Walter Copland Perry, “The sirens in ancient literature and art”, in _The Nineteenth Century,_ reprinted in _Choice Literature: a monthly magazine_ (New York) 2 (September–December 1883:163)

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“Must Read” Books for Introverts (and those who love them)

People often ask me what books I recommend for introverts. These are my current top three.

  • The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life In a Noisy World — Sophia Dembling
    The Introvert's WayThis is my new favorite book for introverts. Dembling has drawn from her own astute insights and blended them with her expertise in psychology to produce an insightful and introspective book. She makes the case — for dozens of preferences, characteristics, and idiosyncrasies — that we’re not wrong, we’re just different. By understanding our preferences we can learn how to turn them into strengths. Check out my short review of The Introvert’s Way in one of my newsletters.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Susan Cain
    Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop TalkingThis is the ground-breaking book that pushed society’s acceptance of introversion past the tipping point (at least in America). Thanks to Cain’s well-researched ideas and her insanely popular TED Talk, it’s okay to be quiet now … or at least it’s okay to talk about it. Cain’s book is part introspection, part social commentary. One minute Cain will be talking about what it’s like to be an introvert and the next she will provide cutting analysis of what’s wrong with our classrooms or our “open-office” work environments.
  • Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference — Jennifer Kahnweiler
    Quiet InfluenceThis is a practical guide on how to leverage your preferences as an introvert to great effect as an influencer and a leader. Careers are made by people who can get stuff done. Getting stuff done requires you to know people and be able to influence them. Introverts do this in their own way. At the heart of the book Kahnweiler takes six of our natural preferences and shows how to turn them into leadership strengths.
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Leadership and Diversity: Making the Most of the Mix

Diversity DotsMost people know that diversity in their organizations is important. That is, most people have a vague sense that more diversity on their teams would lead to more innovation, higher creativity, stronger engagement, etc. But did you also know that more diversity leads to increased revenue, EBITA, Return on Equity, and a host of other standard business performance metrics? Diversity is good.

Our challenge is not in the knowing. Our challenge is in the knowing what to do.

I have recently begun collaborating with a leader in the world of Diversity and Inclusion. We decided to work together when we realized that we were both on the same mission: make the world more inclusive and a better place to work.

Rebekah and I have put together some workshops that show the power of diversity and inclusion in a fresh light. We go beyond diversity as ethnicity and gender, and help teams unleash creativity and innovation by leveraging diverse ways of thinking and working.

Our approach —and workshops and labs — are aimed at giving leaders a new way of thinking about diversity and inclusion, a way that enhances their leadership while fostering innovation and creativity. The end goal is to help organizations become more effective and more vibrant. The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive.

Learn more:

Diversity and inclusion are integral to great leadership teams and vibrant organizations. Take a moment to look at the workshop page, or download the flyer below and begin to explore how you can expand your leadership capabilities today.

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Leadership and Diversity Flyer

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It takes a team…

BasketballNorth Carolina loves basketball. Last week Dean Smith — one of University of North Carolina’s coaching legends — passed away. There are many reasons why his legend lives on beyond his coaching days of the 60’s and 70’s but the following tidbit caught my eye.

Coach Smith had a rule that when you scored a basket you pointed to the person who passed you the ball.

Think about this for a moment. In the glory of a successful basket — as you run back along the court with the thunder of the applause ringing in your ears — you shared the win by pointing at the person who helped make it possible. I can’t think of a better way of showing that winning is a team effort.

His philosophy was simple and short: “Play hard; play together; play smart.”

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Leveraging talent

Those organizations that will be winners in the marketplace will be the ones that leverage all of the talent of all of their employees, all of the time.

Herb Johnson, Chief Diversity Officer, Michelin North America

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Relatively speaking, the world is changing really, really, fast!

Biface de St Acheul MHNT

A hand axe from Saint Acheul.
Credit: Didier Descouen

Take a moment to think about all of the change that has taken place since you were born. Not just the technological change (from computers the size of small cars to exponentially more powerful devices weighing mere ounces), but also the social, scientific, and cultural progress that has occurred in the last several decades.

Now consider the Acheulean hand axe. The always-excellent podcast, 99% Invisible, released an insightful show this week looking at this primitive stone tool. 

From the show:

The Acheulean hand axe does not look like an “axe.” There’s no handle, and no metal. It could be called the “Acheulean pointy hand rock,” because it is just a rock that has been chipped and shaped, usually into the form of a tear-drop.

The term “Acheulean” refers to where the first specimens were found, on a dig site in Saint-Acheul, France. Other hand axes have been dug up in Africa, Europe and South Asia.

Early humans created these hand axes by breaking off big pieces with large rocks, and then shaping the fine edge with smaller rocks and pieces of bone. Making one of these things requires effort, skill, and time – anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours.

The knowledge and skill required to manufacture this ancient tool was passed down from adult to child for many, many generations. In fact, the archeological evidence seems to indicate that this primitive piece of stone ‘technology’ was in use FOR A MILLION YEARS!

Wow! The same basic tool was a functional part of society for 40,000 to 50,000 generations! Granted, there is more to this story that we can know. And the ‘humans’ who crafted these tools were, themselves, evolving dramatically over this time period. But it's safe to say that, until relatively recently, the pace of change was on a glacial — nay geological — time scale.

Things have sped up a bit in the last few years. The world barely feels the same from year to year, let alone from generation to generation. No wonder I feel dizzy sometimes (and I thought it was just the jet lag).

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Inside Networking and the Essential Elements of Success

Gears

There is always an element of serendipity to success. You have to be in the right place at the right time when the right opportunity comes along. However, to be successful in the modern corporate world you need more than just luck. You have to get three things right:

  1. You have to do good work.
  2. You have to be doing the right work.
  3. You have to be visible.

Inside networking is critical in all three areas.

First “no man is an island.” This was never more true in the ever more complex world of the modern workplace. Building relationships across your organization helps you create a network of knowledge that will enhance the work that you do. There will be pockets of information held by key people, that you will need to be successful. Without them, your work would be, at most, mediocre. Knowing who to call and where to find information differentiates you and your team. It will make your best work possible. That is, building a web of relationships inside your organization is essential for doing good work.

Second, you will know who and what is important in the organization. Understanding what people are working on, their drivers, and their constraints, shapes both what you do now and in the future. This helps ensure that you are working on the right things — i.e. the things that the organization needs and values. That is, being well connected helps you do the right work.

Finally, you will be visible. People need know you, and know of you. This doesn’t just happen. It takes persistent and deliberate effort. It’s not uncommon for the marketing budget of a big Hollywood movie to at least as large as the production budget. It is not enough to make a great movie. People also need to know about it. So it is with our work: you must be visible.

On a personal note, being more visible is the one thing I wish I had learned much earlier in my career. In the early days I put all my effort into doing good work. I did not make enough investments in getting to know other people and understanding what they were working on. I remained invisible for far too long.

Next Steps

  • Review my article on Inside Networking. It has the ins and outs of who to network with and what questions to ask.
  • Pull up the company directory, or dig out the org chart, and start networking inside your company.
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