Words That Can Bring You To Your Knees — And 8 Ways To Retake Control Of Your Career

by Pat Palleschi, Ph.D

“Fired,” “right-sized,” “terminated,” “severed,” “we’ve gone in a different direction,” “we’ve changed strategies,” “you get two weeks severance,” “good luck in your next opportunity…”

These are all words that can bring any adult to their knees. And in Los Angeles there are millions of people who have heard them.

Here are the 8 things you need to do to retake control of your career:

  1. Take control of your finances. Put in a safe place (ha!) the equivalent of what you will need to live on for ONE YEAR. Can’t do that? Learn to be cheap. VERY cheap. Take on roommates; take your lunch to work; read a book you’ve borrowed from a friend.
  2. Use every means possible to learn and make yourself more valuable to your current company or the next one. Learn on the job by talking with friends who happen to be experts in a field, go to conferences (volunteer to help, so you don’t have to pay), take online programs, etc.
  3. Grab anything your company has to offer that can teach you new skills. Take on new projects, work on enterprise-wide systems, in-house Facebook pages, kick-ass presentations, etc. Have the people you work with document what you’ve done and write a recommendation for you on Linkedin.
  4. Learn how to use social media to position yourself as an “expert” (see above note on Linkedin).
  5. On your own time (weekends, nights, etc.), learn NEW skills. Then use them to get results in a volunteer activity.
  6. Become invaluable to your current job. Become the expert in sustainability, social media, artificial intelligence, analytics – any skill that your company needs to become a leader in the field.
  7. Lose your ego. If you get fired, take ANY job while you WORK to get another job. Drive a taxi (and write a blog about the weird stories you learn while driving!). Volunteer. Even if you were worth $1 million a year, you must find a way to re-value yourself.
  8. Remember that any job change affects your whole family. Get your whole family involved in this “new adventure” of finding work.

It may sound self-serving for me to say “get a good coach” – but I will say it anyway. Get a CAREER coach who has done job placements. DO NOT spend money on “life coaches” (unless you have extra money and need a life).

No one at your company has the ability or time to watch out for you, your desires and your long-term goals. A company cannot afford to become your family (with some very, very few notable exceptions).

TAKE Control of your career. NO ONE else can do it, except you.


Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount University.

Don’t Bore Hiring Managers: Make Your Resume Look Like YOU – Interesting!

by Pat Palleschi, PhD
In a recent NY Times article, Bing Gordon, the former Chief Creative Officer at Electronic Arts, said:

“In hiring, I like in-person meetings for chemistry and references for truth… I will always ask about your learning practices, who are your heroes, what do you read. I want to know your hobbies, career, where are you trying to get to… I also read resumes upside down, so I start with personal interests. If somebody doesn’t have believable, interesting interests, they are not going to work in a creative environment… Then, I’ll scan for personal achievements… STRIP OUT ALL THE HISTORY STUFF; JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE PROUD OF AND HOW YOU THINK ABOUT IT…”

I added the emphasis to reinforce the good advice. DO NOT follow any “regular resume format” when you are interviewing with a hiring manager. (Save the dull chronological resume stuff for HR folks and Enterprise-Wide Computing Systems!)

Your resume should look like you. And sometimes, you need a makeover... (photo by kafka4prez via Creative Commons)

Having trouble thinking out of the box? Take a look at the “guerrilla resume” format in Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 (best $15 you can spend), and use a format that will enable a hiring manager to become interested in how you think and impressed with what you have done.

Use a one-page format (no matter how old or experienced you are). Why so short? The resume should be a teaser for the hiring manager — just enough to let her/him know where to ask you questions. It should feel like “YOU” — a resume should not be anything BUT a reflection of who you are.

Remember the other thing that Bing cited: in an in-person interview, CHEMISTRY is all-important. Any supporting documentation should add to the chemistry, enable the interviewer to see interesting (otherwise hidden) sides to you. And remember to highlight only the best hidden sides… some parts of you should stay hidden (as some politicians are learning the hard way).


Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount University.

LinkedIn: Not Just For Job Hunters Anymore

by Freddy J. Nager
Many managers have ineffectual LinkedIn profiles — if they have one at all. That’s because they think they don’t need one at this stage of their career. “I’m not job hunting — why should I bother?” That’s because LinkedIn isn’t just for job hunting anymore.

The Search is On…
A LinkedIn profile can serve as the power base for your professional life. it’s one of the first links people see when they Google your name. (Of course, many background searches are conducted on LinkedIn itself.) Those researchers may include journalists, recruiters, potential clients and investors. With all the concern about personal reputations and misinformation online, we should absolutely create and control our LinkedIn profiles to deliver an authoritative first impression.

The Way to Grow…
We’re all tired of hearing it: yes, we live in a global economy. Yes, borders have evaporated. And, yes, international trade offers a wealth of opportunities — if we have the right connections in the right places. So who can we turn to for help setting up an office, hiring competent and trustworthy native managers, overcoming bureaucratic red tape, or simply making reservations at an appropriate restaurant? Your organization may not be thinking expansion now, but when the time comes, it helps to have relationships with far-flung connections found and developed on LinkedIn.

Marketing for Extracurricular Ambitions…
Even if a manager is at the top of her game, she might harbor other ambitions, such as writing a book, appearing on TV as an expert, running for political office or teaching at a university. While some managers are well known outside their companies, most need a marketing boost to support these other pursuits. That’s why you should network before you need a publisher, an entertainment attorney, or a campaign manager. You should also use LinkedIn to promote your expertise and what makes you different (and more interesting) than the millions of other managers around the world.

Because You Never Know…
There’s no such thing as a secure job. Even at companies “too big to fail,” upper management and their teams are often replaced. A manager may claim she has nothing to worry about, but at some point she may be tempted to sell her company — or the company’s success attracts a takeover. On a brighter, more poetic side, the manager may want a complete change of pace or career, or move to another city for the lifestyle or a relationship. To facilitate these changes, it’s again valuable to network before it’s needed. It’s too late to say, “Now who do I know here?” after the big move.

Those are just a few of the reasons a manager — or an aspiring one — needs to have a well-crafted LinkedIn profile. (And, no, I don’t work for LinkedIn, nor do I own its stock.)

How does one craft an effective profile? That’s the topic for another blog, but in the meantime, LinkedIn offers its own guide, and you can also view the profiles of various “experts” and the top networkers on LinkedIn.

The key takeaway: your LinkedIn profile should represent you online. It’s your agent, it’s your brochure, it’s your public introduction. So take the time to think about what you want it to say. (By the way, I also hear it’s a great tool for finding a job…)


Freddy J. Nager teaches courses in social media, entrepreneurship and marketing at AULA. The founder of agency Atomic Tango LLC, Freddy has over two decades of professional experience in marketing and media, including 17 online. He previously worked for music label MCA Records and major ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and served such clients as Nissan & Infiniti, the NFL on Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, National Lampoon and numerous startups. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Southern California.


A Few Words to College Grads: It Really is NOT about YOU

by Pat Palleschi, Ph.D.
Okay… let me get some of my own biases out first:

Their caps aren't the only thing up in the air...

1. I believe that unemployment is far higher than the reported figures in the Los Angeles Region. Not true? Then, at the very least, we deserve some transparency about the assumptions that were used to get to the published rate, so we can all be knowledgeable about the real situation.

2. I don’t care what your politics are. I have not heard of a single politician who has paid sufficient attention to JOB CREATION. And, because of the inattention, FEW new jobs have been created. Especially in Los Angeles.

3. The people who are lucky enough to be working are generally unhappy. In the past this would mean that they would be looking for new jobs. BUT, NO! The lucky employed are going to cling to their jobs by their fingernails despite their unhappiness because they know that it is ugly out there in the job market. Employed people are clinging to jobs that have forced them to work more and more hours without a single cent added to their salaries for years.

If my beliefs approach reality, then grads need to consider this advice:

  • Job search is extraordinarily hard now and it is NOT about YOU, your minor flaws, your age, your level of experience — it is all about the time, geography and economy. (This echoes the sentiments of David Brooks in New York Times).
  • Blame is usually not useful — so consider this not “blame” but a cry for help: JOB CREATION needed, Washington!
  • What is important for you to do is to DISREGARD all the old advice (“follow your passion,” “do what you love,” “find work that will provide meaning,” etc.) because that will get in the way of getting you to work. And getting you a place to live. And eating.
  • In this economy, I want to remind all of us that work is in itself a useful and meaningful pursuit, if done well. Doing work well can be a passion and can provide meaning, even if it is working at a cash register at Whole Foods or being a janitor at Costco or a career coach at The Executive Agency.
  • Okay, you may be “better than that” — and I agree you probably have more skills than such a position requires and are “worth” much more than the pay. But, eating is a big part of life, and if you can eat, then you can spend a bit more time figuring out how to make your “passion” into something that some venture/venture fund will pay for.
  • “Existence precedes and rules essence.” — Sartre
  • Work is meaningful. Doing any work well is admirable.

Why am I so strident about this? I have listened to commencement speakers, and I want to shout at them: “STOP!”

Commencement speakers are usually wealthy donors to the university who are happy to think back to how they followed their passion to find (take your pick) wealth, innovation, power, and/or the meaning of life.

Well, at least in the Los Angeles region, this is not the usual experience right now.

If a grad waits to find the job that will fuel passion, the wait time may be a long stay on a parent’s/friend’s couch, without a cent, playing video games and clutching on to fragile sanity.

Work at something (dare I say “anything”?). Volunteer at something (anything). Enjoy the fact that you can do something well. Then reflect on your real work, the work that you have accomplished. In any work, you can uncover the gold veins of passion and meaning.

PS: And make sure to find someone to vote for who understands how to CREATE jobs… so, with luck, the next generation can take the time to be playful innovators post graduation. Let’s get back to the opportunities afforded the old generation not so long ago (Mark Zuckerberg’s generation?).


Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount

No Exit: Why Exit Strategies Can Be Bad For Business

by Freddy J. Nager, MAOM Associate Faculty & Entrepreneurial Advisor
In a business plan the “exit strategy” describes how the entrepreneur intends to unload her business in, say, five to ten years. Common options include going public on the stock market or selling the business to someone else.

Even if you want to run your business for life, you’ll have difficulty attracting financing if you don’t cite an exit strategy, since the investors aren’t giving you their money out of benevolence — they want returns (and many happy ones at that).

So you do what you have to do to appease the finance gods. (Though considering what’s happened on Wall Street over the past few years, should we still be doing their bidding?) After all, there’s no harm in saying you’ll pull an IPO or sell your company to Google in the distant future — right?

Except that your investors will likely hold you to it.

Now, even investors know that long-term projections in a business plan are nearly as fictitious as the term “affordable housing.” Plans often change. The problem arises when a single-minded obsession with an exit strategy overrides all commitment to building a profitable business.

As depicted in my satirical article, Lemons 2.0: If Everything were Run like a Dotcom, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs forgot the other integral part of their business plan called “the revenue model.” I knew one company that was so eager to get bought out, they launched a publicity campaign even before their product was even finished.

From Feast to Famine
These entrepreneurs all salivated like pitbulls in a sausage factory when Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion before the video site even turned a profit. Consequently, hundreds of start-ups launched with no realistic revenue model but, rather, an eye on having some mega-corporation snap them up.

Then the recession struck all this corporate matrimony like a bucket of cold water, and some of those mega-corps started looking for saviors of their own. Yahoops. Consequently, many of those exit-oriented start-ups beceme bottom-ups, landing in the TechCrunch Deadpool, with most people not knowing they ever existed.

Consider these links that Wikipedia provides for “Exit Strategy”:

Surrender
Withdrawal
Iraq Study Group Report
Pyrrhic victory
No-win situation
Total U.S. Withdrawal in the Vietnam War

Not exactly inspiring, huh?

An Alternative To Investors And Exit Plans

SRC Holdings, an American manufacturing conglomerate, emphasizes profitability, thinks through all contingencies, and has never laid a single employee off. The Inc. magazine interview with SRC CEO Jack Stack is a must-read for entrepreneurs who are serious about running a business. You won’t find any obsession with exit strategies here — indeed, the company remains privately held after 26 years, with ownership firmly in the hands of its employees.

The Verdict
So should you have an exit strategy? Yes, if you invade another country or enter a PhD program.

If you absolutely need to entice and appease investors, then put an exit strategy in your business plan; but before buying your first Aeron chair, engrave these words into the front door of your spanking new office:

“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Keep repeating these words to yourself and to all your partners and employees. Sure, marriage vows may not hold a lot of weight in these here parts, but they’ll at least have you thinking in the right direction — and not towards the nearest escape.


Guest Blogger Freddy J. Nager teaches courses in social media, entrepreneurship and marketing at AULA. The founder of agency Atomic Tango LLC, Freddy has over two decades of professional experience in marketing and media, including 17 online. He previously worked for music label MCA Records and major ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and served such clients as Nissan & Infiniti, the NFL on Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, National Lampoon and numerous startups. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Southern California