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Uncommon Career Advice

From an anonymous Quora user with an answer to “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” Some of the best career advice I’ve ever come across.

 

  • Small actions compound: Reputation, career trajectory, and how others perceive you in the workplace can come down down to a handful of things/moments that seem inconsequential/small at the time but compound. Random Thought:Redwood trees come from small seeds and time. With every action you’re planting small seeds and these seeds can grow into something bigger (sometimes unimaginably bigger) over time. Don’t let small basic mistakes sabotage your reputation because it only takes a few small snafus for people to lose confidence/trust in your ability to do more important tasks. Trust is a fragile thing and the sooner people can trust you the faster they’ll give you more responsibility. Some Examples: Being on time (always) or early (better); spending an extra 10-15 minutes reviewing your work and catching basic mistakes before your boss does; structuring your work so it’s easy for others to understand and leverage (good structure/footnotes/formatting); taking on unpleasant schleps/tasks (volunteer for them; don’t complain; do it even when there’s no apparent benefit to you)

 

  • Rising tide lifts all boats: Fact: You don’t become CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company in your 30s based purely on ability/talent. Your career is a boat and it is at the mercy of tides. No matter how talented you are it’s a lot harder to break out in a sluggish situation/hierarchy/economy than a go-go environment. Even if you’re a superstar at Sluggish Co., your upside trajectory (more often than not) is fractional to what an average/below average employee achieves at Rocket Ship Co. There’s a reason Eric Schmidt told Sheryl Sandberg to “Get on a Rocket Ship”. I had colleagues accelerate their careers/income/title/responsibility simply because business demand was nose bleed high (go go economy) and they were at the right place at the right time to ride the wave. Contrast that to the 2008 bust where earnings/promotions/careers have been clamped down and people are thankful for having jobs let alone moving up. Yes talent still matters but I think people generally overweight individual talent and underweight economics when evaluating/explaining their career successes. Sheryl Sandberg Quote: When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.

 

  • Seek opportunities where the outcome is success or failure. Nothing in between: You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen. I was once told early in my career that you learn the most in 1) rapidly growing organizations or 2) failing organizations. I’ve been in both kinds of situations and wholeheartedly agree. Repeat. Get on a rocket ship. It’ll either blow up or put you in orbit. Either way you’ll learn a ton in a short amount of time. Put another way, seek jobs where you can get 5-10 years of work experience in 1-2 years.

 

  • Career Tracks & Meritocracies don’t exist: Your career is not a linear, clearly defined trajectory.  It will be messy and will move more like a step function.

 

  • You will probably have champions and detractors on day 1: One interesting byproduct of the recruiting & hiring process of most organizations is it can create champions & detractors before you even start the job. Some folks might not like how you were brought into the organization (they might have even protested your hiring) and gun for you at every turn while others will give you the benefit of the doubt (even when you don’t deserve one) because they stuck their neck out to hire you. We’re all susceptible to these biases and few people truly evaluate/treat folks on a blank slate.

 

  • You’ll only be known for a few things. Make those labels count: People rely on labels as quick filters. Keep this in mind when you pick an industry/company/job role/school because it can serve as an anchor or elevator in the future. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. You should always be aware of what your “labels” are.

 

  • Nurture & protect your network and your network will nurture & protect you: Pay it forward and help people. Your network will be one of the biggest drivers of your success.

 

Lefsetz on Houdini

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

“Harry Houdini was a tireless self-promoter.  A self-created person who needed to make it, for the fame, the money and the adulation.  Isn’t it interesting that our entertainment heroes always come from the lower classes, when failure is not an option, you put all your effort into succeeding. You invent a past and a future.  Because you’ve got nothing to stand on, and you’re sick of being broke in the ditch by the side of the highway.”

Houdini – Lefsetz Letter

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Stefan Sagermeister: The Power of Time Off

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s another TED Talk worth checking out.

Once every seven years, Sagermeister will close down his design studio so he can take a one year sabbatical. During this time he’ll reflect on his business & life, pursue other interests, plan for the future, etc. Obviously, taking a year off isn’t for everyone, but I like the idea of taking time off (in smaller increments) for self-improvement.

My favorite quote:

“…we spend the first 25 years of our lives learning. Then there is another 40 years that’s really reserved for working. And then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years.”

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Happyness

March 4, 2010 3 comments

Image here

At last.

I’ve had a long job search — a really long job search. But I have great news.

Today I accepted an offer to join Casanova Pendrill, a Hispanic Advertising agency in Orange County, CA, as a Strategic Planner.

There’s a scene towards the end of the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” after he’s just been offered a job, walks outside the office and claps his hands together as he walks through a crowd of people, elated about his accomplishment. It’s not just the fact that he was able to find a job. It’s that he was able to overcome all the adversity he faced through perseverance. Incredible perseverance and an ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s how I’m feeling right now.

In early 2008, I made the decision to leave my company and carve out another path for myself. It’s taken two years to get here. And it took a lot in between — soul searching, going back to school, working here and there – to get to this point.

I’ve thought about that scene a lot of times in the past 24 months or so.

It’s a tough thing to switch careers. It’s even tougher as you get older.

Why?

Because of all the excuses you give yourself. And none of them hold any water. These are limiting beliefs.

This is where most people quit. It’s what Seth Godin calls “The Dip” and it’s your mind giving up on you.

Image Seth’s Blog

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know there are lots of people out of work right now, and if you’re one of them, you need to get the negativity out of your head. Stop blaming the economy, or the market, or anything else. In the end, it’s all up to you.

And in the end…there’s “Happyness.”

Christopher Gardner: Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right?
Christopher: All right.
Christopher Gardner: You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.

Categories: CAREER

The Role of Business Schools in the Financial Crisis

March 29, 2009 Leave a comment

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Just read an interesting article on the NYTimes.com, “Is It Time To Retrain Business Schools?” that analyzes how much of a role the teaching at B-schools may have had to do with the current economic collapse.

“Critics of business education have many complaints. Some say the schools have become too scientific, too detached from real-world issues. Others say students are taught to come up with hasty solutions to complicated problems. Another group contends that schools give students a limited and distorted view of their role — that they graduate with a focus on maximizing shareholder value and only a limited understanding of ethical and social considerations essential to business leadership.

Something that really caught my eye was that:  “A study of cheating among graduate students, published in 2006 in the journal Academy of Management Learning & Education, found that 56 percent of all M.B.A. students cheated regularly — more than in any other discipline. The authors attributed that to “perceived peer behavior” — in other words, students believed everyone else was doing it.”

And yet another survey found that b-school students actually felt LESS confident in solving workplace ethical issues during their time in school.

“The challenge for a lot of business schools is how to develop leaders and not managers,” said James Tran, a candidate for an M.B.A. and a master’s in public administration at Harvard.

I never went to business school, so I can’t really say anything negative about it from personal experience, but it’s always been my belief that no matter how much theory you learn in school there isn’t any substitute for real world experience. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but I do think that overemphasis on one type of learning can really skew your thinking.

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17 Career Lessons from IDEO’s David Kelley

February 9, 2009 Leave a comment

bweraserfinishedwcleaningchalkboard via frozenchipmunk

Fast Company recently asked former students, co-workers and friends to share their favorite life lessons from IDEO‘s founder. Here’s my favorites:

  • “Success tends to focus your efforts, failure assures me that you try something different and eventually better.” — from Perry Kleban, CEO, Timbuk2
  • “You’re the best version of yourself when you manage to have fun doing your work.” — from Chris Flink, IDEO
  • “You can’t think your way through every problem. Trying things and engaging people helps you get unstuck.” — from George Kembel, executive director, Stanford d.school
  • “Make the human element as important as the technical and business elements.” — GK
  • “Your failures interest me far more than your success.” — PK
  • “David helped me realize that it’s not what you work on, but whom you work with that makes all the difference. This, ironically, resonates even at a company that tackles some of the most exciting creative challenges in the world.” — CF
  • “Think with your hands, build something or try something, then talk about it, NOT the reverse.” — PK

Here’s the rest of the career lessons.

Further info:

Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner:
David Kelley

The Art of Innovation: Lessons In Creativity From IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm

The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating The Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization

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Submitted My Ad School Application

October 20, 2008 3 comments

                                  Image courtesy of alex.ch



I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. After many hours of research, numerous revisions and several takes (for my video presentation)…I’m done. Writing the essays forced me to give some real thought to the topics I’ve been reading about on blogs over the past few months: storytelling, brands, the future of advertising, etc. 

I think I did a really good job, but it’s out of my hands at this point. I should have a response in the next few weeks.

Categories: CAREER
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