Category Archives: Career Success Toolkit

First 20 Hours: Enough to Add a New Skill?

If it takes 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell told us in his book Outliers, to become really good at your job, can you become reasonably good in just 20 hours? You’re probably skeptical? Me too.I certainly was. Yet Joel Kaufman claims his method that will take you in just 20 hours from total novice to a reasonable level of competence in any area of skill.

So how long does it really take? 10,000 hours or 20 hours?

Can the 10,000 hours and 20 hours both be true? The answer is “yes”, but Kaufman and Gladwell aren’t talking about the same level of proficiency. Gladwell means becoming as good at what you do as Tiger Woods is at golf. That is to say, amazingly good. When you’re that good, you have what Cal Newport calls career capital. Real estate salespeople who are that good make a lot of money and know they can walk out the door and across the street to another broker. Any time they want and as often as they want. Professors who are that proficient can teach at the university they choose. Excellence like that means thousands of hours of focused , intentional, deliberate practice.

Plodding away at your job for five years gets you to 10,000 hours but that doesn’t automatically make you outstanding or even above average. And 10,000 hours is the reason why so few attain that level of truly remarkable proficiency. And the older you are, the less appealling a commitment of that sort. But Joel Kaufman says he has learned that a novice golfer can become good enough to play a round with some friends and not look like a rank beginner, with 20 hours of intentional practice following a short interval of research to identify the specific skills you need. Kaufman actually claims to have learned to play the ukulele in 20 hours. Continue reading

How do you Handle the Difficult Colleague?

Are you prepared for the “difficult colleague” job interview question? Expect the interviewer to ask for an instance when you dealt with a difficult person to get a handle on your interpersonal skills. Don’t just count on winging it unless you have prepared stories of past successes.

Do you have a great interview story of how you used your skills to handle a difficult person? Can you describe your approach? It is best to start your preparation for this question by developing a simple approach that you can apply consistently. That way your interview answer will be clear and easy to follow and will be more credible to the interviewer. After all, if you just improvised, how can the prospective employer believe that your lovely story conveys the way you might handle a similar situation in the future?

You Need a Strategy for Handling a Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Common strategies usually begins with first informing  the other person that what they are doing is a problem for you. If that’s not successful, you may need to involve other. In exceptional cases, more formal actions may become necessary. In the case of an abusive co-worker, that’s prudent advice, but not an ideal story for a job interview!

You don’t want to imply that every awkward or frustrating interaction with a fellow employee ends up with a meeting with HR! Whatever story you tell will leave them with the impression that you handle all situations in that same manner. Choose that story carefully!

First, lets explore why someone seems “difficult” to you.  Continue reading

Don’t Let Resistance Sabotage Your New Years Resolutions

resistanceYou don’t need another me to tell you that we don’t keep most of our resolutions. Every TV station around has served up the obligatory visit to the local Gym.

They interview people who just joined in early January, fully expecting to stick with some new commitment right through to December 31st.  Most don’t. The initial excitement of those commitment quickly fades.

Why Does Resistance Sabotage your Commitments?

Here are three ways to frame those feelings of resistance from authors who have each taught me a great deal: Continue reading

Job seekers must fully address employer concerns

Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.

Address Employer Concerns

As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.

Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.

Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.

In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.

Know the Precise Employer Concern

Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”. Continue reading

Are you popping buttons on God’s vest?

When you do the most what you do the best, you pop the buttons on the vest of God

Max Lucado

Max Lucado is clear. There is something that you could be doing that would make God very proud. Presumably if you were already doing what that was you would know clearly. No doubt you have met other people who seem to know that they are doing what makes God proudest of them. And if you don’t feel that way too, you may very well wonder where you took a wrong turn. And you may suppose that it is too late for you to get back on track.

I can relate. When you are a minister’s son, you meet lots of folks who knew what they were “called to do” in their teens. They became nurses and ministers, teachers and doctors. They headed off to university and the rest is history. They couldn’t imagine doing anything else and everyone agrees that they are doing the thing that fits them perfectly. Continue reading

6 Job interview questions a blogger should welcome

We all dread certain job interview questions, but with a good answer ready you can actually look forward to any question.

Successfully launching a blog is not easy and just the fact that you have a blog that is in any way career related gives you a conversation starter and icebreaker. But your blog can provide much more than that. Here are a few questions that you can respond to by drawing from your blogging experiences:

Provide an example of your problem solving skills:

If you have successfully launched a blog and sustained it for a significant amount of time, you have solved many problems. So every time you solve a significant problem, write down a short description. Note the nature of the problem and the implications it has for your blog’s availability or effectiveness. Describe exactly your problem solving process. what you did to solve the problem (e.g. use Google, phone a friend etc.). Specify clearly the outcome of the action you took and what you learned if anything. Tell the whole story in less than 60 seconds if possible in a way that is easy to understand. Continue reading

Try Social Media Cross-training for new skills

A couple of days ago I provided a few examples of lessons I have learned through my experience posting photographs on Flickr. After buying my first digital SLR I was looking for a venue to share my photos and to learn about photography. Flickr has provided exactly that. But you don’t draw attention to your photos without learning a few things. Like finding others who find the same things interesting. Here are a few more things I have learned, all of which translate to blogging!

  •  I began photographing sunrises for one simple reason. I can take some nice photos right out the window of my 15th floor condo as the photo at right demonstrates. I found that there are other Flickr members who enjoy these photos (and don’t bore of them too quickly) by joining Flickr groups particularly focused on sunrises and sunsets. I also learned from participating in those groups exactly what other people respond to most strongly. I can recognize other photographers whose photos are clearly superior to mine and ask them to critique my work. Ditto for blogs. Continue reading

Social media cross-training: let Flickr make you a better blogger!

Social media cross-training could give your blogging skills the boost they need. Posting your photos on Flickr can teach you essential social media skills and strategies more quickly than blogging!

The usual advice is this: focus your attention and energy on one specific strategy and refuse to be distracted. Great advice much of the time, but not necessarily when it comes to blogs and other social media. Concurrent social media pursuits can actually be beneficial.

You create traffic in one by spending time in another. Your Pinterest presence sends blog visitors. Facebook activity pumps Twitter traffic. As you probably already know, this is not just wise, it is essential.

But are you aware of the learning benefits? Lessons learned in one social media site apply elsewhere. The skills and habits you need to thrive on Flickr readily translate to the challenge of growing your blog. And those essential lessons that I find hardest to learn with establishing my blog came more intuitively to me on Flickr. Continue reading

Consider blogging your way out of a career rut

Establishing a blog related to your career can cure a lot of ills. Feeling stuck in a rut is just one. It has never been easier and the benefits have never been clearer.

12 benefits from a career-related blog:

  1. Blogging  gives you, not your employer or anyone else, total control over the heart of career management, your personal brand.
  2. Here’s your chance to broadcast the experience and wisdom you have accumulated in your professional career. You can answer those questions that no one ever asks or provide the advice to a newcomer that you wish someone would tell them. Continue reading

Support Your Inner Careerist

“Nobody ever warns us about behavioural drift” .. Dr. Joshua C. Klapow

Every September I made the same vow. “This year will be different. I’ll be the ideal student, starting assignments the day they are assigned, ask for extra problems in Math, outlining “The Tempest” for English and practicing my Latin vocabulary. Long before Cal Newport wrote his first book for students, I had it all clear in my mind. If I acted on those plans, my high school career would have been stellar. But like many others with good intentions, I drifted and that fall ended pretty much the same way as the previous year did with a mix of Bs and Cs. Usually by early October I had abandoned the dream. It wasn’t until I was a university student that I learned the habits that deliver a consistently high GPA and ultimately earned an MBA.

For a label that describes my high-school pattern, I turn to Dr. Joshua C. Klapow, author of “Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever” Apparently, I was experiencing “behavioural drift, going back to my old patterns despite a genuine desire to make a substantial change”. Continue reading