Monthly Archives: January 2014

How to Convert a Task/Duty into a Strategic Contribution

Current employment lifecycleTime and again I receive résumés from individuals who confuse task completion with accomplishment. The task completion is an expectation of your job; an accomplishment is most often above and beyond the expectation of your normal role and responsibilities. For people who load up résumés with one bullet list after another of “duties and responsibilities,” the only way to really get noticed above other candidates is to convert that task or duty into a strategic contribution that has higher value to your employer or organization. It’s a way of thinking beyond the day-to-day trench duties you are involved with; it’s assigning purpose to your efforts.

I came across a great example of this shift in thinking in a book by financial guru, Dave Ramsey, and it involved three different bricklayers:

Once a journalist happened upon a construction site where he noticed a group of bricklayers going about their jobs. As the journalist observed, he became intrigued by the various manners in which the workers performed their duties. For instance, one fellow moved as slowly as possible and looked extremely bored with his work.

“What is it that you are doing here?” the journalist asked.

The bricklayer glared back at the journalist, looking disgusted that anyone would ask a question with such an obvious answer. “What do you think I’m doing?” he bristled. “I’m laying bricks.”

The journalist noticed another worker who seemed to be enjoying his job more than the first man. He had more enthusiasm and seemed to work with more skill. When the journalist asked this man what he was doing, the worker squared his shoulders and replied, “I’m building a wall.”

A third man caught the journalist’s attention. This worker was a joy to watch. One could almost imagine a symphony playing in the background as the craftsman fluidly picked up each brick, prepared it with mortar, and swung it into position. With tremendous pride, he smoothed the extraneous mortar around the edges of each brick, careful to make sure that each brick was placed with precision. It looked as though he thought the entire building would stand or fall according to the way he did his work.

When the journalist asked the third man what he was doing, he stood up with pride and smiled broadly, “I am building a magnificent cathedral to the glory of the Lord,” he replied.

Same building, same job description, what the men were doing was the same thing, but the men had different “whys” and that changed the way they approached their daily work.

(Dave Ramsey, How to Have More Than Enough, p. 83)

So, in your day-to-day work are you laying bricks, building a wall, or doing something more magnificent? As a hiring manager, which attitude do you want to bring onboard?

Tagged , , ,

Let’s Talk About Building Your Platform

platform builderYour platform, very simply, is the expertise you have developed that gives you visibility, authority, and a proven influence within a targeted population (profession, market, or field).

Let’s break down that broad definition to its components:

Visibility: Who knows you? Who knows your work or accomplishments? How do you communicate to others outside of your immediate job what it is you do or you’ve done? How many people are aware of it? How does your visibility get distributed? What communities (online, professional associations, etc.) are you a member of? Basically, where do you make waves?

Authority: How solid is your credibility? What are your credentials? (it’s not about how many you have but whether you have the right ones for the right field of work).

Proven influence: Don’t say you are an “influencer”; show where your work has made an impact and provide demonstrable proof of that impact (quantitative measures such as $$ or % really help out here). Oh, and please don’t use the term, “thought leader.” It’s such a cliché in marketing and there’s no way to demonstrate how many thoughts you’ve led.

Target population: Are you most visible to the most appropriate targeted audience? In other words, is your work helping to build your brand within the circles where you already have visibility?

Building your platform is all about putting in a consistent effort from one year to the next–not by calling attention to yourself, but by extending your network of people who are drawn to your brand (your expertise, your personal values, and your professional reputation). It’s building the platform to a point when it starts speaking for who you are (personal values), what you do (expertise), and how you do it (reputation).

Platform building is synonymous with creating and promoting your professional brand, and is an organic process that evolves over time and with circumstances. I read a great article on how authors create a platform (I used some of those ideas here because they parallel most other professional positions), and the author stated that

Your platform should be as much of a creative exercise and project as the work you produce. While platform gives you power to market effectively, it’s not something you develop by posting “Follow Me!” on Twitter or “Like Me!” on Facebook a few times a week.

How are you building your platform? What’s in your toolbox?

Tagged , , , ,

New Year, New Direction…and Phone Screen Interview Success

I hope everyone had a great New Year and Christmas/holiday season…

The new year for me brings about some exciting changes. In addition to the career strategies speaking, consulting, and training I do, I have “re-hung” my shingle as a Independent Business Communication Professional in response to increasing requests from individuals over the past few months. I will be providing corporate, marketing, and technical communication collateral for companies in the earth/space sciences, environmental sciences, software development and microprocessor design fields. The day I launched the website promoting this business, I received my first contract.

For this post, I’m broadcasting a response to a question I received awhile back about knowing what questions to ask a hiring manager during a phone screen. I think the best strategy for asking questions involves the focus of the type of work you’ll be doing–especially if you’ll be brought in to work on a critical project or deliverable. You have to think like a consultant and NOT a potential employee for the strategy to work as a selling point to getting the hiring manager to hire you.

Here’s an actual recent example from a phone screen with a hiring manager for a contract technical editing position. The hiring manager began the conversation by providing an overview of the project and the documentation needs. I took a lot of notes, which helped me frame my own questions for later.  Rather than bore you with the details of the exchange, my questioning was along the lines of determining how much of an editorial effort the project would require. I have worked on so many such projects for companies in the software development and microprocessor design fields, that the questions I needed answers to fell into a long queue in my head. This happens to everyone–whether you’ve built microprocessors or you’ve built barns–you just know which questions to ask and even in what order to ask them because your knowledge, experience, and skills all come together as expertise.

Such questioning also communicates to the hiring manager the level of your expertise. Your line of questioning gives the hiring manager insight into your thought process, your strategy for assessing the merits and potential issues of a project or problem, and your approach for enacting a solution. That conversation may turn into an invitation to come in for an interview or it may result in an outright job or contract (as it did for me). Because I was able to sell the hiring manager on my solutions to his problems over the phone, I got my hourly rate and I was able to work from my home office after spending the first few days at the local facility to familiarize myself with content providers and the work environment.  This approach helped put a frame of reference around the scope of the work I would be doing.

Phone screen interviews are your opportunity to shine in the eyes of the hiring manager. You should be committed to one of two outcomes: either a request to come in for an interview with others on the team, or a direct job or contract offer.

Failure is not an option.

Tagged , , , , ,