Posted by: Mike Tomasello | November 23, 2011

Control and Perspective

Found this quote recently due to David Allen, Author of “Getting Things Done” and “Making it All Work”…

“If you lack the iron and the fizz to take control of your own life, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don’t be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked” -Tom Robbins

Posted by: Mike Tomasello | October 20, 2011

Chase the Dollar or Catch the Dream?

If I could just earn a little bit more, I can finally buy that fishing net!

A South African, an American, & dog walk into a bar…ok not at the same time. But, they are in a bar in my story. I sat down for a drink after picking up a sandwich & decided to eat it at my local  establishment since it was nearby. I always meet some characters there but also some real, intelligent, and fun people.The South African and I proceeded to talk about everything from Rugby, Generation Y, dogs as chick magnets, how some people feel entitled these days, and the value of hard work. He even suggested I get divorced before getting married a 2nd time and being truly happy! Ha. OK, I’ll probably pass on that one.

He commented towards the end of our conversation how he probably should have chased the money but the the money always seemed to run away from him when he did that…THE MONEY ALWAYS SEEMED TO RUN AWAY FROM HIM. I didn’t need to ask what he did to know this guy was successful but he did Global Business Development for eCommerce companies. It was apparent in the way he carried himself & how he valued his life experiences. It was interesting rom a guy that obviously made a good living by most standards but I can relate to the fact that I often have compared myself to others who might make more money or get to do some glamorous things.

But, are they happy? Are you happy? My new South African friend clearly was happy despite his thought if there could be more money elsewhere. His thoughtfulness caused me to remember growing up not knowing if I would be able to afford going to my #1 college choice (I couldn’t), my parent’s discussions on money when they thought I was asleep, & the life as well as career choices I have made over the years. As I made them, many in my circle thought I was crazy. …and that’s even without them knowing all the details.

Growing up, I was talking with a person I love & respect about College Athletes and when they get offered (or likely will get offered )a Professional contract in a Pro Sports League (in the US think Football, the NBA, or Baseball mostly; Europe & Latin America think your Football, ie Soccer). Should they stay at University or quit & grab the millions as soon as they can? I was positive I would delay the opportunity because I believe a university education is one of the most important things in the world, & the life experience also valuable. He thought I was crazy. Now, if he had said, this athlete’s biggest dream is to play at the highest level & he’s given that opportunity and he gets to make a lot of money doing it…I would have said…Wow, you’re right. If that is his dream & no other priorities come close, it’s a slam dunk to go pro at sports. However, that wasn’t his rational & that wasn’t my thinking because for me the university education & experience was immeasurable…& I know once you leave, few seldom go back. My counterpart’s argument was you can never turn down that much money.

Maybe it is crazy to turn down Millions of Dollars but both the South African & I agreed we knew many many people that made SIGNIFICANTLY more money than we do, maybe more than we ever will & we’re happier than the others. Well, I’ve been bucking the system ever since. The average business undergrad student made decent money out of Purdue University the year I graduated. Back then, it seemed a  LOT of money in my eyes & yet I decided I was NOT going to interview with any companies that were interviewing on campus. (Whoops, sorry Mom & Dad, I probably never told you that). I had volunteered for a non-profit that ran an international work exchange program while I was in undergrad & had been exposed to different countries & cultures for the first time in my life. I had never felt more passionate in my life about anything. Something told me I HAD to find a job in Latin America (as I had the strongest feeling of connection with those from Latin American countries) & that I wanted to work for the non-profit…not even a corporation. By luck & hard work despite 1 year of spanish classes in university (ie really bad spanish), I managed to find an organization in Venezuela that wanted me. At the time & for many years after, that was the best year of my life, making $400 a month, not even enough to cover my student loan payments (thanks Mom & Dad…TRULY). I did work that I loved, gained more responsibility at that age than any company I could have in the world at that age, learned about what it meant to be American (the good & the bad), & my values in life. My personal development that year is the foundation that shapes who I am & the life choices I make today.

I wish I could have stayed longer. If the non-profit hadn’t run out of money (they paid me back 6 months after I left the country for back pay), I probably would have stayed a lot longer. I re-located to St. Louis, USA to work for the same non-profit for a liveable salary again lower than could have made coming out of university. This trend continued for 3 more years. Life and the work had its challenges but I loved what I was doing and the work felt important. Eventually, I was ready to move on as I started writing down my dreams and realizing I could reach them and achieve more if I switched to the corporate world. The decisions I had made around what I was passionate about landed me a job where the average person in the same position of mine at the company was at least 15 years older than me and had owned their own business. I was the 3rd youngest person in that position out of over 300 people. Since then I’ve turned down jobs paying me significantly more money multiple times because they were not industries that I liked, or companies I did not respect, or products I didn’t believe in…or even if they met those criteria, I did not think they could help me achieve more of my personal dreams and passions.

If I had focused on the money, I might have made the average or more my 1st year of undergrad…significantly more than I did for MANY years, but in the long run because I pursued my passions, I have probably made more than I would have in the long run. I guarantee I’m happier than I would have been. And if I had gone the other route, I might still be making the post student average as the money might have run away from me. Although the South African and I disagreed on our favorite sports teams, pursuing our dreams & our passions was something we agreed on that night.

We all have bills, many of us have mouths to feed, and responsibilities to take care of so it’s not to say money isn’t a significant factor…it is. But, does it need to control our lives and our careers? I think not.

Am I smoking crack? Do you agree? How is this manifesting in your own life? If you agree but something else is holding you back, what is it?Share your comments below.

Posted by: Mike Tomasello | October 20, 2009

Inspiration Point: Find your motivation and positive attitude

What's Your Inspiration Point?

What's Your Inspiration Point?

From the lack of postings from me lately, it probably won’t be a surprise for me to say I’ve been busy…if not overwhelmed. These days who does’t go through this every once in awhile? Life, family, friends, work, career, job hunting, errands, bills, and household things. Some combination gets to all of us.

I managed to “suck it up” this week and get out there and socialize, pursue my interests, and also re-connect with old people and meet new ones. Tonight, I went to a university alumni organization event. I was lucky enough to re-connect with one alumnus I’ve known for 4 years and also meet two new recent graduates. All of them had two things in common: 1) They were all unemployed. One recently laid off and the others recent graduates. And 2) They were all incredibly positive people that had something that inspired them to keep going and look forward to the future.

Now I’m not saying that life doesn’t have its ups and downs and even the best of us won’t get down or depressed every once in awhile. But in addition to these inspiring gentlemen, I also know people that are unemployed that never seem to utter a positive thought. I also know EMPLOYED people that never seem to utter a positive thought either!

I think the important thing to remember is that ultimately we need to inspire ourselves! If we are not searching for and finding inspiration, great things could fall in our laps and we still might not get excited, take advantage, and maximize our opportunities! Inspiration is different for everyone, but everyone can find something to inspire them every days.

As we have talked about in previous blog posts, I’m a big believer in setting goals for where you want to be in your life personally and professionally. A couple friends of mine who follow more Bhuddist philosophies might tell you not to get caught up in making decisions as there are no bad ones…and just pursue what feels right and find enjoyment in what life brings you. I don’t think you can go wrong with either approach, you just need to be true to yourself and follow the one that feels best for you.

All I do know is that if you’re not being positive 51-90% of the time, YOU are the reason for your own unhappiness and/or lack of success. We are in control and can turn things around at any time. The gentlemen I mentioned above are IN control. They are using their free time to consult and build their experience set. They are using their time to learn and build relationships with people they already know as well as with new people. They are seeking advice, clarifying what they want and I have no doubt when the right thing comes along, they WILL be successful. I know people that are unhappy with their jobs or unhappy with being unemployed that don’t have that positivity. They are not using this free time to improve themselves, to study and become an expert on their industry or functional area of choice, or even simply enjoy the moments however brief life sends their way.

Inspiration is different for everyone but I thought it would be helpful if we brainstormed ways of inspiring ourselves and regaining our positive attitudes:

  • Read a book or article on positive attitude
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Spend time with a child and watch how the little things make them happy
  • Meditate
  • Take a weekend away
  • Go for a walk or hike, whether it be within the energy of the city or the peacefulness of nature
  • Discovering a posting for your dream job, even if it is out of reach
  • Learning a new skill
  • Hearing the success of a friend or child
  • Receiving a compliment/recognition OR Giving a compliment/recognition
  • Laughing…even if it is at yourself!
  • Visualizing a future goal achieved whether it be your dream job OR just taking a vacation
  • What are things that inspire you? What are your Inspiration Points? Please share in the comments

Now, make sure you capture the Top 1-5 things that inspire you and make you feel good so you can tap into those good feelings at any time. And, most importantly, take action when the good moments and inspiration hit. Because if we don’t when we have the opportunity…not taking an action is making a choice as well.

Looking forward to your thoughts! If you liked this post or any others, please share with someone you think can benefit!

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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | August 28, 2009

30 Second Commercial? This is NOT the Super Bowl

Is your commercial in poor taste?

Is your commercial in poor taste?

30 second commercials are some of the mis-used job hunting or networking tools in existence. You’re not selling a product during the Super Bowl, you’re selling yourself and if you’re not careful with how you do it or sell someone who’s not looking to buy, you’re going to come off like Conan O’Brien in a bad Swedish Bud Lite commercial. If you’re selling me, I am not buying. I did not come to an event or organization to get sold.

Don’t get me wrong. A 30 second personal commercial has its place, but it’s usually only at career fairs where there are employers there for the express purpose of looking for someone to hire.

I’m also not suggesting that all aspects of a “30 second commercial” are not valuable. Many of aspects of them ARE valuable but approaching things as a “commercial” is going down the wrong path and will have you coming off as salesy.

What’s the Bad and the Ugly of 30 second commercials?

  • It’s not a dialogue and not interactive. How do you even know whether what you’re saying is important to them?
  • They often rattle on for more than 2 sentences
  • They are often a data dump of work & academic backgrounds
  • They often don’t focus on value (BUT they could!)

What’s the Good of a 30 second commercial?

  • It helps to have practiced saying key value statements about yourself so you sound more polished and confident
  • It forces you to think about what value you do bring to any given department, company, or employer

So, what’s the ideal situation?

It depends (spoken like a true MBA), there are two possible situations when going to any event, organization, forum, or networking opportunity:

1)  You don’t know who you might meet at an event

OR

2) You anticipate or know that certain types of attendees, companies, or even specific people are going to be present

Scenario #1 is the easier situation to prepare for but the situation less likely to pay off in advancing your career.

But, the important thing in either scenario is to engage people in conversation.  The best way to do this is through asking questions. Luckily for you, the event itself provides ready made questions for you to break the ice:

  • Have you been to this <<event/organization>> before? Oh, great you’re an expert and can show me the ropes (even if they have only been to 1 or 2 more events than you) OR Oh, great you’re a rookie too! We’ll have to learn how these things work together.
  • I’ve heard this speaker is great because <<reason>>, I really wanted to hear his thoughts on <<topic>> because it’s important to me because <<work reason, personal reason, whatever>>. Why did you want to hear her speak?
  • Assuming the event or organization is actually interesting to you, you should be able to expand where the conversation goes from that point.

I always recommend a little real conversation before getting to the big question “So what to you do?” If you’re lucky, you’re initial conversation yielded clues to this already and will make it easier to transition into this conversation. And you want to be initiating and driving the conversation so that you can find out what they do FIRST. This helps a ton because it gives you additional information so that when they do turn around and ask you what you do, you can adjust your 15-20 second spiel to something that they care about.

If this is a great contact for you, go ahead and ask them some of those advice conversation questions we talked about (How did you get your start? etc.). If you’re not sure or they’re not, have the most enjoyable and interesting conversation you can have and show genuine interest in learning about them anyway. If you do, when the conversation turns to you and your background/interests, they are going to be more likely to want to help you…and jut because someone is in banking, doesn’t mean they don’t know people in technology or consumer products.

OK, Scenario #2, you know certain companies or even people are going to be there that you want to meet. This is a great opportunity, but it will yield the best results if you actually prepare for it. Have you been following these companies in the news lately? Do you know their key products and strategies? If not, you should! This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, focus the conversation on more valuable info (rather than what you can find on the internet yourself lazybones), and maximize your opportunity. It also gives you time to think about how your own personal value proposition changes from company to company so when it rolls off your tongue, it sounds like you were born to help Starwood Hotels, P & G, or whomever.

Now if you think or know a certain executive or speaker is going to be there. Research the individual! Work background, Personal background, whatever will help you have a more interesting and engaging conversation. I once walked up to a VP of HR of a Fortune 500 company and said right away, I’ve been reading about your expansion into Canada. Have you given any thought into your international recruiting strategy for expanding into your next countries? In less than a minute after barely explaining what I did, I had a meeting set up in less than 3 minutes. Now, I don’t always recommend you go straight for your ultimate goal immediately, but if this person is a popular speaker, there’s other people waiting to talk to this person or in general you sense you won’t have much time with them. Go for it! Your research and preparation should allow you to demonstrate you have some value before you ask for your help, advice, or ultimate goal.

Does this make sense? What’s your recommended approach for meeting new people at events or organizations? Which of these pieces are most difficult for you and you need more help on?

Posted by: Mike Tomasello | August 5, 2009

Do you live regret free?

Face Your Fears

Face Your Fears

NO REGRETS. Can you say this about your life? I’ve been hearing a lot of people ask this question of themselves or others lately. I consider myself fortunate to be able to say that I truly have no regrets in my life. How did I pull that off you might ask? Well, I am NOT saying that I have never made any mistakes. Mistakes and regrets are not the same thing. I am sure if you were to ask my co-workers, they would tell you that I make mistakes every day! The reason why I have no regrets is because I never give up on my goals even when others try to discourage me. Also, I believe I strive to learn from every mistake, action, and even lack of action in my life and ALL of those things make me who I am today.

I was speaking with my friend Alfredo today who has been successful enough in his life where he is able to take the entire summer off and travel all over China, India, and Europe. He doesn’t come from money, nor would I say he’s achieved anything by being lucky.

I asked him what he attributed his success to and he responded with these three things:

  • Work harder than everyone else
  • Set goals, never doubt them, and work every day to achieve them
  • Don’t worry about what you are going to say or do, just start

Now I’m guessing most of you are realizing that this advice is probably no “silver bullet” that you have never heard before. I think the beauty IS in that simplicity. How often have you met someone that you thought was less talented or less intelligent than you that has achieved things you have only dreamed of? Well, in reality they likely did work harder than everyone else, they had a clear goal that they were trying to achieve, and they made at least a little bit of effort toward their goals at a regular frequency and that effort has paid off over time in incremental improvements.

I think the last bullet is one that is often overlooked…I know I overlook it! Worrying about having the perfect strategy or technique figured out in every step you do before even taking that first step or action. Looking back on my life, I realize my biggest setbacks were not when I made an effort and failed, they were usually when I didn’t act, didn’t work hard, or did not act at the earliest opportunity. In the past, sometimes I would paralyze myself with fear and end up doing nothing! I remember being insanely afraid of heights and being nervous of being on a balcony of a tall building or an amusement park ride. 3 years ago at a ropes leadership course, I climbed to the top of a 90 foot telephone pole swaying gently in the wind AND jumped off. I haven’t had a problem with heights since and I’ve confronted more of my fears and taken more action in life.

Now while I consider many people much more successful than me, I consider myself very blessed to have achieved some of the things I have in my life and career. When I have been the most successful is when I have followed Alfredo’s pearls of wisdom. Work Hard, Set Goals, Never Stop Working Towards Them, Don’t Doubt Yourself, and Just Take Action. You can always make adjustments when you go along.

So what regrets do you still have? What can you do TODAY to make up for them or to make those regrets disappear? If

No Regrets!

No Regrets!

they are too far in the past to possibly change, what can you LEARN from your regret? Once you have exhausted one of the two options (taking action or learning from it), LET IT GO. The “Artist formerly known as Regret” has served its purpose and now made you better off for it.

So what are you going to do today, this week, this month, this year to ensure you have no regrets? Will you spend more time with your children? Tell your family you love them? Ask out that cute boy or girl you see today? Volunteer for a project at work that might be a little bit over your head?

The only one that can truly stop you from living your dreams is you. The only one that can truly make all of your dreams a reality is you. Time to get started!

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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | July 29, 2009

Take a Step Back

My apologies for the post shortage of late. Like everyone, I can get caught up in the hubub of life. For me, much of the

Are you taking time to breath and take it all in?

Are you taking time to breath and take it all in?

time away was necessary because as life changes, we learn more, and sometimes we need that time to figure out how these new learnings impact our goals and life.

So, keep this in mind for your own life. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate the greater landscape of your life and goals from a new perspective. Just because you’ve done this already this year, 6 months ago, or 3 months ago doesn’t mean that the place you are viewing things from hasn’t changed since then. The frequency different for everyone but if you are not doing this at least once a year chances are you are completely flying by the seat of your pants. Some people can get away with a retreat or introspection twice a year. For me the best interval is probably four times a year although I have friends that realize that if they don’t “get away” one weekend a month, they let life stress them out and get caught up in life’s pull instead of creating the life of their choosing. Choose the interval that works best for you but also be open to just having to step back whenever the moment requires.

And don’t think you have to have all the answers or total clarity! Whether you are taking a step back to see the entire forest or just concentrating on one tree for now, either way there is a part of the equation you’re not seeing. But, if you’re taking time to switch between both perspectives once in awhile, at least you know you’re headed in the right direction.

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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | July 18, 2009

Making New Contacts Like Finding Waldo?

Wheres_Waldo

Making New Contacts Like Finding Waldo?

Someone told me recently that they had moved to a new city and realized they needed to network for their career but didn’t know where to look. Well, whether you are trying to switch careers, find a new job, build skills and knowledge, get advice, or build your business (whether you are an entrepreneur or salesperson), there are countless ways to discover new people for your network. So, where do you go to build your network?

Before I elaborate on where to go, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of focusing your networking with people that you already know somewhat well whether it be your family, friends, former co-workers, ie people already in your network. The people you are already have a relationship with are the most likely to help you.  These are your 1st degrees. Even if the people you already know don’t live in the new city or don’t work in your industry or functional area of choice, they often know somebody who does. Most of my introductions to my best relationships over the years have come from people I already knew that I mentioned in passing I was moving to a new city or trying for a career change and if they knew anyone that might be able to give me advice. I’ve even done this with foreign countries!

Your 2nd degrees whether they be friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues, and any combination thereof are the 2nd most group of people to help you. You already have a mutual bond! The person that introduced you or referred you! You will get access to these people and find out who they are through calling or e-mailing your current network periodically and letting them know what sort of people you are looking to meet (someone in Hong Kong? Someone in the food & beverage industry? Someone in Marketing?).

If you are really in networking mode (need to meet a lot of people), always ask at the end of every touching base with your network, “I could really use your help, who do you know anyone in (city, industry, function, etc.) who might be willing to give me advice on (whatever topic is most appropriate)?”

The trick for getting the most and best referrals or introductions is to be as specific as possible! Remember, this is counter intuitive again because most think that the more flexible they are or the wider their net, the more likely they will catch something. But, remember our brains store lots of information and narrowing it down and focusing can actually help people think easier who they might be able to introduce you to.

The next most important category of people to target to expand your network? People that you have anything in common with. Obviously, the more passionate people are about the connecting item, the better.  That’s why some of the best new connections get formed through university, fraternity, or sorority alumni groups. But even if you didn’t graduate from a university or were not in a sorority, there are groups you might be passionate about whether it be Bulldog Lovers or a Church Group.

Below you’ll find different types of groups where you can meet people to build your network. There are lots more and finding the right group in each category might take some thought and research (Google it or ask the people you know what organizations they recommend!).

  • Co-Workers and Former Co-Workers
  • Undergraduate University Alumni Events and/or Databases
  • Graduate University Alumni Events and/or Databases
  • Associations or Organizations focused on your functional area (ex. Marketing Association, Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, etc.)
  • Associations or Organizations focused on your industry
  • Private Clubs / Country Clubs, etc.
  • Executives Clubs with speaking events (ex. Executives Club of ChicagoChurchill Club of San Jose, etc.)
  • LinkedIn.com – Search for anything, Anyone TWO degrees away from you!
  • LinkedIn.com – Search for your undergrad, graduate university
  • LinkedIn.com – Sign up for groups in your area of interest
  • Greenlightcommunity.com – Online networking for people dedicated to helping each other, small but growing
  • LatPro.com -Has an online community for Latino Business Professionals
  • Facebook.com – More on the social side, but many people are using it to meet business contacts
  • Ning.com Search for an online networking group that relates to your interest, function, industry, whatever!
  • Meetup.com Thousands of groups on any interest, but the focus is on meeting people LIVE, not on-line
  • Your Church or Place of Worship
  • Living Internationally? Try the American Chamber of Commerce. Or if you speak Japanese and are living in China, the Japanese-Chinese Chamber, etc.
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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | July 13, 2009

Informational Ewww-terviews vs. Advice Conversations

Don't disgust people asking for an informational interview!

Don't disgust people by asking for an informational interview!

But Mike…..WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!! You’ve told me some of the things I have been doing wrong but you haven’t told me what to do when I have managed to be successful with my personal brand and get a meeting with someone I actually want to talk to! Not only that what exactly do I say if I am not actually interviewing for a job yet?

Well, the standard in the job hunting or even sometimes is to ask for an informational interview. I know the intentions are in the right place but more often than not informational interviews turn into INFORMATIONAL EEEWWWW-TERVIEWS! They often end up giving you or the person you are trying to get help from that “uh-oh” feeling and I should probably consider washing my hands afterwards.

“Woooaaaaah” you say “but my guidance counselor, career advisor, or mother’s best friend’s cousin says I should ask for an informational interview.” I’m not saying they are totally mis-guided. The idea is to have a similar type of meeting. The problem is anything involving the word “interview” is an ugly word especially in this economy and if there isn’t a specific job to be filled. If you were to approach me for an informational interview I’d still sense you are just trying to use me to get an eventual interview. “But, MIKE! I AM trying to eventually get an interview”. True, I feel you…I feel you I do. But, the word interview just sends all the wrong messages for your contact AND for you. It signals it is all about the job (which they have probably told you there isn’t one) and it signals formality. It is always in your best interest to keep things somewhat informal…I’m not saying unprofessional…informal. You are trying to build rapport, a relationship, learn as much as you can, and hopefully through doing so you will also demonstrate intelligence and competence. Well, studies have shown it’s easier to build rapport and a relationship if you’re not too formal! So, why would you want to send that message to someone and make it harder on yourself? Also, the word interview sends the wrong message to yourself. You SHOULD prepare for it like it’s an interview in case it turns into one, BUT you don’t want to turn meetings where people are trying to help you with their valuable time into annoying them by spending it selling yourself (which most interviews turn into).

I’ll tell you what works EVERY time instead. An ADVICE CONVERSATION. Approach an alumnus, a family friend, even a complete stranger (assuming you are polite and intelligent in your communication) and you can get them to agree to a short conversation to get their advice. Conversation implies TWO WAY conversation. Give and Take. And Advice reminds you that you are there to learn to improve your future candidacy not only at that company, but other companies. Also for the person you are meeting with, asking for their advice implies that they have some expertise or at least valuable knowledge. Trust me there are few bigger compliments than that! I’ve been asking VPs of Fortune 500 corporations for their advice and getting it since I was an undergraduate student. People want to help and be appreciated. They don’t want to be used.

So what are the key components of an Advice Conversation?

1) Prep Research: Don’t count on it, but these sometimes turn into job interviews right on the spot so you should portray the image you want to have within the organization. Do LinkedIn and Google searches for the person you are going to meet with to understand their work & education background and maybe even insight into their responsibilities. The more you understand the company, the functional area, and the person you are meeting with the more you will be able to demonstrate your intelligence and ability right off the bat.

2) Questions: Always plan out what questions you want to know and the ideal order you would like to ask them. Nothing you do is more important than the questions that you ask. Questions determine the quality of information you receive, demonstrate your level of preparedness and also your intelligence, and also the amount of help you will receive!  Sounds powerful huh? Your plan should also allow for flexibility depending on what you learn and where the conversation goes but chances are this person doesn’t have time to meet with you every week, so you do want to control the agenda.

3) Appreciation: It is a really simple component and concept, but it is often forgotten. The person you are meeting with has no obligation to meet with you or help you regardless of what connection they might share with you. You should demonstrate you are appreciative from the start and again at the end regardless of the outcome.Make it clear that the knowledge you are gaining is really helpful.

4) Advice: Keep your eyes on the right goal, obtaining knowledge and advice.  Do you want to ask about the best way of applying when jobs do open up? Yes. Do you want to ask what the best things about your background to highlight are? Language or Keywords to use? Yes. Do you want to ask them to forward your resume? No. Now, you’re asking for a favor and unless you’re a long time friend or business partner, you haven’t earned the right to a favor. The good news is if you have proven yourself knowledgeable, intelligence, and likeable the person you are meeting with will usually offer you help if you ask them what they think the best way of applying is. If they don’t, you know they were not comfortable doing so.

5) Follow-up and Keeping in Touch: Follow-up is just as critical in advice conversations as they are after interviews. They are necessary to show appreciation, obtain any missing information you didn’t get the first time around, and an opportunity to summarize what you learned or actions you plan to take. Now depending on helpful this person was to you, potentially could be in the future, whether you think you’d want to maintain a relationship with this person, etc.  you definitely want to keep in touch regularly. If you are actively job searching, you might want to touch base once a month. If you’re not actively searching, quarterly or twice a year can sometimes suffice. You’ll be amazed when you demonstrate you actually care about keeping in touch with someone how often they will come up with more ideas for you or often even more help than they previously did. It’s due to the trust and confidence you’ve built.

Does anyone have any ideas to share on what they like to discuss or ask when getting advice from someone? Share by commenting below.

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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | July 7, 2009

The Hedgehog Personal Branding Concept

Total Read Time: 6 minutes

Recommended Thinking Time: 1 to 3 hours

Let me guess…so after some thought it turns out you really do have a long list of passions and and you have no idea how to choose between them. I told you so! Sorry I always wanted to say that. Well, it’s happened to all of us at some point.

In the bestseller “Good to Great“, the author Jim Collins’ research showed that companies that turned themselves from good companies to great companies contained 7 different common elements (whether intentional or unintentional). The element I’d like to focus on today that I feel can help you narrow down your career focus and start working towards your own Personal Brand is known as the “Hedgehog Concept”.

I won’t re-cite the entire story or chapter but I would encourage you to read or re-read Collins’ book with YOURSELF in mind. Basically, there was a hedgehog that was small, slow, and wasn’t a very intimidating animal. Hedgehogs are often preyed upon by foxes and this one was athletic, fast, crafty, and had sharp teeth. In other words, the fox could do a lot of different things. In the end, the Hedgehog triumphs because he only does ONE THING WELL. Collins’ research found that companies that took themselves from Good to Great didn’t try to be all things to all people and instead always had a primary focus that they excelled at more than anything else.

Starting to sound familiar? Maybe a topic I touched on regarding Personal Branding? OK, OK enough poking and prodding…you want to know how to use this to figure things out for yourself?

Well,  Collins’ recommends the concept of 3 interlocking circles in a Venn diagram. Luckily for you, we tackled the first question that the first circle represents “What are you passionate about?”…uh oh for those of you who didn’t do your homework last time. Now, you have three times as much to think about. I do really recommend you tackle all three questions separately. It is important to have a clear head for each question to ensure you are being thorough. Isn’t planning your life’s direction worth the extra time?

The other two questions: “What can you be the best in the world at?” and “What drives your economic

What's the ONE thing that will make you successful?

What's the ONE thing that will make you successful?

engine?”

Those of you earlier in your career or in the process of changing careers can take a little bit of liberties with the first question. It’s possible you are not yet aware of all your natural gifts or what you can potentially be great at if you devoted the majority of your time to that pursuit. So feel free to list anything you think you might be great at if you devoted a lot of time to it. For the third and last question, we are making the assumption that a certain degree of monetary success is something that you desire to attain. If your personal finances and potential salary is very low on your totem  pole, you should consider leaving the third question off altogether. I’ve always believed if you go after something you are passionate about and something you have an ability to be great at, there’s always a way to find some level of financial success and the money will take care of itself. So, if you do choose to answer the question…make sure you don’t limit yourself to just conventional ways of thinking about making money. After all, entrepreneurs have been creating fortunes out of the strangest ideas for years!

Hopefully you have finished an exhaustive brainstorming of whichever 2 to 3 questions you have chosen to answer. Now, bring out all three of your lists and see where the overlap is. If you did your brainstorming separately as I suggested, it’s possible you did miss a handful of things on one question that came up on another. If you truly believe that one item belongs on multiple lists, go ahead and add it but I encourage you to be really critical before you add something that didn’t come up in your brainstorming.

When you’re done you could have as little as one item or potentially a small list. If it’s a non-traditional item that doesn’t clearly fit into a functional area or business idea, take your time to think creatively of the options you might be able to do in this new area. The end result should be a general direction for you to start exploring. If you don’t feel excited and empowered after coming through this exercise, you were holding something back or ended up with the outcome someone else wanted for you and not for yourself. That will only cause you problems down the road.

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Posted by: Mike Tomasello | July 3, 2009

How Did I Get Here???

Total Read Time: 5 minutes

Total Thinking Time: 30-60 minutes

It continues to surprise me how many people live their lives opportunistically…letting life or choices that come their way dictate what direction they take in their personal and professional lives. It’s possible that you have the luck of the Irish and “going with the flow” in all your decisions always yields the right opportunity, right company, and total happiness for you.

Are You Following Your Path or Someone Else's?

Are You Following Your Path or Someone Else's?

If you’re like me or the majority of the population, this method isn’t maximizing your happiness. So, what’s the solution? How do you determine the right path for yourself? Well, it’s easier than you think…but it requires you making time for yourself to think and dream.

Ideally, I recommend you get away from your normal life, your normal living space, and go somewhere relaxing, peaceful with no distractions. Even if you are a “big city” person, I have found getting out into nature is the ideal but even a park or someplace very quiet works very well. It’s fine to use music to relax you at first but you want to switch it off before you really start thinking. You don’t want the lyrics or the type of music to influence what you think about. Bring lots of paper and pens, markers. I prefer flipchart paper so I can write nice and big or even draw images or diagrams.

So, what the heck are you supposed to think about?

Well, it’s simple….What are you PASSIONATE about? Don’t make these questions complicated. Tackle it in its simplest form. Don’t take this to mean what job or type of work are you passionate about. You might not know or this might limit you in a hurry. List EVERYTHING you are passionate about and don’t think about anything else until you have an exhaustive list.

Here are most of the things I am passionate about:

Coaching, Mentoring, Teaching, Children, International Travel, Economic Development, Customer Relationships, Chicago, Latin America, Venezuela, Colombia, Latin Cultures, College Football, Higher Education, Youth Development, Different cultures, Helping Others Achieve their Goals, Talent Development, Organizational Change, Networking, Building Relationships, Having drinks & stimulating conversations with friends, Bars, Talking to CEOs, Marketing, Technology, Growing Companies, Making Strategic Decisions.

Notice very little of what I have on my list is a job position, functional area, or thought of as a normal career!!! If none of your list is a functional area, that doesn’t matter. You are probably still on the right track! Now, keep in mind my list is to provide an example that your passions don’t have to fit a clear career path just yet. Don’t look at my list and clear your head before making the list of your own!

Are you stuck? Having trouble even after clearing your head for an hour or half a day and you still have a blank sheet of paper? OK, in that case ask yourself  “What are all the things, places, people, activities, etc. that get your EXCITED?”  “Or what are all the things that make you happy?”

No question is more important than one of those. NO OTHER QUESTIONS!!! If you are not doing something that involves or contributes to your passions, you will spend most of your day and thus your life moping around just trying to get to the end of the day. Passion and happiness will ensure you never have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Passion and happiness will increase the odds that you will put maximum effort into every day and every task you do. You are also more likely to be great and knowledgeable about something you are passionate about!!! Think about when you are MOST passionate or happy…things seem almost effortless don’t they?

If you have a very short list, I encourage you to go back on a separate location and brainstorm some more. Most people find they have lots of things they are passionate about and if you’re not used to clearing your head and thinking like this, it takes awhile to get used to. If however, you just happened to come up with a small list and you’re pretty confident nothing is missing. Your job is easy. Are there any overlaps between things? What occupations could you do that relate to your passions in any way? Is there an industry that focuses on one of these areas? Could you start a business that relates to these areas? Is there a functional area that would allow you to do any of the activities on a regular basis? Now just choose the area that you are most passionate about.

Too simplistic? Maybe. Personally, I have found I often make my life’s decisions more complicated than they really Driving at Nighthave to be. If you choose something that you are most passionate about, chances are you are moving in the right DIRECTION. It’s ok if you’re final destination isn’t 100% clear. Your life is like driving at night. Without your headlights you can’t see where you’re going and even with them you can’t see your final destination. However, with the little vision you do have you can point yourself in the right direction and 9 times out of 10 end up closer to your final destination.

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