Sunday, October 29, 2006

Overcoming Obstacles

In our lives, there have always been obstacles or threats that hinder our success. In order to properly overcome these obstacles, we must first state the various threat possibilities that we notice every day. Here are some of a few (pertaining to success in the workplace):
          • Parents
          • Peers
          • Opportunity Limitations
          • Poor Management / Mentoring
          • Company Politics
          • Uncontrollable External Factors (such as the weather)
After presenting your current obstacles, you must figure out tactics and strategically align these tactics to manipulating these obstacles in your favor or dismissing them altogether. One factor which we may never control is "luck", which forecasts the probability for which we will succeed. Luck is always the wild card and plays a major role in upward job mobility. As you age, parents become less and less of a factor into blockading your future and sending it in the direction they desire. Although, they do pose as mentors with previous experience that may lend a hand. Peers are tricky adversaries and mercenaries to your cause because some of your friends will be trying to utilize you as a resource to get ahead on their career path, while others may aid your cause. Your opportunities may be limited by the total allotment of revenue generated by your department or "value-add". By this I mean that the strength of your department to contribute to the company's bottom line, will initiate key opportunities for you or the lack there of. A manager is crucial to your success and if the manager lacks key skills and interpersonal communication, then you are already at a loss. It is quite hard to excel if your manager is an obstacle point of contact, so you must work around that and establish other mentors that could guide you in the right direction. Company politics are inevitable, especially at a larger corporation, where the hierarchy is limitless and the competition is strong. The only way to combat this obstacle is to play into it. External factors may not be controlled, and might have a negative impact on your work if you let them. As long as you work around these obstacles, you will be able to achieve, without constant frustration that negatively impacts your work progress.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Climbing the corporate ladder

This pyramid represents the routine transition from new employee, into management, into director, vice president and then as CEO. If you seek to be at the top, you must visualize the steps beneath and the imagery above should give you a more defined picture. Of course, there are special circumstances, that usually involve timing and a bit of luck, such as employees switching to new departments or your division prospering. Managers, directors, vice presidents or even the CEO might leave the position, allowing an understudy to fill in. Also, your division might be highly successful (in terms of revenue generated) one year and the CEO might want to invest more money and labor into it, meaning you will have direct reports, giving you a boost into management. In general if you would like to be CEO or even merely a manager, the diagram above gives an accurate read of how many years of experience you must have in order to be in the selection pool. If you think that you could be a manager after only a year, you are wrong because you will not have the full understanding of your field in only one year and will not have earned the respect as a new employee to handle that position. There are leadership development programs that allow you to successfully push up the pyramid at a faster pace, but otherwise, you must start from the bottom and work up, gaining valuable experience at every step of the way. Not everyone wants to step into management. Management means more responsibilities, more stress, and more time away from your friends and families. This blog is more geared to those who wish to stop at nothing and create upward mobility in order to accomplish at the highest level. If you want to do this, you MUST put in the time, the effort and most importantly the realization that others are seeking the same goals as you are. Just keep focused and you will climb the ladder over a period of time.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Act the part

Ever wonder which employees get promoted to management and which stay stationary at their current positions? This question has posed a lengthy debate for a long time for me. I used to think that working hard, accomplishing your organizational goals and establishing relationships was the path towards escalation up the corporate hierarchy. My new thoughts are that if you act the part, then your one step closer to being the part. By this I mean that if you start acting like a manager by facilitating communication across corporate lines, managing work flow processes and creating a work environment where others depend on your work to get their own jobs accomplished. Acting the part, will not only display your ability to handle management, but also almost force your manager or director to enlist you in the position.

This is obviously not an easy task to do and it requires a lot of determination, tactical planning and opportunity. You must be given the opportunity to carry on a wider variety of work and the ability to cover more portions of the business, in order to move up the ladder. Other factors that play a role in this are age, years of service at the company, manager’s perspective over your capabilities and positioning within your department. Be aware that others will be competing for management positions as well, so always display that you are more suitable for the job.

Strategy: Validate with your manager that you are able to handle a wide variety of work, outside of your realm of day-to-day operations.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Success is in Process

Improving the process of your job will compliment the success of your business. Have you ever been frustrated from countless engagements with management in order to get something approved? If you answered "yes", then you understand that there must be a more efficient process and selection criteria for accomplishing ones job. The Six Sigma practice has been adopted by various companies encouraging employees to adopt a new process for achieving their goals. As methodological as this may be, the main idea here is to debrief your job each quarter and reflect back as to what worked and what didn't.

In order to enhance the process, you must see fault or failure in the previous process. Start by writing down the steps you had to take in order to accomplish your task, including channel of communication and time allotment. Next, put these in order and then subtract steps that either overlapped or weren't crucial in the final product. Once you have your final listing, set up a meeting with your manager and review the new process and then implement it in the following quarter. In the aftermath, you should compare results from quarter to quarter, to constantly improve productivity. Saying this, I believe that if you follow this guide, you will not only be a better worker, but it will allow you to diversify yourself in other areas of the business because of an increase in free time. Concurrently improving processes, enhances your status and cuts both costs and time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Selling Yourself First

Before you intend on marketing your goods and services to consumers, you must first take into consideration that they are not just purchasing these items from your company. You, as the marketer are the clients communication link for handling their account and are responsible for upholding fair business practices. The more experience and credibility you acquire, the more eligible you will be in order to serve these clients. Before you can sell for a company, you must be able to sell yourself. Interviews form the foundation for selling yourself and credentials mark the manner in which you can differentiate yourself from the competition.

Consumers are always wondering "why should I purchase from you." To counter this, you must show them either visually or pitch yourself to them, in order to either generate a lead or for a transaction to occur. Below are tips for setting yourself apart from the thousands of other agencies that provide similar products and services.

  1. Provide superior service: Do this by explaining why this service can add value to the product. Also, always get back to clients quickly and fulfill orders as soon as they are taken. This involves quality communication and make sure the client obtains all contact points (example: fax number).
  2. Diversify your background: The majority of people have similar backgrounds, involving the same industry and experiences. In order to stand out, you must have that experience, combined with experiences in different industries and at different positions. When this isn't enough, you must configure your education, experiences and outside activities in order to be sought after and recognized.
  3. Seek Guidance: No one can ever know it all. If you are having trouble selling or marketing your business, what better way to conquer your issues than with someone who has already succeeded in that area. Of course, a close competitor might not share this information and that is why you can go to your neighborhood bookstore and find someone who has wrote a book. Your supervisor or director might be able to mentor you, which will help you in the long run.

Not every product sells itself and services certainly can't sell unless their is some tangibility involved. So if you follow these three tactics and start employing them, you will see the difference.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dress to Success

The first time you meet someone, you gather a quick analysis of personality, style, creativity, smell, age and status. The casual or formal attire that you wear and pick out from your wardrobe daily, is the cornerstone for which most of this analysis complies with. Each employee is judged according to what they wear and how they present themselves, before a mere conversation is even started. This evaluation can pose new opportunities for you, or actually slower your upward mobility. A tip I always use is to dress one degree above the norm. So if the normal dress culture was jeans and a shirt, you should wear dress pants and a formal shirt. I would actually never wear jeans to work, because it demonstrates that you don’t take either your job seriously or the actual company you work for seriously. See, notice how important how you dress is to be successful. Your attire at work is sometimes overlooked as a differentiation method from your peers, but it is effective in displaying your dedication to the company and to your job.

If you want to further stand out at your workplace, you should wear unique clothing, that you don’t see people wearing everyday. This, of course, will cost you a premium price, but it will directly support your efforts to showcase your style, personality, and edge. For those of you that would like to climb the corporate hierarchy quickly, try dressing the part and seeing who notices. If you have any other view of this or suggestions, please comment.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Networking: The Strength Model

Connections are the strongest form of induction into a newly opened job opportunity. People are the sole contributors to hiring for new positions and control who is placed where in the company, alongside the hiring manager. In general, there are two factors in deciding if you have a job: The human resource recruiter and the hiring manager. If either of these two decision makers hears of interest for a job through their network, those applicants get first shot at interviewing. The closer the connection between the decision maker and the applicant, the better chance for successful job requisition fulfillment. I consider this “The Strength Model” of networking because your network is your strongest bridge into the job market. To better explain this, view the model below.
This model suggests that family is the strongest connection, where a hiring manager has a son or daughter that is looking for a job and it is filled almost immediately because of the network strength associated with the relationship. For example, if your father was a Director of Marketing at Proctor and Gamble and there was an entry level job opening in the marketing research department, you would have first pass at that opportunity. Referrals are the next strongest segment to this pyramid because an applicant is usually referred to a hiring manager, based on some level of expertise or job fitting. Referrals could be acquaintances that have been further developed by the art of networking or keeping in touch with an individual (establishing a relationship). You could be referred to a hiring manager by previous work such as an internship or by a family member. Finally, acquaintances are the weakest form of networking, because hiring members would rather hire an individual that they are closer in ties with, rather than someone they just met for the first time. You have many acquaintances throughout your life, many will soon forget you over time, but you never know if one might follow through one of these days.

If I were to rate your chances at each level of the pyramid I would say…..

  • Family: 90%
  • Referrals: 50%
  • Acquaintances: 5%

Remember: Meet as many people as you can because you never know who is connected to whom in each others networks. You should strive to build relationships with your acquintances, in order to convert them to referrals, but family members are always the strongest!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting your first job

Like you, I once struggled with landing my first job in the real world. Luckily, through my broad network, I established a link to a well established entrepreneur that mentored me into what I am today. You might be thinking that I was fortunate in this respect, but if you take a step back and examine your contacts, including family and friends, you may just end up in this position. This was of course not my first job, as I worked as a caterer and as a camp counselor, but this was the first job where my work would boost both my character and standing in the workforce. For those of you who do not have this opportunity, you must take positions, where you are a “servicer” instead of a “producer”. I differentiate these by the role they play in an organization. A “servicer” is one that gets paid to interact with the consumers and aims to make a sale, while a “producer” actually facilitates the operation behind the scenes. Examples of servicers are waitresses or selling clothing at a retail store. By taking these jobs, a hiring employer (for a “producer” position) will be impressed that you have worked in the past, instead of being passive or unmotivated. Basically, you will increase your chances for getting the positions you seek by sacrificing now.

It took me three internships and two service jobs, in order to take an internship relating to my field (marketing). I had to make cold calls as a salesman, create websites and help run accounts payable, in order to be in a position where I could acquire a marketing internship with another company.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to sacrifice time now to achieve potential success in the future.

Ok now take a deep breath and follow along with me as I demonstrate to you the most effective way to position yourself so you get more interviews and acquire a new corporate position. First, remember to use what you already have to your advantage when constructing your resume. If you see job descriptions that are close to what you have, but you are lacking certain criteria, either build around it or seek the technical skills before applying. Second, take practice interviews with your friends, parents, mentors or guidance counselors in order to gain both confidence and experience. If you find yourself interviewing for a position that doesn’t interest you, always use it as practice as well and you might even find yourself taking the job, as a sacrifice to get what you really desire. Resumes should display your skills, achievements, work experience, grades/honors, school work and classes and technical expertise. After constructing your resume to cover all those areas in a story-like manner, it is time to start applying for jobs.

From my experience, there are three routes to applying for jobs:

  • Verbal: Calling companies and expressing interest, while trying to pinpoint key contacts within the group you would like to work with.
  • Electronic: The proper way to handle electronic submissions is to spread your resume like a virus through as many relevant websites as possible that have what your looking for. From my experience, the top 3 websites where to post are Monster, eRecruiting and Yahoo Hot Jobs.
  • Networking: The quickest path into a new company is by already knowing an internal employee. Internal employees, like me, have networks built within a company and access to referring candidates to others.

Next, you will be screened by all the companies you applied to. If you applied to a large corporation, they have a crawler that picks keywords, customized by the manager that is seeking a candidate, such as yourself. Smaller companies will usually email you back if they are interested. The screening process usually places all the applicants that have the right skills for the job into a job bank, from which the employer either calls for a phone interview (large company) or bring into their office (small firm). If you have been selected to interview, do the best you can do and the worst that can happen is that you met another contact for the future. At this point, you will be notified within weeks if you were accepted to fill the position or rejected. Sometimes further interviews may occur, when the pool of candidates is large. If you are rejected, just keep interviewing, and at some point, you will get a job. If it is not the job you intended to obtain, you must work there as a sacrifice to further your career.

REMEMBER: Always think long-term when contemplating which jobs to accept!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Effective Work Process

Through experience I have learned that in order to accelerate in any environment, you must take follow a common trend: Learn, Build and Execute. You can’t build a highly innovative project, without acquiring skills and knowledge. Saying this, you can’t execute a project into production without first learning about what you are going to build and then creating it. Even after you execute, you must review the process and learn from your mistakes for future engagements. While at work, when I get assigned a specific project, I tend to review all material surrounding that project before jumping into document creation. This way, you won’t miss out on key facts or information that may aid in the development of the material your creating. Sometimes after building my projects contents, I will go back and learn more, but I always push towards execution. If you are given a time limit or launch date for your project, you must know when to executive and when to keep learning in order to push the project forward. In general, I have listed what I feel an effective work process lifecycle is below:

Learn: Learn your job and the technical and communication skills that coincide with it.

Build: Build your projects and the tasks required of you through guidance from mentors, previously successful ventures and through research.

Execute: Execute your projects by proving value to your manager and demonstrating effectiveness.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Building a strong foundation

In order to fully appreciate the present, I will first show you a graphic representation of my past experiences. From 2001 till 2006, I desired to grasp a firm foundation in the marketing discipline, holding positions in all of the major areas. These area's, such as marketing research, advertising, public relations, direct mail, personal selling and graphic design are all integrated into marketing as a whole. My goal here was to become competitive in the job market by demonstrating that, unlike the majority, I understood marketing and it's related functions, in a variety of different work settings and cultures. Another approach I encountered along the way was to balance off work experience with scholastic activity, so you can cross apply learning. This helped while I juggled working at Reebok, Lycos and taking two classes simultaneously.

Advice to succeed
  1. Never narrow yourself down, until you have built a foundation to work from.
  2. Make the most of your time, be productive and get experiences others do not have the opportunity to have
  3. Stay competitive as much as posibble. This means become well balanced. Integrate school with work experiences, while still maintaining a social network.
More to come.......