My New Year’s Resolution

9 01 2010

Disclaimer:  This post is highly philosophical.  It’s about changing the way you think and how you approach your work and life.  Happy new year to all!

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Happy Twenty-ten, Awesome and almost employed!

I apologize for taking such a long time between posts.  I’ve been working on a big project all quarter and it’s truly taken up a lot of my time (and sanity)!  Even this first week back hasn’t lighted up at all.  That being said, I’m here, I’m yours.  All my attention for the duration of this post is dedicated to you.  (Side thought: Apologies if you sent me an email and I didn’t get back to you.  I will!)

When I looked at what I could do differently this year, compared to previous years, I kept coming back to the same thing:  Operate with love.

Before you run screaming, “Stefanie has lost her marbles.  This ain’t a dating blog.”  Hear me out.  (Although, it could be a dating blog, too.  Would you like that?)

Everyone I have ever admired operates with this philosophy AT WORK.  If you do what you do for your own glory, you’re standing alone at the finish line.  Isn’t it better to have a whole hoard of close colleagues, friends, family, and fans cheering you on?  You may not be this loving, giving person now, but I am altruistic enough to believe that we can all operate with love.  It’s this passion that improves the world and gives others hope to be better than they are.  (Think Mahatma Ghandi, Betty Williams, and Matt Flannery, Founder of Kiva.org.)  In your own way, with your own work (whatever it is), this should be you, too.

Embarrassing note:  This Nickleback video moved me to the brink of tears in my office one day!  (Thanks, Judy.)

Example #1:  My dad.
When I graduated, my dad and I talked about what I would possibly be.  He told me that no matter what I did, I should give back to others.  He dedicated his entire life to microbiology and genetics.  I wish you guys could see the look on his face when he talks about finding genetic connections and cures for cancers.  My dad is one person, trying to change the world (and every day he does)!

Example #2: Gopi Kallayil
After yoga, my teacher, Gopi, sat a few of us down and talked about the philosophy behind yoga and meditation and how they are all pathways to love and God (Hindu in his case).  Gopi is extremely successful, well-liked and respected at work and he’s someone that I always want to emulate.  When we asked him what his secret was, I was surprised when he told us that it was this yoga philosophy of love.  His motivations for creating phenomenal work product are not for himself, but they are for the greater good of others.  Giving love freely is his secret to success!  Transferring love into his work and then giving it freely, without sense of ownership (mine, mine, mine), has gotten him far.

When I think about my own career at work, this has also applied.  The times when I’ve been fully committed to helping someone else are the times that I’ve received the most recognition and satisfaction in my work.  Hmm… maybe we’re on to something here.

Example #3: Chade Meng Tan

Meng, like Gopi, is one of my favorite Googlers.  Meng is on a mission for world peace one person at a time.  He teaches a course about emotional intelligence and self-awareness called, “Searching Inside Yourself”.  I’m an alumnus of the class and learning from Meng has really changed how I operate.  Not only have I become more introspective, but I have learned to love myself and forgive me for my mistakes and for others’ mistakes and ill will.  Granted, there are still some really SHITTY people out there, but you know what?  It doesn’t change the fact that we all want to feel loved and respected.

Example #4: Alex Duong, actually–he’s just like us!  But here’s how he’s different.

Alex has been working as a consultant for a few years after graduating from UC Berkeley.  At some point, he decided he needed a change of pace.  He applied to Kiva.org and now he’s a Kiva Fellow in Vietnam reviewing loan grants and supporting small business owners in the country.  The impact he, and the other fellows, are leaving behind are going to transform these communities.  He’s helping these small business owners and entrepreneurs one loan at a time.  Read about their experiences here.

Even your manager, an executive, and your recruiter needs love.  Imagine if you approached them with love, forgiveness, and without judgement–what might change in your relationship with this person?

Most importantly, how does this help you in an interview?  In your job search?

Seek problems and aim to solve them for a company.  Before you walk in or before you apply, ask yourself, “What is my motivation?”  Are you doing this for your own glory or are you doing this with a genuine desire to add your expertise to a solution?  It can still be a little of both, but make sure that when you deliver your work (or answers in an interview), you’re delivering it for others.  You’re part of a larger purpose.

This kind of thought leadership is contagious and can dramatically improve your relationships with the people you meet in the interview process.  If they know that you are a point of positive energy (I’m not talking about hyper energy, but positive energy), they will want you.  Be present.  Be engaged.  Be supportive, giving, and smart.  Give it your all, give it freely, and have a fantastic 2010.

With love and respect,

Stefanie

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Hold yourself accountable to someone else.

4 11 2009

I’ve never been a runner.  I used to try to run laps at the track near my house.  As beautiful as the stadium and the weather was, I was only ever somewhat motivated to make it happen.  Eventually, I’d hang my shoes up by their laces and call it a good run, saying “Running is not my thing.”

My friends recently started a running competition:  boys vs. girls, losers buy a really super nice dinner.  We have a couple real runners in the group, me having the least endurance.  My friend, Samantha (guest post writer for the Power of Visualization), set up a spreadsheet and we all log our distances: day-by-day.  Where I never thought I could be a runner, in a little over a week, I’ve run 13.8 miles total!  I’m on to my third day straight of running at least 3 miles a day and I’m barely stopping (only to check myself for 10 paces half way through).

The funny thing is, I notice that when I run with someone who’s better than me, I push myself harder to keep up (and at least not let the person disappear over the horizon).  This stamina seems to come out of nowhere!  When I run by myself, I tend to slow down and walk more.

What is changing?
Well, a few things… 1) I learn by imitation.  Monkey see, monkey do.  I am learning to push myself and my stamina from those that are better at it than I am; 2) I can’t stand to be dead weight on my team.  Yes, I’m part of a team, and, if I let my team down, we lose and have to treat these guys to dinner.  NO WAY!  3) I find great satisfaction in watching the number of miles aggregate at the top of the spreadsheet showing how much I’ve run.  I’m accountable to my team and if I don’t pitch in, we could lose.

Notice the fun competitive set up: 4 hotties v. 3 boy toys!!  (For the record, Aaron runs 3-6 miles daily, so he counts for two people.  I run 0 miles regularly, so I was considered dead weight!!)

We're gonna kick your asses!

(note:  The guys are all runners, but they are busy right now and haven’t had time to run.  Let’s see what the numbers look like in a month or two.)

4) Although it’s with friends, this really is a running support group of sorts.  One day I might actually call myself a runner.  I’ll check in with you all in a few weeks to see if I’ve stuck to my routine.  I’m asking you to hold me accountable.

Why is this important to you?
In your quest to make yourself a better, more hire-able candidate, you need to be able to achieve the goals you set out for yourself.  Show them that you are someone who commits to a goal and makes it happen.  Do this every day of your life in small ways.  In grand ways.  Then, reach out to your closest friends, your circle of trust, and build support around your cause.  Pick one person to hold you accountable to it and to check in with you weekly to make sure you’re taking strides towards your goal.

If this helps you and you end up making your goals, you’ll have an array of new achievements to talk about in an interview or show on your resume.  Make the thing that you thought impossible possible–it’s a story you can be proud to tell.

For that goal that you’ve always wanted to achieve, but never could.  See what happens when you do it with a team, with a coach, or someone else that can hold you accountable.  You don’t want to be dead weight/last place do you?





To Change Careers or Not-to-Change Careers… That’s the Question.

24 07 2009
Lyndsay, me, and some other interns in our 2005 Intern Program

Lyndsay, me, and some other interns in our 2005 Intern Program

My friend Lyndsay emailed me with the following question:

“I need some help! I’ve been unemployed now for almost 7 months and it’s not fun.  I’ve sent out probably over 700 resumes at this point and have only had 2 interviews. I am basically in the worst possible industry right now real estate and finance.  I was an acquisitions analyst for a private equity group for about a year and half when I got laid off.  Boo bad economy.  I try my best to stay in touch with friends and contacts I’ve made in the industry, but they all keep telling me the same thing: it’s going to be a few years do something else in the meantime.   One big problem. I’m only qualified to work in my industry.  All of my experience, internships and my degree are all in real estate.  So my question is how does one go about a career change when you have no other experience?

What Lyndsay’s not telling you (but I know) is that she is deeply passionate about the Real Estate Industry and Finance, two of New York’s most defining businesses.  She has received awards and recognition in the field for her work and she is a true young expert.

Career changes should come about when you have a real passion for another industry and you’re ready to explore it.  In Lyndsay’s situation, she’s truly passionate about these two industries and I would encourage her to stay close, not change careers, so that she can get back into it when it picks back up.  For more advice on career changes, read these tips.

In the meantime, it’s important for her to stay productive, creative, and continue to develop her skills (…so when they ask her, “What have you been doing?”, she can pull out her long list…):

  1. Certificate Programs. Lyndsay is already certified in Real Estate and Finance, but if you aren’t already, go get additional certifications in the industry.  This is also a good way to expand your skills and explore other fields without going back to grad school.
  2. Grad School. Or you can just go to grad school!  But make sure you know exactly why you are chosing the field and what you want to gain out of the program BEYOND just continuing education.  Graduate degrees can be highly specialized, so they will make you well positioned for very specific roles/fields after grad school.  If you do not have a good idea about your plans after grad school, don’t go until you know!  (Please chime in if you went to grad school and want to share your experiences.)
  3. Build your personal brand. Build your personal brand by increasing presence as a virtual “expert” on online networks, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or create your own website (all about you!).  Gather endorsements, join groups, list all your awards and certifications, and post your resume online through all these channels.  Contribute to expert blogs, build your own blog (add AdSense to make some $ while you are in between jobs), and link back to related blogs.  The more active you are, the more visible you are.  The chances of someone noticing you is higher.  The chances of you being hired is higher.  Instead of you coming to them, the companies will come to you.  (I will follow up on this one–I think this is really important!)
  4. Read.  Keep reading books, online articles, blogs, academic journals and newspapers to stay on top of the latest trends in the industry and its trajectory.  If you can stay on top of this, you will be able to talk about the most relevant trends in your next interview.
  5. Maintain your contacts. Keep talking to people and sharing your experiences.  Even though they might not be able to help you now, they might be able to help you in a few weeks or months… and because you stayed productive and stayed in touch, you will become top of mind when they need to fill a role.
  6. Be an expert, but diversify your experiences. Even as an expert, it’s important to diversify your expertise so that you can bring together the top traits from each industry.  For example, if you take tips and skills from the tech industry (new, developing, creative) and bring it to real estate and finance (established, consistent) you can really enhance the more established industries and bring in new, cutting edge technology and perspectives.

Overall, career changes are great for your personal development, but they should really help you along the path towards a career that you will find most satisfying.  If you’re already there, continue to stay the course, but work harder on building your personal brand in the space.

Update on Lyndsay:  She was doing the right things and within a week of emailing me, she has a new job!  If Lyndsay can do it, so can you!

(Lynds, let’s get together next time I’m in NYC!)