From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

April 2016
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Rules of Thumb. Dealing with new or unanticipated situation, American Business culture, Responding to No
Filed under: Position Searching, First Year on Job, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 1:39 pm

Connecting a phrase used on Royal Pains that we are “binge
watching” with a recent book I have finished provides the
inspiration for this entry.

Jeremiah Sacani (played by Ben Shenkman) utters a rule
 of thumb psychologists are attributed with for dealing with
new social connections or unanticipated situations– F-R-
an acronym for 1- face the person or situation, 2- react
in a way that gathers information and understanding, 3-
in a way that reveals you are looking from being
in another’s shoes, 4- affirm what is going on in our minds
and what we think, 5- “kill it” and reach a conclusion.

Alan Webber wrote a thoughtful book, Rules of Thumb  ,
that touches a cord that resonates with many audiences.  Part
of that is he lists 52 and the other is that it seems like
authentic Americana.  One in particular struck my funny bone,
having to do with what Americans like.  Thus what resonates
with American businesses and audiences.
 - Want things that work;  pride ourselves in getting things
done, and making things happen.             Does it work?
-  What will make things better;  look for ways to adapt and
make things better or find another use.  Can it work better?
-  What is new or next or never been done;  what can we do to
innovate and even self-improve.      What is new and better?

This brings up a rule of thumb connection to a connection in
Adam Grant’s TED talk on what brings about Creativity.  Three
disciplines that make a positive impact are:  allow ideas to
percolate up
and problems to germinate in our subconscious; 
manage our fear and doubt by partitioning it into doubt of
ourselves and doubt of our ideas
and then say ‘what have I
to lose if I do.’
His example is a thought provoking one making observations
about the internet browser we each use.  See the TED talk….
Fear not the possible failures, realizing that we are judged on
ideas and growth mindset.  Try many new things.

Webber’s Rule #13 is Learn to take “no” as a question.  No
is not necessarily a negative and can teach us critical things.  
It is said we are not trying hard if we do not hear a no.

Webber’s come back for no is:  Thank you– for the time,
attention and feedback.  We should try to not take things
personally and pursue what is
     missing or
     expressed wrong or

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Weakness Discussions. Have trouble “saying no” to requests
Filed under: Mentoring, First Year on Job, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 6:20 pm

After you have a conversation with people and
see how they behave and react to requests you
can predict one of their weaknesses is they
have trouble saying “no” to requests.  Even
when the requests are not in their best
interests and may go against them.

I encountered two people who were surprised
when I predicted that they would agree that was
their weakness.  Both a young man and a young
woman were from international cultures.  The
same can be said with some American traditions,
but there are some slight differences.

This blog entry is about identifying people who
make such requests that are not in your interest. 
It is also about what we should be doing in a way
that realizes we will face these and what we can
do to more easily and more honestly deal with
these requests and feel good about ourselves.

Pier Forni has written that exercising self control
realistically is working toward your goals, but
refraining from doing so at another’s expense in The
Thinking life (2010).
If you reach out and help someone else reach
their goals while reaching your goals you are
exercising “self-control” at its best.

The first step in defining when and when not to
say “no” is: understanding what the steps are to reach
your goals.  Then maintain self control to identify whether
a request aids in helping someone else reach their
objectives and yours.

Mark Goulston wrote about the different personalities
we will encounter who might ask for our help.

He classified them into a series of toxic people and Givers:
Toxic people are needy as they demand constant attention
and help, use emotional blackmail to get what they want,
and offer gratitude only if it “keeps you on the hook.”
    BULLIES - go after “easy prey” - your actionset boundaries
    TAKERS - ‘hit you up’ every day for an easy favor - your action:
immediately ask for something for them to do for you in exchange.
    NARCISSISTS - want to be the center of attention - see them
for who they are

    PSYCHOPATHS - cold, self-centered, ruthless, manipulators
- avoid

Then there are GIVERS who reciprocate, share and pass on
credit and attention and look for the benefit of the team and
each individual contributor.

Look at the people who play a role in your life
Write the response next to their name to the following:
    Can I count on this person to provide practical assistance
                              emotional support
                              prompt assistance when I am in trouble
                              financial support

1.  Set Boundaries;  What are your goals?
2.  Propose another way or another person to help or delegate
3.  Ask questions for clarity;  do the right things the first time
4.  Create more “thinking time”
        schedule time to think;  think with partners
        turn waiting time into thinking time


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Reference Check. What is asked and how you can help yourself
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Job Offer (Situations), Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:01 pm

It is an essential part of the interview process that you will
provide references and they will be contacted.  As we know,
it is wise to ask if a person can provide a good reference for you
before you offer their name for a reference.

Recently, I was asked if I would act as a colleague’s
reference.  After her interview, she and I skyped to
share what the interview was like and to get prepared for
my part of her interview.

The reference checking can happen before you might
interview in places that know your reference.  That can
act as a sanity check to go ahead with more detailed

It can happen after the interview in two or three ways.
One is a phone reference check.  A second way is
to ask for your reference to complete a detailed form.
And a third variation is to ask for a letter of reference,
which would be similar to the common letter of
recommendation sought for academic position applications.

The reference checking process can be done by a HR
staffer or more frequently these days by a contracted firm
that specializes in this service.  Both the candidate’s
performance and my credibility are tested. 

So, during our Skype I asked the candidate what she learned
about the position and the company.  In addition, I asked for
a few personal/professional details so that I could strongly
describe that I knew the candidate.  She was involved in several
seminars, a course I led and we traveled to an international
meeting at which she overcame weather problems.

In our reference checking conversation, I confirmed personal
history and information about her strengths, weaknesses and
near term goals.

The person I spoke with, Sharon, politely confirmed her information
about me that the candidate provided.  Then, she asked if it was a
good time to complete this assignment.  I indicated yes.

There are standard questions that are usually asked:
 - how long is the business relationship and what was the formal

 - is there any reason this person is not qualified to work in the
 - provide details of directly working with the applicant on a project
 - assess the applicant’s performance on the project
 - please describe the candidate
 - what are her leading strengths
 - what performance factors could the applicant improve
 - would you recommend we hire this applicant

So, knowing specific personal strengths with examples and areas
the applicant needs to improve are very important.  Having an idea
of the applicant’s reflection of how the interview day went will
reveal if the applicant was comfortable with the culture and
people experienced.  The reference needs to find a way to express
strong desire with the opportunity and be an advocate.

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Comments on Individual Development Plan Templates
Filed under: Position Searching, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 11:04 am

IDPs– We find these shortcut tools in many organizations.  We have
shied away from bringing this up after a conversation with Judy Grutter
a true guru in the field of career management and personal counseling.

IDPs are commonly planning documents or templates completed over
the next period, commonly, a year.  They are reviewed, revised and
discussed with supervision with the aim of guiding performance to
achieve  objectives leading to outcomes.

There is a common misapplication of this format to apply to managing
careers and long term goal achievement
.  No disagreement that
objective setting to achieve goals
is reasonable and important for
ourselves, teams and organizations.

There is no argument that a person is greatly aided in her or his career
quest by doing a 360-degree, self assessment
of emotional intelligence,
hard skills and interests, values and strong talents, personal behavior
tendencies, cultural biases, experiences and expectations. 

Expecting IDPs to do all this is just the beginning of expecting to do
too much.

There are other skills, soft and wise skills, that most IDPs seem to miss.
Some IDPs try to fix weaknesses and others extend a person’s strengths.
Nonetheless, the author needs to own the document and not be just what
the boss wishes.

What are some downsides of exclusively expecting IDPs to be a career
management guide? 
1.  needs to establish desired outcomes in an ever changing marketplace
2.  needs to have clear objectives
        getting a job, any job is not enough
3.  requires specific priorities and have strategies and keystone habits
to focus, limit distractions and understand perfect is the enemy of good.
4.  can put undue pressure on individual if someone else creates the
5.  understand human’s Fear of failure and be resilient (wise skill) 
6.  adapt to changing conditions and needs

There are ways of dealing with the career management uncertainty.  We
need to understand both the piece that IDPs may partially provide, and
all the other pieces that must be supported elsewhere.

This blog suggests that career management have three options in
planning– specific focus, contingent outcomes, and a ‘Z plan’ where
everything works out perfectly.