A Season of Wrong – Marben’s Address to the Class of 2011

 1 For everything there is a season,
   a time for every activity under heaven.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
   A time for war and a time for peace.

These classic biblical verses from the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes tells us that today is your season. 

  • Your season of celebration
  • Your season of achievement,
  • Your season of wonder and possibility,

Your season of one more lecture…. Namely the one from me today. 

I’ve attended enough of these ceremonies to know that commencement speakers are always scheduled relatively early in the line-up. There’s a reason for that.

It’s what Mark Twain called the “live frog” principle.

Twain used to argue, and quite convincingly, that one should swallow a live frog at the beginning of every day.

That way you’d know the worst part of your day was behind you.

Well, I may not be the worst part of your day, but I am the part of the day standing between you and that emancipation proclamation known as a diploma.

I’ve also attended enough of these ceremonies to know that what we commencement speakers say in these address is often forgotten and is more often than that wrong.

Wrong….because  The world changes

Wrong…because …..We just don’t know. 

Wrong…..because …..We are human. 

In this season of your graduation I would like for you to consider going with me to a place where we spend a considerable part of our lives……

That place is ………..Being wrong…. 

…..Think about it we are wrong and can be wrong about so many things. 

  • We are wrong when we: Drive 70 in a 55 mile per hour zone!
  • We are wrong when we:  Spent too much for that new outfit!
  • We are wrong when we:  Really eat more…….. than all we can eat…… at the buffet 


However, being wrong is not all wrong…… Being wrong truly opens up our world for so many possibilities.

So today…. in this season of your graduation…. I want to examine 3 things that I want to suggest we are wrong about ………and how you can be right about ……….as you move away from your season of graduation…….. to your season of life.  

The first thing we can wrong about is when we tell ourselves: that we are not creative.

Sure you might not be the next Picasso….JZ……or Lady Gaga …but then who knows …it doesn’t matter.   What matters as you enter the season of life is to not to close yourself down to the process of exploration.  

Failing is fine and necessary in fact, but avoiding experimentation or risk especially out of fear of what others may think is something that will choke off our creativity….. and that is wrong.

Former Apple marketing guru Garr Reynolds put it this way…..

“Failure is in the past….It’s done …It’s doesn’t exist….But worrying about “what might be”  are pieces of baggage that are heavy and will kill our creative spirit.   Take chances and stretch yourself.  You are only here on this plant once, and for a very short time at that.  Why not just see how gifted you are?  You may surprise someone…….Most importantly you.”

The second thing we can be wrong about is when we tell ourselves: that we can’t be a child again.

Nina my granddaughter has reintroduced me to a simple but wonderfully   effective word for unlocking mysteries, discovering the truth, and making corporate chiefdoms and political figures of all strip nervous.

That word?…….Is WHY

This is the magic of the word WHY

“Nina…. the world is a difficult place”


“Nina……try this ice cream it’s great”


And my favorite……..

“Papa WHY do you use all those big words when you make a speech?”

It’s wrong when we lose our Childlike wonder and ability to question –even when things are obvious. 

30 years ago Harry Markopolos was siting where you are with cap and gown in the season of his graduation from Loyola College in Maryland. 

After time in the Army, Harry went to work in the financial services field, he raised a family and earned a graduate management degree from Boston College in 1997.

In 1999 Harry was working for Rampart Investment ——–doing competitive research on a competing firm which was using a similar investment strategy as Rampart…. But they far outperforming them.  

I don’t know it was Harry’s childlike wonder or Texas style honesty but his  competitive research uncovered a secret —- The firm were that was far outperforming his……was running a Ponzi scheme.   

For a decade….. everyone thought Harry was crazy and flat out wrong.  As he fought a remarkable battle continuing to ask questions to alert authorities to the fraud:

  • But the government never acted
  • The firm continued its fraudulent ways
  • While unknowing investors…. lost everything 

Finally …. After 10 years Harry’s ” competitive research”  was taken seriously and all the WHY’s he was asking were answered 

Bernard Madoff Investment Securities – had milked it clients out of 150 million dollars.

In this season of your graduation…….. I urge you not to lose your sense of childlike wonder …..as you enter into the season of your life. 

It will sever you well…. As you question which ice cream taste best…… or which financial securities security firm to trust.  

The third thing that we can be wrong about is not understanding the value of “creative loafing”

Yes you are hearing it for a commence speaker I am saying it is not wrong:

  • To Idle
  • To Do Lots of Nothing
  • To Creatively Loaf

If you are like me I am obsessed with getting things done.  I am afraid to be unproductive. 

Yet it is the during those episodes of “laziness” of “wasting time” that the ideas both big and small can come.

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the best thinkers of our generation.  His books “Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers have sparked new ways of looking at:

  • How things become popular
  • How we make decisions
  • And how we become successful

Gladwell says this about the generation of ideas:  “Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”

We can be wrong to think that the hectic pace of our lives is conducive to coming up with our best ideas. 

To keep that flickering candle burning we need time away from the fight. 

  • Take a walk
  • Go on a jog
  • To party

It’s is during those times that our creative spirit is energized our best ideas can flourish and our flickering candle can burn strongest. 

And it is during those times of rest….. that wrong ideas can be righted.   

It was a cold, grey December day.   Tried from work the small woman with silver frame glasses slumped into her bus seat to rest for the long ride home.   When she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger the woman was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance.  Rosa Park’s lonely act of defiance….. while resting began a movement that righted a wrong  ending legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.

For everything there is a season,
 a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to love and a time to hate.
   A time for war and a time for peace.

A time to be right and a time to be wrong! 

Members of the class of 2011 in this season of your graduation I hope you can remember that it is OK to be wrong as you enter the season of your life. 

But it is not OK to be wrong when we tell ourselves: that we are not creative.

But it is not OK to be wrong when we tell ourselves: that we can’t be a child again.

And it is not OK to be wrong when we don’t understanding the value of “creative loafing”


Class of 2011 enjoy your Season of Graduation and God’s Speed As you Enter Your Season of Life.












The Smart Job search formula: Confidence, Courage, Tenacity and Empathy

I had an interesting discussion with a client the other day. She is a seasoned professional with a strong background in sales who has been in the job market for almost a year.  We talked about the elements of my “Smart Job Search” strategy.  I proudly showed off my “new” cutting edge ideas for finding a job, we expanded our chat reviewing what we each believed to be the key traits and actions of top sales professionals. It was a great discussion, and one that I really enjoyed. We came around to an agreement that at the top 3 traits of an outstanding sales person is also useful for the job seeker…The Smart Job Seeker. So here are traits:

  1. Confidence & Courage – a strong belief in yourself, and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.

  2. Tenacity – A job search is challenging, and it takes a strong determination to keep a firm grip on looking for that right opportunity.

  3. Empathy – learn how to think like potential employers, hiring managers, and interviewers, if you feel what they feel, you will find more opportunities.

 So much more can be written about each of these three traits. And truly there are other success factors. But if you focus on these three, you’ll always be moving in the right direction. And the best thing about them? All three are personal choices. You can choose to embrace and exhibit these traits on the daily basis!

 Live each day with confidence, courage, tenacity and empathy!! – Now that’s a smart job search.

3 Ways To Increase Your Personal Brand

1. Understand and communicate your personal brand – Do a personal evaluation

Take stock to understand what you bring to the table, do a self evaluation to understandnot only the results you can bring to potential employers, but the strategies you employ to produce them. Answer the following questions carefully to mine for this information:

  • What energizes you about work?
  • What reputation have you attained – what are you known for?
  • What kinds of work fit your natural talent?
  • What challenges and settings are a best fit for your experience?
  • What do others say about your contributions?

To make the process easier, remember that you are identifying information that employers need in order make a hiring decision.

 2. No one has time to connect the dots; do it for them!

The hiring audience is just as busy as you are. Since recruiters often scan resumes quickly and on electronic devices, brevity is the key for conveying a strong brand.  Produce a resume that highlights your strong points with concise wording that tells you story effectively connecting all the dots.

 3. Being all things to all people isn’t good enough anymore.

If you possess a diverse skill set, that’s wonderful, but what do you want to do with it?

While a colorful background can serve as a conversation point, hiring authorities need to see how your talent supports a particular role in their organization.  Two tips that can help you focus:

  • To deliver a focused presentation, create one resume for each job type. First, identify each career goal, then write your resume centered around it.
  • Add supporting detail that describes the relevance of your other experience to that same goal, and minimize unrelated information to let the job type emerge as a focal point. Repeat these steps for each job type or goal.

3 Steps to a Successful 90-Day Performance Review

The 90-day review should be respected but not feared. Human-resources specialists share secrets to a successful review.

By Carmine Gallo

HR departments at most large corporations have a formal 90-day performance evaluation in place for new hires. But even those organizations without formal processes often use that three-month mark to review your performance to date.

The 90-day review should be respected but not feared, according to a trio of human-resources specialists I contacted on the subject. Here are their recommendations to prepare for a strong 90-day performance review.

1. Understand expectations

Step one begins as soon as you accept your new position. Make sure you and your supervisor are clear on what the organization expects from your performance in the first 90 days. You should be clear on the organization’s goals, objectives and expectations.

“Keep the HR perspective in mind,” said Dr. Jane Goldner, an HR consultant who has held positions at Coca-Cola and Georgia Pacific in her 25 years in the field. “Human resources managers are asking themselves, ‘Did we assess this person’s skills correctly? Does she fit into our culture? Can we count on this person to be a future leader?’ ”

Many organizations hire for skill only to realize that the candidate wasn’t the right fit, she said. For example, Goldner recalled a small company she worked with that hired a manager from a Fortune 100 company only to find that the manager was accustomed to a large budget and staff and struggled in the new role. “She became a turnover stat,” Goldner said.

Culture fit might be one of several areas that your superiors will want to evaluate. Learning expectations from Day One will set you up for progress by Day 90.

2. Break even

Marben Bland, a human-resources strategist in Pittsburgh, said that in his experience most managers “take more than they give” in the first 90 days.

“Despite your work experience, you are most likely inexperienced in the culture and the expectations of all the individuals you work with.”

The goal for your first 90 days should be to “break even.”

First, create goals of what you need to accomplish, whom you need to meet and what systems you need to master. As an example, Bland recalled working with a CFO who moved to a new company that used an accounting system he had never used before. “The CFO would not have been productive — taking more than giving — had he not become proficient on the system, which was old to the industry but new to him.”

Second, identify easy wins that give you and your boss a sense of accomplishment. Bland cited a marketing manager hired by a midsized company that was doing business with his prior contacts. Since the marketing manager had existing relationships with his new company’s vendors, he was able to renegotiate more favorable contracts for the company based on his relationships — an easy win.

Third, identify the problems you were hired to solve. Take steps to attack those problems in your first 90 days. You do not need to solve those problems completely in the period, but you must demonstrate action toward solving the issues, Bland said. It will accelerate the timeline where you can start “giving more than you’re taking.”

3. Deliver a strong presentation

Prepare for the 90-day meeting as you would a critical presentation, said Lisa Boesen, principle of Houston-based Talent Innovations Group.

“Be results oriented,” Boesen said. “During the presentation, whether it’s an informal conversation or a more formal PowerPoint, review your objectives and quantify the results. Your supervisor wants to know the impact you have had on the organization. The better you can place a number on your results, the better impression you’ll leave.”

Boesen cites her own experience as an HR trainer at a large company. It wasn’t enough to say, “I gave a training (session) for 50 people.” Instead her supervisor wanted to see accomplishments, so she quantified the results, including the feedback she received and how successfully the participants in her training class applied what they had learned.

After your 90-day performance review is complete, take the opportunity to build and enhance the relationships you have made by sending an e-mail or calling key stakeholders to summarize your first 90 days, thank them for their participation, and tell them about some of your future plans. First impressions count, and your first 90 days will leave an indelible impression on your new organization. Make your first review a winner.

Carmine Gallo is the communication skills coach for the world’s most admired brands. He is a popular speaker and the author of several books including his current title, “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience” (McGraw-Hill). Visit Carmine directly at http://www.carminegallo.com

10 Ways to Tap into Your Secret Job Market

Does today’s tough job market have you stressed? With the high unemployment rate job seekers must use more imaginative ways to uncover job openings. We’ve all heard stories about great jobs found in unusual ways – a strange coincidence, word of mouth, a conversation overheard in the grocery line. How can you cash in? If you must leave your job, go out fighting for the best benefits you can get.

The Challenge

It’s true that about 80% of all jobs aren’t advertised. Although most job hunters spend hours every day responding to online openings, let’s face it: it’s probably easier to break into the Pentagon than to be noticed via an online job application. If your resume doesn’t have exactly the right key words, it lands in the hiring manager’s trash folder. And speaking of hiring managers, let’s take a moment to recognize that they’re just as overwhelmed by the stack of online applications they get as you are by sending them. That’s why hiring managers are, in fact, looking for you elsewhere -­ by asking their current employees, colleagues, recruiters and friends.

1. Plant Many Seeds

Being on a job hunt is a lot like being a gardener: you must plant many seeds, because you never know which green shoots will surface. So, here are a few ways to tap into your secret job market:

2. Start with Your Own Contacts

Make a list of all your closest colleagues, college buddies and past employers. Don’t forget Uncle Harry – working relatives can be a great source of job leads! Send your contacts a copy of your resume and ask to network with them. Be sure you’re prepared with a professional resume and an idea of what position fits your skills. Call everyone on your list, and don’t hang up the phone until they’ve given you at least one new referral. You’ll quickly build an impressive network of new job lead sources.

3. Join LinkedIn

Social networking is a great way to expand your network. Set up an account on LinkedIn and post your profile and resume there. You can look for former colleagues, alumni, professional associations and other connections. Recruiters frequently search for applicants on LinkedIn, so put your best professional face forward.

4. Look for Temporary Work

Taking a temporary assignment has multiple benefits. First, it gets you out of the house and into a professional environment, which keeps your spirits high during a long stretch without work. Secondly, it generates income. Thirdly, you’ll add another employer to your list of references. Finally, temporary assignments can often lead to full-time job offers. Head to your local temporary job agency and sign up.

5. Share Job Leads with Other Job Seekers

It may sound counter-intuitive to give leads to your competitors, but who’s more up-to-date on the latest job openings than fellow job hunters? These folks have their ears to the ground and might know of a job that isn’t a good fit for them, but could be for you.

7. Tell Your Tennis Buddies…

or your golf buddies, or your book club friends or whoever else might be in your social circle. Even if they haven’t worked directly with you, they still know you pretty well. They can recommend you for those qualities you exhibit socially, such as a good character, a positive attitude and a sense of team play.

8. Ask for Help

If you’ve applied for a job, ask those in your network if they know anyone at your target company. A call made on your behalf to a company “insider” can elevate the visibility of your resume and credentials, which is especially important in today’s highly competitive environment. Those in your network are happy to help, especially if you can clearly give them a specific task to carry out.

9. Unearth Exciting Job Opportunities!

With persistence, creativity and a little luck, you, too, can tap the hidden job market and unearth exciting job opportunities from the oddest places.

10. Network, Network, Network  

Join us for the next SPEED NETWORKING on April 22nd. Go to www.speedpitt.com to register

Know what you can and can’t do

Mom always told me, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Dad said, “Learn some real skills, so you can support yourself.” Turns out they were both right.

When it comes to careers, you can shoot for the stars. But when it comes to applying for jobs — those pesky little steps that will get you to the heights you seek — you need to be realistic. Know what you can and can’t do.

In other words, if the job calls for Spanish fluency and your only experience with the language was a year of high school study, don’t apply. You aren’t qualified.

“Today’s hiring practices are mission-specific,” said Brian Cork, founder and managing partner of Brian Cork Human Capital, an Alpharetta, GA  recruiting, coaching and consulting firm.

The company isn’t looking for someone who could learn a skill, given time and training. “They want someone who can do the job and contribute to the company right now,” he said.

Yet many applicants don’t seem to be listening.

“Because of technology and the Internet, many job-seekers are taking a shotgun approach to applications,” said Andy Decker, regional vice president of Robert Half International, a specialized staffing corporation with offices in Atlanta. “They figure they’ll cast the widest net and see what happens. It only leads to frustration.”

Hiring managers report being flooded with applications from unqualified candidates, to whom they don’t respond. When companies post jobs, they get hundreds of applications, but they’re lucky if 20 percent are even remotely qualified, Decker said.

Overwhelmed by online applications that don’t meet the requirements, many companies turn to staffing agencies or recruiting firms to help them fill positions.

“They come to us, because they don’t want to go through the screening of 300 to 400 applications for one vacancy, especially when most résumés won’t show the exact skills needed,” said Phyllis Finley, vice president and regional director in Georgia of Randstad USA. “They know that we’ll set the pool of talent aside that doesn’t even come close [and submit only the viable candidates].”

Staffing agencies and executive search firms help candidates improve job-search skills and also help employers define job openings to ask for the most critical skills and competencies.

“That way, when an ad says that we’re looking for someone with sales experience in the stainless-steel industry, we aren’t kidding. That’s what we really want, and, if you don’t have it, you’re wasting your time applying,” said Dave Brown, president of D.F. Brown & Associates, an Atlanta-based retained search firm.

People apply for jobs for which they don’t meet the credentials out of desperation or inexperience in the job market, he said. They think that applying to more positions will increase their odds of finding work. New graduates may not know exactly what work fits their skills.

“Applying to several hundred jobs that you really aren’t qualified to do only increases your stress and the stress of hiring managers, who have to screen all those applications,” Decker said. “You’re much better off finding and applying to eight jobs that you could do.”

Reading comprehension

The first step is to read the job posting or classified ad carefully and understand it.

“The average person doesn’t read an ad very carefully. Someone may see the words ‘project manager’ and fire off a résumé but miss the fact that the company wanted a construction project manager, not an IT project manager,” Cork said.

His advice is to read the job description twice. Then, on one side of a piece of paper, write down all the qualifications for the job.

“On the other side, write down the real skills and experiences you have that apply [to the requirements] — ones that you could defend to the death in an interview,” he said. “If you don’t have at least a 70 percent match, don’t apply.”

The first thing Decker tells job-seekers to do is to take a realistic inventory of what they know how to do and what they do well.

“Also ask yourself what are the ‘stretch’ skills or abilities that you could grow into and what you can’t do or don’t want to do,” he said.

If you understand your skills and abilities and meet five or six out of eight requirements in a job description, you have a chance. Doing a realistic self-assessment makes it easier to align yourself with the right job opportunities.

Bridge the gaps

Because there are few perfect matches between résumés and job descriptions, you have to show a hiring manager why you should be considered for an interview.

“Do this by researching the organization and tailoring your résumé and cover letter to the job and company,” Decker said.

A well-formatted, well-written résumé shows that you understand the business world and pay attention to detail. A cover letter written directly to the hiring manager shows initiative and effort, he said, adding, “A poorly done résumé and generic cover letter won’t impress anyone. It’s very important to companies that you are looking for their job, not a job.”

For example, you can explain in a cover letter that you don’t have experience in the preferred software named in the job description but that you have experience in comparable software.

“You can also relate that your last boss said that you learned new software faster than anyone else on his team,” Decker said.

You can explain how some of your skills and competencies are transferable. If part of the job is managing and you’ve developed people in previous jobs, show how that competency would apply to this position, Finley said.

“If you can show that, by doing A, you could also do B, your application may get moved to the stack of applicants who get an interview,” she said. “Candidates who can tell stories of what they’ve done — and relate it to the employer’s needs — win.”

The intangibles

“Personality and cultural fit can be nearly as important as technical fit,” Decker said. “In a survey,

49 percent of hiring managers said that they trusted their gut instincts at least some of the time. Most companies tell us that they are looking for the best overall candidate, not necessarily the one with the exact skill set.”

Honesty is always the best policy, Brown said.

“Companies do checks on applicants’ qualifications, education and references. You always lose when you try to disguise experience that you don’t have,” Brown said. “If you haven’t had leadership experience, you could talk about the types of managers you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them.

“Focus on what you want to do, but apply to those jobs where you meet most of the criteria now.”

You always can volunteer within your professional organization or take courses to keep adding to your skill set, he said.

Applying to every job on a company’s Web site raises a red flag with hiring managers.

“It says you don’t know what you can do or what you want,” Decker said. “Jobs have different skill sets. Apply to those that are closest to yours.”

Acknowledging in your cover letter that a highly desired job is a slight stretch may open other opportunities.

“One woman was a little light on skills for a controller position, but, because she had a realistic grasp of her skills and showed a willingness to learn, the company created an assistant controller position for her,” Decker said.

You also might be considered for an unadvertised position.

Brown appreciates it when a candidate writes to say that he or she isn’t qualified for a position but knows several people who are and supplies contact information.

“If he sends a résumé, I’ll probably follow up with him in the future,” Brown said. “That’s a classy and professional thing to do and a win for everyone.”

5 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers in a Down Market

Even in a down market, job seekers and employees are not powerless or without recourse. In fact, you have more control over your career circumstances than you might think. Here are 5 specific strategies and tactics that consistently generate powerful results for job seekers, even when it seems that “no one’s hiring.”

1. Network, network, network. Continually increase your level of networking and keep expanding your contact database. Reach out to reestablish and nourish business and personal relationships. Offer to help others, even if they’re not in a position to help you (because what goes around comes around). There is no substitute for connecting with people one-on-one. Stay connected and don’t isolate yourself. Being out of work does not mean you have to be out of touch, so be sure to build and maintain your networking momentum.

2. Seek help.
Get career support from a professional. A qualified career coach can better prepare you to land your next position. If career coaching is unaffordable for you, take advantage of the support provided by government programs, nonprofit agencies, job search groups, college/alumni career centers, or faith-based missions for the unemployed and underemployed. If you’re thinking of changing industries, get some career testing. If you’re struggling emotionally, get help from a mental health service provider.

3. Read career books and attend career seminars. Take advantage of learning opportunities to improve your job search and career management skills. Keeping informed of business trends will help you gain greater knowledge of the industries and careers that are poised for future growth. Stay plugged into the market and your field to ensure that you’ll be current, and to maintain your intellectual capital. Apply what you learn, and generate stronger search results.

4. Leverage technology. Utilize Web sites and online services to connect with your industry and to build greater visibility. Create a career Web site, using tools like VisualCV (www.visualcv.com) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). Reach out through social networking sites, such as Facebook (www.facebook.com), MySpace (www.myspace.com), and Twitter (www.twitter.com). Keep in touch with colleagues consistently via e-mail. In addition to leveraging career portals and job boards, learn how to use online tools like blogs, wikis, and virtual job fairs. Focus on optimizing your online identity.

5. Differentiate yourself. Position yourself as an expert by writing articles, giving presentations, or teaching a class. Get involved in professional organizations, and assume leadership roles there. Do something noteworthy in your community that will garner special recognition and build your positive reputation. Focus on what makes you special, and build your brand within your industry.

 Conducting a successful job search campaign takes energy, discipline, and career support. Despite the pressures you may face in today’s employment market, you must stay focused on your goals and search smart.