5 Shades of Thankfulness

This week, we celebrate my favorite holiday…Thanksgiving.  Yes, I favor it for the food, the football and the family.  But more than that, I favor it for the reflection…the reflection on the shades, if you will, of thankfulness that wave over my life.   For this year these are five of my many shades of Thanksgiving thankfulness.

❶I am thankful for my Faith.

God is my anchor.  His teachings are the guidepost of my life.  His love has given me peace; His grace has given me perspective.  And, His mercies has given me my life, my joy, and my stability.

❷I am thankful for my Family.

My family is a constant source of joy, wonderment and pride.  Joy, that comes with the privilege of every moment I get to spend with my magnificent 86-year old mother.  Wonderment, when I look into the sparkling eyes of my granddaughters while seeing my son growing into becoming an excellent father. And, pride in being the third child born into a remarkable family parented by Benjamin and Mary Lois Bland.

❸I am thankful for my Friends.

My friends–new, old, and more numerous to name, have been an endless source of intelligence, advice, and unconditional love.  But what my friends really are a source of a great deal of silliness and fun!!!  And for that, I am truly thankful.

❹I am thankful for my Country:  The United States of America.

Yes, I know we have just experienced a bitterly contested election where money, lies, and voter suppression substituted for ideas, honesty, and leadership. However, despite of and because of its faults, I am so thankful to live in this country–a country that is the beacon of liberty for the world; a country of innovation and hard work.  A country where despite our tinged racial history a child, born in Hawaii to a white mother and black father, can grow up to become the President of the United States.

❺I am thankful for my Work

During a time when millions of my fellow citizens are out of work, I am thankful to have work.  I am extremely thankful that part of my work has been to assist those looking for work.  I am thankful to never forget that work is more than just a paycheck; work represents the dignity that comes from using your talents and skills to support yourself and your family.

The bottom line

These are only five of the many shades of thankfulness that I am grateful for.   I hope, amidst the food, football and family, that you will spend a moment reflecting on your shades of thankfulness.

A final word of thanks

Finally, thank you for reading my weekly blog post.  Your comments week after week are a heartwarming affirmation that the words written and the stories told… matter.  I am forever amazed and grateful for your readership.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 

A Soldier’s Last Letter Home

On this Veteran’s Day as we wind down the longest war in American history the war in Afghanistan.  I would like to share with you the true cost for those who served in uniform and their families in a soldier’s last letter home from the war that just ended the war in Iraq.

Private First Class Jesse Givens had been in Iraq for a less than a month.  The 34 year old married with a stepson and a new son on the way was unable to shake a sense of dread – and a need to say goodbye to his family.

On May 1, as he helped to snuff fires set by insurgents, his tank crashed through a berm and fell into a canal off the Euphrates River. The rest of the crew escaped through a hatch, but Givens was trapped inside. Of all the dangers they were warned about, of all the terrible scenarios that went through the minds of his family, it was a scene nobody imagined:

Jesse Givens husband, father and father to be drowned in the desert.

A month later Melissa Givens, Jesse’s 27-year-old widow while going through her husband’s personal effects fond a letter that simply said “Open after my death”.   This is Jesse’s goodbye to his wife, Melissa, his stepson Dakota and his unborn son Bean.

My family:

I never thought I would be writing a letter like this, I really don’t know where to start. I’ve been getting bad feelings though and well if you are reading this . . .

I searched all my life for a dream and I found it in you. . . . The happiest moments in my life all deal with my little family. You will never know how complete you have made me. Each and every one of you. You saved me from loneliness and taught me how to think beyond myself. You taught me how to live and to love. You opened my eyes to a world I never even dreamed existed . . .

Dakota, you are more son than I could ever ask for. I can only hope I was half the dad. You taught me how to care until it hurts, you taught me how to smile again. You taught me that life isn’t so serious and sometimes you have to play. You have a big beautiful heart. Through life you need to keep it open and follow it. Never be afraid to be yourself. I will always be there in our park when you dream so we can still play together. I hope someday you will have a son like mine. Make them smile and shine just like you. I hope someday you will understand why I didn’t come home. Please be proud of me. Please don’t stop loving life. Take in every breath like it’s your first. I will always be there with you. I’ll be in the sun, shadows, dreams, and joys of your life.

Bean, I never got to see you but I know in my heart you are beautiful. I will always have with me the feel of the soft nudges on your mom’s belly, and the joy I felt when we found out you were on the way. I dream of you every night, and I always will. Don’t ever think that since I wasn’t around that I didn’t love you. You were conceived of love and I came to this terrible place for love. Please understand that I had to be gone so that I could take care of my family. I love you Bean.

I have never been so blessed as the day I met you Melissa. You are my angel, soulmate, wife, lover, and my best friend. I am sorry. I did not want to have to write this letter. There is so much more I need to say, so much more I need to share. A million lifetimes’ worth. I married you for a million lifetimes. That’s how long I will be with you. Please keep our babies safe. Please find it in your heart to forgive me for leaving you alone. . . . Do me a favor, after you tuck Toad and Bean in, give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile.

Love Always

Your husband

Jess

Private First Class Jesse Givens – Thank you for your service.

3 Costly LinkedIn Profile Mistakes

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with 175 million members and growing.  LinkedIn’s ascendancy makes having a profile on the social media site a must for any job searcher, small business owner, or corporate professional.  Why?  Because LinkedIn gives you the keys to controlling your online identity in Google and other searches LinkedIn profiles typically rises to the top of search results.  Your LinkedIn profile allows you to directly control the first impression recruiters, customers and fellow professionals get when seeing you online.

Despite the growing importance of the impression gained by an effective LinkedIn profile a number of professionals are making profile mistakes which are costing them potential jobs, customers and professional opportunities.

What effect does your LinkedIn profile have…?

  • On your job search?
  • On how your customers find you?
  • On your online image?

This quick quiz will provide a measurement to gage if you a making any of the 3 costly LinkedIn profile mistakes.

  1. Is Your Profile100% Complete?  – A LinkedIn profile basically acts as an online resume giving recruiters, customers and professional contacts access to your experience, thoughts and interests.  LinkedIn estimates that you are 40 times more likely to get found in a LinkedIn search if your profile is complete.  Click on this link to find how to get your profile to 100% complete    Give yourself 10 points if your profile is 100% complete.
  2. Are you a member of at least one group?– LinkedIn groups provides an opportunity to join other industry professionals adding value to your own profile and helping you to get found by other industry contacts.  Click on this link to find out more about groups   Give yourself 10 points for each group you are a member of.
  3. Request recommendations – Obviously don’t ask everyone, especially if you don’t know them that well. But having recommendations will help your profile to stand out and will help to build trust in your reputation to visiting users. This will help improve the visibility of your own profile within internal LinkedIn searches as well.   Find out more about LinkedIn Recommendations by clicking on this link

Scoring: 

0-10:  You are in need of a LinkedIn profile makeover

10-50: Your profile is good but could use some work

50 & Above: Wonderful you have an effective profile

 

The Bottom Line  

LinkedIn makes much of its money by charging an elite group of corporate recruiters’ big money for the right to sift through member profiles, hunting for great candidates to hire. Old or threadbare profiles aren’t much use to recruiters. In contrast, profiles that sparkle with members’ latest awards, new job responsibilities and fresh professional qualifications are regarded as treasure.   I hope you will make your profile a treasure.

3 Cool Career Tips

I am an entrepreneur.  I am a thought leader on social media marketing and job search tactics.  I make keynote speeches, conduct seminars, and write blogs, articles and books. I coach corporate leaders, produce content, market and sell my services for a living.  I travel a lot, meet a lot great people and at this stage of the game make a fraction of my corporate salary. However, I have never been challenged as much, I have never used my brain more and I have never been happier.

While I will never say that I won’t go back to the corporate life.  I do know that I have learned at least 3 cool things that will hold me in great stead in whatever I do.  I present them to you with the hope they will enhance your career.

 1. Never Stop Learning

In order to be (and stay) competitive in your industry, you need to develop expertise. You need to enhance and expand your knowledge base, and you need to update it regularly. Armed with that knowledge, you can show your stakeholders—your investors, your board, or your clients—that they’re getting the best.

So, on an ongoing basis, take an honest look at your skill set and ensure that it reflects the latest trends and developments in your field. Read a lot. Make a regular effort to scan blogs and news articles, attend lectures and seminars, enroll in online or local classes, and find training opportunities in your market.  Yes, this demands an investment of time and resources, but the payoff will come in the form of your new, competitive skills.

2. Nurture Your Relationships

Anyone who runs his or her own business knows that good relationships can mean the difference between success and failure. Surrounding yourself with people who are smart, capable, connected, and interested in helping others gives you access to a wide range of resources—plus, the opportunity to learn from those who’ve “been there.”

Joining professional groups and being active on social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, are easy ways to start. Comment on the blogs of people you respect—they will notice. (Your comments to this blog are welcomed!!!) You can also create a “Mastermind Group,” a small group of like-minded professionals that meets regularly to share expertise, discuss challenges, and hold each other accountable to goals.

3. Take Risks

Very few successful people got to where they are by playing it safe. So, whether you plan to start your own business or not, consider developing the frame of mind of a risk-taker.

The greatest opportunities involve some measure of risk. And yes, you need to prepare yourself for that course. But, you also need to believe in yourself. You need to know that you have the strength to weather potential failures. And then, ultimately, you just need to go for it.

The Bottom Line

Over the years, I’ve met many successful business owners, corporate chieftains, and faith leaders. In working with these people, I’ve found that the most prolific of them all embrace the same foundational strategies for success: they rely on others, but they know that their very best resources lie within themselves.

So the real cool career tip is this:Each one of us is our own best investment. Devoting time, energy, and resources to bettering ourselves is the most effective way to reach our full potential and ensure success for the future.  ….. Live long and prosper!!!

 

What does breast cancer and bullying have in common?

Admittedly it may seem rather odd to think that breast cancer which almost 12% of all U.S. women will experience in their lifetime and bullying which 56% of students have personally felt would have much in common

Here are three things that this unusual paring have in common:

  • First, October is awareness month for both breast cancer and bullying.
  • Second, dramatic reductions in the rates of breast cancer and bullying have occurred in the last 3 years according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Third, breast cancer patients and people being bullied both have the power to succeed in the critical moments.

In this post it is my honor to share the story of two people one with breast cancer one who was being bullied both succeeding in the critical moments.

Before we meet these remarkable people let’s become more aware of what is at stake in the struggle against breast cancer and bullying.  

Breast Cancer

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in US women.  In 2011, 2,140 US men were diagnosed with breast cancer. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
  • Though death rates have been decreasing since 1990 — especially in women under 50.  Still in 2011 about 39,520 women in the U.S. died from breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure®  

Bullying

  • 56% of students have personally felt some sort of bullying at school. 90% of students between 4th and 8th grade are victims of bullying.  1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% percent of the time.
  • 9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. One out of 10 students drops out of school because they are bullied.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Stories of courage and action:  

In June of 2011 Peat Hampton was at the top of his game.  He was a computer programmer from suburban Houston a husband a father and an athlete. During a shower after taking a swim Peat felt a lump on his breast.  Because of what she learned from the American Cancer Society, Peat’s wife Cindy instantly knew that something was wrong.  Two weeks later her fears were confirmed Peat was one of the 2,140 men in the US diagnosed with breast cancer.

Peat was devastated by the diagnosis a “man’s man”… not only did he had cancer he had the “women” cancer.  In the two weeks before his surgery Peat was down in the dumps until he met another “man’s man” Roger Windom. Roger an Iraq war veteran was diagnosed with the “women” cancer while on the battlefield. After successful treatment Roger was back in the war zone within in a year.  Roger’s message to Peat…man up!  There is no “man’s cancer” there is no “women’s cancer” there is just cancer. Have the surgery and then go tell other men in your shoes about your experience.”

Peat summed the courage and had the surgery. Now a year later he is part of the largest group of cancer survivors in the U.S., the nearly 3 million people who have been successfully treated for breast cancer.

His health restored Pete then took action he joined Roger and others to raise breast cancer awareness among men. They have formed a group called “Pink Men” which has gone across the country sharing information and saving lives.

Tracie Altman is the model teenager.  She is an accomplished student at the top of her class, she was the stage manager for her high school musical, and she was the editor of her school newspaper. However, despite all of these accomplishments Tracie was being bullied. She was the target of crude and degrading Facebook posts bullying her for being fat, bullying her for being a nerd, bullying her for being gay.

Showing awareness and courage beyond her years Tracie did not let the attacks bring her down instead she took action.  Using her platform as the high school newspaper editor Tracie penned articles about bullying.  Aware of the problem perhaps for the first time her fellow students started to take action. Tracie’s Facebook friends posted her articles for others to see, and reported the names of those who bullied her. The school board was so moved by Tracie’s articles they took action, developing a comprehensive bullying prevention program including awareness training for teachers, and students along with procedures to report bullying. These measures have helped countless others all because of the awareness, courage and action of Tracie Altman.

The Bottom Line

While the examples of Tracie and Peat demonstrates the power to succeed in the critical moments.  Others facing the same critical moment have not been successful.

  • Many have suffered and died perhaps needlessly from breast cancer because they were not aware of its symptoms.
  • Many have been bullied because they or others lacked the courage to stop it.

For those of us who do not have breast cancer or who have not been bullied it up to us to take action for those who have.  For when we do we are increasing awareness, we are giving courage so that those who are in the critical moment can take action.  If we can do this then breast cancer and bullying will have one more thing in common…they will both be things of the past.

5 Ways to Motivate Millennials

As we dig out from the “Great Recession,” millennials, roughly the 70 million people born between 1980-2000, will take front and center in as jobs come back and older workers retire.

This group has been shaped largely by the rise of “instant communication” such as emailing, texting, YouTube, and Facebook.  They have entered the workforce better educated and, from a capability standpoint, ready to do the work on day one better than any generation before it.

However, as the millennials become more fully engaged in the workforce, their baby boomer managers are besieged with how to deal with a group that is sometimes referred to as the “Peter Pan” Generation because of a perceived tendency with them to “delay into adulthood”.  Often millennials define being an adult based on certain personal abilities and characteristics rather than more traditional “rite of passage” events.   This desire for “life style” purity in all things including work have led millennials to bolt quickly if the job is not a perfect fit for their lifestyle despite the paycheck or future it may offer.

It has been my honor to enjoy a front row seat to the rise of the millennials, from multi‐tasking video technology prodigies, to potential game changing employees leveraging their ease with all things digital to produce tangible business results.   My front row seat has been first as a parent of a 1989 vintage millennial and second as a strategist and recruiter of millennial talent for some of the best companies in the world including: Advanced Micro Designs (AMD), Eaton Corporation, and Sara Lee.

In my view, millennial talent has gotten a bad rap for being difficult to work with.   Surprisingly, what I have found in dealing with this group is that they are not difficult at all. In fact, they process 5 key bedrock work principles that would win the endorsement of even the most conservative baby boomer.  Knowing these principals is key to successfully unlocking the potential of your millennial talent.

1. Millennials are brazenly ambitious

If you believe that millennials are not patient, that they don’t want to wait their turn, that they want to be named CEO after only a week on the job…Guess what, you are right!!!   However, as a manager you can and should take full advantage of the abilities of your brazenly ambitious millennial.  Give them responsibility–fast.  They will surprise you with what they can do. Empower them from day one or risk losing them to an employer who will.

2. Millennials thrive when they are listened to

It starts with respect.  Millennials have lots of ideas that they will want to share.  At AMD, we held regular listening sessions where our millennial talent could make suggestions to senior management.  We found that they were not afraid to speak–even to the CEO, and that many of their ideas were really good. Listen to your millennial talent. Hear them out. You may need to advise them on the “how” and “when,” but do not dismiss them.  Keep them engaged.

3. Millennials are motivated by dialog

The research suggests that when millennials are simply told what to do without an opportunity for dialog, their productivity dip as much as 75% from the same work tasks when opportunities for dialog exist.  Millennials want to discuss things and participate in the decision-making process. Managers who use a participative approach featuring dialog get far better results from millennial talent.

4. Millennials improve massively with training

When Eaton Corporation started making deliberate investments in training, they found a dramatic reduction in the gap between actual skills of millennials and their desire for more responsibility. Even modest investments in training millennials will pay off in the form of greater productivity and results.

5. Millennials soar when they are believed in 

Leaders at Sara Lee know that millennials are confident when they believed in, supported, nurtured and have opportunities to use their talents.   When the company designed programs to showcase the talents of millennials, their confidence grew and their performance soared.

The Bottom Line

Despite their advanced technical skills, and quirky relationship with adulthood, it is rather obvious that the needs and desires of millennials are eerily similar to most of us. The key to motivating them is the same key for all of us…engagement.  Recruit millennials, hire millennials, engage millennials and their motivation and talent will serve your company well.

 

5 Important Reasons Why You Should Vote

It has started in small hamlets, midsize town and large cities.  It has started with everyone from firefighters, to teachers, to veterans and even CEO’s taking part.  It has started with the exercising of a right that attempts have been made to suppress, a right that billions have been spent to influence, a right that people have fought and died for.  What has started? ….Voting has started!

Early voting has started in many of the 31 states where it is in place leading up to the November 6th General Election.  Our government was designed for citizen participation so it is rather shocking to know that in 2008, when Barack Obama faced off against John McCain, turnout was 61.6% slightly up from the 60.1%  turnout in 2004, according to data compiled by George Mason University’s United States Election Project.

If estimates for this November are correct, we are looking at a third consecutive national election where only 6 out every 10 Americans decided to vote.  A recent article in Psychology Today summarizes findings from a US Census Bureau study of why people in 2008 did not vote.

“Topping the list of reasons for not voting is a lack of interest (13%) or a dislike of the candidates or issues (13%),” Psychology Today said. “More than a quarter of registered nonvoters in 2008 didn’t vote because they weren’t interested or didn’t like their choices.”

Many reported illness or disability (15%), especially among older registered nonvoters.  Others were too busy, or had conflicting schedules (17%).  That’s about a third of the registered nonvoters.

Of the remainder, many had some logistical problem with the process:  6% had problems with their voter registration, 3% did not have a convenient polling place and another 3% had some sort of transportation problem.

The Census Bureau study along with other polls and surveys suggest that most of the people who don’t vote are not engaged in their community, don’t find much difference in the candidates or the parties and don’t think their participation will make much difference.

The purpose of this blog is not to promote any candidate; rather, it is to promote voting –voting for the employed, voting for the unemployed, voting for everyone.   If you feel disengaged, discouraged, or downright disheartened and are not planning to vote, let me suggest 3 reasons why you should reconsider going to the polls either now, during early voting, or on November 6th.

1. Voting is a way to speak your mind and let your voice be heard!

Your vote is your voice. When we vote, we are actually telling elected officials and lawmakers how we feel about education, public safety, social security, health care, and other important issues.

2. Your vote really does count!

Remember: there is power in numbers, and when we vote and get our family members to vote, we can truly make a difference. If you don’t vote for what you believe in, others will – and you may not like the outcome.  Don’t believe it?  Look at how important each vote was in these elections:

  • 1960

If only 4.500 voters in Illinois and 2,800 voters in Texas changed their minds, the sum of their votes would have shifted the presidency from John Kennedy to Richard Nixon.

  • 2000

The 2000 presidential election was one of the closest in American history. Al Gore won the popular vote by a margin of 543,895 votes, but George W. Bush became president because he won Florida and its 25 Electoral College votes by only 300 popular votes.

  • 2004

The 2004 presidential election was also close coming down to a shift of 3,000 votes in Ohio giving the election to George W. Bush over John Kerry.

3. Our children are depending on us to represent their voices too!

Because our children can’t vote, we have to do it for them. That’s how we make our concerns about schools, safety, housing, and other issues heard. When we vote, we are looking out for our kids, and their futures.

4. Voting changes communities!

Do you ever wonder why one neighborhood gets passed over for things it needs, while another seems to get it all? One big reason is voting. When we vote, we can get results that we can actually see.

5. Voting honors our history!

Throughout the history of our country voting has been a right that citizens had to fight to gain.  When the constitution was written, only white men who owned property could vote.  The work and courage of freedom fighters have extended voting rights specifically for women and African Americans.  Many believe that the right to vote continues to be under assault with voter ID laws, the reduction of early voting hours, along the purging of voting lists.

Regardless of your view on these matter there is no mistake that the right to vote should not be taken for granted.  I urge you to honor the bravery of those who fought for your right to vote, by exercising that right in this election.

The Bottom Line: It has started…now let’s finish it!

Often times, we voice our concerns to elected officials, but if we aren’t voting, our concerns may not matter at all to them. Voting can actually give you the credibility to make your concerns a top priority for legislators.

– So it has started, now it is time for you to finish it — vote in this election!!!!  — I am Marben Bland, and I approve this blog.