I’m the Best I Can Be

Wow, has it really been 2 years since I wrote here?  I can’t believe it and yet it seems appropriate… Over the past 2 years, I’ve experienced an enormous amount of growth, personally, professionally, emotionally and perhaps most importantly spiritually.  But nothing compares to the lessons I learned in my first few years in the Navy.

Early in my life, I was just another somebody, from somewhere.  Nothing really special, just a regular guy.  I had my own share of issues as we all do.  I was always the shortest one in my class, often picked last for pickup games of baseball, challenged to try harder, run faster, just never quite making the cut.  I did okay though cause at the end of the day, I was a cut up, and the few friends I had liked me because I made people laugh.  I performed in the choir, acted on the stage but I wasn’t the lead singer or actor…. Reality was I didn’t want to work that hard. Do I regret it?  Hmm.  Maybe a different post.  But I did seem to regularly find myself wherever the action was.  Truth is, I wanted to be the best, but I didn’t want to pay the price.  I wanted to be famous, to be liked, to discover some magical formula that would launch me from my very humble beginnings to a place where I was the star.

I graduated at the exact middle of my class of over 600…. average as they come.  Nothing spectacular, nothing hideous, just average.  I got accepted to a school that at the time was one of the most respected theater schools in the country.  Should have been the launching pad for what my heart yearned to do, entertain.  And yet, there I sat in my mom’s house, 1 month from school starting, with a $500 scholarship from the county sheriff’s department (yet another post), wondering how I was going to pay for school knowing I never applied for financial aid, scholarships, grants or even loans…..

Then the phone rang.  “Hey dude, I just joined the Navy”.  And the light went off.  Now I had an out.  My dad always talked about how much he loved the Navy, had a great time seeing the world, cavorting in foreign ports, climbing strange mountain peaks, getting chased by Italian girls fathers.  I said “Hmmm, maybe that’s my ticket, how hard could it be?”

So the next day I headed down to the Navy recruiters office.  I can still hear the jingle of the bell when I opened the door, like out of some old movie.  “Whaddya want?” barked the salty old 2nd class behind the desk.  I want to join the Navy!  I tried to sound sure of myself, tried not to sound like the scared shitless 17 year old that I was.  I had no other options at the time (so I thought), I just wanted out of every small town I had lived in.  “When can you leave” he asked.  “Today!” I said.

Well it turned out that it would take a couple of weeks of paperwork and then off to the central recruiting station for physicals, testing and all that poking and prodding that the military likes to do.  I remember sitting at the detailers desk trying to pick the job I would have, flipping one page at a time, looking at the jobs….. mechanics, boatswains mates, aircraft electricians.  This wasn’t going to be easy.  I asked if I could call my Dad.  They said sure.  So I called him long distance on their phone (this was pre iphone, cellphone or even internet).  We sat there for an hour and a half, talking about what each job did.  As my Dad got excited about some specific job, I’d counter with “But I have to wait, I want to go NOW!”.  One in particular kept coming up…. “What about the Antisubmarine Warfare (AW) one where you get to jump out of helicopters?”.  “Dad, it’s July and I can’t leave for boot camp then until April…, what if I take this thing called Aviation Apprentice?  The recruiter says once I go through that and get to my ship I can apply to go to the AW school.  Truly the pause must have been an hour at least (or a few seconds).  “Son, you do what you want, but if you don’t get an A school before you go to boot camp, don’t come home”.   WTF?

So fortunately, given my test scores (I always did well on standardized tests) and my physical exam, I was all set to go to boot camp in April 1983.  That was just yesterday wasn’t it?

I still had that scholarship, so I spent a not so illustrious semester at the University of Northern Iowa, getting involved in as much theater as I could muster, managed to work my way into the chorus of “The Mikado” and as I remember it pissed off the Director of the department after a dramatic performance when I told him I was leaving in the spring to join the Navy.

You see, even then, even though I was your run of the mill teenager, with little direction or focus, things seem to always work out for me.  Even though there were few things that could hold my attention for very long, sooner or later I’d find some other new “dream” to follow, some new path to explore and off I went.

So April came and off to boot camp I went.  I remember distinctly pulling up to the big processing station in downtown Chicago with my dad, and as weird as this may sound, I remember that the curb was really high.  (why that matters who knows).  But I’ll never forget what my dad said to me. “The Adventure Begins”.  I didn’t think much of it then, and truthfully probably not for a really long time, but later, and of course now, it means the world to me.

Through the onboarding process and off to boot camp.  Everything, and I mean everything was a test. Marching, folding clothes, waking up, getting here, going there… everything had to be done just a certain way.  Push ups, sit ups, pull-ups, swimming, running you name it.  Well I found theater in high school because at 5’4″ and 95 lbs dripping wet, so I wasn’t your over the top athlete.  But what I had was a lifetime of being the little guy who was told he couldn’t.  Couldn’t make the team, I was too small, too slow, too thin you name it, I was probably not the guy.  But as the weeks wore on, I decided somewhere in all those tests that I was going to show them all, show myself that I COULD be that guy.

I passed all my tests….physical, mental, psychological you name it.  Except one.  It turns out I couldn’t pass the color vision test, at least not consistently.  So off to the flight surgeon I went.  Test after test after test.  And finally they sent me to Glenview Naval Air Station for one more chance.  Fail and I go home with my tail between my legs, flunking out of the Navy.  The Doc gave me a few of the same tests I had taken with the same result, some I passed, some I failed.  I could tell he was getting as frustrated as I was.  Finally he said, “Ok son, this is it”.  “This test is definitive, if you pass you’re in, if not your out”.  I had to place 10 little circles of various colors in order of changing shade”.  I was sweating, and I was praying.  When I was finished, he looked up and said, “Well, you are definitely color deficient, but that’s good enough for the government and it’s good enough for me”

I MADE IT!  Or so I thought.  After graduation, I went off to Aircrew School in Pensacola for Aircrew training.  If you have seen “An Officer and a Gentleman” it’s a lot like that.  Everyone of the instructors main goal in life is to make yours miserable, to make you quit, make YOU decide that you really didn’t want it bad enough.  Somewhere along that grinder, or on a long run on the beach, I found something within myself that decided that I was not going to quit, that no matter what they did to me, I was going to keep going, keep pushing, no matter how hard, I was going to make it.  And I did.

Once I graduated, I thought I finally made it only to find that AW technical school was the other end of the spectrum, stretching my mental ability to understand oceanography, submarine acoustic characteristics, memorize russian submarines.  I’m no rock but I barely could push myself to graduate high school much above a C average let alone learn to track submarines!  My God, how much more could there be?  But I persevered, I studied harder than I ever had, because by God I would not quit.

Then, like many of my classmates, I got selected for Search and Rescue (SAR) school in a far away land called Coronado California.  I wanted to go jets, cause that seemed cooler, (and easier), but God wouldn’t have it.  So despite my grumblings, I shipped off to North Island and checked into HC-1 SAR School and what would be the defining period of my career.

You see, i was still one of the smallest guys in my group, I wasn’t a former high school athlete, wasn’t endowed with spectacular physical ability, but I guess now I realize that through all the trials I faced through the training so far, I had developed something more important, the desire to be the best I can be and and understanding that I could take a lot more than ANYONE could dish out.

When I checked in to SAR School, I remember the instructors filing in for indoc, the last being Master Chief Navy SEAL Mark Kauber.  To a little guy like me, he seemed like a giant.  For the next 6 weeks, they all pushed us harder, farther and faster than any of us had every gone before.  I hurt, everywhere, in places I can’t even remember, and there were times when I thought this is BS, but I stayed, I pushed and pushed, one step, one more pool evolution closer to graduating and thought I was almost there.  Then came the 1500 meter swim.  The day before the test, the heater went out in the pool (or didi it?).  Either way there we were standing in our soaking wet uniforms, freezing our N**s off and once we jumped in and started swimming it seemed like there was no way I was going to finish.   I swam with all I had, and with only a few laps to go, all of of a sudden I couldn’t feel my arms, my legs, my head.  I stopped at the shallow end and Doc Oldham came over and said “CMON!, keep going, only  a few more laps to go!”  So I made one more lap and then they pulled me out.  Holy Shit what now!   Well I got to go again and managed to pass.  Only to face “Hell Day” and final multiple rescue simulations.  Through all of it, every set of pushups, situps, pullups and dips, every set of what seemed like miles of swimming, I just kept thinking, “not me, I’m not quitting”, I want to be the best.  When those few of us who were left graduated, I remembered feeling like I had finally accomplished something, something I did, that no one, NOONE could ever take away, I learned that no matter how hard something seems, no how many times I might fail in others eyes, I would never ever quit on me.

That first year of my Navy career was the toughest and most rewarding time I’ve EVER had in my life.  There were more tests throughout my Navy career, and of course more to come in my civilian career, but none ever compared to those schools that asked me one question over and over and over, every day….. “Do you want to be the best, are you willing to pay the price, or do you want to take the easy way and just wish you had tried just a little harder?”

Being a SAR swimmer doesn’t make me a better man than others, doesn’t take away from the trials that others faced in their own lives and careers to make it where they are at whatever level.  But what it did make me sure of.  I won’t quit.  I may fail, but I won’t quit.   You may tell me I’m not as good, strong, fast, smart or successful as someone else, but you cannot tell me that I’m not the best I can be at any given moment.  I will work harder (and I’ve learned to work smarter) than any other guy, but most importantly, I found out that all of us, have one more ounce of effort to give.  We all have the ability, when faced with failure, to learn from our mistakes, to dig a little deeper, find something that drives us and moves one more step forward.

Today, I’m just a retired old salt, plenty of sea stories, some you’d believe and others I can’t share.  I’ve been fortunate to have a full career in the Navy, to make friends that are more like brothers and yes, I have seen the world.

After the Navy, I built a successful career in sales and marketing (without a degree), went to school at night and got a degree and now have built a very successful career in talent acquisition and HR (recruiting).

When I speak to groups about overcoming adversity, how I “reinvented” myself over and over again, I get asked how I did it, how I was able to overcome the odds.  I sometimes don’t even know what to say.  But after thinking about it, I remember that little guy on the playground who always seemed to get picked last, that skinny little guy, not nearly 100 lbs dripping wet, who found a way to be able to pull a guy twice his size through the water to safety and I just shrug my shoulders and say….. “I wanted to be the best I could be, so I decided that I wouldn’t quit”.

I’ve faced plenty of failures in my life and career and I’m certain I will face them again at times. And I’ll do then what I’ve learned to do, step back reassess and go again.  But I won’t quit.

I didn’t then, and I won’t ever……

So no matter what you want to be, no matter what you dream of doing, remember that what matters is not whether you fail, but whether or not you get back up, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward, whether you choose to quit or maybe, just maybe find that place in your heart that says “I’m not measured by what others do, or what they think, but I AM measured by what I think, no… I am measured only by that deep place in my heart that tells me, I have given it my all, everything…. and I’m the best I can be….


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Why Rocky Balboa is the Greatest Philosopher of our time….

Recently, I was watching the last installment of the Rocky series of movies, “Rocky Balboa” and after watching it I realized that “Rocko” (as Paulie called him) is probably one of the greatest philosophers of our time.  A simple guy, who sees things for the way they really are.  I’ve been surprised that more people aren’t aware of the great  lessons from the movie.

In our careers, early on we are full of dreams, we look for opportunity and we fight.  We face adversity and we overcome and find success. And then somehow, we lose sight of what got us to the top of our profession, we get complacent and stop fighting for the dream.  When we finally realize it, whether on our own or because the rest of the world seemed to pass us by, we find ourselves back where we started, and only then do we realize as Rocky says, that we “still have some stuff in the basement”, that we are not ready to just fade away.   We are ready to fight, ready to get back in the ring of life.   The desire to do more, be more than what our circumstances may indicate.

There is a very touching scene, when Rocky realizes that even though his circumstances may not be what he envisioned, that he still has some more stuff in the basement.

Sometimes in our careers, we feel just like Rocky, or even Paulie, where we realize we’ve been in one place so long that we forget about the “stuff”, the fire that drove us.  And even after we realize it and we are willing to fight to get it back that other people may not be ready for us to come back and want to limit what we can do…..

What is in your “basement”?  Has your Company of 1 grown complacent?  Have you realized that you may have let opportunities pass you by, that you had been living off of past glory and found yourself downsized, kicked to the side of your career market?

And now that you realize that you still have some fire left that you still have a mark you want to leave, more to achieve, more to contribute, does it seem like people around you are putting roadblocks in your way?

Rocky realized it, and in his simple way, sought to give himself the gift that noone else can give, and no one else can take away, the knowledge that if you have an idea, a dream a desire, you have to be willing to fight to make it come true.   It’s how he got to the top, and It’s not what others say, it’s not what others believe, it’s what you believe, and if you want what your worth then go get what your worth….

And yet, when so many tell us that it’s impossible, that we have to be realistic, we start believing it.  Then someone comes along and tells us what we already know, that we are who are, the gifts we have are things to be shared…

Whether you are a fighter, a carpenter, or an executive who finds themselves all of a sudden on the outside looking in on what used to be the career or the life you dreamed of, then go forward and be who you are, know your value and be willing to stand toe to toe with life, take the hits and believe you can….

If this is something you want to do, if this is something you got to do, then you do it…. fighters fight….

So what “stuff” is in your basement?  What fire still burns, however quietly, that is just waiting for you to stand toe to toe with life and fight?   Perhaps you’ve listened so long to others who have told you to be realistic, to face facts, that you are too old, too inexperienced, too anything that you stopped believing…..

“Let me tell you something you already know, life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  No one is going to hit you as hard as life….. but it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep movin’ forward, how much you can take, and keep moving forward, THAT’S HOW WINNING IS DONE…” R. Balboa


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“NetLearning” Your Way To A Whole New Network….

NETWORKING1): the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. (Merriam-Websters)

It’s a simple, straight forward definition and in a perfect world, I’d say it is right on… However, the definition in print and the demonstration of it in action can be quite different.  Personally, as a volunteer for a number of organizations I conduct at least 75-100 networking or informational interviews/meetings a year and I’ve personally witnessed how “networking” has been twisted and morphed into a process that people use to “get connected” by 1) talking with people,  2) asking them to connect them with their professional friends for “networking”  interviews, and 3) showing up to the meeting to launch into their 90sec to 30 minute elevator pitch, quickly followed by a direct question like…  “So, do you know of any positions at your company that I would be a fit for?”

Which really sounds like “Would you please bet your personal and professional reputation on me and connect me with people you know in the company, even though I haven’t bothered to ask about your company and it’s challenges and offered ideas on how my skills and experiences might help the company?”  No, really, I’m not kidding, thats what happens every day….

So instead of being well prepared and engaging in conversation, focusing on learning, establishing a basis for a real relationship, they most likely made the person very uncomfortable, feeling guilty for looking for any way possible to end the meeting, get them out of their office and avoid the next “networker”!

Most importantly and what I consider the biggest tragedy, they have wasted whatever opportunity existed to begin a relationship and potentially leverage that relationship in the future. 

Ok, I know that sounds cold and harsh…. but career transitions of any kind (unemployed or underemployed) are harsh and are some of  the most stressful and frustrating times in anyone’s career.   In their defense, most people are only doing what they have beeen told is the recommended way to “do networking”, but more often than not they only end up further behind and still frustrated.

Think about how you feel when you get a cold call at your home, and because the person sounded like a nice guy or a friend recommended them as a provider of _____ services you allow them to set the appointment.  When they show up, they don’t ask a single question, but launch into a hard sell on a product or service they don’t even know or care if you need and then keep pushing the extended warranty, because it’s a good price…..

Well enough of that dose of reality…. We all know that “net-working” as we know it is “not-working” like it could…..so let’s talk about something that has worked for the people I’ve coached….

With all of the people I have coached since developing the A Company of 1 approach to career management,  I have consistently impressed upon them the key differences between “leveraging existing relationships with NETWORKING” and “building new relationships with NETLEARNING”.  

If you think about and begin to follow this new mindset, you will entirely change the focus and purpose of your next informational interview, from focusing on you and what you need,  to focusing on the interviewer and their company, and trying to LEARN about them, so that you can determine at some point whether you can help, or more importantly, whether the company is a fit for you and where you are in your career or at a minimum identify someone else in your network that they should talk to.

Now isn’t that refreshing?  If you go into that NETLEARNING meeting truly seeking to understand you will be in a strong position to objectively judge and plan your next move.

Of course, like most of the tools and strategies I’ve developed for the A Company of 1 approach this “mindshift” I’m suggesting is simple, not easy.  It will take effort and practice, but you will get it and through the process of NETLEARNING, you will create, build and nurture deep and valuable personal and professional relationships with people by engaging with them and finding ways to help them be successful.  And if and when you find your self needing help, advice or connections you will be able to easily reach out to your network and leverage those relationships authentically and with confidence.

1) Identify as many companies as possible in your target market that hire the types of positions, or need the type of value you can provide.  Start with the ones that you can tell or have a high confidence level that you will fit and may have employment opportunities there.

2) Using your existing relationships (network), ask for connections to people at those companies that might be willing to meet for 20-30 minutes to help you LEARN more about their company, industry etc.

3) Research enough, and analyze from as many perspectives as possible, the company, industry, culture, challenges etcs and have at least 5-10 questions to ask.

4) Be on time, professionally dressed, friendly, and after exchanging pleasantries they may ask you to tell them about yourself…. “Thanks so much for asking and I’d be happy to give you a brief overview of my career so far… but what I really would like to learn more about ____  and your career here.  From the research I’ve done I saw that……

6)  Ask your questions, have a real conversation,  but watch the time.  Make sure to leave enough time that you can circle back to your career snapshot and highlight through a story or two any areas that demonstrate particular skills or experiences that may be of interest.

7) If asked for your resume, because they would like to forward it on to someone, simple smile and say “Wow, thanks for asking Joe, but I didn’t bring a resume on purpose, because I really wanted this to be a real kind of NETLEARNING meeting rather than a job interview so I could LEARN about you and your experience here and your thoughts on the industry etc….., but I would be happy to send you one when I get home.”  (Jaws may not drop, but you will get some pretty surprised looks!!) AND you now have a justified reason to follow up and they will walk away thinking, “man if he can do half those things with that great attitude and energy, when we have an opening this guy/lady would be great…” (this is a very POWERFUL strategy..)

8) Before you leave, thank them again for the time, their openness and insight into ____ Inc.   Ask if it would be allright to stay in touch.  Perhaps by saying….”Thanks again Joe, hey, I’ll look forward to seeing you at the next ____ meeting..” or “Thanks Joe, would it be allright if I stayed in touch?  If I can ever be of assistance, personally or professionally, just drop me a line.”

9.) Move to the next company and keep it going… even after you’ve landed the next GREAT OPPORUNITY, just keep cycling through your list of companies, adding new ones and if you find one that really isn’t a fit for your career, just finish the meeting by suggesting that it would be great to stay in touch, perhaps you’ll see them at ___ etc. and if you can help them personally or professionally to feel freet to reach out.

I challenge you, to take the time to create a vision for your Company of 1, declare your purpose, understand your value and commit to yourself and those that rely on value you provide to continually seek ways to improve your skills, and your capabilities, demonstrate  your passion for your chosen line of work, become known as the expert in your area, give back to your community, your industry, your profession and of course your personal and professional network.


NETLEARNING – 1): the ongoing process of learning about “prospects” (potential employers) for A Company of 1, by exchanging information and expressing genuine interest in individuals, companies or institutions to determine 1) if the company should continue to be a career prospect 2) to identify areas or challenges within the company where the candidate could demonstrate value (as a future employee.  3) to see how the candidate could help their new connection (as a professional or personal resource to this new connection).  And to do all this WITHOUT asking  about potential positions that the candidate might fit into.   

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Generational Differences in Job Search….”Same Old, Same Old”

Whether you are a freshly minted college graduate, mid-career professional or “highly experienced” worker, there seems to be the impression that the world of job search has changed, that somehow things are all of a sudden different than they used to be “back in the day”.    That just because there are new ways of applying, , searching for candidates, building a work portfolio, a career history, a “value proposition” or personal brand, that you have to be a technology geek to be successful.

The truth is that the ways of finding your best career or next job are not much different now than they were 30-40 years ago.  Sure, the tools and the conversations might be different, with email, social media, the internet, LinkedIn profiles, etc playing a larger and important role, but the essence, the critical activities, the exchanges are still the same……

Know what you do – this is the service or value you can produce, where you are on your career path, what your long term and short term goals are.

Know who uses what you do – these are the types of companies or “customers” that use the services you can provide.  Whether they are local or global, large or small companies, structured or matrixed, manufacturing or service focused, it is about gaining a clear understanding of the types of companies where you can deliver your best value.

Connect to those companies – Most people call it networking, but it’s really about prospecting….. conversations with people you know about people and companies you don’t know, and in it’s best form, is an ongoing activity, not something you do only when you need to find a job.  Could be from a job posting or help wanted ad, but it could also be from a casual conversation over coffee.

Understand the need at a particular company – Once you identify the companies that can be potential customers, it’s finding out everything you can about a company, it’s industry, it’s culture etc.  so that you can best determine if it will be a good fit for you and your Company of 1.  Beyond a job description, it’s the problem or challenge(s) that a company is facing in your area of expertise that will help you identify how YOU can specifically help them. 

Present your capabilities – In job search it’s called interviewing, in A Company of 1 parlance it’s where you get to identify your value.   Typically, this will happen during the first formal interview for an open position, or better yet, when you are having a “networking interview”, and you’ve asked enough questions and talked about how you solved the same problems that a company is facing, that the person you are talking with says “hmmm…. maybe this person could help us solve our problems”.

Agree to a fee/salary -  Simply this is the negotiation of current market rates for your services.  The levels of “profitability” or how much you expect for a salary may fluctuate depending on the economy, your current experience level etc., but it still boils down to what is “the market” willing to pay for the value of your service(s)?

There is so much talk about how people of various generations, Boomer, X, Y, Millenial are different, that we forget to talk about how they are the same.  In the business world, companies still need to provide value to their customers, still have the challenge of getting the right people doing the right things at the right time to deliver that value.  AND people of all ages and experience levels still have the need to find great places to work.  Places to bring their passion, energy and talent and be compensated fairly and competitively to make sure that they can be profitable.

Don’t get lost in the conversation that says you have to do things “the new way”, twittering, facebooking and mass applying your life away, using all the latest techno-tools that are being tossed into the career-sphere….  And don’t be so set in your ways that you only apply to want ads, job postings etc and then complain when you don’t get the attention or response you think you deserve. 

Instead, learn about the new tools, try them out, see if they fit you and your Company of 1 personality, culture and use all of them, old school, new school, whichever will communicate best to the company you are targeting.   

How you communicate your value will depend on the company(s) (customers) you are targeting, and the best way to reach them.  Use the best tools to get the best results…..!  Sure companies may be using the leading edge of technology and the best way to find them and reach them is through social media, being involved in LinkedIn groups, “job tweets” or by applying online and into Applicant Tracking System(s), to be sorted and filed, but I’d say, no really I’m willing to bet there are just as many (if not more) companies that find people from “cold calls”, or people they know, or people their employees know. 

So yes, there are differences in the generations, differences that bring exciting change, new vision, new passion, new, new, new… and differences that shine light on the value of culture, experience and stability. 

All the differences of the generations don’t change the basic truth of employment, job search and careers, companies need to find, attract and retain motivated, experienced and talented employees to deliver value to their customers, to be successful and to grow…just like you and your Company of 1…..


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Overwhelmed by Career Transition…..

For the past 10 years I’ve worked with numerous people and groups across the country with one single purpose… to console, encourage and teach them the hard lessons I’ve learned about careers, making transitions and finding success by treating their career, their world of work like a business, like A Company of 1.  I’ve talked with, cried with and cheered with people from all walks of life, from technicians to CTO’s, HR Managers, retail clerks, engineers, sales professionals…. and I’ve found one thing to be true, they are all people, people who at one time felt confident, felt valued…..and now are overwhelmed….

Whether you are in a career transition by choice, or been handed the change by someone else… a career transition can be painful and overwhelming.  All of a sudden you feel beaten, outcast, like you are adrift at sea with no paddle.  And as you start to make your way back you are being told that you have to be “open to new opportunities”, try new things, have to have a new mission, have to gather all the things you’ve ever accomplished into neat little SAM, STAR, PAR etc statements, have to restructure your resume to fit the whim of every job you apply for, get out on the social networks, have profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, you have to learn your elevator pitches, have to go to “networking events” and sell yourself….. Move and move fast…. Well that’s a sure way to experiencing alot of activity, but not a lot of progress….

Folks, take a step back and breathe…. yes, it can be overwhelming and this isn’t a “tap your heels together moment” where the skies will open up and you’ll be whisked away to OZ.  Yes, the mountain you are climbing can seem so high,  so don’t think about the top of the mountain, think about what comes first, and then next, because getting to the top of the mountain really is about taking just the next step.

Here is the simple and perhaps hard truth, companies hire people that have the experiences necessary to help that company provide value to it’s customers.  That’s it….  that’s what it’s all about. 

And although you may feel rejected by your former employer because they no longer needed the skills and experiences you have…. there are other “customers” who will value the things that you have done, the things that you can do.  Maybe your skills don’t carry the same “market value” (salary) that they used to or maybe the markets changed and your “product/service” is in less demand with a smaller market.  So it’s a reality check, it may be more difficult to find, but there is a market!   So find it…

Sometimes there is a difference between the “short term” (what you have done and can do) and “long term” (what you want to do), but if you are looking for a new “customer” for your Company of 1, you have to think about the long term and ACT in the short term, what you can do for companies who need what you do.  

Okay, so maybe it still seems overwhelming and feels like everyone is telling you to re-engineer your life.   If it seems too much too handle to think about the big picture, then focus on the little things, the “one at a time” things that will move you forward, focused on where you want to go.   Don’t flit around trying to change what is real to match what may or may not be real in some random job posting that you found online, or spend your valuable time putting your resume on every job board, (like a billboard, hoping just the right person at just the right time will pass by).  FOCUS your efforts, one step at a time….

5 steps to finding the next Customer for your A Company of 1

1) What do you do?  Could be titles, could be activities, responsibilities.  What are the things you’ve done in your past jobs that are repeatable, verifiable…. What “services” does your company provide? 

2) Who needs that value?  Go to www.indeed.com and enter the key words for what you do and put a 5 mile circle around your zipcode.  Keep expanding the circle until you have at least 30-40 companies that use your type of service. 

3) Look at those companies and identify the 10 ten companies you think you want to work for.

4) Start researching…. the company, the people (www.linkedin.com), the industry.  Who do you know in those areas?  Who do you know that knows someone.?  Are they a market leader?  Innovator?  Process and efficiency driven?  Is the industry stable?  Growing? 

5) Start Asking Questions and Identify where you can add value.  Ask about the company, the environment, the opportunities.   When you find an opportunity, ask more questions…. what’s the culture like?  Who is considered to be the best candidate?  What would an outstanding employee have done in the first year?  How does the position help the company serve it’s customers?  Is it a short term position, long term position, is the company growing?   Then frame what you do, what you have done to demonstrate how you can do the things that the company is looking for….. and if it’s not a fit, if your services or experiences don’t match… say so, and move on.  Be willing to say no, but also be willing to say Yes!


At first it may seem difficult, uncomfortable.  Don’t worry…. Be yourself, be authentic…. and just keep doing it, change your approach, listen, ask more questions, learn and soon it will become a part of you, they will be your words, not just some canned and empty elevator pitch, but your real self coming through.  

If you will do those things, and keep doing those things, I promise you, the miles will get easier, the mountain won’t seem so high…… and even after you have landed at your next great “customer”, keep doing those things, get involved in your industry, volunteer to help others, network online, connect people, learn a new skill, and keep looking for ways to do what you do better, to offer more value to your customer…. and as you continue to build your Company of 1, you will find, and be open to new opportunities, you will have new experiences that will keep you growing and you  will develop new value to share….and you will find yourself in a place where you love what you do, where what you do is valued, you will turn around and find that you have climbed that mountain, made it to the top, and you will have…...



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“LinkedIn – More Than Just a Profile”

“This post was originally written for the Technology Association of Georgia – Human Resources group”,  but thought I’d share it here at home, cause it’s another career marketing tool that if used the right way, can lead to great things, and if not…well, read on..”   (and no, I didn’t start writing under a different name and picture…)… but hmmmm…

August 2, 2011 

When I was asked to blog about this subject for TAG (Technology Association of Georgia – HR), I had to stop and think a bit, had to focus… I love social media, and from a professional standpoint, LinkedIn has got it going on!  Of course it has its quirks, but by and large LI is THE place to begin building an online career portfolio.   In one place, you can nearly access the entire professional world!    I could easily wax on about so many areas, but the focus is on why LI is more than just a profile.  So…

 If you didn’t already know it, LinkedIn has quickly become the online “place” to have your professional “face”.    And from humble beginnings in 2003 LI has grown to become the #1 way that recruiters look for hidden talent and for professionals to connect.   For example, in October of 2009 there were only 50 million users.  Fast forward to March 2011, and over 100 million people had established a profile.  It has become the default “Facebook” for professionals.  It’s easy to understand why, according to a recent survey by Jobvite, nearly 50% of companies always check out candidate’s online profile! 

 There are of course alternatives to LinkedIn, other sites with professional connections such as Spoke, XING etc., but these pale in comparison to the power of being first, or better yet, to be considered the defacto standard.    Way “back in the day”,  companies were spending millions to try and make their websites into places that potential customers and candidates would come and meet us, check us out, learn about us, like us, stay with us…., ‘cause you know it really was about us!!!  Having lived through those exploratory and wonderfully evangelistic days as a marketer, we were all about inviting candidates to come and hang out with us.  But the reality was they only wanted to engage when they needed something. 

 So much better that LinkedIn created a way for all of us to connect, and be “out there” with our credentials, successes and questions to build a real community…..Alas,  like all marketing tools, LI is open to misuse.    Most people are only curious or half-heartedly create their profile, thinking that it’s probably like M****** and C******,   so I should put my profile up there, try to link into anyone and everyone who maybe someday, could possibly help me and then wait for the hordes of companies and recruiters to tell me how much they love me.    

 For example, of the thousands of profiles I’ve personally looked at, it has become very tiresome to look at shoddily thrown together profiles with limited information, or in most cases way too much and many cases misleading or “amplified” information (I call that “vapor ware”) all in the hopes of getting noticed by recruiters.  Honestly, spam is too nice of a word for this but it is the only one that is fit for print. 

 Rather than doing what the masses are doing, I suggest listening to what a post on the LinkedIn blog says (found at LinkedIn Etiquette Blog).  The discussion is focused on what not to do on your profile.  One of the more appropriate suggestions is to not over promote yourself and your capabilities or experiences.  You may get found, but you may also get found out…. Save the fish tales for the lake…!

 Another of my long standing issues with other BIG job boards (and one that most “LinkedIn Gurus suggest) is that you are encouraged to proliferate your profile and resume with tons of  keywords or tags in hopes of increasing your “search value” and to attract recruiters.  SPAM, SPAM, SPAM….!  

 Of course it’s a good idea to use #keywords and #metatags, even #hashtags, because you can bring clarity to an extremely busy and crowded online world AND because it is one of the key ways you will be found!  BUT, if it is done carelessly and without thought, and you include keywords that don’t apply even remotely to your experience, your focus, your career, your goal, your brand,  then it is nothing more than a lot of words that end up making recruiters more frustrated and as a result UNLIKE you as a potential candidate. 

 Use LI with forethought, as an extension of your overall career marketing plan.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone.  If you are in the office supply business and that’s where the majority of your real experience is, focus on words that indicate what you are doing to advance the industry, or the company you work for, the key areas of your expertise.  Put keywords in your profile that identify what your real ability to deliver value is.  Who cares if you don’t show up in a search for National Sales Director for ERP solutions?  You might think it would be cool, but it’s not what you really do….

 For those that have heard me speak about treating your career as “A Company of 1” you know that I am passionate and particular about how you should go about marketing yourself and your career.  Many marketers believe that if social media works, then BE EVERYWHERE! 

 I say NO…! (well, of course “it depends”, if it really is your brand, then go for it…!)  Use the right social media outlet and the right marketing tools for the task.  Otherwise you only create noise.  On LinkedIn your profile is your best or worst advertisement.   Used wisely and appropriately, it can attract potential employers, even customers that you may never have connected to offline.

 But be warned….. LinkedIn used wrongly can become a public embarrassment if you are called out in the wrong forum for tall tales… .  In today’s e-world, information travels faster than you can say “oops” can I take that back”? (“HELP ME MISTER WIZARD!!!)

 Don’t think of it as just a “profile”.   Think of it as your central place to build an electronic network…. And how do you build a network?  Give back, pay it forward, and create conversation around your passion (which is hopefully, also your career).   So many tools to use on LI, and it can be daunting I know.  So start small. 

 Easy Ways to Make it More than Just a LinkedIn Profile

1)      Think about what you want your career to be about (this is the only hard part)

2)      Upload a picture that matches who you are professionally.

3)      Make sure your current and most recent positions are accurate.   Make sure the dates are right.   SPELLCHECK!  Think of direct and creative ways to “advertise” your successes. 

4)      Get connected!  Not in a haphazard way that you “hope” will lead to a job offer, but in a way that puts you in an audience of people that are like you, that have similar professional pursuits. 

5)      Join Groups that you are interested in, involved, want to communicate with and then ENGAGE the group…. Add commentary, ask questions that really matter to you.

6)     Follow, Like, Comment, #hashtag, tweet what others are talking about, posting, blogs etc….

7)      Define yourself and your career by becoming known for being the go to place for information on your area of expertise. 

8)      Don’t spend your life on LinkedIn, but visit regularly!

9)      Above all, if getting involved isn’t you, that’s okay.  At least build a strong billboard presence.   (there’s at least a .5 – 1.5% return) so who knows you may win the lottery.

 LinkedIn is where professionals go to find and get to know other professionals in their industry, where recruiters go to find the unknown or undiscovered talent in a particular area or profession.  It’s where you can go and share professional experiences, knowledge and get involved with your professional community.  But be authentic…don’t be someone you are not, don’t pretend to be something more than you are to get something.  Better yet, decide how you want to give back to the community instead of viewing LinkedIn as a way to “get to” people and that will lead to a richer, more fulfilling career than you ever thought possible.

 Look, LinkedIn is not the “be-all end-all” or Holy Grail of social media marketing, honestly nothing can ever replace a hard earned reputation for delivering results.  Somehow, there are still people who are highly successful sought after talent that don’t have a LinkedIn profile, wouldn’t know a “tweet” from a “honk”, and don’t know why they should be on Facebook. 

 They are players because they deliver and in their industry, in their circles, they are known for delivering results that drive business success.   Still, LinkedIn is an excellent and forward thinking way of communicating you’re “A Company of 1” brand, expanding your professional community, expanding your corporate reach and as leadership wunderkind Stephen Covey says, “expanding your circle of influence”.

 LinkedIn is much more than just a profile….. It’s a living breathing representation of your professional life.  To make it work at its best, it takes time and it takes involvement.  They call it “social” for a reason.   But it is only one of many very cool and useful tools and someday (think Moore’s Law), LinkedIn will be surpassed by the next generation of connecting tools.  But today, it is a key place to start your professional social networking.    If you use it like one of the BIG boards and “post” your resume and “pray” that it gets found, then you are wasting your time.  It’s not a static “profile” but a gateway to your professional portfolio that can lead to conversation, can connect you to people you never knew, it can lead to being “found”, LinkedIn could lead you to your next great career move…..


Posted in Career Thought, careers, Job Boards, jobs, Placement, Position, Purpose, Resumes, social media, social recruiting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Never Know Unless You Try….

Recently, I arranged for my oldest son to participate in a 2 day “SEAL Camp” at Sealfit in Encinitas, CA.  It’s a crucible event, designed to test those who feel they have what it takes to be one of the absolute best and provide an envrionment that will test them to their core.  It’s a helluva mountain to climb even for the most courageous.  He trained hard for 3 and a half months and got himself into the best shape of his life and I was proud that he approached it with respect.  Perhaps as result of his exposure to the Navy through my own “adventures’,  he has followed and studied and dreamed of the Navy SEALS most of his 21 years, and often thought about testing himself to that standard, and so it seemed a natural gift for his 21st birthday.

So we set off to drop him off this past Friday and as we drove I could tell the nerves and the expectation of what lay ahead in the next 48 hours was weighing heavy on his mind.  I watched as he got out of the car and headed over to the “grinder” to check in, he was nervous, perhaps scared, but he moved forward.   During the day, we saw him and his cohorts running on the beach in their cammies, carrying their “weapons” stopping every so often for some pushups… he looked tired already and it was only 4 hours into the program.   I thought about him a lot during the day, wondering how he was doing, hoping he was finding “the place”, creating for himself the understanding that no matter how hard it gets, no matter how high the mountain seems, that one step forward is still forward….

Well, the call came about 9pm.  “Dad…. I”m done, I got nothin left…” He sounded so dejected, so far away…   We made the trip down to pick him up, and it was a quiet ride home… Understandably he felt disappointed, he was tired, worn out, he felt beaten.  While my heart ached for my boy, and I wanted to tell him “It’s okay”, I couldn’t find the words.  What could I possibly say that would make him feel different, to understand that he had just accomplished what so few others even dare to dream of.    Instead I just listened.  And as the day(s) went on and he relived his 9 hour experience, I began to hear and see a different man emerge.  I could tell at his core he had received the gift I had hoped to give.

To understand that all of life is a test.  We are all presented with opportunities to find out if we have what it takes, presented with dreams that are only meant for us, to see glimpses of what can be, of what we might become and contribute to the world… and it is up to us to find the strength, the will, the courage to step out and try…. to be willing to fail, to risk what we have in order to find a deeper meaning, a greater truth, to find as we say, “the place”.

Perhaps you are harboring such a dream, a desire to do something different, be something more, contribute something special, to explore and discover strengths you never knew you had.  And perhaps you are holding back, afraid that you might not achieve your goal, might look foolish if you fail….

Today I look at my son with a greater sense of respect.  I have a greater appreciation for his courage and his willingness to reach higher and to go farther than even he thought that he could.

Words are just words.  They can inspire, the can cajole, they can motivate… but they are just words.    Action determines outcomes.

So as you consider your career and where you might take your Company of 1, remember this…. when the moment comes to decide, all of the motivating and inspiring words will fade away and you will be left with only yourself, your desire and your willingness to take action.

And truly I would rather have laid it all out on the field and failed, than to never have tried.

Proud of you buddy, now you know “why”…..

“So others may live”


Posted in Career Thought, careers, jobs, military, Mission, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Work Like You Know Your Dad is Watching….

As a father, I think it’s easy to get lost in the day to day activity of life and wonder if we really make an impact on our children and our families.   I was thinking about that today as I watched my son play a tennis match in the summer heat on Fathers Day.  He was working hard, pushing himself, and though he was losing, he stayed in the game, he kept fighting, he was relentless… and my older son who is managing a team of lifeguards at a neighboorhood pool,  learning how people see responsibility and work ethic differently.  While he may not clean his room as much as we like,  he will show up early and stay late at the pool to make sure the work is complete, because he gave his word and it’s his responsibility….

Watching them grow, watching them learn the lessons of life, the triumphs, the trials, and the tears… that’s the gift.   Seeing them become men, responsible, creative, industrious and loving… that’s the treasure…   I wonder sometimes how they heck they learned that… I guess I didn’t realize how much of what I did, rather than what I said mattered to them.  That made me think of my Dad.  Because those things are what I learned from listening and watching him…

I’d like to share the following poem I wrote on my first cruise in the Navy.  I was fortunate that the greeting card company Blue Mountain Arts bought it and published it on a Fathers Day card back in 1989.   It was my first big “win” and a result of the very things my Dad taught me… use your gifts, work hard, dare to dream, work hard, face your fears, work hard, and love…..

“A Special Thank You, for Dad, From Your Son on Fathers Day”
“As I was growing up, I didn’t always realize
everything you did for me.  I didn’t always know or understand
the way you thought.  Yet you waited patiently and gave me room to grow.  You let me make my own decisions, and when they were wrong, you picked me up and encouraged me to try again. 

Dad, so many years have passed since I was a child, and now I realize that all the little things you did for me were your way of showing that you loved me. 

I’ve grown so much since then, but I’ll never be too big to say… I love you Dad…”
Copyright 1989 Blue Mountain Arts – J. Kalusa

I will always be grateful to the man who taught me the real keys to success, showed me in so many different ways the very things I speak of in A Company of 1…. know who you are and who you want to be, dream big, have courage to face your fears, make mistakes and move forward, work hard, live, laugh and love….

If you have children, and wonder sometimes if they hear you, if they really understand what you are trying to teach them, know this…. they are always watching, they are always listening and they are learning.   They are your legacy, they are your gift to the world.

Thanks Pops, I hope I learned the lesson well….



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Remembering Why…. To Live With Purpose

As Memorial Day weekend comes before us, I’ve spent much of this week remembering  fallen friends, those I’ve known, and those I only know because of the brotherhood, the family that is the military.

I’m reminded on occasion of the sacrifice it takes to serve in the military, the discipline it takes to wake up every day to face danger, to train endlessley,  to strive to be better, to focus on the mission.  Knowing that you are far from home, and that every day you are out there, you are facing unknown danger,  putting your love for your family and your country above yourself.

I’m also reminded that these are not cold, heartless people, with war lust in their hearts, but rather they are brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, daughters and sons, people you know, who want to bring peace to the world, to protect their loved ones, to serve…. they heard the call…. and answered.

Memorial Day is not about honoring veterans,  nor is it about thanking the active duty military.   That’s for every day.  Rather it is a  special day of remembrance.   It is a solemn day, one of quiet gratitude and the humbling memory that there are those who when faced with danger, when fighting against an able and dedicated enemy, did not falter, did not run…. Instead, they stood, side by side with their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and determined to complete their mission, fought with all they had, moved forward instead of retreating, and in in the end gave the greatest sacrifice.

They fulfilled their purpose, so that we can live in a country that wakes up with the promise that happiness, while not guaranteed, can be pursued freely, that spiritual fulfillment, however found, can be practiced freely, that life however dreamed, can be lived….freely.

This morning, I found a poem my oldest son Kyle wrote a few years ago and posted today on tumblr, that I’d like to share.

Sound of War

 I remember when I no longer heard the sound of war.

I remember not hearing the sound of that rifle round.

I remember thinking of home as my body fell down to the  sandy floor.

I remember the sound of bells ringing and children singing.

I remember seeing an angel and the tears streaming down her face.

I remember the warmth of her touch and the freedom in her loving embrace.

I remember closing my eyes and seeing darkness no more.

I remember when I no longer heard the sound of war.

— Written by: Kyle Kalusa 2/18/08 —

Let’s all stop this weekend as we are firing up our barbeque, relishing  a wonderful spring weekend with family and friends, and remember those that have fallen, those who faced their fear and still moved forward to fight and who, when the moment came to decide, chose to live their life with purpose….


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A Radically New Career View

Folks, we’ve been fooled…. as far back as grade school, we’ve been told by our parents, our teachers, and our community that our goal should be to get an education and then find a company that will give us a job and take care of us.  And even today as we read articles or listen to newscasts that tell us we will probably have up to 10 different employers in our career, we don’t really hear that.  What we hear is “I’ll have 10 different employers who will take care of me”.    What a horribly weak position to be in, relying on the goodness of some company to take care of us, at the mercy of their willingness or ability to provide…. The  implication is that companies exist to provide employment for people.  Look at any recent article about the economy and it is easy to see that even the government is telling us that companys exist to create jobs.  It’s just not so!….  When Bill Gates started Microsoft, he and Steve Ballmer didn’t sit around in the garage and say “Let’s revolutionize the computer industry so we can employ thousands of people”.    The owner of the local Subway franchise store near your house didn’t open their doors in hopes they could be a source of employment for local teenagers.  No company goes into business to be a job provider.

When I was an student at DePaul University, in one of my first marketing classes, the professor provided me with the basis for all marketing…… “Find a need and fill it”. Companies exist to provide products and services that fill a need or solve a problem, whether it is for other companies in the industrial market or for individuals like you and me in the commercial/retail market.    That’s Marketing 101.    Companies are not the social safety net to save or provide a living for people.  They are in business to find a need and fill it, and to profit from it.

Now having said that, as companies grow, they need people to help them deliver on their promises to customers.  They need to leverage the skills, dreams and production capacity of people to serve and grow their markets.  Employees then, are resource providers just like vendors, in effect selling their services to an organization for a fee (salary) and for profit (benefits).   Companies go to great lengths to attract and retain the best employees to be able to leverage their skills and talents to deliver better, faster, cheaper than their competition.  They need specialized talent, and when there is synergy between the company’s goals and employees desires, everyone wins.

As A Company of 1, it is your goal to be the best service provider to your biggest customer (employer) and deliver the services and value necessary to help your customer be successful.   Now that may seem like you are giving up control, but it is exactly the opposite.   You are in charge of engineering your career, getting additional education, honing your skills so that you have the best value to offer to potential customers, just like a business does.   And just as a company can decide it no longer needs the services of a vendor or is not getting the value promised and let an employee go, so can you, as a Company of 1 decide that a customer no longer is providing the profitability or the growth potential for your company and find a new customer. (that’s called taking control)

Don’t be fooled to thinking that your employer’s reason for existence is to make you successful.  You are responsible for your own career, for your own Company of 1.  And just as your employer is seeking to be better, faster, more profitable, so should you be for your own company.  How do you do that?  By serving your customer, and marketing to potential customers (other employers), with the value that only you can deliver.    By getting additional education, volunteering for projects in different areas, by networking and talking to other “companies” (people) in your profession or industry.  By being in control…

Decide today to take responsibility, to take control!  Don’t be shackled by the line of thinking that says “I hope I find a company that will give me job and take care of me”.   Rather shift your focus to the value you can, and want to provide to the market, become the best at delivering that value and then find the best customer that will appreciate your contribution and will offer you the compensation (revenue) and benefits (profit) you value, not just in money but in other things as well…. growth, work/life balance, etc.

Start by thinking to yourself, “As a provider of ___________ services, I am looking for a customer that will appreciate the value I bring and will pay me the highest market price possible, adding to my profitability”.

If you shift your focus from what a company or employer can do for you to what value you can provide to them, you will make a critical and fundamental shift in how you look at your career and you will be on your way to success as your own Company of 1!


Posted in Career Thought, Mission, Placement, Position, Pricing, Product, Purpose, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment