Posted by: timaugustine | February 12, 2013

Tim’s Recommended Books 2012

Throughout the years, I have been asked about what I read and am currently reading.  Here is a list of my favorite books by category. I would love to hear from you and your favorites.

Leadership

  • First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman
  • 12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner & James Harter
  • Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
  • Hiring Smart by Pierre Mornell
  • The Essential Drucker by Peter F. Drucker
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Total Leadership by Stewart Friedman
  • The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by George Bradt et al
  • The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig
  • Leaders, Fools and Imposters by Manfred F.R. Kets De Vries
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

 

Productivity & Effectiveness

  • Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
  • 10 Days to Faster Reading by Abby Marks-Beale
  • Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
  • The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
  • The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
  • The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
  • Ideas Are Free, Execution is Priceless by Scott Ginsberg
  • Ignite: A Little Book to Spark your Big Dreams by Mitch Matthews

Communication

  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
  • Show Me The Numbers by Stephen Few
  • Zapp, The Power of Enlightenment by Bayham

 

Influence

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Working with Emotional Intelligence by Goleman
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson et al
  • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter F. Drucker

 

Entrepreneurship

  • Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson
  • The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
  • The Dream by Guy Kawasaki
  • The Knack by Norm Brodsky & Bo Burlingham
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  • Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim
  • Bankable Business Plans by Edward Rogoff

 

Marketing

  • All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
  • Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
  • Kellogg on Marketing by Dawn Iacobucci
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout
  • Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham

 

  Sales

  • The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
  • Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan
  • SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham
  • The Sales Bible by Jeffrey Gitomer
  • Can I Have Five Minutes of Your Time, Hal Becker

 

Corporate Skills

  • How to Read a Financial Report by John A. Tracy
  • The Unwritten Laws of Business by W.J. King
  • The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

 

Corporate Strategy

  • Growing Pains by Flamholtz and Randle
  • Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon
  • Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies by Nikos Mourkogiannis
  • Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter
  • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
  • Seeing What’s Next by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth, Scott D. Anthony
  • The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands by Morrison, Conaway and Borden

 

Personal Finance

  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Money Game by Adam Carroll
  • Your Money or Your Life by Joel Dominguez & Vicki Robin
  • The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley & William Danko

 

Personal Development / Career

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Stop with the BS by Shane Mac
  • How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayon Christensen
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • The Management of Time by James McCay
  • Self-Directed Behavior by David L. Watson & Roland G. Tharp
  • Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina
  • Re-Create Your Life by Morty Lefkoe
  • Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale
  • The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn
  • How Hard Are You Knocking by Timothy Augustine
  • What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • Aspire Higher by Joe Mayne
  • The Nametag Principle by Scotts Ginsberg

 

About the Author:  Augustine is a nationally acclaimed author and professional speaker focused on career development and corporate people strategies.  He is the Author of the How Hard Are You Knocking? book series and has been featured on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC and reviewed in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and The Chicago Tribune. He has made numerous radio and television appearances and has presented to over 450 organizations and 150,000 people throughout the United States.  He is a contributing writer to Inc. Magazine, Fast Company and Monster.com on topics pertaining to the people strategies of successful organizations.   His newest book titled “How Hard Are You Knocking, Landing a Job in a Rebounding Economy” is already receiving rave reviews. To learn more about Tim, his books and seminars series, please visit www.howhardareyouknocking.com 

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Posted by: timaugustine | January 28, 2013

Navigating the career fair.

Navigating the Career Fair

 

If you are preparing for a career fair at your university, make sure you develop a game plan to cover all the ground efficiently. Identify the list of attendees/companies whom you want to meet, including potential times and locations. The most important aspect of succeeding at a career fair is your preparation.  In some cases, it may be appropriate to email or phone your target contact in advance of the event. Mention that you’ll be attending and looking forward to introducing yourself.

Here are the keys to career fair success.

Step 1: Identity your top 5 companies and learn as much as possible.

It is important to have a game plan.  Make sure you identify your target list of companies that you are most interest in.  Contact the organization sponsoring the event and ask for an attendee list.  Review the list and identify the top 5 firms you would like to meet.  You should spend as much time learning about the firms as possible.  Contact your career center and ask them for any and all information they have about the firms.  Leverage your network such as your professors, mentors and peers asking them for any information that would help you in your research.

Step 2: Develop your strategy for each firm.

Based on your research, you should develop a strategy for each firm.  This might include customizing your resume to fit each company.  For instance, if Google is one of your target firms, research everything you can about Google.  If you find that teamwork and collaboration are the most important attributes they look for in new hires, you might want to customize your resume to highlight your teamwork and group collaboration. It is not uncommon to have 5 different resumes, one for each firm.  Your resumes will still have common titles, past experiences and details about your skills, but each might have a subtle twist that highlight the specific skills that match your firm’s requirements.

Step 3: Set a goal to meet each of your target firms.

This is the most critical part of the career fair.  While other students are walking around the career fair hoping to meet a firm that is interested in them, you should have a game plan to specifically target your five firms.  Get a map of the career fair floor and prioritize who you will meet.  When you enter the career fair, bee line to your first target firm and don’t stop until you met all 5.

Step 4: Prepare Your Thirty-Second Commercial

Successful networkers are always prepared to deliver their professional pitch or thirty-second commercial. Whether you use this pitch at a job fair, when you meet a VIP, or to answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question, it is a helpful tool to have ready at all times.

Here’s a sample script for a job seeker with experience: “As a sales rep for Tech Systems, I focused on industry knowledge, developing relationships, and growing revenue. My industry knowledge helped develop a list of forty qualified prospects. My relationship skills opened the doors to meet decision-makers and executive-level contacts and to identify potential solutions to their problems. In fact, the result is an average annual revenue increase of forty-eight percent over the past twelve months, at a time when the industry is experiencing a significant recession.”

College students with less experience could answer like this: “As the communications coordinator for the solar car team at Michigan, I wrote press releases, conducted interviews and wrote a blog. This experience has prepared me to work in the tech industry as a communications specialist.”

Step 5: Develop a list of intelligent questions:

Beyond the 30-second commercial, you will want to have a list of specific questions for your target firm.  When you meet someone from your target firm, introduce yourself and lead with your 30-second commercial.  In addition you will want to start a conversation based on your research such as “Based on my research, I know the GE is expanding their internship program focused on social media.  Can you tell me more about that initiative?  What type of projects are you currently working on? Is there any need for help with this specific project? Are you are looking to hire people with any specific skills? I noticed from my research that your company was merging with XYZ; how will that affect the projects you are tasked with?

If you find that you are not a fit for that company’s needs, you may want to provide a referral of someone from your personal network.  You want to be in a place to position yourself as the answer to the needs of your targeted companies.  If you believe you are a fit, you will want to provide your experience and show why and how you fit into the firm.  For instance, “In my most recent position, we had to solve the same problem. In fact, my role was to . . .” Continue to build your network. Make sure you capitalize on the opportunity to ask for a business card and/or permission to make contact again soon.

Be very conscious of nonverbal behavior. If they are looking at their watch or looking around the room, use that time to say, “I do not want to take too much of your time. Could I get your business card and maybe we can finish our discussion after the conference?”

Step 6: Make sure you have Business Cards

Most student’s who attend a career fair, bring their resume.  But beyond the resume, I suggest bringing a business card that you can leave with the person you meet at the booth.  This will be the extra touch that most of your competitors will not have and is an easy way to keep your name in front of the decision maker after the fair.

There is a standard etiquette to receiving a business card. When someone hands you his or her card, make sure you read the person’s name aloud. People always like hearing their own name, and it shows that you have interest and appreciate their card.

Then, once you leave, turn the card over and write specific characteristics about the meeting or conversation on the back of the card. You should document appearance, such as “blond hair, tall, black coat” to help refresh your memory. You should also document some facts about the conversation. For instance, “Talked about the Cleveland Indians” or “Found out that they will be converting their systems and need a project manager.” The point of this exercise is to provide a refresher so that you will remember the person three months from now.

Final thoughts about networking at events.

Smile, be personable, look people in the eye, and show your interest by asking questions and (most importantly) listening to their responses. Networking is a reciprocal relationship. The more you care about others, the more you will succeed.

Track your progress. Make sure you measure your networking success by the number of meaningful conversations you’ve had. Make sure you focus on the conversation and the people you are meeting, not just the fact that you are looking for a job. Make sure you understand your contact’s needs so you can understand how you can be of value.

Lastly, a career fair is only the first step in the introduction.  Follow-up soon after the fair to have additional conversations and learn more about the firm and do your best show the person who you should be the one they call back for an interview.

Posted by: timaugustine | January 17, 2013

The 3 biggest mistakes of entrepreneurs

The 3 biggest mistakes of entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur myself and a co-founder of a VC  firm, I have had the opportunity to hear a lot of business ideas from people who believed, their idea was the next “Apple”.  However, there are a few themes that we, DSP Start-up, have heard and actually witnessed that made good ideas….fail.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you try and launch your company.

1)    Assuming That Your Passion Is Contagious

Whether you’re pitching to investors, motivating employees, or selling your product, be sensitive to the kind of response you are getting from your audience. Your enthusiasm is not always contagious.  Entrepreneurs often get carried away with their own ideas and really don’t understand why others are not as passionate.  In fact, I have seen where that blind passion, gets in the way of hearing the constructive criticism that investors, business advisors and mentors offer.

2)    Ignoring Strong and Tough Criticism

Being an entrepreneur is a tough road and having the ability to hear ideas and criticisms can often be the difference between success and failure.  I am not saying you need to listen to all of the jealous criticism, but I am suggesting that good entrepreneurs will be given good advice and need to develop the ability to listen to this advice and implement where needed.   The ability to take that strong criticism may counteract the failure to learn, which can bring down any start-up. When things don’t go according to plan, the critical advice you receive could help build a better idea….a better company.

3)    Be Honest with yourself and give it your all.

I have seen many half-assed entrepreneurs, those entrepreneurs who want to play business but not actually do the business.  Starting a company takes a level of dedication that many people do not have.  This level of dedication differentiates the successful ones from the posers.  If you speak to any successful entrepreneur, they would tell you that their idea has consumed their days. They have invested their time, energy and resources and have dedicated their passion to making their idea a success.  Too often, I receive ideas from people who think starting a company is easy and will come quickly.  These are the people who fail fast and should consider other employment options.  True entrepreneurs are ready and willing to dedicate their life, in the short term, to getting the company off the ground.

These are just a few areas to consider if you really want to take your idea to the next level.

As always, I would love to hear any business ideas and help where I can.  Email me at Tim@succeedfaster.com

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

“Tell Me About Yourself”

“Tell Me About Yourself”

 

The first task of successful interviewing is answering the ubiquitous and difficult, “Tell me about yourself” prompt. This is a simple request with a complicated answer. Whether you are meeting a stranger in the elevator, responding to an interviewer’s prompt, or shaking hands at a networking event, you need to know how to respond. If you are prepared to answer this question, you will be prepared for unexpected opportunities.

           

Don’t ever respond by giving your life story, bragging, or wasting time talking about some trite interest. The request begs an answer that continues the conversation in a compelling manner. Convince the other person that you have done your homework and are interested and bring value to any enterprise. The most powerful response will articulate your strengths and competitive advantages over the next candidate. This is not the time to be humble, shy, or embarrassed.

 

Be strong, strategic, and succinct. Know your selling points. Describe the kind of problems that you solve better than anyone else does. Figure out what is truly unique and valuable about you and lay it on the table.

 

Whether you can conjugate verbs in Swahili, sell tricycles to seniors, or create mosaic masterpieces, be ready to share a short story about how this skill brings value to others. If you honestly don’t know your strengths, complete career assessments, work with a career counselor, review your performance evaluations or simply watch a colleague and assess what you can do better, quicker, or more creatively.

 

Successful networkers are always prepared to deliver their professional pitch or thirty-second commercial. Whether you use this pitch at a job fair, when you meet a VIP, or to answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question, it is a helpful tool to have ready at all times.

 

Here’s a sample script for a job seeker with experience: “As a long-term intern for Tech Systems, I focused on industry knowledge, developing relationships, and growing revenue. My industry knowledge helped develop a list of forty qualified prospects. My relationship skills opened the doors to meet decision-makers and executive-level contacts and to identify potential solutions to their problems. In fact, the result is an average annual revenue increase of forty-eight percent over the past twelve months, at a time when the industry is experiencing a significant recession.”

 

College students with less experience could answer like this: “As the communications coordinator for the solar car team at Michigan, I developed press releases, conducted interviews and managed an extensive blog for the project. This experience has prepared me to work in the tech industry as a communications specialist.”

 

Finally, remember to think micro and macro. After you take a microscope to yourself, use binoculars to figure out the path ahead. Know who you are so you can determine where you are going. Think about how you can most effectively interact with the world in a way that brings true personal satisfaction.

 

Insider’s Tip: Keep in mind that the interview is not an interrogation. It is a two-way conversation. Be curious, engaged, and ready with questions. Don’t be intimidated; you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Remember, they once were in your shoes, and they put their pants on one leg at a time just like you. In fact, many employers find interviewing very stressful.

 

 

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

Managing up

Managing Up

“The Art of managing your career and getting noticed”

 

“How can I get ahead in my internship or job?”  “How do I position myself for a promotion?”  I get this question a lot and have a few ideas for you to consider.

 

The first 30 days of your internship or first 90 days of your full time position is critical to your success.  This is where you land the first impression, show your work ethic, establish yourself as a team player and show your interest in the company and personal success. There are 6 areas that you need to focus your efforts to make an impression.

 

Company Knowledge:  Spend your own time learning about the company.  Understand the background and history of the firm.  Learn about who and why they started the company as well as the company direction.  

 

Product / Services Knowledge: Study the company’s products and services.   Understand how the products are used and the value they bring to the clients.  Study the clients/customers and how revenue is generated in the firm.

 

Process Knowledge:  Spend time understanding most of the core processes within the company that pertain to you and your role. This included everything from how to request a vacation day to how performance reviews are conducted.  This will help you understand the flow of information as well as the key people responsible for each process.

 

Organizational Structure:  Understand how the organization is structured and how teams are organized.  This is where you need to understand the role and power of each leader.  Power references to organizational authority as well as the influence the person has over the team and company.  Title does not equate to power.  Personal influence and leadership are the key signs to a person’s impact on the team. This step is critical to understanding where you should position yourself politically and how to identify the communication structure of a company or team.

 

Personal Effectiveness:  Understand where you fit in and the value that you can bring to a company.  Identify your career opportunities within the firm and start learning what it would take to get there.  This is the one step that will differentiate you among your peers.  Developing your career direction and plan will help provide clarity within your performance and activities.

 

Managing up:  The most successful people I know, have the ability to manage up and proactively manage people’s expectations.  Get to know your supporting leader.  Review your position description with your leader and do your best to understand his/her expectations of you. Ask questions about your review.  “A the end of this internship or year, you will review my performance.  What would a great performance review look like?  What are your specific expectations of me and my performance?”  These are questions that need to be asked early in the process.   

 

Find one on one time to talk with your manager such as during a monthly breakfast meeting that you schedule.  You should pay for breakfast and use this time as one on one time to get to know your manager better, understand how you are doing and show your manager that you are genuinely interested in improving your performance. 

 

Breakfast is great, because it is safe.  A 7 am meeting before the day begins is always available, and your manager will be impressed that you scheduled time to talk. 

 

Make sure the meeting is structured.  Three great questions to ask is:

 

1)     What do you want me to start doing better?

2)     What do you want me to stop doing?

3)     What do you want me to continue doing?

 

This meeting is not a kiss-ass meeting, but time that you can truly understand how you are performing and a chance for you to tell your manager, where you want to go in your career.  Ask about next steps if you perform well.  Ask about potential promotions and the types of skills you need to learn to get there. 

 

Managing up is about understanding the expectations of you and doing your best to provide value.  If you don’t spend time asking how you can improve, who will?  Far too many employees come to work and do their job and wait for the manager to reward them or provide constructive feedback if they are not performing well.  Be proactive and you will find yourself on the fast track of success.

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

Get Back Up

Get back up!

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

According to Walt Disney, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

I am sure you have heard some of the great stories of people who have failed who rose to greatness.  What about you?  The key to success is having the ability to get back up.  You will fail at something.  Let me repeat that, you will fail at something.  But the real estimate to your legacy will be your ability to stand back up and try again.  Take this post and pin it up in your dorm room, office or wherever you will need inspiration.  These are the stories that are real and possible.

1)     Sir Richard Branson failed at his first 4 ventures. In his own words: ”You fail if you don’t try. If you look at the history of American entrepreneurs, one thing I do know about them: An awful lot of them have tried and failed in the past and gone on to great things.”

2)     Donald Trump was $1 billion in debt at one point in the early 1990’s, and that The Guinness Book of Records lists him as having the biggest financial turnaround in history? In his own words: “I refused to give in to the negative circumstances and I never lost faith in myself. Defeat is not in my vocabulary.”

3)     J.K. Rowling was rejected by twelve publishers? In her own words: “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.

4)     Fred Smith, Founder of FedEx wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service.  He received a C and comments such as “It’s not feasible or practical”

5)     Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Clearly, he evolved.

6)     Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

7)     Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math.

8)     Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.

9)     R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.”

~ Robert F. Kennedy

 

10)Vince Lombardi was told that he possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation. Lombardi would later write, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”

11)Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.”

12)Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Jimmy Johnson accounted for 11 of the 19 Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1993. They also share the distinction of having the worst records of first-season head coaches in NFL history – they didn’t win a single game.

13)Johnny Unitas’s first pass in the NFL was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Joe Montana’s first pass was also intercepted. And while we’re on quarterbacks, during his first season Troy Aikman threw twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdowns (9) . . . oh, and he didn’t win a single game. You think there’s a lesson here?

14)After Carl Lewis won the gold medal for the long jump in the 1996 Olympic games, he was asked to what he attributed his longevity, having competed for almost 20 years. He said, “Remembering that you have both wins and losses along the way. I don’t take either one too seriously.”

“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”

~ Eric Hoffer

15)Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

16)The first time Jerry Seinfeld walked on-stage at a comedy club as a professional comic, he looked out at the audience, froze, and forgot the English language. He stumbled through “a minute-and a half” of material and was jeered offstage. He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause.

17)After Harrison Ford’s first performance as a hotel bellhop in the film Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, the studio vice-president called him in to his office. “Sit down kid,” the studio head said, “I want to tell you a story. The first time Tony Curtis was ever in a movie he delivered a bag of groceries. We took one look at him and knew he was a movie star.” Ford replied, “I thought you were supposed to think that he was a grocery delivery boy.” The vice president dismissed Ford with “You ain’t got it kid , you ain’t got it … now get out of here.”

18)Decca Records turned down a recording contract with the Beatles with the prophetic evaluation, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.”

19)Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him “hopeless as a composer.” And, of course, you know that he wrote five of his greatest symphonies while completely deaf.

 

“No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.”

~ Baudjuin

20)A Paris art dealer refused Picasso shelter when he asked if he could bring in his paintings from out of the rain. One hopes that there is justice in this world and that the art dealer eventually went broke.

21)27 publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Successful people bounce back, keep the passion burning and avoid the negative.  Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with support. You will leave a legacy.  The question is, will you choose the legacy you leave?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

Work There First

Work there first

….before starting your own company!

 

For all of you, who want to start a company, consider this idea.  Work for a potential competitor first.  Many successful entrepreneurs would tell you that they learned the business from a competitor, identified best practices and improved a few processes before starting their company. I am not suggesting a conspiracy to steal clients, but a genuine focus on learning as much about the industry as possible. 

For instance, if you are interested in starting a coffee shop, take a job at Starbucks to understand how they run the business.  It will also give you an insight about the business and provide a solid understand about best practices.  You might find that it is difficult and might not be a fit for you.  Now you just saved yourself time, energy and money in launching your own business cold. This concept can also help validate your business model by proving the need for your product, understanding the barriers of entry, providing the financial understanding and an operational understanding of your business.  

If you are considering starting your own company, ask yourself the following questions.

1)      Why do I want to start a business? What are the three primary factors influencing this decision?

2)      Specifically what kind of business do I want to start?

3)      What are my key personal strengths–what am I better at than anyone else?

4)      Is my idea better than what the market offers and who is my competition?

5)      Am I in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally to dedicate a lot of time and energy into starting a new business?

6)      Do I have personal and financial support of family and friends to accomplish my goals?

7)      Do I have some working knowledge of the industry, technology or products to start this business?

8)      Is my past education and experience relevant to the industry I’m looking at? Is my education and/or certifications sufficient to do what I want to do?

9)      What are my financial goals, both personally and for the business?

10)  Why do I believe I can make this business work?

These questions will help you understand where to spend your time when starting your business.  Working for the competition specifically addresses questions (4, 7, 8 and 10).  Starting a business is a difficult, so preparation is a critical component to being successful.  Preparation means studying the industry, research the geographic market of competitors, understanding the competition’s strengths and weaknesses and learning the best practices to be successful. 

In the book titled “Made in America”, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, said that he learned as much as he could about the retail business and competitors before launching Wal-Mart.  He worked at a Ben Franklin retail store and would visit K-mart stores to understand how they ran their business.  He would document how they positioned products, priced products, managed their inventory levels and how they serviced their customers.  He felt that he could do it better, but took of few years to understand the industry, market and the competitor’s best practices.

Once you have a grasp on the business idea, research the market to understand your competition.  Consider taking a job with the competition to immerse yourself in the market to learn as much as you can about what to do and what not to do when you start your business.  Be patient.  Rome was not build in a day.  Take your time to and earn money while you are researching the industry.  This will provide a solid platform for your new venture and increase your probability of success.   

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

Please Pee in a Cup

“Please Pee in the Cup.”

Whether it is a drug test or background check, you need to understand what employers require when applying for a job.  There have been numerous stories about candidates being denied because of a drug test or background check and even current employees being fired about lying on the application.  The most recent instance was the CEO of Yahoo who was accused of lying about his degree.

There are a few things you need to know, when you start looking for a job.

Application and Background Checks

As part of your application process, employers require that a job application be completed.  This includes personal information such as contact information; past employers, dates and positions; educational information and criminal information.  This application requires a signature attesting the accuracy of the information provided.  Your signature also gives the employer permission to conduct a background check. 

It is critical that you are as truthful as possible on the application.  This is especially true if you have a felony in your past.  Most applications ask “Have you ever been convicted of a felony? (Yes / No)?”  If you do have a felony, check yes, and explain the details to the employer when they ask.  There is no need to elaborate on the application about the “Guilty” charge.  Misdemeanors are not typically asked about on an application but do show up in a background check. 

Employers typically use a third party of conduct their background checks.  They send the signed application and the third party firm checks employment dates, positions, education, and state and federal criminal history.  In some instances, employers also verify credit history and driving records, depending on the position.

Employment Drug Testing

There are a growing number of firms that require drug tests as part of the pre-employment selection process. Although not always required by law, many employers do drug screens for the following reasons:

To avoid legal liability. If an intoxicated employee harms someone on the job, the employer could be legally liable for those injuries. Workplace drug and alcohol use may also violate OSHA and state occupational safety laws.

To maintain productivity and save money. According to the federal government, drug and alcohol use takes a toll on the American workplace. Problems relating to drug and alcohol abuse cost $80 billion in lost productivity in a single year. Employees who use drugs are three times more likely to be late to work, more than three-and-a-half times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident, and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Prospective employers can’t force you to take a drug test. However, they can generally require you to take one as a condition of employment, as long as they follow the rules. If you don’t want to take the test, you can take yourself out of the running for the job.

The most common type of testing program is pre-employment. Courts have consistently upheld the legality of requiring a pre-employment drug test as a condition of employment.

The first point for consideration for drug testing is the type of specimen to be collected for testing. The most common type of specimen is urine, followed closely by hair, saliva and breath testing; blood testing is seldom used for pre-employment testing.

The second point for consideration is place of collection for employers is usually limited to at the employers place of business or off site at a designated collection point such as a laboratory, doctors office or hospital

The traditional remote site urine drug testing is done in a local lab such as Quest or Labcorp. Most employers utilize a standard five-panel test of “street drugs,” consisting of marijuana (THC), cocaine, PCP, opiates (such as codeine and morphine) and amphetamines (including methamphetamine). Most employers require an applicant to submit to the urine drug test within a specific period of time, so that a drug user does not wait until the drugs leave the system. Laboratories and collection sites also have methods to determine if the applicant has attempted to alter the test sample by drinking excessive water, contaminating the sample, or by using some sort of product that is sold in the hope it will mask drug use. Results are then sent to the employer usually within 24 hours.

The second type of urine drug testing is On-Site Drug testing. Instead of sending the applicant to a facility, the firm conducts the test onsite. The process is the same, only the collection technique is different. You are asked to “Pee in a Cup”

Some employers also test current employees such as random testing (for safety-sensitive positions), individualized suspicion testing, post-accident testing, and testing that is legally required in certain industries, such as Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for truck drivers.

As you begin your job search process, make sure you are fully prepared for the background checks and drugs testing requirements.  Keep in mind, employers are getting more creative about background checks and even use social media tools such as Facebook to learn more about you.  Hope this article helps and good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

Open Doors with Informational Interviews

Open Doors with an Informational Interview

 

An informational interview is used primarily for two reasons: to gather more information about a company and to gather more information about industries or occupations. Whether you are just out of college or have fifteen years of experience, informational interviews are a valuable activity to provide clarity regarding your career choice and direction in conducting an effective job campaign.

 

Develop a list of 10-15 target companies that you would like to work for.  Once identified, begin researching the companies and identify specific areas within the firm in which you would like to work.  Your goal should be to identify specific departments within your target companies. Try to identify specific people within these departments from your research or personal and professional network. These are the contacts that you should target for informational interviews.  An informational interview begins with a phone call to the prospective companies or people you have researched. Develop a script of the phone call before you call. The script should include everything you want to say to the company. Make sure you study this script and know what you are going to say before your call.

           

The first person you contact will likely be the receptionist. He or she should be your first friend in the company. The receptionist is the initial gatekeeper and can play a large part in the hiring process. They are often asked questions about a candidate’s phone etiquette and personality. Often, they are asked to give their general opinion of the applicants they speak with on the telephone and in person. Therefore, begin selling your skills to this person while gaining valuable information about the company. Make sure you learn his or her name and try to establish a rapport.

 

The key to this interview is to build a business friendship. Remember that your goal is to gather information about the company. If you set up an informational interview with a recruiter or the department manager, make sure you utilize this time to gather as much data as you can.

 

After you contact each company and schedule an appointment, prepare a list of questions to ask. Make sure your questions are typed and convey the topics that are important to you in a company. You should have five to ten detailed questions written out prior to the interview that will give you the best possible facts from which you will draw your final job decision. Here are a few examples of questions you could ask the person with whom you meet.

 

  • · What do you know now about this industry that you didn’t know before you entered it?
  • · Would you have done anything differently?
  • · What types of characteristics are important for success in this field or with your company?
  • · What makes XYZ Firm different from its competitors?
  • · What type of special education or certification is required when working in this field?

 

When you are preparing for the interview, utilize the research you have already conducted. Read the company’s annual report to gather pertinent information about the company’s performance, products, locations, and so on. This is also a good time to land the first impression.  Here are a few items to consider.

 

Dress for Success

 

Your appearance for the informational interview is very important. Make sure you read, my dress for success chapter in my new book, titled “How Hard Are You Knocking, Landing a Job in a rebounding Economy.”

Your Professional Attitude

 

The final step of preparation is your attitude. Remember, you are just gathering information and building your network. Although you will be a little nervous, don’t let the nerves get the best of you. You are not interviewing for a position; you are simply gathering data about a potential employer. The key to a successful informational interview is first getting in the door. You have already accomplished that. Now you should focus on gathering information and showing the interviewer that you are a responsible and dedicated prospective employee who is diligently researching the opportunities for employment.

 

You are already ahead of the game. Most job seekers are relying on their resume to get them in the door. As recruiters, we look for dedication and candidates who differentiate themselves among other job seekers. This technique of getting noticed is exactly that: a tool to differentiate you from John Doe job seeker.

 

During the interview, be yourself and smile. Remember that people are largely judged on appearance and attitude. Be personable, relax, and listen to every response. Make sure you ask specific questions. Remember that the interviewer is giving you his or her time and that you requested help. Be honest with the interviewer. He or she may turn out to be your best friend in the business.

 

I recommend purchasing business cards that have your name, address, phone number, and email address. Give the interviewer your card and ask if you can call to follow up after you have completed your research and initial round of conversations with prospective employees. This step conveys that you are in demand and shows the interviewer that you are serious about your research.

 

Make sure you stick to your fifteen-minute appointment. Respect the interviewer’s time. Be punctual. Arriving ten minutes before the scheduled appointment is sufficient. Think of everyone you talk with or meet as a prospective employer. Following the actual informational interview, make sure you follow up appropriately. The same day, no later than the day after the interview, send a handwritten thank-you card to everyone you met with. If you told the interviewer you would call in one week, make sure you keep that promise. Following up and staying in touch with your network throughout your job search is very important.

 

Posted by: timaugustine | July 16, 2012

No Regrets

No regrets!

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”….Wayne Gretzky

 

So often, people go through life living in the “what if” and look back at aspects of their life with regrets.  I recently read a blog from Bonnie Ware about regrets that people voiced when faced with death.  It touched me and I hope you it impacts you in the same way. 

Excerpt from Bonnie Ware

REGRETS OF THE DYING

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

 

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

 

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