Thursday, March 28, 2013

Six Habits of Remarkably Successful People

My AOL article today: Six Habits of Remarkably Successful People.

I really think this short article contains the keys to success.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Effective Mentoring in Just a Few Minutes

Managers are increasingly expected to mentor their supervisees but are given little training and time to do it.

My U.S. News post today is a crash course on how to effectively mentor even if you only have a few minutes to work with the person.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How I Help My Clients Choose a Career

My contribution today to AOL summarizes how I help my clients choose a career. My goal for the article was to enable you to be your own career counselor.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Volunteers Needed for a Great Career Event

This Friday, I'll be keynoting and moderating a Career Day at UC Berkeley for Ph.D. students and post-docs. It is sold out but they are still looking for volunteers to help staff it.

It should be an invaluable day. There will be panels on careers in technology, entrepreneurship, science communication and policy, and non-academic research. The panelists are insiders at some of the most prestigious employers. And networking opportunities should be great.

Come to a Talk I'm Giving: Career Success in Tough Times

The Oakland Public Library has asked me to give another talk: Career success in tough times.  Sorry I'm posting this last-minute but I forgot to do so earlier. It's tomorrow, Weds, Mar 20 at 6 PM at the main branch: 125 14 St.  Admission is free.

I'll try to share a lot of non-obvious but important nuggets. I'll also take questions.

For more info about it, HERE is an article about it in The Examiner.

And here's the handout I'll distribute:

Presentation, Oakland Public Library, Mar. 20, 2013
by Marty Nemko
Up is the not the only way!

Make it fun if possible, but being productive is its own reward. Your life's value may indeed be determined less by how much fun you've had as by how productive you've been. Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
That said, it's often possible to make a task more fun. If you do it the most arduous way, the benefit is usually outweighed by your tending to procrastinate the tasks and overall less contentment with your work life. As you decide what to do and how to do it, keep asking yourself, "What's the fun way?" Usually, you'll find the work gets done faster and, ironically, often better.

Is this a good use of my time? Both what activities to do, and how time-consumingly you're doing a task

Laser focus on being world-class in both goal and project. That IS possible in many if not most pursuits.
Re goal: Be the go-to-guy/gal on something key to your organization: CRM software, on-boarding new employees, selling to Latino teens, whatever. Maybe write an article on that for a trade publication—higher-ups love to see their organization touted externally.
Re  project: remember, my example of Jeffrie at the Children's Hospital talent show.

Think probabilistically: If that doesn't come naturally to you, develop the habit: When you have to make a significant decision, for each of your options, write the chance (from 0 percent to 100 percent) of each of the major positive and negative outcomes occurring. For example, you're deciding whether to accept a new job:
Pros: Higher salary (100 percent), better boss (70 percent,) more learning opportunities (90 percent).
Cons: Longer commute (100 percent), the job is more difficult and thus you could fail (50 percent), management's ethics may be iffy (50 percent).
Then, after considering all that, make your decision on gut feeling.
Of course, no technique will lead to always making correct decisions but  your batting average will improve as will your ability to explain your reasoning. And as time goes on, you'll get better at doing cost-benefit/risk-reward analysis, often on-the-fly.

Keep growing: read articles, webinars, find mentors. Keep a nugget file. Every time you derive an insight that would abet your thinking or thinking skills , keep it in a word-processing file. Review it frequently.

Be trustworthy. That goes well beyond keeping your word. It mainly means that when you get an assignment, it will be done, on time, and well—all the time. Your boss may not balk when you mumble your excuse but your unreliability will remain in memory.

Show initiative. Much more is under your control than you may think. Instead of complaining about a problem, fix it, asking permission only if necessary.

Go beyond. Provide something unexpected that will please your higher-ups. Let's say your boss is all about the bottom line. Write a report for improving it.

Sweat the details. Big-picture thinkers are a dime a dozen and their proposals usually make more work for people. What's mainly needed are people who can execute the boss's vision without much hand-holding.

Be positive. Every workgroup benefits from having one person who focuses on the problems. As Andy Grove, former Intel chairman and CEO, has said, "Only the paranoid survive." But generally, the yes-butter is regarded as a necessary evil rather than an up-and-comer. Unless your boss makes a truly unreasonable demand, be a person who makes it happen. And no bashing the company. If it's really worth bashing, shouldn't you be looking for another job?

Be likeable. It's hard to get ahead if many co-workers, bosses, and customers dislike you. In addition to having a positive bias, look for ways to make your co-workers and customers' lives better. For example, make them look good, help them get ahead, or when someone seems frazzled, ask if there's anything you can do to help. Take something off their plate or simply listen to them vent. The most potent question you can ask, especially of your boss: "Anything I can do to make your life easier?" 

Make lots of moving-toward statements, few moving-away behavior. You may not realize how big a price you make when you make a moving-away behavior: disagreeing, one-upping, shunning. Focus on moving-toward statements: agreement, amplification, anything that makes them feel good about themselves. 

Be low-maintenance. You pay a big price for being high-maintenance. No matter how competent you are, especially in today's busy times, your boss and co-workers are probably on max, so your complaint or even your new idea may not be welcome. If your boss or workgroup's plate is already full, they simply may not be open to adding something else or changing gears. Even asking too many questions can be annoying. Of course the workplace and indeed society would be better if all that weren't true, but alas, it is. In most workplaces, even if you're the boss, it's safest to simply keep on keeping on with a pleasant look on your face. That's true even in your personal life. 

Be a storyteller. Most people are more affected by story than by statistics. Story appeals to the emotion, which is what motivates most people's behavior change. That's why so many articles start with, "Mary Johnson..." and only after the audience is hooked, do they mention statistics, facts, etc. So, have three anecdotes ready to tell at any networking event or even for water-cooler convo. And certainly, pepper your talks with anecdotes, whether it's a two-minute presentation at a meeting, a keynote address, or even a toast at your friend's wedding. 

Never look back. My father, a Holocaust survivor, rarely talked about the experience. When asked why, he said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Never look back, always take the next step forward."

Monday, March 18, 2013

You're Invited to a Show that Has Received Only Standing Ovations

We live in a world of hype. So when I say that I'm inviting you to a performance you'll likely truly love, you may well think it's marketing BS. But I'll stake whatever reputation I have on that assertion's validity.

Jeffrie Givens will be performing a much improved version of her already strong one-woman show, Big, Black, and Shy on Sunday, April 28 at 2 PM at my home in Oakland, CA. All five previous performances of the show received standing ovations. The current version is much better still.

With story and song, she tells her remarkable but true story of the shyest girl in Oakland. It's inspirational to any of us who face challenges.

Besides, she's grown into an outstanding singer and performer. She'll be accompanied on piano by me and on drums by Bob Scott, who has toured and recorded with Willie Nelson, Ray Charles and Earl "Fatha" Hines.

Email me if you want to attend, email me ASAP:  UPDATE: I'm gratified to say that even though it's still a month before the show, all the seats have already been taken. I am now accepting names for the wait list or to be put on the e-mail list for her subsequent performance:

By the way, a special thanks to the Bay Area's best agent for and coach to musicians, Frank Goldstein, without whom I could not have attracted a musician of the above caliber.

Simple But Potent Keys to Time Management

My piece today in U.S. News offers deceptively simple but potent ways to get more done in less time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Much Are You Worth? A Guide to Salary Negotiation

You apply for a job: "What are your salary requirements?" Gulp.

You're offered a job: "Is the salary acceptable?" Gulp.

You want a raise: "Well, how much do you want?" Gulp.

My AOL piece this week is on how to estimate your fair market value, convince an employer to pay it to you, and up your value, not just to your employer but to the world. HERE is the link.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Five Fresh Self-Employment Ideas Plus One Stale but Good One

My latest US News piece offers five fresh ideas for a business, plus  one that I've mentioned here before but I love because it's so simple, low-risk, costs little to start, and is easily cloneable into a chain.

New Lessons in How to Lose Weight

Here's a look at my next The Life Well-Led column for the Mensa publication, The Intelligencer.

A Mensan Tries to Lose Weight
New Lessons Learned

You'd think that Mensans would be smart enough to figure out how to avoid being fat. Alas, a quick look around at a Mensa event proves that too many of us haven't solved that brain teaser.

I'm trying yet again to lose that 20 pounds--I have a 40" waist! Danger!

But instead of relying on the same inadequate approaches-- Eat only until you're not full, beware of danger times, don't eat after 8 pm--I decided to use whatever IQ points I have to develop new tactics..

To that end, I decided to make weight-loss top-of-mind for ten days and to keep a log of my thoughts and relevant behaviors. I learned a few things. Perhaps one or more might help you.

First, before starting my ten-day attempt at discovery, I wrote these thoughts about my eating:
  • I rationalize pigging out: "It's only one meal. It won't make that much difference." Or, "It's a rare opportunity--I'm passing that great donut shop."
  • I need to rehearse what to do when hungry, for example, "Eat those peeled baby carrots and salsa that sit eye-level in my refrigerator. If I'm out, remind myself that fat people get sick and die." (I'm still healthy but my prime motivation to lose weight is to stay that way.)
    • Since I value intelligence, it may help me to say, "Only stupid people overeat. A moment on the lips; lifetime on the hips. And then you die faster."
    • I need to use the cognitive-behavioral therapy strategy of saying aloud, with feeling, five times a day for a week, my prime reason(s)for getting slimmer: In my case, "I do not want to be one of those people with diabetes, or have a heart attack or stroke, getting wheeled into surgery, and maybe dying." 
    I need to say that aloud, with expression, so it really penetrates my brain, restructuring my memory neurons, so that fear stays top-of-mind at the moment of truth when I'm tempted to, for example, go to an Indian buffet rather than eat a salad.What should your mantra be? 
    Here were the significant notes in my ten-day diet diary:
    • I value preparedness and so, unconsciously, I eat to prevent getting hungry. Instead, I'll make a game of seeing how long I can go without eating anything calorific.
    • I flashed on how unhealthy it must be to be carrying around a 20-pound weight, 24/7 for decades.
    • When I have a break between clients, the first thing that typically comes to mind is, "Get something to eat." I must substitute something else.
    • When I lost a pound, I thought irrationally, "See, it's not so hard to lose weight, so I can afford to cheat." Bad Marty!
    • Eating less is much more of a reward than is eating more: I feel good throughout the day. I'm actually standing taller.
    Thoughts after the ten days

    Not once did I say the aforementioned motivational
    mantra, even though the research on behavior change says it's very helpful.

    For me, what seems most helpful is to stay in the habit of, in advance, thinking what I'll eat at the next meal--mainly low-cal stuff--and then staying vigilant to stay with that plan all the way until I've finished eating.

    Oh, in the ten days, I lost two pounds. And although I probably ate an average of only 1200 calories a day, I didn't feel very deprived. The small sense of deprivation was far outweighed by the good feelings, all day, about getting thinner.

    Only 18 pounds more to go...and a lifetime effort to keep them off. Oy.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    A Simple Way to Become More Popular

    This week's contribution to U.S. News: A Simple Way to Be Better Liked.

    A Very Shy Person Performs: A Black Susan Boyle

    Jeffrie Givens was the shyest career counseling client I've ever had. She readily admits that cadavers are less stiff.

    She was seeking a job in fundraising research. Even though that's a behind-the-scenes job, I knew her job search prospects were dim unless I could get her to become less shy.

    Her hobby is singing and I asked her to sing for me. Indeed stiff as a cadaver. I then showed her videos of great performers doing the same song. She improved immediately.

    I kept working with her and not only does she now have a great job--fundraising researcher for Children's Hospital in Oakland--she's become quite the performer.

    She has received a standing ovation at every one of the five performances of her one-woman show, Big, Black, and Shy. Essentially it's the story of the person least likely to become a star. She's a Black Susan Boyle.

    Here's 15 minutes of her singing to a packed house at The NoName in Sausalito. I accompany on the piano.