Monday, July 26, 2010

Do As I Say, Not as I Do

Do I follow my own advice?

I’ve been asked that at a few of my Modern Resume presentations if I do all the things that I mention, and to what extent. My answer is that I do and I don’t. I’ve done them all at some point in my career, but I don’t necessarily do them all now.

For the most part I have my brand on my mind most of the time. I think about what I post, I consider the impact to my reputation, and try to self-moderate myself. I do, at times, also send things to others for comment before I post them.

I have tried to follow my own advice about promotion, but it’s hard. I struggle to write my own kudos, but I do try to post announcements when I am speaking, or doing something out of the ordinary. I also have such a presence with my daily editorial and podcast that I think sometimes that a regular note somewhere like Twitter might overwhelm my followers or overexpose me.

One area that someone asked me about was my resume. Do I touch mine every quarter like I ask other people to do?

No. I don’t, but I have a good reason.

I have an employment contract. So even if someone contacted me about a job that is almost as awesome as mine, I have to give months notice to leave. Months as in 3 or 4 (can’t remember), and while I could possibly get out of that, I wouldn’t. I signed a contract, I need to honor it.

So unlike when I worked in the corporate world, and have gotten calls that say “send your resume today” I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do that right now.

I do try to give good advice, and incorporate new things into the presentation and this blog as I learn them. I have a set of notes that I regularly keep working on as I get feedback and learn new things from others. If you find a problem with what I’ve written, let me know. Otherwise, start working on your brand.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Speaking and Presenting Tips - Bullets

I’ve heard this before, it came up in the Tufte seminar I took, and it also was something that grated on my nerves at TechEd recently. I was in a presentation and saw a slide titled “Agenda” that had bullet points like this:

  • History of xxx
  • Problem of DIY
  • Reference examples
  • Basic structure
  • Enhancements
  • Security
  • Common Uses
  • Expansion to other systems
  • Summary

These weren’t the exact items, but it didn’t matter. This was a BI course on a Microsoft technology, but a Microsoft PM, and he read each of these, giving a sentence or two about what it meant.


Don’t do that. Studies show that people can read much, much faster than you can speak. By the time you’ve started to talk about this, most everyone in the room has read the entire slide.

The same goes for any other slide. People read it, heck, as the speaker I’ll glance back and usually read the entire thing in a couple seconds and then start talking.

Give people information that’s not on the slide. They’ll read what’s there, so go into depth on what you actually want to say. If everything is on the slide, why are you there? Just send them an article, or move them all to Starbuck and hold a “reading” of your material there, similar to what most libraries do for 4 year olds.

Give people information that’s not on the slide, and don’t read what is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Damaging Your Brand

The talk of the basketball world the last week has been LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch. Recently I was listening to ESPN Radio and Mike Greenberg mentioned that he thought LeBron hadn’t necessarily done his “brand” any damage.

Certainly LeBron James is more in demand, and has more power than most people in their jobs.. I might argue that someone like a Paul Randal in the SQL Server database world would be as in as much demand, and like LeBron, if he wanted a job with a particular company, he might take a pay cut.

Our brand is the impression people have of us. It’s the first impression, and maybe the only impression, that most people get of you. Relatively few people that have heard of you will meet you. Or hire you. A good brand is important to giving you a wide variety of opportunities. When your name comes up or your resume arrives in someone’s inbox, the brand that appears in someone’s mind first can determine if you even get a call for an interview.

A bad brand can hurt you, and you might never know about it. You’ll never hear about the jobs you didn’t get because of a poor brand.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t rebuild a brand, or that you can’t get by with a bad brand. Arguably there have been famous people, Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, that have bad brands. Or bad to a large group of people, but they have still done well. Those are extreme, but I know there are people that have been fired from jobs for doing damage to the company and re-hired later in the industry by working to rebuild their brands.

Kobe Bryant arguable had destroyed his brand a few years ago with issues in CO. There are still people in CO that “boo” him when he comes, and still a few advertisers that don’t work with him. However he’s come back as a very popular player, he’s had success, and has new endorsements. He’s kept a lower profile in some ways and rebuilt his brand.

LeBron can do that as well. I’d argue the last two years, without winning, having less success, and not responding in clutch situations have damaged his brand. While he was popular and lots of teams coveted his services, I would argue that his “brand” was what most teams wanted, not his talent. He hasn’t proven he’s a champion, a go-to guy, and the success he’s brought the Cleveland Cavaliers has been mostly off the court, with more revenue for the owner, than pride for the fans.

Settling or Pushing On

I read a blog recently that was titled: Time to Stop Settling. I think that the author (a friend) was intending to motivate you to move forward, and try to change things when you see a way to make them better instead of living with them.

I agree, but….

My caveat here is that you also need to find balance in your life. One of my favorite quotes is “God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I think that quote is telling you to strive for balance, and realize that you cannot change everything, but you can change some things and you ought to think about those that you can.

We all have tough times in our lives, especially at work. Even though I have the best job in the world, I have bad days, I have things I don’t like, things that I can’t change. I strive to balance the stress and workload with the good things, and while I try to move forward, I move forward in different ways. Some periods might involve more time with my wife, some more vacation with family, some more speaking, some more writing, but they all are a part of life.

Don’t settle when you don’t need to, but don’t try to change everything. Pick your battles and look to make headway, make things better, not “fix” everything.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making a Little Effort at Networking - Part 2

I wrote recently about my efforts to network a bit more at events. Part 1 was to spend more time with people that engage me. This entry continues with the second thing I’ve done.

2. Look for Someone with a Connection

Since I speak, it’s easy to pick out people that have been in my sessions. I make it a point to look around the room as I speak and make eye contact with everyone, or at least look at everyone. Do that often enough across 60 or 90 minutes and quite a few people stick in your mind.

Then when I see people walking around later, I’ll say hi, and ask them if they enjoyed the session, did anything stand out, maybe ask about their job, etc. I look for a connection.

If you’re not a speaker, you can do the same thing. When you go to an event, look for people in the audience. You can pick the speaker, but it’s often easier to connect with audience members. Scan and pick out a few people. When you see them later, even immediately after, strike up a conversation. Ask them if they enjoyed it, ask them what they thought of some point, or if they understood something.

Try to engage for 3 or 4 minutes. You might never see them again, but you also might find a new friend that you keep in contact with.