Tag Archives: job search

Kaepernick and the Importance of “All The Other Things”

Yesterday’s hero is tomorrow’s bum.  It is a sad fact of life, regardless of industry, sport, volunteer organization or community group.  Rarely does one person succeed or fail alone, however it is far easier to lay the blame on one individual than to take a hard look at an entire organization.  Colin Kaepernick was able to reap the glory and the rewards as an NFL quarterback when he was the face of the 49ers in their Super Bowl and NFC Champion teams.  Less than two years removed from such heights, he is paying the price as the franchise struggles, finding himself benched.  How quickly things change.

Colin Kaepernick’s fall from grace parallels the 49ers slide from the top echelon of the NFL.  As with most things in life, there is plenty of blame to go around, and the truth tends to lie somewhere in the middle.  It is highly doubtful that Kaepernick suddenly forgot how to play the game, that his talent suddenly evaporated.  Conversely, the organization did not suddenly implode.  The other players did not suddenly forget how to block, run, catch and defend.  However, this story is a great reminder that there is a lot more to career decisions than just money.

There tends to be 5 criteria or “buckets” that enter into the decision-making process regarding jobs and/or job changes:

  • What is the job?  What is it you will be doing?
  • Who will you be working for and with?
  • The culture/environment/dynamic of the organization, industry and team
  • Are you set-up for success? Do you have the resources, support, etc.
  • What is the compensation and how are you paid?

There is actually a rank order to that list, and while the middle three can change in relative importance, the first and last items are and should remain where they are, first and last.  What you will be doing trumps all else, and compensation only matters if the previous four items are in alignment.  While most folks agree with the 5 items, many disagree with the relative order.  Most folks place compensation above all else, and that is where most problems start.

Looking at the above list relative to Colin Kaepernick, it is easy to see how the first item did not change – he was a quarterback and his job did not change.  Did he fail to develop his professional skills?  Did the competition improve their game? In both cases, probably yes, but in the end, he did not suddenly forget how to be a quarterback.

Who he is working for and with changed dramatically.  Jim Harbaugh left as head coach, and with him went the entire coaching staff.  The individual players who make up the team also went through massive change.  While the job did not change, his leadership, his coaches, his coordinators, and his co-workers all changed.  That is an enormous issue.

With leadership change comes cultural and organizational change.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but it does change.  By all accounts, the 49ers were a well run, professional, no-nonsense organization before.  Now, well they seem to be struggling to find an identity; they are not the organization they were when they were winning.

Change the members of the team, change the leadership, and change the culture, and the result is you change the very things that enable one to succeed.  Talent, hard work, dedication, and passion can only get one so far.  To borrow a phrase, to one degree or another, it actually does “take a village”.  For Kaepernick, the talent around him on the field, on the sidelines, in-game planning and preparation, the culture of the locker room, in the front office, everything changed.  Apparently not for the better.  Regardless, it is not a scenario where one is set-up for success.

In less than 2 seasons, he and the team have become a glaring illustration of how there is much more to the debate than just compensation.  Kaepernick, based on his earlier success, was able to secure a lucrative contract.  Good for him.  It is not healthy to begrudge someone getting paid.  However, his level of compensation impacted what the organization had available to pay others.  The team around him slipped in talent level.  There was a conflict in leadership, and his coaching staff changed.  The culture around him and the general work environment changed, and the support and tools to succeed went away.

When debating that next promotion, that great new job with the great pay, the new bonus potential, the corner office, the sweet benefits, the next contract, stop and think about Colin Kaepernick.  Pro Bowler, Super Bowl playing, NFC Championship winning quarterback, huge new contract, to the bench in less than 2 years.  Sure, he gets some of the blame, but just as his success was not a one man show, neither is his failure.  Take a hard look at that offer, make sure what the job is, who you will be working for and with, do you have the resources, is the corporate culture good, and then worry about the money.

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If You Build It (and advertise it)…

…they will come, or so goes the line from that classic movie Field of Dreams.  The actual quote is “if you build it, he will come”, but for many of us it is often quoted as “they”.  It is something we hear quite often in business, someone, some company, some product, or some service is absolutely perfect, yet the desired end result is unfortunately never reached.  The person does not find the job, the company does not find the right candidate, the product or service does not sell.  The issue is not that it was built, the issue is that no one came.

The closing scene of Field of Dreams shows cars lined up to the horizon, coming to the baseball diamond in the corn fields of Iowa.  Not only did “he come”, but “they came”.  The main character and his father are re-united for that game of catch, and the struggling farm is saved thanks to all the people coming to visit what was built.  It is pure hollywood and pure fantasy.  A great movie, but pure fiction.  Yet we have all heard “if you build it, they will come” not just as a cliché, but pointed to as a strategy for success.

Creating something is half the battle, the other half is advertising and marketing, sales and messaging.  The world’s greatest mouse trap is useless if no one knows of it.  Yet, so often all the efforts are placed on the front end, the creation phase.  Though some businesses drop the ball on the marketing front, where we do see the disconnect quite often is with those folks who are in transition.

“My LinkedIn profile is updated”, “I have applied online”, “I created an online profile”, “I have a great social media page”, “I am on The Ladders”, or whatever the website du jour might be, are refrains we hear often.  Are those actions appropriate – sure.  However, they are all, to one degree or another, passive behaviors.  Real success is much more likely if one actively markets what they have created.  Relying on the fortunes of luck, of someone “finding you” is completely passive and completely arbitrary.  Yes, it can work, but the odds are certainly improved if one is actively promoting what they have created.

Opening Day, well at this point Opening Week, always has my mind turning back to baseball.  It is another of those baseball related sayings “hope springs eternal” that tends to get batted around during this week.  It is ironic in a way, the classic baseball related quotes: “if you build it, he/they will come” and “hope springs eternal” are both passive phrases.  They are wonderful and make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but they are completely built on faith and hope of what might happen to or for you.  They do not reflect the reality – playoff baseball teams and World Series winners are not created by hope, they are created through work, planning, practice and grinding through the season, along with a bit of luck.  Just like successful business and just like successfully finding opportunities.

Bull Durham, Major League and Field of Dreams.  Three movies I can, and certainly have, watched over and over.  With it being opening week, or weekend, I can hope they will be on TV at some point, or I can take positive action and ensure I see them.

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Appearances, Bull Durham and the Dallas Cowboys

In the spirit of the new year, might as well aggravate Legal, Human Resources, and everyone who believe in what should be vice what really is.  Here it is…appearances matter.  Of course there are exceptions and “yea but” retorts, but let’s live in the world of reality.  In business and life, how you carry yourself, how you present yourself, and frankly how you appear both matters and has very real impact on you and those around you.

Slobs do not nor ever have effectively led elite anythings. Ever.  It is more than a hypothesis…it might not be an absolute law of nature like gravity, but it is awfully close.  Look around you, successful people carry themselves with a degree of polish and poise, they are clean and well-kept, articulate and to some degree smart.  Maybe not formally educated, but they are certainly bright.  It is not just a mode of dress, grooming or physical looks thing, it is a state of mind thing.  Folks who are successful over the long haul, not flash in the pan types, but truly successful and typically happy people, look, act and frankly dress a certain way.  Not uniform, but certainly to a socially accepted, or rather expected standard.

Albert Einstein was dishevelled and was clearly not the epitome of good grooming, but he was no slob.  There are countless entertainers, artists and true geniuses who were at a minimum one or two deviations to the right or left of “normal” when it comes to appearances, but they were in an environment and sector of society where it was much more “normal” and thus accepted if not actually expected.  Andy Warhol was not CEO material, but he was wildly successful and fit in the world of art and entertainment.  Albert Einstein – he fit in a lab and academia.  Though their appearances were interesting, they were not slobs.

Though I am not a huge watcher of NFL games, I do enjoy Sunday Night Football.  As it worked out this year, I have been able to see the Dallas Cowboys several times on Sunday evening.  What a lesson I have learned thanks to their Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan.  You see, the Cowboys blew multiple leads throughout the season and found themselves out of the playoffs.  As is always the case, there are various reasons for loosing, but it seems all the experts agree that the defense contributed to many a loss…5 or 6 4th quarter leads blow this year.  They were, in the words of many, inconsistent at a minimum, if not just flat-out bad.

And this is where appearances and the theorem of life comes in…Rob Ryan is a slob.  Google any picture – he is by any standard of appearances a slob.  Disheveled, unkept, ungroomed, and generally just a mess.  None of the other coaches look like him, and certainly not the players.  The people who worked for him have talent, skills and abilities, but they seem unable to maintain effort.  It is clearly a leadership issue, and the leader looks like a slob.  Sorry HR and everyone else in our over regulated and litigious world, but appearances matter.  Rob Ryan is an excellent example.

Are there others in the NFL that are less than coiffed – of course.  Bill Belichick has made the cut up sweat shirt his trademark.  However, Bill Belichick has won 3 Super Bowls and a ton of games with the Patriots.  He and that team are considered by many the class of the league.  He can dress, look, and frankly act how he wants – he has earned that right.  However, take him off the sidelines and he is as polished as anyone in any environment.  The man runs a billion dollar business and he knows it.  He respects it and thus his players, coworkers and peers respect him.  Think about it for a moment – successful coaches in sports are not slobs.  They all share similar appearances – they are sharp, polished, disciplined professionals.

So yes, appearance, at least in the context of the real world, matter.  It is not what we are told to believe, and not what we are told to consider when hiring or being interviewed, but it is a reality.  To think otherwise is just foolish.  Shoot, I really wish Santa was real, but it just is not so.  Besides, Crash Davis knew what he was talking about…

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You Are Who Your Friends Are

Have to admit, I hated that phrase when I was a kid. My parents hammered that drum when we were young, and really “got in our business” about our friends. Well, like all things, with age comes the realization of just how wise they were. The wisdom was not just about our social life – it applies to our business life as well.

Pedigree, past history, former companies – call it what you will, but there is no denying that to many “who you associate with” matters in the business world. Sophistication, polish, “understanding our level”, career progression, or just being “with the right firms” are all phrases we have heard from clients over the years.  Evaluating talent is not just limited to skills, achievements or actual job performance.  It is a total package issue, and where you have been and who you have worked with and for does matter.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is foolish to assume it is not considered.

There are countless reasons to take a new job, but one of the quiet factors that is often overlooked is the “who” part of the equation.  It is not a big company, small company, established or start-up issue.  Rather, it is a question of how the companies do their business, with whom they do it, and above all how they do it.  Granted there are scenarios where things are not quite what they appeared to be in the interview process.  Everyone understands that – things happen.  However, patterns can emerge, and rest assured the savvy evaluator of talent is considering your history and associations.

It does matter.  There is no other way to put it.  You might be able to stay above and removed from the reputation of your previous employers or associates, but it will lead to questions.  Who you hang out with says a great deal about you…it speaks to your judgement, your decision-making, and in the end it is a reflection of you.   Yet again, parents seem to get wiser as we get older…strange how that happens.

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Survivors – The Journey Lies Ahead

It will be a story long remembered – not for the tragedy, but thankfully for the triumph.  The world was captivated by the tale of the trapped Chilean miners.  It was a story with all the classic elements – tragedy, hope, long odds, perseverance, dedication, rescue, sacrifice, technology, emotion, an epic journey, and ultimate triumph.  However, the rescue of the miners is not the end of their story.  Granted, it is the end of the story for those who watched, but to those who lived it, survival is not the end.  Their story will continue to evolve.  Their life will go on, and in that there is a lesson.

Over the last few years we have heard from countless folks who were “caught without a chair when the music stopped”.  Layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing, or whatever term you wish to use, the collapse of the economy in 2008 took a toll on many a person. People were, as were the miners, quite literally cut-off.  They were isolated, left behind, seperated without a means of income and all that that entails.  Granted, being trapped a mile underground would rank right up there, but the stress of going through any transition is very real.  A forced transition like the loss of a job is significant…it quite literally impacts everything in life.

However, as time went forward, most have found their way into new roles and jobs.  They survived the ordeal – they persevered.  Like any period of transition and change, the key to future success lies in moving forward.  Surviving the ordeal is not the end of the journey.  It is ironic in that the more harrowing the ordeal, the tougher it often is to leave it behind.  Those who are thriving today are those who were able to rally.  They moved on, they embraced the new roles and the journey ahead.  Yes, they learned from the experience but they did not let their story end by just being a survivor.

Surviving is just a step in the journey – it is about what you do once the crisis has passed that counts.  The full story of the Chilean miners did not end Wednesday.  Their story will continue, just as their life will continue.  They have one amazing chapter, but it is just a part of a larger whole.   The journey lies ahead, not behind.  Transitions, job changes, retirements, sabaticals and relocations are points on the journey, they are not destinations.

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Learning From Michael Vick?

Ironic sometimes how timing is everything.  The same weekend we have an old friend in town is the same weekend Michael Vick makes the news…again.  Certainly there is no real link between the two. However, after a weekend spent chatting with a seasoned educator and administrator who happens to also be a Doctor of Education (an Ed.D not a Ph.D as he likes to say), I was reminded how environment has enormous impact on situations and outcomes.  Education, learning, business, life – one’s environment does matters.  It is not the only thing, but it is something.

To even the casual observer, the story of Michael Vick is just another example of the rapid rise and dramatic fall of yet another professional athlete.  Sordid details of dog fighting rings, hangers-on, and other colorful gems litter the biography of the man.  I will admit a particular interest in the story – I lived in Virgina in the early to mid 90’s and remember the stories of two gifted high school athletes.  Michael Vick the football player and the Allen Iverson the basketball player.  Both were from Newport News – a pit of crime, poverty and violence.  It was the beginnings of their rags to riches story.  Stories I just happened to follow a little more than most over the years.

So this week brings us another story of Michael Vick, this one involving a shooting at his birthday party. As of now he is not officially accused of, nor linked to the crime, but there is no question that it was at his party and that the victim was an acquaintance and part of his dog fighting ring.  What struck me is not that the events happened, but rather where and who was involved.  Michael Vick finds himself right back in the same old situation – the same area, the same friends, and inevitably the same problems.  In spite of everything that has happened in his life, all the chances he has been given, all the opportunities he has been afforded, he has yet to change his environment.

Unfortunately we hear it all to often in business; folks are unhappy or frustrated with their careers, their professions, their path or just general situation.  They are not feeling challenged, fairly compensated, or just are not passionate about their work.  However, when they elect to or are forced to make a change, they tend to go to the competition, or at least stay in the same field.  More often than not, they find themselves right back in the same old situation.  For many people it becomes an unending cycle of searching for and changing jobs every few years, yet they never really change their environment.  Sure, they change the company name on their business card, but their environment remains the same.  Change the environment, and there is a good chance you will change your circumstances.

Yes, there is friction in any change.  Changing fields or careers, locations or areas is never easy.  There is emotional, professional and real capital involved – it will often cost – sometimes a lot. It is not easy, but there just might come a time when you have to break free of the old ways; to start fresh.  Change the environment and you will change the situation.   However, remain in the same environment, the same things just seem to keep on happening.  There is something to be learned from Michael Vick, or a buddy who happens to be a Doctor of Education.  Whichever one you feel is more credible is your call.

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From Have to Get

No one likes to be told what to do.  Being told we have to do something is almost as bad, or sometimes worse.  There are not many givens in this world, but if you want to see a kid shut down, tell them they have to do something.  However, you want to see a genius, I give you Tom Sawyer and his whitewashing of the fence.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

It is one of the great moments in American literature, and it is one of the best examples of how paradigm makes all the difference.  Tom had to whitewash the fence – he was miserable.  However when he “enabled” others to convince themselves that they might get to do it – they were ecstatic.  Tom helped them to shift their paradigm concerning the task.  No longer did Tom have to whitewash.  Now they would get to whitewash.

Changing perspective makes all the difference.  It seems so meaningless really – it is just changing one word.  “I have to change careers”, “We have to move”, “I have to find a job”, “The business is changing – we have to find new opportunities” are all laced with negatives, with fear, and with pressure.  “I get to change careers”, “We get to move”, “I get to find a new job”, “The business is changing – we get to find new opportunities” are all phrases dripping with optimism, with a sense of adventure, of new beginnings.

Everyone loves the idea of “getting to” vice “having to”.  It is a powerful thing; a game changer to go cliché.  Another interesting read is a recent column by Kristin Armstrong in Runners World.  It is the same idea, only applied to running and fitness.   Call it the power of positive thinking, a mantra, karma or whatever you wish, but there is no question that moving from “have to get” helps.  Besides, Tom Sawyer is a genius.


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