I just started reading the book Ice to Eskimos and at the start of chapter 6 the author identifies ground rule #6 “create big...
An important part of career coaching is mock interviews because being prepared means feeling comfortable, which then allows you to be yourself. At the end of the interview, both parties want to have a good idea of whether they would be a good fit for the job. It’s harder to figure this out if you aren’t showing them who you really are, and that goes for everyone in the room.
Like everything else in life, practice does make you better. Even if you’re practicing in front of a mirror, it helps. When you have your talking points so ingrained in your brain, you can go off script to show some personality. You get used to talking about yourself and through the process pick out the things that represent you the best.
In an effort to be able to not just talk about yourself, but also hold a conversation with the interviewers, mock interviews with friends and family are great. And it’s even better if you can have a practice interview with people in the industry. My mentees send me the job description so I can prepare the questions, and the majority of the time they call me after the real interview to say, “They asked almost all of the same questions you did!”
No, I’m not psychic. Those job descriptions are basically a map to what you should put on your resume, as well as what they are going to ask you in the interview. If they say you will oversee all aspects of three sports, don’t be surprised if they ask you about marketing plans and working within a budget.
Of course, most people have a signature question they throw out during interviews. Mine is “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” I’m looking for answers like, “a smurf” or “clown” because when I was a kid, I wanted to be Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. This is the question that shows personality so the people who said they wanted to be a Big Ten Marketing Director when I was trying to fill a position at Northwestern didn’t get the job.
The people who I do remember are the ones who leave me with a random fact, a funny story or a great childhood occupation. And if you can tie them into an awesome character trait, that’s even better. For example, a random fact about me is I had perfect attendance from kindergarten through high school. So while that’s kinda nerdy, future employers knew that I was dependable, which means I wouldn’t be calling in sick when there is work to be done.
Get your stories together so people can get a true sense of who you are. You can tell people how awesome you are, but it’s more effective when you can show them.
My Dad has worked at Caterpillar for over 40 years, so job loyalty is something I learned about when I was just a kid. When I got my first full-time job at Northwestern, no one was surprised that I stayed there for over 13 years. Well, no one who knows me well, that is. Most people in the sports industry thought it was odd to be at one place so long, but I was invested in the school and its amazing student-athletes.
Because I earned the respect of the administration, I was trusted to be part of meetings and projects from early on, which gave me experience that other people my age weren’t getting because they had to keep building new relationships at every new job.
While I was at one school for over a decade, I worked for three different athletic directors. And every time a new one came in, it was like working in a completely different place, so I experienced plenty of change even if my location stayed the same.
So when people ask me if they should leave their current jobs to get experience somewhere else, I respond with lots of questions like, are you still being challenged, are you proud of the work you’ve done, are you getting more responsibility, etc.
Don’t worry about where you do things, just worry about how you do them. During this time when most people are job hopping, you stand out when you show loyalty in your career. Instead of trying to be like everyone else, tell people why they need someone like you. One of the concerns employers have when it gets down to making the offer is wondering who will truly commit to the full amount of time they want for this position. That you’re not looking for the next big thing. You can tell them you will honor the commitment, but they will believe it if they see that you’ve done it before.
Sometimes I think about this when my friends introduce me to a single friend and I ask what his story is and they respond, “Oh, he’s a player. You don’t want to date him.” I don’t write him off immediately, but it will take some time to build that trust.
There are many ways to get to the same place, but building genuine relationships along the way definitely helps.
I’ve never heard anyone suggest talking about your ex on a first date, including dating master, Patti Stanger (aka The Millionaire Matchmaker), who says, “Nobody wants to hear about who came before them in a potential relationship. Keep the ex talk to a solid zero. Ex talk just makes a person feel compared to people that shouldn’t matter anymore.”
But I think your past does matter. It’s just all in how you present it. You don’t have to site specific people from the past relationships, but sharing things you liked as a couple in general allows them to get to know you. Sharing that you ran a marathon because a partner pushed you to accomplish something you never thought you would or that having a date night set aside each week is important to you provide examples of what you expect in a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Often times, we assume that if someone talks about a past relationship it’s going to be negative, but every relationship has great moments and those are the ones to share. You wouldn’t go on a job interview and talk about all the things you hated about your last job. Tell them about what you’ve learned and where you want to go because of it.
Whenever I go on a job interview, I’m armed with examples that show rather than tell. Anyone can say they are a problem solver, but giving a past example shows that you really are. Job interviews are all about what you’ve done, and it shouldn’t matter who or where you got it (e.g. BCS school, pro team). I know some sports professionals are worried that they can’t make the transition from a small school to a big school, so it’s up to you to convince them that your past has prepared you for this opportunity. No one is out of your league if you believe in yourself enough to share who you really are.
On Tuesday, I was the featured guest for the #social4tixsales Twitter chat hosted by Ken Troupe (KTSportsMarket) and Brandon Steffek (BStefFullhouse). The subject was branding yourself on social media, which is one of my favorite topics. Throughout the discussion, we talked about having patience when building relationships on Twitter. Much like when you meet someone, you get their phone number, you chat a bit, you make the date and then you spend time together. You can’t expect to tweet to someone one day and get a job the next. It takes time.
Then when you do get an interview, do as much research as possible about that organization so you can be prepared for the questions. With all of the resources available, they expect you to know about their team. If you don’t, they wonder how much you actually want to work there. And that matters. When you can tell someone wants to be part of your organization, that can be the thing that puts them over the top.
While I understand that some people just want a job, any job in sports, imagine what it would feel like if you were out on a date and that person is flirting with everyone who walks by, looking completely uninterested in what you have to say. I’m not saying you can’t flirt, but don’t do it in front of someone. Show them respect by giving them your full attention. If you do, you might discover they are the one you’ve been looking for all along.
The same can be true with a job interview. Maybe you only want to work at a BCS school, but you’ve been passed over for those jobs so you apply to a Division II school until you can find something you really want. You go on the interview thinking you’re too good for this job so when they ask why you want to work there you say, “I just need a job.” Ouch. With as competitive as this industry is, it’s easy to find someone who actually does want to work there. I wouldn’t hire someone who isn’t going to buy into my organization. I won’t get the best out of that person, so I would move on to the next candidate.
But what if you pay attention in the interview instead? Listen to what they are working on, hear their goals for the upcoming year. You may realize that this place will give you the opportunities you want to continue growing in your career, like being totally in charge of a major sport instead of just assisting on one at another school or handling all of the social media because that’s your expertise.
If you don’t get all of the information first, you’ll never know if you’re passing up on something that is right for you. Go into every interview looking at how it can work for you. If by the end of interview process you realize that it’s not where you want to be, then don’t take the job. By putting yourself in a position where you won’t be happy, that will make it tough to earn the respect of those around you. These are the people who can help you during your career, so pull your weight so it doesn’t end with a bad breakup.
It doesn’t have to be Mr Right, it could be Mr. Right Now, but for however long you commit to something, you need to be all in. It’s never a one-way relationship, so consider that the next time you are looking over all of your choices.
Last week, I did yard work for the first time in probably 20 years. Living in apartments for years and then buying a condo in Chicago has kept me pretty far away from that line of work. But now that I’ve been helping my family since moving back to Illinois, I’m having flashbacks to my childhood, but I see things differently now. Whenever my parents asked me to do something when I was a kid, I took it very seriously. I wasn’t the kid who would cut corners and then upon being confronted say, “Well, you said to wash the dishes, but you didn’t say I had to do the silverware too.”
So when my Dad asked me last week to rake up the cut grass in the front yard, I picked up all of the grass - front, side and back. When I was finished he said, “You didn’t have to do the back, but I appreciate it.” I guess I’ve never been the shortcut type. I like being around people who don’t just do what they are told, but take initiative to do more if there is an opportunity.
How you are raised can have a lasting impact. I loved when Sheryl Sandberg, author of one of my new favorite books, “Lean In”, said that when she was a kid she didn’t play, but instead she “organized other children’s play”. I felt like we would’ve been childhood friends.
Someone else who I’m fortunate to actually be friends with is Andy Rowdon at Arizona State. Because we’re friends I already know that he isn’t a corner cutter, and is always looking for what more he can do to make something better. But if I didn’t know Andy, I would be able to tell this about him based on one quick instance. He did something without even thinking after we went to brunch a few weeks ago. He picked up an empty, plastic bottle that was blowing around on the ground. A bottle I saw several people step over that day. I’m sure dozens of people walked by it without giving it a second thought, but Andy tossed it into the trash without skipping a beat in the conversation.
It just came naturally to see something that needed to be done and then just do it. It wasn’t his water bottle. He doesn’t work for the sanitation department. It wasn’t his job, but he did it anyway. Isn’t this the type of person you want to be around?
I present a lot about branding yourself on Twitter because I want everyone to know just how effective it can be to show people who you are. If done correctly, Twitter can be a resume updated in real time and seen by people within the industry. It can also be an ongoing interview, especially if you take part in industry-specific Twitter chats. I get a feel for other sports pros whenever I join in on one of those.
You see a lot of warnings about thinking before you tweet because you never know who’s reading it or how they will interpret what you’re saying, which I agree. My approach is to just tell my story. I put out information that is relevant to what I love doing, I check in on my mentees and my mentors, I brainstorm with friends, I talk about books, etc.
So every Monday, I take a look back at the last seven days of my tweets. What I’m checking for is to make sure that if a random person went to my profile page on any given day, they would get a sense of who I am. I hope they see someone who is passionate about everything, cares about everyone and is happy about working hard.
What do people see when they look at our Twitter page? From your profile description to your everyday tweets, are you telling the real story? Raise your hand if you agree …
Last year around the NFL Draft, I blogged about if dating had a draft day. How awesome it would be if your friends worked as scouts to set you up on dates with the best people they know around the country. They give you the scoop on what makes them so awesome, why they would be a great fit for you, etc. You can even watch “film” together by taking a look around their Facebook page. See what they are really like.
Having this information takes some of the risk out of the process, which is like the importance of references when it comes to hiring someone. It’s not a guarantee that it will work out, but you feel a little better about taking that chance on them.
But sometimes having too much information could make you miss out on another option. Or closes your mind to what other things this person could do or be. People do research before making most decisions, even if it’s as simple as picking a movie … looking at the reviews before deciding. They want to know what other people think.
It makes you feel safe as you work towards something new. But taking risks or going against the grain could turn into something awesome that you might not have suspected. Finding the right balance between the two could wake you up to even more opportunities. How great does it feel when someone tells you they were impressed by your idea because it was something they had never seen before? That they wished they had thought of it. But it’s not always about thinking of the idea, it’s actually implementing it. That’s when it gets fun!
As I’m figuring out the most effective way to work remotely, I’ve been reading books and articles that suggest different ways to be productive. They talk about finding the right environment for each individual. With the amount of traveling I do, it’s very comfortable to set up shop on different campuses across the country. Spending a few days working side-by-side with my friends and/or clients in their offices has been extremely motivating.
When I’m not working in an office setting, I’ve been trying out a few different places besides my home office. On Tuesday, I worked from Barnes & Noble after shopping for a new book to read. Sitting near the Starbucks inside the store, they would shout out the orders as they came up.
I don’t drink coffee, but I’m familiar with the seriousness of ordering a drink there. I didn’t pay much attention until they had to repeat an order to get the guy’s attention who was talking on one cell phone and texting or emailing on another. His order went something like this: Double Ristretto Venti Half Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double Shot Gingerbread Frappucino
After hearing the order and then seeing who it belonged to, I wondered if this guy was as high maintenance as he was coming off in that moment? What can you tell about someone based on their coffee order? So while the Barnes and Noble Starbucks turned out to be a great environment to work, I think it will be a better place for after hours, like most places that server drinks.
I give advice to young pros everyday, so I often try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes so many years ago in order to help them set their goals for the next year or two. Sharing my experiences, as well as advice I’ve received is intended to help them make their own decisions. I hope they are encouraged by my story as they navigate their way through a very competitive industry.
Last night, I didn’t have to imagine what it was like to be new to an industry as I was the newbie in the room at the two-night writers workshop in Chicago that I’m attending. I was surrounded by people who have written novels, which was intimidating yet extremely motivating. Even though most of the writers haven’t been published yet, they created a product they are ready to sell so I was grateful for their advice in hopes that it will help me finish writing my book.
The author running the workshop shared her ten-year journey to get published. A few ups, but a whole bunch of downs through the process, and yet everything she said sounded familiar: do it because you love it, work hard because it makes you happy, don’t give up because you’ve been rejected. And this woman had seen quite a bit of rejection, including over 200 agents and publishers who just weren’t interested in her work. She even had two other agents who didn’t spend time with her to help her get better. A different industry, but a lot of the same messaging - stay positive, believe in yourself, keep at it and learn from every rejection. She even shared that since she is a database manager by day, she created spreadsheets to analyze the rejections to see if she could find any trends, like the best day to email a query letter, amount of time to wait for an answer, etc. This woman and I clicked.Finding people to help me and/or inspire me no matter how brief the encounter may be is how I found my way through the sports industry and it’s the same way I will figure out the world of publishing. I’m always looking for ways to learn, even when I’m the one giving a presentation. The comments the audience share affect me too. There are so many opportunities to grow, you just need to always be open to them.
Whether I’m presenting on Twitter, teaching how to write a marketing plan, giving advice at a resume workshop or doing mock interviews, I always tell people that you can’t just be the hardest worker, you also have to be the happiest person in the room. I’s not fun to be around someone who complains about the work they are doing. We work in sports, and that’s always fun. But then again, I usually find the silver lining in situations. Maybe because even though I love lists and plans, I don’t mind when things change. I’m always open to new ideas and opportunities. Some of the best times have come out of complete randomness.
So if you and some co-workers are assigned to rolling 1,000 t-shirts that day, have a contest to see who can roll the most shirts in 10 minutes without losing the tightness of the roll. Use the time to bond as a team or come up with the next big idea. When I was at Northwestern, I would join in with some of these tasks so I could get to know my student workers and interns a little better. It was interesting to see who took this opportunity to ask about making a career out of sports and those who just moped about the assignment.
There isn’t much to gain from complaining, so I like to be around positive people whether it’s professionally or socially. In this business, it’s sometimes hard to even tell where that line is, and I love it. When I travel, I never really know how to answer when the people at the airport ask if I’m traveling for business or pleasure because it’s always both.
In fact, my last trip over the weekend is a great example of the positive attitude when my 8 am flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues. They weren’t able to get me on another plane until 8:30 pm, which also ended up being delayed. I let my friends at Arizona know that I wouldn’t be able to see them that day as planned and this is the Twitter conversation that ensued.
I could’ve complained about being stuck in the airport, but that’s just what happens sometimes when you travel. I found a restaurant with an outlet so I could knock out some work, which then allowed me even more time to spend with my friends the next day. Plus, I was able to eat some deep dish pizza and grab some Garrett’s popcorn for my flight that was now a direct one to Tucson. My new plan was just fine.
So not only do I want to work with people who can adjust to whatever life throws at you, I want to date someone who can do the same. In the Fall, my plans changed at the last minute for a weekend trip over Labor Day because I misread the date of the Louisville-Kentucky Football game. Being used to college football playing on Saturdays, my date to the game booked his flight according to the itinerary that I had created for the weekend.
Two days before the game, my friend at Louisville sent a text that said, “Do you think the game is on Saturday?” Uh-oh. So I called my date to let him know that he was now leaving before the game even started and he said, “No big deal. I was coming to see you.” Amazing. So instead, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Louisville that day, including a diner featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and lots of college football … on TV.
So then on the day of the game, it was pouring, but that also didn’t throw off the fun. I just threw on a raincoat and set out to find other people who weren’t letting the rain get in their way.
Life happens. Find the silver lining. And surround yourself with others who do.