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Three Lessons from the Streets

Three Lessons from the Streets

Click here to see the original article: I like these ideas, meljr.

June 9, 2014 by

Telephone-Booth-City-LightsThis week Annmarie and I headed out of state to explore a few “opportunities” for our future, so I am handing over guest posting duties to my friend Jeff Echols.

If you are interested in writing for Entrepreneur Architect, click here for information on how to submit your work for consideration. Until next week, please enjoy Jeff’s story of life on the streets as an intern architect.

Full of Hope and Confidence

In December of 1991, I completed my finals and headed home to Chicago. I had completed three-and-a-half years of my architectural education in Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning and was heading into my required Internship semester. I was full of hope and confidence, vim and vigor and all that.

The next few months would be some of the most formative of my life; but not for the reasons you might expect.

The economy in 1991 and 1992 was in a shambles. Students don’t understand that. Unemployment numbers were high, construction starts were almost non-existent and I had just unleashed a resume mailing campaign the likes of which will never be replicated.

As the respondent volley of rejections began to intensify I realized that there must be a better way. After all, printing and postage for resumes and follow-up letters was putting a strain on this student’s budget in both time and money.

Not a single class I had taken so far had prepared me for this. All I knew was that you were supposed to compose a professional looking resume, send it to the best contact you could find and follow up a few days later. This obviously wasn’t working.

For some reason as the rejections rolled in I began collecting them in a shoe box. That shoe box was getting full. I wear size 12.

I knew it was time to go off-script; to improvise. The thing that bothered me the most was that I was essentially sending a couple pieces of paper to a name and never having any direct contact with the person that name belonged to. What’s worse, sometimes that name was Sir or Madame. I had no idea if that person read my cover letter or reviewed my resume. I didn’t have the opportunity to introduce myself, much less explain myself. I didn’t even know if that person even worked there any more.

LinkedIn wouldn’t be founded for 10 more years.

I decided that I had to head directly to the front lines.

Taking It To The Streets

Let me set the stage for you. It was January, 1992. Cell phones hadn’t been widely adopted. Smartphones hadn’t been invented. No one was walking down Michigan Avenue staring at their iPhone. We used pay phones, in phone booths and Yellow Pages.

Tuesday, January 14th 1992 was the day that changed everything. Actually I made that up. I have no idea what the actual date was. So there I was; freezing, with a pocket full of quarters, in a phone booth, on a street corner, in Chicago, in January.

I was burning through my list of firms, calling, stopping in and following up. At least now I was having actual conversations with human beings. One of those conversations went like this:

Firm Principal: “Yes, we received your resume but unfortunately we don’t have any work” (I’d heard that line about 12,000 times by now). “In fact, we’ve been reducing staff lately.”

Me: “I understand. I’m hearing that a lot. I’m sure you have a lot of friends around the City. Do you know of anyone that I should call that may have work?”

Firm Principal: “No, there isn’t much work out there right now.”

Me: “I know. Well, I’ve got to complete an Internship before I can graduate. Do you have any advice that you’d be willing to share with me?”

There was an exaggerated pause. That gave me hope. The thought that was going through my head was “I’m about to receive the single-best piece of advice I’ve ever heard.”

Firm Principal: “What year did you say you were in school?”

I KNEW IT!

I have the well-known Principal of a prominent, award-winning Chicago architectural firm on the telephone and they’re putting a lot of thought into a golden piece of advice just for me.

VICTORY WILL SURELY BE MINE!

Me: “I just completed my third year. I’m in a five year, professional degree program at Ball State.”
Firm Principal: “Well …”

HERE IT COMES!!

Firm Principal: “I guess the best thing I can tell you is it’s not too late to change your major.”

WHAT?!

Talk about exaggerated pauses. That’s what you came up with? Change my major? I grew up surrounded by Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve watched This Old House every Saturday morning with my Dad since it first hit the air waves. Almost all my cousins and uncles are Engineers or are somehow tied to the construction industry. I was meant to do this. Change my major?

Firm Principal: “I mean, it really has nothing to do with you, it’s just that the economy is terrible and I don’t see it turning around any time soon. I think you’d be smart to look at another field.”

I didn’t know what to say. I have no idea what I said after that. It’s entirely possible that I just hung the phone up. I don’t know.

That was the last call I made that day. In fact, not long after I made the decision to give up on working in Chicago.

I headed to Indianapolis. I knew nothing about Indianapolis but it was a major city and it wasn’t far from Ball State. Maybe there would be work there.

I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up. I didn’t even understand that as an option but I didn’t send out a single resume, at least not until I’d talked to someone at the firm first. This time my strategy was simple … and desperate. I opened the Yellow Pages to “Architects” and started calling. I worked my way all the way from ‘A’ down to ‘R’ before I finally found someone who actually needed an Intern.

In February of 1992 I went to work for Richardson, Munson and Weir. In March, I took the stub from my first pay check, placed it on top of the hundreds of rejection letters in that shoe box. I put the top back on the box. I never opened it again, but that shoe box remained on the shelf in the top of my closet in whatever apartment or house I was living in for the next 15 years.

3 Lessons for Finding Your First Job

Even though the box and the letters and the pay stub are gone now, the memory reminds me of a few lessons that have served me well over my career:

Take Permission. Seth Godin is probably credited with the popularization of the term. I went from sending letters and cover letters, hoping someone would invite me to come in and talk to them to calling, or just stopping in to talk. I didn’t wait, I took permission.

Communication. Social Media as we know it didn’t exist in 1992 but a lot of people try to market their firms with Social Media the same way I sent out cover letters and resumes back then. Not focusing on a singular conversation is ineffective. We are human beings. We want to communicate with other human beings. We aren’t interested in an anonymous broadcast message whether it’s an email or a cover letter from a hopeful intern.

Get Uncomfortable. For me, January 1992 was uncomfortable for a number of reasons. I was cold. I was tired. I was broke. I was desperate. More importantly, I was way outside my comfort zone. I’m naturally shy. Walking through the front door of a firm unannounced or even “cold calling” was completely unnatural to me. Do something every day that makes you uncomfortable. That’s how you grow.

That’s how I found my first job in Architecture.

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The Secrets To Career Contentment: Don’t Follow Your Passion

Wow! this is really interesting. meljr
By Sebastian Klein

“Follow your passion,” might be the most common career guidance, but it is actually bad advice.

The theory that following your passion leads to success first surfaced in the ’70s, and in the intervening decades it’s taken on the character of indisputable fact. The catch? Most people’s passions have little connection to work or education, meaning passionate skiers, dancers, and readers run into problems. In a culture that tells people to transform their passions into lucrative careers via will-driven alchemy, it’s no wonder so much of today’s workforce suffers from endless job swapping and professional discontent.

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport exposes the Passion Trap and offers up advice about how not following your passions will ultimately lead to satisfaction. The following four tips will help you put yourself on the path to professional fulfillment.

Don’t do what you love. Learn to love what you do.

It seems that one of the most important factors in career contentment is simply experience. In a job satisfaction survey of college administrative assistants–work traditionally considered repetitive or “boring”–a third of respondents considered their position a “job,” merely a way to pay the bills. Another third deemed it a “career,” or a path towards something better. The final third, though–incidentally, also those who’d spent the most time doing this type of work–considered it their calling or an integral part of their life and identity.

The takeaway: Be patient. Passion comes with mastery and time.

Adopt a craftsman’s mindset.

People with the passion mindset ask “What do I really want?” which breeds an obsession with whether or not a job is “right” for them. They become minutely aware of everything they dislike about their work and their job satisfaction and happiness plummets. By contrast, the craftsman’s mindset acknowledges that no matter what field you’re in, success is always about quality. Once you’re focused on the quality of the work you’re doing now rather than whether or not it’s right for you, you won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to improve it.

The takeaway: Make the quality of what you do your primary focus.

Practice hard and get out of your comfort zone.

So, how do you become the craftsman? You practice.

A chess player must devote roughly 10,000 hours to becoming a master. Once that level has been reached, however, the real pros continue not just to practice, but to do it smarter. They study seriously and engage in what Newport terms deliberate practice. In the case of the chess player, deliberate practice might mean studying difficult theoretical chess problems well out of the established comfort zone.

The takeaway: Although deliberate practice is often strenuous and uncomfortable, it’s the only path to true mastery.

Acquiring rare and valuable skills.

The craftsman mindset drives you to acquire and refine special skills. People with rare skills are more likely to get great jobs in which they’re allowed creativity and control. Also known as career capital, they’re what help set you apart.

For example: A new app company hires two product designers. Ned’s a bit of a newbie to digital and has a background in illustration and print design; he was hired for his great eye. Dan, however, seriously studied app design and, realizing its importance a few years back, worked to become a whizkid at code. When the company hits a rough financial patch and someone needs to go, it’s Ned who gets let go. Why? Dan had the rare and valuable skill.

The takeaway: Improve the quality of whatever you do–and if that means acquiring a valuable compatible skill, do it. All the more career capital for you.

Though following your passion is today’s ideal, it often won’t get you anywhere but frustrated. Focus instead on acquiring unique skills and refining the quality of what you do with the focus of a devoted craftsman. You’ll be well on your way to cultivating not only a satisfying career, but a new, rarer kind of practical passion built on commitment, mastery, and pride.

Sebastian Klein is cofounder at Blinkist, a service that feeds curious minds key insights from non-fiction books. As Blinkist’s Editor-in-Chief, he specializes in distilling complex concepts from great books into smart, beautiful language. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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Using Numbers to Enhance Your Bullet Point Content

Use Numbers to Highlight Your Accomplishments

By Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer: Click here for original article
Suppose you’re a hiring manager looking at resumes. Which of the following statements would impress you more?Wrote news releases.

  • Wrote 25 news releases in a three-week period under daily deadlines.

Clearly, the second statement carries more weight. Why? Because it uses numbers to quantify the writer’s accomplishment, giving it a context that helps the interviewer understand the degree of difficulty involved in the task.

Numbers are powerful resume tools that will help your accomplishments get the attention they deserve from prospective employers. With just a little thought, you can find effective ways to quantify your successes on your resume. Here are a few suggestions:

Think Money

Organizations are and always will be concerned about money. So as you contemplate your accomplishments and prepare to present them on your resume, think about ways you’ve saved, earned or managed money in your internships, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities so far. A few possibilities that might appear on a typical resume:

  • Identified, researched and recommended a new Internet service provider, cutting the company’s online costs by 15 percent.
  • Wrote prospect letter that has brought in more than $25,000 in donations so far.
  • Managed a student organization budget of more than $7,000.

Think Time

You’ve heard the old saying, “Time is money,” and it’s true. Companies and organizations are constantly looking for ways to save time and do things more efficiently. They’re also necessarily concerned about meeting deadlines, both internal and external. So whatever you can do on your resume to show that you can save time, make time or manage time will grab your reader’s immediate attention. Here are some time-oriented entries that might appear on a typical resume:

  • Assisted with twice-monthly payroll activities, ensuring employees were paid as expected and on time.
  • Suggested procedures that decreased average order-processing time from 10 minutes to five minutes.

Think Amounts

It’s very easy to neglect mentioning how much or how many of something you’ve produced or overseen. There’s a tendency instead to simply pluralize your accomplishments — e.g., “wrote news releases” or “developed lesson plans” -– without including important specifics — e.g., “wrote 25 news releases” or “developed lesson plans for two classes of 20 students each.”

Don’t fall into the trap of excluding numbers. Instead, include amounts, like these:

  • Recruited 25 members for a new student environmental organization.
  • Trained five new employees on restaurant operations procedures.
  • Created process that bolstered production 25 percent

The more you focus on money, time and amounts in relation to your accomplishments, the better you’ll present your successes and highlight your potential — and the more you’ll realize just how much you really have to offer prospective employers. Add it all up, and you’ll see that playing the numbers game is yet another way to convince employers that you should be a part of their equation for success.

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Writing better bullet points

Ready to write a “bullet plus”?

bullet points

The bullet plus is: what you did plus

  • HOW you performed your duties or,
  • WHY the task was important or
  • The IMPACT of the task within the organization

Examples:

  • Basic bullet: Enhanced interpersonal skills
  • Bullet plus: Enhanced interpersonal skills by facilitating cross-cultural conversations with Malawian teens and community members. (how)
  • Basic bullet: Created real interest monitoring tool
  • Bullet plus: Created real interest monitoring tool to study the effect of rate changes on foreign exchange levels (why)
  • Basic bullet: Directed actors in productions
  • Bullet plus: Directed 5-10 student actors and managed technical team in both short and full-length productions attracting audiences of 100+ (impact)

Want some help getting started?

  • List 3 skills you want to highlight (e.g., writing, leadership, attention to detail).
  • What are 2-3 experiences that demonstrate each skill (think broadly: classes, volunteer positions, internships, jobs)?
  • What did you do in each of the experiences? How did you use the skill?

Start Each Bullet Point with an Resume Action Word:

 

Achieved                     Adapted                      Addressed                   Administered

Advised                      Analyzed                     Arranged                     Assembled

Assessed                     Assisted                      Attained                      Audited

Budgeted                    Calculated                   Classified                    Coached

Collected                     Communicated            Compiled                    Composed

Computed                   Conducted                  Consolidated               Constructed

Consulted                    Coordinated                Counseled                   Created

Critiqued                     Defined                       Designed                     Detected

Determined                 Devised                       Diagnosed                   Directed

Discovered                  Displayed                    Earned                         Edited

Eliminated                   Enforced                     Established                  Estimated

Evaluated                    Examined                    Expanded                    Explained

Experimented              Financed                     Formulated                  Gathered

Generated                   Grossed                       Guided                                    Handled

Hypothesized              Identified                    Illustrated                    Implemented

Improved                    Increased                     Influenced                   Initiated

Inspected                    Installed                      Instituted                    Instructed

Interpreted                  Interviewed                 Invented                      Investigated

Lectured                      Managed                     Marketed                     Mediated

Modeled                      Monitored                   Motivated                   Negotiated

Obtained                     Operated                       Ordered                       Organized

Oversaw                      Performed                   Persuaded                   Photographed

Planned                       Prepared                      Presented                    Printed

Processed                    Produced                     Projected                     Promoted

Proofread                    Provided                     Publicized                   Purchased

Received                     Recommended                        Reconciled                  Recorded

Recruited                    Reduced                      Referred                      Refined

Rehabilitated               Repaired                      Reported                     Represented

Researched                  Resolved                     Responded                  Restored

Retrieved                    Reviewed                    Scheduled                   Selected

Solved                         Sorted                         Studied                       Summarized

Supervised                  Supplied                      Surveyed                     Tested

Trained                        Transcribed                 Translated                   Traveled

Tutored                       Upgraded                    Utilized                       Wrote