Monthly Archives: January 2016

If You Think Your Company Is Safe from Disruption, Think Again

In this series, professionals predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2016. Read the posts here, then write your own (use #BigIdeas2016 in your piece).

One of the Big Ideas for 2016 is likely to be a continuation of a major trend that has been around for a number of years now. That is businesses and industries being transformed by disruptive new competitors.

What is likely to be new about the upcoming year, though, is that more industries that assumed they were safe from disruption, because the services they delivered were more complex, will find themselves under increased threat from new entrants to their markets who deliver products and services more conveniently and less expensively.

In hindsight, it’s now easy to say no one should have been surprised that technology and the “internetization of everything” would deliver cheap and convenient ways to rent movies or take taxi-like car services. But those of us who deliver what we’d like to consider as more sophisticated products and services shouldn’t be resting too comfortably.

In the industries my firm and its customers operate in – asset management and financial advice – the disruptive competitors have already made significant inroads. Index funds, which aim to match the returns a market delivers by passively owning all the securities in a market index, have been taking market share away from active managers. Traditional financial advisors are facing a threat from “robo advisors” that will deliver investment recommendations to someone after they’ve completed an online questionnaire.

Today, no industry can assume it is safe from major disruption. As we prepare to face these competitive challenges in 2016 and beyond, it may help to consider the lessons that can be taken from industries that already faced major disruption from the now seemingly constant waves of technological innovation.

Look Beyond Your Current Business Model

Those who still have VHS-cassette players in our garages or basements remember when Blockbuster was the dominant brand in the movie-rental business. I was recently at a conference in which Reed Hastings, Netflix’s founder, mentioned that he approached Blockbuster in 2000 and offered to sell 49% of his firm to them for $50 million and become the online arm of Blockbuster.

We all know how that story ends. Blockbuster turned him down. Netflix is now a billion-dollar company, while Blockbuster is a shell of its former self.

Blockbuster was too focused on improving its existing business model and didn’t recognize the disruptive change that was looming. Its vision of the business it was in was too narrow. Its employees were incentivized to find new ways to increase revenue in its stores, which led them to do things like offer movie snacks, while Netflix was building its base of digital customers.

Every company needs to constantly rethink its value proposition and align it with what its customers want, while recognizing that what customers look for continually evolves. While Blockbuster enabled people to bring home a movie that night, the convenience of having DVDs delivered to your door, a broader selection, and a lower cost clearly proved to be more appealing.

A Survivor of Three Centuries’ Worth of Disruption

A good example of a company that has managed disruptive change well is the oldest still-operating business in North America.

The Canadian-headquartered department store company Hudson’s Bay traces its origins back to 1670 when it was founded as a fur trading business. Clearly, they have had to rethink their business many times over the course of their 300-year history, while still remaining true to their core identity as a retailer.

Today the firm is being led by Richard Baker, who is using the significant real estate properties Hudson’s Bay has in Canada, the United States and Europe, in an effort to deliver a unique experience when customers visit their stores.

Those who were predicting that Amazon and other online retailers would eventually bring the demise of brick-and-mortar stores failed to recognize that products aren’t the only things people want when they shop. Many customers also want an experience – a comfortable and interesting place to visit, where they can be cared for and be served by sales clerks who know their buying history and personal preferences.

In a way, it’s almost a return to what people experienced in past decades when they could walk into the local store and interact with clerks who knew them personally and understood their tastes and buying habits. Today, with the help of handheld devices and tablet computers that can tap into advanced customer relationship management systems, store clerks can offer that same personalized touch.

In fact, the best brick-and-mortar retailers are embracing technology as wholeheartedly as the digital companies who represent their new competition. Technology has transformed the logistics of getting products to their stores. With just-in-time inventory systems, stores don’t need to warehouse large volumes of the products they sell before they hit their shelves. The innovative ways they now engage with their suppliers have generated huge cost savings that contribute to their bottom line.

Lessons for All of Us

For those of us in industries at the beginning stages of disruption, I think the lessons we can take from those who faced it before us are:

  • Be willing and able to continually rethink your business model
  • Embrace technology
  • Deliver value and an experience to your customers that they will be willing to pay more to receive.

It’s a natural urge to want to raise your hands and try to hold back the waves of disruption. In some cases, that may even be a noble effort. In the case of both financial advice and asset management, I would caution investors from putting too much faith in robo-advisors and passive investments.

We have been fortunate to experience a rather prolonged bull market since 2009, even though we’ve had a few relatively short-lived periods of volatility. My expectation is that if we go through another major market downturn, people will be eager for the personal support an advisor can provide. Similarly, no one wants market-like returns when the market is down significantly. Only an active asset manager has the ability to cushion the downturn.

Still, I think it’s important to embrace the new competitors and realize you don’t have to be engaged in a battle of “us vs. them.” In both the financial advice and asset management business, for example, we can deliver our services on a continuum with a sliding scale of costs to enable our customers to decide the price they’re willing to pay and the level of support they want. That may mean traditional advisors offering robo-like services to clients who don’t have complex wealth management needs, and active asset managers offering products, like smart-beta strategies, that bridge the gap between passive investment vehicles and fully active portfolios.

So, as disruption moves up the value chain, don’t imagine your business is too complicated, too customized, to be undercut by new, innovative entrants. Don’t define yourself by the product you sell. Rethink exactly what business you are in, what experience you provide and what need you fulfill. Your world is changing. Will you?

Originally Posted on Linked In by: 

John Assunto


The Strange (But Effective) Way I Stick to Hard Goals

There’s a saying that you should never trust a skinny chef. By that logic, you should never trust an out of shape behavioral designer.

Over the past four years, I’ve discovered many incredible ways to hack my habits and improve my life. I have taught myself to love running, dramatically improved my diet and found the focus to write a bestselling book. Understanding how the mind works and using it to affect my daily behaviors has yielded tremendous dividends.

However, there is one goal that’s nagged at me for years that despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to achieve — going to the gym consistently. I hate lifting weights. Hate it. I disdain the strain, the sweat, the smells — all of it. The only thing I like about working out are the results. Unfortunately, there’s no way to enjoy the benefits of going to the gym without, you know, actually going to the gym.

That’s not to say building muscle is all that important. Diet has a much greater impact on body weight and health than exercise. But given that I’ve already hacked my diet and no longer struggle with eating right, I wanted to finally get to the bottom of this stubborn challenge.

Why was this one goal so hard to achieve? If I could figure out a way to overcome this challenge, perhaps it would provide insights into how to tackle other difficult to achieve goals.

Habits vs. Routines – There is a Difference

Recently, it seems habits are everywhere. A slew of new books, not to mention countless blog posts and apps, guarantee a whole new you by harnessing the power of habits. However, almost all of these well intentioned authors promise too much. Many over-prescribe habits as a solution to problems they just can’t fix.

So what are habits, really? According to Dr. Benjamin Gardner, a psychologist focusing on habit research at King’s College London, “habit works by generating an impulse to do a behavior with little or no conscious thought.” Habits are simply how the brain learns to do things without deliberation. These impulses can be put to good use, but only certain behaviors can become habits.

Building a habit is relatively simple — just harness the impulse. For new habits to take hold, provide a clear trigger, make the behavior easy to do, and ensure it occurs frequently. For example, by completely removing unhealthy food from my home and eating the same thing every morning, my diet became a healthy habit. I extracted the decision making process out of what I eat at home.

However, if the behavior requires a high degree of intentionality, effort, or deliberation, it is not a habit. Although proponents of habits tout them as miracle cures for doing things we’d rather not do, I’m sorry to say that’s snake oil. All sorts of tasks aren’t habits and never will be. By definition, doing things that are effortful aren’t habits.

Unfortunately, this means behaviors that require hard work and deliberate practice aren’t good candidates for habit-formation. For example, although I make time for it every day, writing is not a habit. Writing is hard work. If I waited for an “impulse” to write, I’d never do it. To get better at writing requires concentration and directed effort to make sense of the words as they go from the research to my head and then to the screen. Similarly, lifting weights isn’t a habit because getting stronger requires working harder.

So if these type of behaviors aren’t habits, what are they? They’re routines. A routine is a series of behaviors regularly practiced. Routines don’t care if you feel an urge or not, they just need to get done. When I finally realized I would never succeed at making going to the gym a habit, I began looking for how to establish a routine instead.

Burn or Burn

A word of warning. Before I share one technique I used to finally get myself to go to the gym regularly, I need to share a few disclaimers.

First, this technique, as effective as it is, can be dangerous. It is a very good way to get you to do a routine but provides no safeguards against doing the wrong thing again and again. If you’re doing something counterproductive, this technique will only get you to do more of it. For example, doing tons of sit-ups won’t help you (and may actually hurt you) if you’re also drinking sugary sodas every day.

Second, this method is not good for getting other people to do things. This is for personal use only so don’t try and force it on people who have to do what you tell them, like employees or your kids.

Finally, this isn’t the only method you can use and admittedly this is a rather brute force strain of behavior change. If learning to love a behavior is an option, I recommend trying a different technique. For example, I’ve written about finding your MEA – your Minimum Enjoyable Action. The MEA method is great for simple behaviors you enjoy doing. I learned to love running because I always enjoyed going on walks. Finding my MEA proved very effective at slowly improving my stamina until running replaced walking as an enjoyable pastime.

However, there are certain things we just don’t like doing, but we must do anyway. These behaviors require diligence, grit, hard work and consistency. This is where what I call the “burn or burn” technique comes in.

How it Works

  1. Pick your routine. For me, my routine was hitting the gym.
  2. Book your time. Make time in your schedule for the routine. If you don’t reserve the time as you would booking an appointment or important meeting, the routine won’t happen.
  3. Find a crisp $100 bill. Other denominations will work too but it has to be an amount you’d hate to lose.
  4. Find a lighter.
  5. Buy a wall calendar and place it somewhere you’ll see every day. My calendar is in my closet and it’s the first thing I see when I get dressed in the morning.
  6. Tape the $100 bill to today’s date in the calendar and place the lighter somewhere visible near the wall calendar.

Now you have a choice to make. Everyday, when the time comes to do your routine, you can chose either option A and do the routine, which in my case was to feel the “burn” in the gym, or option B and literally burn your money. You can’t give the money to someone or buy something with it, you have to set it aflame.

Yes, I know it’s technically illegal to destroy government tender but the reason this technique works is that you should never have to actually burn the money. Instead, the threat of watching your money go up in smoke makes this technique work. I’ve been on “burn or burn” for six months now and I haven’t burned a bill yet.

Why it Works

As radical as “burn or burn” sounds, there’s good science to support why it’s so effective. For one, it’s no surprise we hate losing money. But why not pay yourself for doing the routine instead of taking money away? Social scientists tell us humans feel the psychological pain of loss twice as powerfully as the satisfaction of a gain — a phenomenon known as “loss aversion.”

Furthermore, people are notoriously awful at predicting their future actions. “Sure, I’ll go to the gym tomorrow,” I’d say, but when tomorrow came, I’d find an excuse. The theory of hyperbolic discounting helps explain why what we say we will do in the future is not what we do when the time comes to actually do it. We are “present-biased,” meaning we fail to properly value benefits we won’t realize for some time. These psychological tendencies conspire to keep us from doing the things we know we should.

The “burn or burn” technique works by binding us to a financially painful contract so we can’t weasel out of it when the task needs to get done. In fact, a similar technique was shown to be amazingly effective at helping smokers kick their addiction to cigarettes. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that when smokers were asked to risk their own money, they were much more likely to quit.

Unfortunately, the researchers in the smoking study found that very few smokers would agree to risk their money. Perhaps these test subjects knew that if they wagered their own cash, they’d have to actually stop smoking, something they likely did not want to do.

I too struggled with starting “burn or burn” because I knew it meant I’d have to actually do the uncomfortable work. Then, I finally realized how ridiculous this line of thinking was. Why would I resist a technique that virtually guaranteed I would accomplish my goal?

If I wasn’t ready to commit, then I should forget the goal altogether. But if I really wanted it, I should gladly put money on the line to make sure I’d do the heavy lifting. After several weeks of difficult deliberation, I finally made my decision. I nailed the calendar to my wall, taped my money to the date, and put my lighter on the shelf where it still sits today and every day.

Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and blogs about the psychology of products at more insights on changing behavior, join his free newsletter and receive a free workbook.

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Originally Posted On Linked In by: 

John Assunto

Student Loan Refinancing: The Next 401(k)?

There are 3 reasons I believe student loan refinancing will be one of the largest workplace benefits since the 401(k):

Several companies have already set precedents for helping employees deal with increasing levels of student debt. In return, they aim for talented recruits and less employee turnover.

You can read more on the ways employees, employers, and the government are working towards this benefit on the Earnest blog. If you’d like to join Earnest’s employer program, learn more here.

Originally Posted on Linked In by: 


John Assunto

How to Convince Your Conservative Boss to Innovate?

You are working in a a big organisation, and your company needs to innovate (according to you). But your boss says no every time you propose a new initiative. How can you convince this conservative boss to support innovation?

Last week I was in Japan training innovators from big Japanese companies in theFORTH innovation method and lecturing for their new business development departments. The biggest obstacle for them in making their company more innovative is a complete lack of internal support from their own top managers.

Now, innovation is a paradox for top management. On the one hand they are well aware that they have to take new roads before they reach the end of the present dead end street. On the other hand it is risky. It takes a lot of time. And it takes a lot of resources. Saying yes to innovation is a step into the unknown. It creates fear of failure, which causes fear to innovate. It’s like sailing to the South pole like Shackleton, where the surrounding ice can stop you any moment. The chance of a failure might ruin their career. Doing nothing and saying ‘No’ is therefore safer.

When you work in a conservative organisation and you struggle getting internal support, you might find the following 4 tips, based on my experience as innovator, facilitator and author, quite useful:

 1. Pick the right moment.

From the old English proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” we learn that change starts with urgency. I like to quote the CEO of BMW AG, the German luxury car producer, Dr.-Ing. Norbert Reithofer. When asked why BMW started the risky E-car project with the BMW i-3 and i-8 he responded very honest: “Because doing nothing was even a bigger risk” [Autoweek 41-2013]. Your board, bosses and colleagues will only stick out their necks for innovation if doing nothing is a bigger risk. So, be sure to pick the right moment. You can only present your innovation initiative once for the first time.

2. Facilitate drafting an innovation assignment.

Innovation is often very vague. That’s why you should highlight as of the start the potential gains from innovation, by drafting a concrete innovation assignment. In this way you help top management, from the start, to give directions on the type of innovation they are looking for (products, services, solutions), the newness (evolutionary or revolutionary), the market/target group for which the innovations must be developed, the region they will be introduced in, the targeted years of introduction and the revenue – and margin criteria these new concepts must meet. The innovation assignment is a great compass underway your innovation journey.

3. Invite them to join the innovation team

Your bosses will only change their attitude if they get new insights themselves. So, you have to create a situation where they discover themselves what’s happening out there: how markets, customers, competitors and technology are changing. Talking to customers with changing needs, discovering new upcoming competitors, exploring new technologies will ‘open up’ their minds. That is why you should invite them as members of your innovation team, instead of being in a steering committee at great distance. Of course they are very busy people, and have a lot of priorities. Ask them therefore to join your innovation team as ‘extended’ team members, and let them experience themselves parttime the most essential activities and – workshops of your innovation project.

4. Give them a proven path

Innovation is for most people like ‘walking through a fresh snow field’. As kids we used to enjoy this, but as adults we fear that under the snow there might be pitfalls. This makes us seriously doubt if and how to cross it. So you should give your managers and colleagues a clear path through the snow field: a structured approach how to innovate your company. Look out for tools, techniques and methods who have proven themselves in the past. This will give management confidence that your innovation initiative will have a higher chance of success. One of those paths through the snow could be the FORTH innovation method, which is backed up by scientific research.

ps. Innovation is a struggle to all of us. When you learn to love the struggle, you will be more effective. Wishing you lots of success convincing your conservative bosses!

To read more from Gijs on LinkedIn, please click the FOLLOW button above or below. Are you looking for an inspiring innovation speaker? Take a look at:


Originally Posted on Linked In by: 


John Assunto

This Is One Work Habit Worth Making (and Keeping)

It’s no secret that having a healthy work-life balance is critical to success. We’ve all heard a million times the strategies on how to reboot and recharge; to maintain success and to be a better and healthier human, father, employer, friend.

  • Exercise – check!
  • Meditate – sure
  • Find your passion – okay
  • Take time to eat, don’t eat at your desk – right…
  • Sleep 8 hours a day – in your dreams!

We’ve all made these lists. Maybe some of you made one as your New Year’s resolution. Good for you! But are you still doing it? Be honest.

I’ll be honest. I try to do all of those things. Some days are better than others. But running several businesses and restaurants on three continents – it’s not all going to happen. Here’s one resolution I have yet to break and considering I made it over 10 years ago, I think I might be onto something:

When I’m off – I’m really off.

Here’s the deal, most people use out of office messages, but they still look at emails. Or they go to bed cuddling with a smartphone, embracing their Instagram feeds instead of whoever is next to them. I need my time off to be real time off. So when I say I’m not looking at emails, I stick to it.

“Time off” can be a vacation, it can be a personal day, a weekend, a few hours or even 10 minutes in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up. It can even be uninterrupted sleep (with your smartphone way off in the distance) or a midday power nap. Whatever it is, make it count. Just power down your computer or phone and make it meaningful.

When you really take time off, you’ll find you’re more present when you’re on and when you’re “off” There’s also research that suggests that “strategic renewal” or all the things I listed above, boosts productivity, job performance and health.

So what if there’s an emergency? I’m lucky enough to have a team that supports me and if there should be an emergency, they know how to get in touch with me. However, these days there are a hundred ways to deal with this prospect: smartphones have do not disturb modes that allow you to program certain people numbers to ring through, even your spin and yoga studios will hold your phone at the front desk and come get you in the middle of class if you are concerned. Really think about what you are considering as an emergency, and then think again, remember a time when we didn’t even have cell phones?

That’s the sentiment I tap into when I go away. I like to leave everyone with a little bit of humor and a sneak peak into where I’m going in my head when I disconnect and head out for my away time. And I use my out of office messages to really drive home this message . Here is a sampling of some of my recent out of office messages. Feel free to steal them or get creative with your own. Whatever you do, follow my lead and stick to it!

Are you inspired to create your own? Hope so. Here’s to a healthier and more productive 2016!


Originally Posted On Linked IN by: 


John Assunto

Are You Giving Off Signs You’re A Desperate Job-Seeker?

We are starting to talk about important topics we haven’t talked about before, at least not in professional life. We are learning to talk about fear and trust.

We are starting to notice our body’s reactions to fear. One of them is a racing heart. When we’re fearful, our breathing gets faster and our brain changes, too. Fear shuts down our creativity and openness to new ideas. We go straight to fight or flight mode when we are afraid — and who could blame us?

Our brain chemistry is to blame, but once we realize that fact we can take steps to stay calm rather than panicking on the job search trail.

The fears we feel during a job search make us much less effective job-seekers. We can’t think straight with our fearful, critical brain constantly telling us “Get the job offer, no matter what!”

It only takes one horrendous job situation to teach us that there are plenty of jobs worse than another few months of unemployment. Still, fear is a powerful emotion and when we’re feeling anxious about paying the bills, our fear can overwhelm us.

When that happens, our judgment falls away. Our personalities can change dramatically. The changes are not positive ones.

We might put up with job-search abuse that we shouldn’t tolerate. That’s not only bad for our negotiating leverage and our health, but it’s bad for our job-search prospects as well.

We fall into fear and try to please our way into a job. We put up with insulting requests from recruiters and other people involved in the hiring process. I see this phenomenon in action every day.

When we are in fear we don’t realize that we are sending out signals. The signals say “Do whatever you want to do to me — I’ll put up with it!”

In a calmer moment or lying in bed at night you may rationalize your behavior, thinking “Well, I may be begging for this job but at least they know I really want it.”

That is undoubtedly true, but it won’t help you get the job and is more likely to hurt your chances. Desperation is not appealing. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

Who would hire my colleagues and me to consult with their company if we told them “We’ll do whatever you want us to do for whatever price you think is fair”? They hire us because they know we’re going to tell them exactly what we think.

Me on the page is identical to me in the boardroom. Your job-seeker persona and your on-the-job persona can be the same, also.  You don’t need to play a part to get hired.

You’ll be amazed when you bring your honest feelings to a job interview and tell your hiring manager something he or she wasn’t expecting and maybe isn’t eager to hear. Not everyone will like what you have to tell them.

So what? If they can’t handle that little slice of your truth-telling, how could they handle the whole enchilada iif you ended up working together?

Listen in as Abigail brings her truth to a second interview with Marty:

MARTY, the MANAGER: So Abigail, let’s talk about customer hold time reduction. If I hire you as Tech Support Manager, that’s going to be a big focus.

ABIGAIL: I’m happy to hear that!

MARTY: Want to share some ideas on that topic?

ABIGAIL: Sure — if I took this job I’d dig into the hold-time issue by understanding the technical side of it, the nature and length of the calls your customer service reps are handling now and their effectiveness, and customer satisfaction levels, to begin.

MARTY: Would you try to shorten the length of each tech support call?

ABIGAIL: It would be irresponsible of me to answer that without more information. Maybe the calls need to get longer on average rather than shorter. Maybe there are ways to help more customers through the website or recorded audio guides. I’ve had a lot of success with those before. I just couldn’t tell you without looking more closely.

MARTY: Well, as you can imagine I don’t want to increase our average six minutes per call. The more calls we can handle in a day with fewer reps, the better.

ABIGAIL: I couldn’t promise you that I won’t be in your office three months from now telling you to lengthen the calls, hire more people or who knows what. You’re hiring me, if you do hire me, to give you my best recommendation. I don’t know yet what that will be.

Your customer service team has more influence on the sales process than I see them using right now. I was happy to  meet them last week and that message came through loud and clear.

I wouldn’t say the hold-time issue is a simple break/fix topic. It has implications for sales and marketing — for instance, in the audio recording that customers hear while they’re on hold.

I’ve listened to yours a few times. I understand why the recording pushes the most recently-released product, but that product is only appropriate for a tiny segment of your customers. That’s a missed opportunity.

MARTY: I have to say, I don’t agree with everything you point out but I give you credit for giving it to me straight — and also for looking closely at what I’m dealing with here.

ABIGAIL: I want you to know who I am and I want to know who you are, if we’re going to work together.

Here are the five ways desperate job-seekers declare themselves:

  1. They convey the message “I’m desperate” in their over-eagerness to return calls and emails instantly and to perform any task or assignment a hiring manager might dream up.
  2. They send the message that they’ll take any job they can get when their focus throughout the interview process is on pleasing the people they meet (versus exploring the idea of collaborating, with value on both sides).
  3. They make it clear they’re ready to grovel in their infinite flexibility and understanding as the job spec bends and flexes, interviews are re-scheduled and cancelled and the process grinds to a halt or fades into oblivion without so much as a thank-you email message.
  4. They announce their desperation through over-selling (like a thank-you email message that includes a list labeled “Ten Reasons You Should Hire Kami Smith for This Job”).
  5. Most of all, they make plain their anxiety through the absence of any boundaries, reservations or considerations about the job itself or the hiring process, no matter how much abuse is heaped on them.

Fear is powerful, but you are even more powerful and you can shift the energy in your job search.

You can remember that you are not a sheep but a talented, vibrant person with experiences and gifts to share with the lucky organization that brings you onto its team.

Find your center. Get a journal and write in it. Remember that trying experiences make us stronger in the long run and that God, Mother Nature and the laws of physics don’t send us more than we can handle.

You are perfect now and you always have been. Other people — including recruiters and hiring managers — will value you more when you value yourself.

Saying “No!” to the wrong things is the first step. It feels scary the first time you do it, but soon it becomes routine. A rude headhunter gets a quick “No thanks.”

Another officious email message about another rescheduled interview gets a fast “I’ve decided it’s not a good match” response. Value yourself and see how the world responds. Your trust in yourself will be rewarded.

The only way to grow muscles is to use them. A job search is a powerful muscle-building opportunity if you see it that way.

You’ll be the newly hired employee who says “I hesitated before turning down that first job offer — but thank goodness I did!” in the near future. Trust your gut now and you’ll thank yourself later.

Special Bonus Section! Questions and Answers

I love this advice Liz, but I worry about how to put it into practice. Let’s say I’m invited back for a fifth interview after I’ve already told the team everything they could possibly want to know about me. The fifth interview is a stupid idea, but what can I do?

The fifth-interview request is a fork in the road.

When you politely inquire about the reason for the fifth interview and name the elephant in the room — the committee’s hesitation to hire you after so much discussion — you’ll shift the energy in a good way.

If you go to the fifth interview pretending there’s nothing wrong, you will be training these folks to walk all over you — and they still won’t hire you.

Instead of saying “Sure, I’ll come back for a fifth interview!” you can say “Thanks very much for that invitation. I have one concern. May I share that with you? Great.

“My concern is that it seems there may not be a high level of buy-in to me as a candidate for this job. I would certainly respect your team’s opinion if you feel that I’m not the right person, but as you can imagine I’d be reluctant to accept the position unless there’s a high level of support for me among your managers.”

“Why, whatever do you mean?” the HR Manager will say, and you’ll say “This will be my fifth interview. That’s a lot of conversation without a job offer.

“If you would like me to come and see you to talk about the details of a job offer and then to leave your office with a new job — and you with a new employee – or part friends and agree that there’s no match, then I will come. Otherwise, I can’t justify a fifth interview.

“That would be a waste of my time and yours. I think it’s important for you to have a Marketing Manager you feel total confidence in, and I need to feel the same confidence in my fit with your team.

“Do you want to talk to your teammates and let me know what you decide?”

Your honesty will shake the tree and get somebody to tell you what’s really going on with the hiring process — or tell you to take a hike, which would be far better than continuing to prop up the fiction that endless interviewing rounds are reasonable and businesslike.

Why pursue a job disguised as a person who isn’t you? You are too mighty to play that game. It’s beneath you and it doesn’t work, anyway. Remember who you are and what you bring!

Read about Derek’s experiences with desperation job-seeking here! 

Our company is Human Workplace.

If you’re job-hunting, get a mojo boost and step-by-step guidance in a Four-Week or 12-Week Virtual Course! New Human Workplace virtual courses start this weekend!

Download your Virtual Course Guide here.

Reach us with your questions here!

Originally Posted on Linked In by: 

Startup Fever on College Campuses: 3 Questions

By Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker

The startup ambitions of MBA students and college undergrads have spawned discussion about whether aspiring young entrepreneurs should launch new business ventures while still in school. Students, graduates, professors, and investors have varying opinions on whether startup fever should be a pursuit that is encouraged or discouraged while students live out their academic requirements.

Sure to be an ongoing dialogue for quite some time, here are three important topics of conversation that have been voiced on the subject:

1. Is Starting Up a Distraction?

Wall Street Journal writer, Lindsay Gellman, recently reported that Stanford Business School is encouraging its MBA students to avoid the distractions of a startup and instead, focus on their courses, campus life, and getting their degrees.

Educators argue that students need time to test their ideas and “embed desirability into the products, services, and experiences they create.” Instead of taking on the obligations of planning a new business and the pressures that come with meeting investors’ requirements, educators want students to spend their time on campus in preparation – not execution of their new business.

This runs counterintuitive to the lure of the Mark Zuckerberg startup experience with Facebook, which began with the collaboration of students in a Harvard dormitory and catapulted Zuckerberg to billionaire status by the time he was 23. But isn’t Zuckerberg is the rare exception, the unicorn, not the rule?

2.  Can Students Afford to Put Funding on Hold?

It’s tough to put startup ambitions on hold when one is convinced of an idea that’s ripe and time-sensitive to attracting investor interest. In Rolfe Winkler’s article, Secretive, Sprawling Network of ‘Scouts’ Spreads Money Through Silicon Valley, he describes how venture firm, Sequoia Capital, funnels millions of dollars “to scores of well-connected entrepreneurs and academics” through scouts who looked for aspiring young entrepreneurs and their promising ideas.

Students argue that it’s hard and even foolish to swim upstream against the undercurrent of investor’s dollars that are available today and may or may not be there for the taking upon graduation.

First and foremost, startup fever and the desire to take hold of available funds must be weighed against whether or not the timing is right. Capital raised too early could lead to giving away too large a portion of equity and control. On the other hand, entrepreneurs who wait too long could endure a cash crunch as they attempt to scale.

As I wrote in When Is the Right Time to Fund Your Startup? – I recommend that founders complete these three steps before seeking outside funding:

  1. Make sure your business is positioned for consistent user growth
  2. Make sure your business offers the promise of future profits
  3. Make sure to develop a strategic plan that enables you to scale your business

3.  Can Campuses Offer Real-World Preparation?

 MBA and undergraduate courses on entrepreneurship are on the rise to meet the swelling interests of a generation inspired by a combination of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar success stories and the glamorization of entrepreneurship through programs like Shark Tank. Most college students are not looking to graduate with a one-size-fits-all skillset that will slot them into long-term commitment at a single company. Besides, as proven out by prior generations, students are wise to the fact that big companies can no longer offer the benefit of long-term career security anyway. So many ask: why not take control and start your own business?

Colleges and universities want to be prepared for an incoming generation of problem-solvers with the drive to find solutions and the ambition to turn their ideas into new business ventures. Today’s students are wired to make a social impact and are willing to take the business risk to make a difference. They want to know how to pitch to investors, build a successful small business, and even take a shot at becoming the next Unicorn.

The Real Question

Rather than trying to turn back the dial on startup fever and asking if students can receive real world preparation on campuses, the real question is this: “How will college campuses help budding entrepreneurs identify where they are in their startup journey, meet them at that point, and provide them with the resources and mentorship programs to set them up for success?”

In The Journey to Start Up: When Is the Right Time for You, I identify a Startup Readiness Framework that points to different needs during various phases of the startup journey.

Let’s start by discussing each type of entrepreneur along the y-axis:

The Very Rare Entrepreneur with Visionary Talent (think Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Sergey Brin & Larry Page, Michael Dell, and Mark Zuckerberg) sees the immediate purpose and potential of their business idea. These highly unusual entrepreneurs have both a vision and the inherent ability to create a unique product that may just change the world. Sometimes these entrepreneurial visionaries have such a strong belief in their business idea; they are willing to forgo school to pursue it.

Entrepreneurs with an Adaptive Skillset have a developed skillset, but they realize they need more wisdom to further define their market opportunity and to learn how to adapt their skillset to meet it. For these aspiring entrepreneurs, a professional business or technical degree can go a long way to iron-out the wrinkles in their business plans laying the foundation for long-term success.

Entrepreneurs with Road Tested Innovation have uncovered a market need while carrying out the day-to-day responsibilities of working for someone else. Before the dawn of innovation and creativity labs on university campuses, this kind of entrepreneur would have been exclusively born out of the existing workforce. They understand the characteristics of the industry, they understand the needs of customers, and they have had the time to road-test their ideas inside an established company. Oftentimes, these entrepreneurs offer their existing company a stake in their new company– but they are absolutely determined to take the lead and fulfill their business vision.

Entrepreneurs with Distinctive Competence have long ago graduated from the world of academia. These entrepreneurs have had the chance to build a career and develop distinctive competence – a combination of expertise, experience, and a track record of success. In many respects, they have built a reputation as an expert in their field. Distinctive competence provides you with the proven expertise and experience that enables you to execute your idea, the connections to secure pre-orders and land funding, a strong network of customer relationships, and the vision for the working culture you want to create.

Embracing Startup Fever

Since entrepreneurship does offer independence and the fulfillment of dreams, we can hardly be surprised that it is becoming an important component of the curriculum on college and university campuses around the world.

Ed McLaughlin is currently co-writing the book, The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business, with Wyn Lydecker.

They are currently offering a complimentary eCopy of The Startup Roadmap: 21 Steps to Profitability here.

Copyright © 2016 by Ed McLaughlin All rights reserved.


Originally Posted on Linked In by:

Anatomy of the Millennials’ Job Search market

This post is the second of a saga that will help Graduates managing their young careers and get the job they deserve. If you missed the first post “Graduates and Job Search Evolution: Adapt or Perish”, feel free to follow the previous link. Have a good read.

The Millennials’ Job Search market differs strongly from the precedent generations of Job Search environments. The time of when someone could find a job in a few days without careful planning and by simply reading the newspaper’s job ads is over. The globalization of the professional world has drastically increased the competition among both job seekers and job providers. Furthermore, the average worker no longer practices for one or two different firms their whole life but is more likely to work for dozens of companies in a lifetime career. Those are just two examples of forces that shape today’s Job Search market. The goal of this post is to discuss these factors further. And to determine how Graduates should adapt to them in order to optimize their chance of success in getting a job.

1. Globalization
The first factor that shapes today’s Job Search market is globalization. In a world ruled by multinationals and paced by mergers and acquisitions, it is not surprising to see the average employee being relocated abroad every two years in one of the multiple subsidiaries of their company. And it is also very likely that job seekers and job hunters look for opportunities internationally more than locally. This phenomenon results in a drastic increase of professional immigration and makes current topics such as “brain drain” regularly hitting the headlines. But most importantly, the globalization of the job market is synonymous with an increased competition among candidates that lets no room for errors in job applications. Adler stresses this argument by saying that: “If you’re not a perfect match on skills and experiences, your resume is unlikely to even be read” (Adler, 2014).

2. Increase in staff turnover
The second factor shaping the current Job Search environment is the drastic increase in staff turnover. In today’s fast-paced and interconnected professional world, Pearce points out that: “There is no such thing as a permanent job anymore. Employment is fluid and employees are mobile (in more ways than one…). Social media has us all, and the workplace, in its thrall. The upshot is there is no choice involved in whether to invest effort or not into building your personal employee brand” (Pearce, 2015). The argument of Pearce is clear and underlines the importance for today’s employees to build their personal brand in order to be ready to find and change jobs regularly, whether it is their decision or not.

3. Raise of soft skills
The third element that is typical of today’s Job Search market is the rise of soft skills importance into the applicant’s profile evaluation. At first glance, and considering the increasing number of technologies to master for companies, it would make sense for recruiters to focus on applicants’ hard skills and especially on their new technology fluency. However, like Woodward thoughtfully underlines: “Interestingly, today’s technological scientific age has not reduced the importance of soft skills but has, if anything, increased it” (Woodward, 2014). The reasoning behind Woodward statement is that hard skills such as Codding or Social Media analytics can be learned fast after a hire. Which is not the case of soft skills that are built through experience. On this topic, Woodward adds that: “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition. Companies learn faster when leaders model and message soft skill development within their teams” (Woodward, 2014). This stresses out that soft skills are not only hard to build, but are also the key factor to create successful teams; teams that are able to learn at the fast pace often required by today’s working environment.

4. New technologies
The fourth main factor shaping the face of the current Job Search market is, of course, the increasing use and importance of new technologies. In this new over-competitive and over-communicated Job Search environment, new technologies, and particularly Social Media, comes up as a tool for recruiters to filter hundreds of candidates daily. And applicants’ Social Media profiles now become potential trust (or mistrust) tokens. Adler stresses that trust plays more than ever an important role into the Job Search process and delivers these interesting study results: “A person who is referred to a recruiter from a trusted source is 20 times more likely to be considered than someone who responded to a job posting […] and a person whose resume or LinkedIn profile is found via a Google search is 5 times more likely to be considered than someone who applies directly to a job posting” (Adler, 2014). Brogan goes even further by saying that: “The web is such a powerful resource for leveraging contacts and presenting our strengths that a curriculum vitae becomes irrelevant. It’s not so much that you won’t need one, but that you’ll never be asked for a CV because you reputation will precede you” (Brogan, 2010, p. 16).

Whether or not the statement of Brogan is true or exaggerated will be one of the concerns in my next posts. But what is sure is that the current Job Search environment is very different from all the ones the precedent generations of job applicants and recruiters have known before. And consequently, both sides now have to adapt and find innovative solutions to optimize the results of their Job Search and Recruitment process.

#StudentVoices #SkillsforTomorrow #NewYearNewMe

Pictures from:


Adler, L. 2014, Why Responding to a Job Posting is a Waste of Time, LinkedIn Pulse, Available from: (Last accessed 08/2015).

Brogan, C. & Smith, J. (eds) 2010, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, John Wiley & Sons, Canada.

Pearce, C. 2015, The missing link in personal branding for employees,, Available from: (Last accessed 08/2015).

Woodward, O. 2014, Leadership Soft Skills: The Secret to Professional Advancement, LinkedIn Pulse, Available from: (Last accessed 08/2015).

This post is extracted from my personal blog.
Please feel free to read articles on the same topic by following the previous links.

Thanks for reading. Best regards,


Originally Posted on Linked In by:

The Career Risk You Don’t Know You’re Taking

Career risk. When we think of this, we typically think of professionals leaving their jobs for a start-up. Or raising their hand for a promotion that they might not be ready for. Or even someone “taking on” their boss in a power struggle. These examples represent career risks that individuals choose to take.

But here’s an idea that might make you uncomfortable. Or even extremely uncomfortable. In this economy, with business in certain sectors changing so quickly, you may be taking career risk… standing still. You may be taking risk by trying not to take risks.

Ask anyone who worked in the financial services industry over the last decade. Or in the print-only newspaper world. Or, of course, the tech world. The changes in these businesses may have been driven by different forces, but the change has been….and is….and will be….so fast that professionals in those industries have needed to manage risk: the risk that your skills may become obsolete…..the risk that the job that you love changes….the risk that you boss changes…the risk that your company changes strategy….the risk that the new boss won’t like you so much.

An example that I lived: prior to my running Merrill Lynch (the “Thundering Herd”), it had enormous continuity…and then significant leadership change. Up to the year 2000, the business had one boss for 15 years (and that guy spent a total of 38 at the company). Then the outside world changed: there was the Nasdaq meltdown of 2000 and the subprime crisis of 2007/2008; that in turn drove the sale of the company. As a result, since 2000, Merrill has had eight business leaders (unless I’m missing someone, which is reasonably likely); that’s one about every two years. And each of those leaders tended to establish their own management teams (as new leaders do), and each of those leaders had changes in business strategy (as new leaders do), so the change has rippled through the organization. Almost constantly.

What to do as a professional?

Since it is much less likely that you’ll start at a company training program and then retire from it 45 years later with the gold watch, be open to change and to changing yourself. I’ve transitioned several times: I started my career as an investment banker….became a research analyst …..worked as a manager and leader at big companies…..and am now an entrepreneur. Some of this was skating to where the puck was going; some of it was pushing myself to figure out what I loved and shifting my career closer to those things.

Be a voracious learner. I can’t tell you how many professionals I know who have just stopped trying new things. Some of them tell me they are “too senior” for it (“If I go on LinkedIn, I’ll just get bombarded with interview requests” and “It’s only people looking for jobs there”); but it feels more like they have gotten comfortable.

But here’s what can happen: a couple of years ago, a head-of-marketing friend of mine was laid off; I urged her to get on social media; she dawdled on it. And as I tried to introduce her to job opportunities, a couple of potential employers declined, because that itself was evidence enough that her skills were dated.

Build a strong network. Kudos to you if you have a strong network within your company; but you’d better also have a large, diverse and strong network outside of your company. There’s always something more urgent to do than building this; but not having one if you leave your current company is no less than make-or-break.

Prepare financially. Being prepared financially is a great form of insurance. A “barbell approach” to risk can make sense here, particularly for women: build an emergency cash fund that is 3 – 6 months of salary. But don’t build up too muchcash (as many women do), because that penalizes us financially. According toanalysis by Ellevest, if you put $25,000 in a savings account, then you can grow that to approximately $35,400 in 35 years; put that same money in a diversified investment portfolio and it can grow to more than $54,000.

If you take a career break, keep your skills current. This also hurts us women disproportionately. We take more career breaks – and longer ones – than men; and they negatively impact our earnings. So, in addition to planning for them financially (more from Ellevest on that here), it’s also important to plan for them professionally so that you’re not left behind. Increasingly, I’m seeing women use some of their time away to learn to code or to keep their marketing skills up-to-date by volunteering time at non-profit.

What have I missed?

Sallie Krawcheck is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform that is re-imagining investing for women, to be launched in 2016. She is the Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network.

(Photo: tropical.pete, Flickr)

For information about Ellevest and its financial advisory services, please visit the firm’s website ( or the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (

Originally Posted on Linked In by:

10 Management Tips for Great Leaders