Inspiration is where you find it. Make it easy to find it.

If you are anything like me, you have more ideas than you have time to explore them. Sometimes I will see something that sparks an idea and I find my mind doing a little dance around the idea, when I really need to be thinking about other things. And sometimes it isn’t even a full-blown idea that catches my attention in that way. It can be as simple as a color palette.

There are two things I want to do when I find some kind of inspiration: I want to find a way to put it away in a mental (and also digital) cabinet so I can stop obsessing on it and come back to it later, and I want to actually come back to it later.

To file it away if I find it online, I use Pocket (for articles, images and websites) and Evernote for research and other information that I want to be able to search. Otherwise I keep a folder on my desktop where I can just dump things in, making sure that I save files with names that make sense. Capturing it means I can always come back to that amazing thing and do something with it later.

Sometimes, I have no idea how I would even use something I have seen online, I just know I love it. Our minds seem to compartmentalize things, but if we stop and think about why we like something, it helps us apply it to something else entirely. For example, a really great Ted Talk might give me an idea for a blog post that applies some of the concepts to a different space. An unexpected direction a recent Facebook conversation took gave me a great idea for an article I am finishing up now. My point is, find things you like or that are interesting and let your mind play with them. Put them away if you must, and look at them later when you have fresher eyes, some additional perspective or a need for some ideas.

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Here is a current real-life example. I am in the process of designing and building a website for a business idea I have (not this one… another one). During the design process, I was thinking about my color palette and what I wanted it to say about the services this site will offer. I also follow a huge number of interior designers on Instagram and since I knew I wanted to have a significant neutral component, I headed over to Jeremiah Brent’s Instagram page; he is a genius with neutrals. Looking through his posts, I found one with the colors that would work perfectly for my website project. I uploaded it to the Adobe Color tool, which extracted the colors for me (you can do this with any photo, not just ones that have some of the colors already pulled out), and let me play around with them, and I ended up with my website color scheme… inspired by someone’s living room.

Working like this is kind of like creating a digital idea mood board: a place for you to store inspiration you want to revisit.

9 tips for managing distraction when you working from home

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Often when I tell people I have been working from home for years, they explain that they could never work from home because they would be too distracted. I get that. You’re at home with all of your stuff, maybe some unfinished projects, a backyard full of weeds and a sink full of dishes. Dogs that bark because someone has the nerve to walk by your house. That can all be a little distracting. I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned over these last 7+ years in case it helps someone who is trying to adopt this lifestyle or is newly self-employed.

First thing I should probably share is that I am an introvert with a capital “I”. With the widespread adoption of open offices, working from home is nearly a requirement for me. A lot of my work is writing and I am someone who needs silence to think, especially about words. There are other reasons I like working from home (no traffic, no makeup application and no shower until I am good and ready), but the main reason is having control over the noise. So the fist piece of advice I would have for someone thinking about working from home is to understand why you want to do it. If it’s purely out of necessity (for example, if you are self-employed and don’t want to spring for an office), and you need some social interaction, you might want to consider a co-working space, making arrangements to work on-site at clients or scheduling some afternoons at coffee shops. Being mindful about why and how to create a work-from-home lifestyle will help you more successfully adopt one.

Now for people like me, who really want/need to work from home, there are still inevitable distractions. Big high five to anyone who can keep from being distracted. If you are one of those people, I should probably ask you if you commonly read blogs in the middle of the day or constantly check email, and if you would consider that a distraction. Hmmm?

Anyway, here are my tips for managing distractions when working from home.

Create a dedicated space

Sometimes I’m cool with work and life blending together, like if I have to read a long document and I decide to do it while I am getting an oil change. But most of the time, I need some separation. I tried working from the couch and ended up being annoyed seeing all my work stuff spread out on the table when I wanted to watch TV. Having some boundaries, whatever kind of boundaries are right for you, is helpful.
I found it a little challenging when I lived in a loft that only had doors on the bathrooms and closets, but even creating some visual separation helps. For a short time, I moved my desk into a huge closet, then into the den (which was still open but tucked behind the kitchen). Anyway, the important part is to have an area, so that when you are working you feel like you are “at work”. And it’s a place you can leave when you are done.

Now that I have rooms with doors, I use them. When the dogs are distracting, I shoo them out of the room and close the door. When I want to pretend like that unmade bed isn’t there, I close the door. I normally wouldn’t promote intentional ignorance, but when what you are ignoring is a needless distraction, it’s totally justified.

Find a schedule that works for you

If you are working a traditional 9-5, this likely won’t work for you. But it’s worth exploring if it could. I’m not a morning person. I’m not staying up late playing video games or anything. I just like waking up when my body wants to and feeling rested. And it takes me a good hour to 90 minutes to feel mentally alert. So the schedule that works best for me is 10-6.

I don’t even think you necessarily need to work an 8 hour day when you are self-employed. You aren’t spending time chatting with co-workers. You know how much you need to get done. If you can get it done in 6, great! You should do that! You’ve created the life many people want. Good for you!

You shouldn’t feel like you have to apologize to anyone for your hours. I think that when you work for a traditional company and start to work from home, you self-consciously assume that everyone else thinks you aren’t working. I carried that mentality into my self-employment. It’s something we have to actively work on getting over. Speaking of which…

Don’t feel guilty about saying no to day plans

You may start to find that your friends think of you as the person who is available to play during the day. I have definitely had to manage this myself. This is a situation where you need to train your friends. And you should not feel guilty about it one bit. Repeat after me: “sorry, I have to work.” You do not need to explain any more. You don’t have to detail how busy you are or that deadline you have coming up. Daytime is (presumably, depending how you worked out your schedule) work time for you too. You’ll probably only have to do this once or twice for your friend to get it.

Same with having a drink at lunch. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do it. If I have a drink and then come home to a quiet house and have to focus on writing something, I will need a nap. Don’t feel guilted into it.

Schedule time off

This seems obvious but every once in a while, I’ll realize that I haven’t scheduled any meaningful time off, where I truly feel disconnected. Last year, I took the whole summer off because I just needed a break after a few years sans vacation time. I realize not everyone can do that, but you probably can take a three day weekend or a half day. If you don’t ever feel refreshed, focus will be hard to come by. And on that note…

Consider meditation

This is a good one and something I have to remind myself to do when I need it. Even if you close your eyes at your desk for five minutes and focus on your breathing, it helps you get centered. For anyone new to meditation, who feels like you struggle with clearing your mind, I can tell you that thoughts will arise during meditation and the goal is to catch them and clear them. The goal is not to eliminate them. So having thoughts bubble up does not mean you are failing at meditation. Noticing them and eliminating them means it’s working.

There are tons of apps for guided meditation, though (no surprise) the silent meditation works best for me. Find something that works for you and when you are feeling super distracted, give yourself five minutes.

Schedule distraction in

I hope I didn’t lose you when I said “meditation”. Not all of these tips will work for everybody.

Another thing that I recommend is accepting that distractions will occur. They happen when you work in an office too. Your brain needs a break sometimes.

When I am planning out a project, I make sure that I have added extra time to my timeline. Some of that extra time will be for unforeseen issues that come up during the project itself (and trust me, you need this). Some of it should be reserved for managing your own business and some just for doing other stuff.

One of the great benefits of working from home, at least for me, is being able to run errands while everyone else is at work. If you haven’t been to Costco in the middle of the work day, you might not know what a freaking glorious thing it can be. I plan these excursions on my calendar so I am sure to balance them out with other work I have going on.

Use tools that help keep you focused

I’m going to recommend two tools that come in handy for me, though something else might work for you. Doesn’t it seem like every time you think “I wish there was a tool for x”, there is one? Here are my two:

1) If there is ambient noise that you find distracting, two solutions I have found are adding white noise (available here) or adding your own ambient noise to drown it out. For the latter, I use an ambient music station on Pandora.

2) This second one is kind of a life-changer for me because it works when all else fails. It’s called Focus Booster, and it’s based on the pomodoro method. On my most harried days, I open the app, set the timer and am able to focus knowing that a little break is on the way. I don’t know how it works (I assume 25 minutes is a natural human attention threshold), but it just does. I also use it to track my time on days when I know I am going to be distracted. I can start and stop the timer to tally my client time for the day.

Have a quick jam session

I often get distracted by housework. Like the laundry hanging over the railing right now or the potting soil I tracked in this weekend. My solution is to set a timer for 30 minutes, put on some tunes and rock out while I do a little housework. The music keeps me going at a fast pace and the timer makes me feel better about doing this and keeps me from getting side-tracked by things that don’t need to be done right now.

After I finish this blog post, I am going to have one of my little jam sessions. Doing them in the first half of the day really works for me.

When all else fails, leave

Listen, if it’s your stuff that is distracting you, get the hell out of there. If a coffee shop is too noisy for you, go to the library.

Just check in with yourself during your workday. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. We all struggle with our attention. Feel what’s going on in your body and decide if what you need to do to make your work situation productive for you.

And if worse comes to worse (as it occasionally does for me) and you can afford to do it, scrap today and start again tomorrow. Everyone deserves a mulligan now and then.

Top five reasons why you shouldn't start your job description with a question

If I had a quarter for every job description I’ve seen that starts with a question, I’d be in Aruba right now sipping cocktails, and not in my home office in my flannel and Birkenstocks. I’ve been in and around the recruiting industry for 25 years (wait, whaaat?) and in that time, I’ve seen the trend of companies starting their job descriptions with a question, which has coincided with the increase in the usage of internet tech for hiring and job seeking.

I get that hiring managers and recruiters rarely have writing backgrounds or an interest in elegant prose (too high a bar for job descriptions?). For them, writing a job description is an activity they would prefer to get over. Starting a job description with a question is a shortcut; it keeps them from thinking too hard about kicking off the description in a meaningful way. I’m not going to say that it’s a lazy approach, but if that’s the conclusion you come to after reading what I have to say, I’m not going to argue with you.

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So I thought I would give you my top five reasons why you need to stop writing JDs that start with a question.

Reason one: it’s old and overdone

Try to remember the last compelling job description intro you read that started with a question. Can’t do it? That is because everybody is doing it. And everybody is doing it wrong, so there’s that. Every time I look at a job description for a company I admire and see that they have done this, I think “ugh, you too?” It’s boring because we see it so frequently. Speaking of boring…

Reason two: it’s the same core question, over and over

Does your job description start with these four words: “are you passionate about”? If so, you need to stop it right now. “Do you enjoy?”, “Do you want to?”, “Have you dreamed of?” “Do you want to make an impact?” Ugh.

Listen, I get it. Many of you work at companies with recruiting taglines that include the word passion (I’ll blog about that another time). But a recruiting tagline is a one-size-fits-all kind of proposition. And you are marketing a specific group and job. So don’t fall back on the mad lib approach to writing job descriptions. It’s inherently uninteresting.

Reason three: people don’t talk like that

When was the last time you said to a friend “I’m really passionate about…”? I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk that way. I’m more likely to day “I really love gardening” or “I can’t wait to go antique shopping”. Passion is such a high bar and it’s reserved for very few things in my life. And if you got the advice that you need to find a job you are “passionate” about, you got bad advice, kid. Very few of us have the luxury of feeling “passionate” about what we do. Interest, probably. Enjoyment, maybe. But passion? I mean you wouldn’t rather be doing anything else? If you have that job, good for you…sincerely. But I’d venture to guess that most people don’t feel passion toward their jobs. There’s a reason why you get paid for it. Passion is most frequently reserved for the thing you do for free.

Please don’t @ me explaining that you are passionate about your job, because all I am going to do is congratulate you. It ain’t everybody, but we all need to make a living.

Reason four: you fail to tap into all the reasons your job and company are exciting

I’ve written guides for clients on writing job descriptions, to help them frame their thinking before they put the proverbial (or actual) pen to paper. They key, I explain, is to actually think and plan before you write the job description. As with any other activity aimed at engaging possible job-seekers, you need to start with the job-seeker in mind.

What are likely candidates going to find interesting about the work? Notice, I am not asking what you find interesting. You need to get into the head of your target audience where they are - outside of your company – knowing what they know. There is a difference between what people get excited about before they join your company (without a full understanding of what it’s going to be like working there) and what they enjoy once they work there.

So try to put yourself in their shoes. Remember what it was like to be a candidate and what you learned about the company and job that sparked an interest for you. If it was a long time ago, talk to someone else in the role. Some questions to ask are:

  • when you were looking for a new position, what were the key factors you were considering in a potential employer?

  • why do you do this kind of work? How did you choose this career path?

  • what did you learn about the company and role during the hiring process that stuck out to you as compelling?

  • why do you stay?

With these things in mind, you can craft a job description that represents a potential candidate’s true interest, not the attitude you want them to have (that passion thing). Because, remember, you are marketing to them.

Reason five: go for “yes”, not “no” and prove to the candidate that you get them

As a potential candidate reads your job description, you want them to be saying yes as they scroll down the page. I think back to when I was recruiting. It wasn’t a career I planned, I just kind of fell into it like many people in the industry. But I was good at it. If I had to narrow down why I stayed to one super-motivating reason, it was because I got to help people make a major life decision that they were excited about. Yeah, I was good at the mechanics of the job, the finding part. I liked to dig into my clients’ business to learn something new and build trust with them. But if you asked me for one singular reason, it was about the candidates.

If you read job descriptions for recruiters, it’s not likely you will see them asking if the job-seeker is passionate about candidates. I mean, the company is paying the recruiter to represent them and not candidates. But that doesn’t mean it’s the part that interests recruiters most; that keeps them motivated.

I just did a quick search on Indeed for recruiter job postings that contain the phrase “are you passionate” to see if any of them reflected my interest in a recruiting role back when that was my day gig. Some of the things these postings wanted folks to be passionate about:

“delivering goals to your client that go above and beyond their expectations”

“contributing to the growth of a high-performing, STEM-focused school network”

“recruiting or sales”

“furthering your career into the recruiting world”

“guiding our applicants through the hiring process”

“the Talent Acquisition Profession and the impact you can make on the organizations you support”

“making a difference for your clients”

“creating experiences that people love and being a pioneer for change”

Seriously, meh, meh, meh. None of those inspire any excitement for me. Reading this, I would be asking myself “hey self, am I passionate about this thing?”, knowing that that company expects you to act passionate about that thing. Could I muster it? Maybe in an interview, but not every day.

And some of those things are so vague, I really don’t know what to think. Am I passionate about creating experiences people love? Uh, I guess but I’m not sure what that means in the context of this job. About sales? Nope. Guiding applicants through the hiring process? What does that mean? Are you saying you don’t have recruiting coordinators? Good god.

I guess my point is, don’t give job prospects something to say no to (which sounds pretty obvious) and don’t give them questions that only appeal to a subset of your audience when the rest of your targets will respond with “I guess?” or “do I have to be?”

Don’t condescend with this “are you passionate” language. Give them a real understanding of what your organization does, why the work is important and what it’s like working there and let them decide what motives them to do the job.

PSSST! If you are interested in training recruiters or hiring managers to improve their JD writing skills, creating resources for them or developing core employer branding messaging, I’d be happy to talk to you about how I can help.

Paying attention is free

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In the world of employer branding, two things are discussed more than any other topics: budget and metrics.  I mean, I haven’t done a study on this, but it’s definitely been my experience.

I don’t claim to be the most talented person in the world, but one thing I am good at is figuring out how to get stuff done for free, when the most obvious solution is to throw money at it. Incidentally, I think I just re-homed a chicken, but that’s a talent we can discuss at another time.

So doing stuff for free. When I started working for myself, before I decided to focus on employer branding, a number of my clients were small businesses looking for a digital footprint. One thing that new businesses have in common is a lack of money. And early in my consulting career, my own scarcity complex was enriched by my fear of failure – I treasured every dollar I had because the more I had and could hold on to, the longer I could stay afloat while I was figuring things out. By the way, if you are starting a business and don’t have a fear of failure, you better get one (click to tweet). Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I am super frugal on behalf of my clients and, naturally, by my own disposition.

I find that there are so many things that seem like they would cost a lot of money to do that don’t. So I am inclined, when faced with a challenge or opportunity, to see what I can do for free or at a very low costs.

In employer branding, I think with all the talk about budget, there is perhaps disproportionate attention paid to those programs that cost money. And, I think that all other things being equal, practitioners will naturally default to activities that are easily measured as well. I mean, when leaders are asking for ROI, they are looking at two things: budget and metrics.

I want to encourage folks in EB roles to step back and not focus solely on the supremely measurable and costly programs. Listening is free(ish), it’s an important element of employer branding and it can have a major impact on your brand, even if it’s hard to measure (click to tweet).

Listening: what it is and why it’s important

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that any marketing or branding function at a company should have a listening program. I mean, you can go out and measure brand perception at any point in time to know where you stand with your target audiences – this is a great starting place because you want a baseline to work from. But perception of your brand shifts over time, new factors come into play, competitors appear, new opportunities present themselves, and you will want to know if what you are doing is working to shift perceptions (or if you need to abandon something that isn’t working). You need to monitor your brand in real-time to head off the nasties, jump on opportunities and feed customer intelligence back to your product, recruiting or marketing/branding teams (click to tweet). Otherwise, you are going to change your name to International House of Burgers and your target customers will think “wut?”

In other, simpler words: always be listening.

Measurability is important at a macro level but it isn’t everything

Without metrics, it’s likely that you won’t have an employer branding program because nobody is going to give you money if you can’t demonstrate ROI, amirite? But there is some stuff that gives your brand a bump that is hard, if not impossible, to measure. Still do those things.

Think about some of the work you do as “goodwill”. A company has value above and beyond the assets that are identifiable on the balance sheet, and the strength of their brand is one of the elements that contributes to that value.

Company value = (assets - liabilities) + goodwill

Goodwill is an intangible; it has real value, but it’s hard to measure. It's the delta between what your company is worth on the books and what someone is willing to pay for it. It's a premium paid for the magic you do. It's practically the definition of "brand" (click to tweet). Companies don’t decline to invest in factors that improve goodwill. Quite to the contrary; this is what they want to build because, given that assets are a set and known cost, goodwill is what increases value. It’s leverage. It’s upside.

Now, I am not saying that all of your employer branding (or marketing) programs needs to be free/organic. I’m just saying that returns on investments such as advertising are pretty predictable. Yeah, it might fluctuate a little. And yeah, sometimes you can hit it out of the ballpark. But you can also hit it out of the ballpark with things that don’t cost a lot of money. These things can be hard to measure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. In fact, when they aren’t costly, why wouldn’t you do them?

Who is doing this well on social?

Social media is prime territory for real-time responses that are teed up via an effective listening strategy. The queen of all timely responses (to both other social media users and current events), is undisputed: it’s Wendy’s. There are some other secrets to their magic on social, but I’ll save that for another post.

If Wendy’s is the queen, perhaps Sanofi is heir to the throne. And they ascended from a single tweet, in response to Roseanne Barr blaming Ambien for her racist tweet.

 

Not only did they respond, but they did so with humor (taking a page from Wendys’ playbook) and they boosted their employer brand with their tweet. Bazinga!

You have to listen in order to respond. When you do, there are huge opportunities. You probably heard of Ambien before, but had you ever heard about Sanofi or give their workforce a second thought?

I’ll work on pulling together some examples of other companies doing this particularly well for employer branding and will post again to share them. In the meantime, if you have an example to share, please feel free to comment below.

 

“Talent Acquisition” needs a re-brand

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Early in my career, I held positions in companies that used either “recruiting” or “staffing” to describe the function I was part of. Over the last several years – five, maybe ten –the words “talent acquisition” have come into fashion. This might be because the work involved feels broader than just “recruiting” and “staffing” sounds oddly vague and passive. “Talent acquisition” sounds more strategic. And what can be more important to a company than hiring people?

HOWEVER, using the words “talent acquisition”, specifically as part of a professional title, is problematic. I’m going to explain why.

The complicated nature of serving multiple customers

As a recruiting professional, when communicating about your work, you have a number of different stakeholders to consider; hiring teams, employees who refer, candidates. So talking about it in a way that best positions you to solve their needs is important. When you think about those three groups, when it comes to branding, which is most important? Who do recruiters spend most of their time communicating with? Who are they trying to attract? Who does your organization spend money trying to reach?

An alternative way to think of your stakeholders is as audiences. You’ll talk to each one differently, because each wants something different from you. But the one audience I’d prioritize above others, if you haven’t figured it out already, is job-seekers. Tell the average job-seeker that you are in “talent acquisition” and, unless they have worked for a company that uses the same term, they likely won’t know what you are talking about. I mean, obviously you are acquiring something. Are you in training? Work in M&A? Handle outsourcing?

Most people can figure it out, but the whole point of branding is to not make your audience do the work of figuring it out. They shouldn’t have to work that hard to understand what you do.

 

A little more humanity, please

Part of the reason why “talent acquisition” doesn’t resonate with job-seekers is that they already know about our role. And THEY call what we do “recruiting”. Shouldn’t we call it that too? They know that recruiters hire people. They aren’t so sure about “talent acquisition specialists”.

“Recruiting” implies that there are people involved and their past experience with it informs their understanding. As much as you will hear people working in our space refer to people (employees, candidates, etc.) as “talent”, they (job seekers, et al)  don’t think of themselves that way. They HAVE talents, but when you are hiring someone, you are hiring a person, not a talent.

People want to work at places that make them feel valued; a place where they have a connection to mission and the people around them. When we refer to people as a collection of skills, rather than human beings, it’s sending a message. Part of that message is what they can expect from working there.

So what to do if you are already in “Talent Acquisition”

Not every organization can go through an immediate rebranding exercise; many have exerted a lot of effort to effectively brand themselves within their own companies. I’m not suggesting you abandon that work. I’m simply suggesting that you think about your audiences and how you can adjust the way you talk about your work to those audiences.

A great example would be to use and autosignature for external communications that includes a recruiter/recruiting title, even if your actual title includes “talent acquisition”. Trust me, the person on the other end of that communication does not care if your job family is technically TA, they just want to know what you do.

Similarly with LinkedIn, use recruiting titles for ease of understanding among your key audiences; not just job seekers but folks who might be looking to hire recruiting professionals, or engage speakers for an event, or refer someone. In fact, your whole profile should be written with your target audiences in mind.

It’s not easy to always be mindful of our words and how they land with the audiences we need to influence. When you can do it, you are really thinking like a marketer. It’s worthwhile to take some time to reflect on your communication with candidates and ensure that the words you are choosing are leaving them with the right impression.

Related aside: In addition to titling and organization names, there’s another area where I see recruiters and scheduling coordinators fail to take into account the candidate’s perspective and that is when setting up phone interviews. I cringe every time I hear (or see) a coordinator refer to it as a “phone screen”. Screens are for ruling people out, interviewers are for assessing whether you can rule them in. Please, for the love of puppies, stop telling candidates you are scheduling their “phone screen”.

 

Changing my idea of what success looks like

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There is a certain type of thinking each of us needs to do in order to identify the right job and work scenario for ourselves. My approach to thinking through this might not work for everyone – a lot of it focuses on past experiences and what I don’t want – but often, I feel that people move from job to job throughout their careers without thinking about what knobs they need to turn to make their work time more pleasant. Here’s how I decided what I needed to be a happy professional.

I used to think that success was about climbing the corporate ladder. I could point to people who held my professional fate in their hands and swear that if I ever got to stand in their shoes, I would feel successful.

I’ve pretty much given up that way of thinking for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the workplace is changing. But before I get into that…

Has anyone ever asked you whether you would rather be prettier, richer, smarter or happier? It’s one of those get-to-know-you questions. I know there is no one right answer, but I can’t imagine anyone picking something other than “happier”. But they do. Most of the time. Maybe people pick the thing they feel they need to work hardest at. For me, being happy is being successful. Happiness is the goal.

Of course happiness isn’t a job title. And for some, managing progressively larger organizations or focusing on more strategic work makes them happier. So moving up the traditional career ladder might be just the ticket for them. It just doesn’t work that way for me. The thing I care about, which in abundance makes me happy, is time. I can always find difficult problems to solve and ways to be creative. What I cannot do is manufacture time – time to read, meditate or cook, or explore a new hobby. And so perhaps in its absence, more time (or well-used time) is the thing that makes me happiest.

People disrespecting my time or having to sit through meetings that aren’t relevant to my work, these are things that I find incredibly challenging. It’s all because I see them as poor uses of time; time I could be using to do something that brings me joy. So my view of success has me in control of my own time. This is one of the things I have learned about myself while trying to work out how to be a happier person in life.

Control of my environment is another factor in my happy work formula. I am a classic introvert. Yeah, I know if you’ve met me you can’t tell.  But if you’ve been around me when I am on a team work trip or a party I can’t leave, you’ll recall the look on my face that says I need to escape. I have to mentally check out. I am no longer there and I am miserable. Being in environments with lots of people or lots of noise completely taps my energy. So as I am building this vision of my happy work place, a solitary environment (or at least a place I can escape to) is part of it.

Another element needed to make me feel happy at work is the feeling that I am creating something. I LOVE to build things from scratch. It’s why I have had so much fun helping small business develop their digital brand footprint and it’s why I love helping Amazon create marketing and tools that attract future employees. I am building new stuff all the time.

So you might wonder what all this happy-making has to do with feeling successful. Well, at least for me, it turned out that creating a career where I have all of the things that make me happy- control of my time and environment and the opportunity to build stuff- is what finally made me feel successful. It wasn’t having that Microsoft blog with the press attention or speaking at industry events. It wasn’t promotions or titles. I mean, don’t get me wrong, those things are nice. But for me, I could never feel successful because I wasn’t in ultimate control and wasn’t able to create the space I needed to do my best work. Once I had the situation I wanted, all of that angst over moving up the ladder disappeared. Because I had what I really wanted.

So I mentioned before that the world of work is changing. I think that there is so much opportunity for people with alternative work styles like my own. Introversion is being discussed, not as a weakness, but as a way of being. And I recently heard an executive speaking about how to create a work situation that is more amenable to those of us on the introversion spectrum. As the economy shifts toward more alternative and freelance work arrangements, I think there is an opportunity for people like me who struggled with some aspects of corporate life (Meetings! Morale events and offsites! Career discussions!) to find themselves and discover a completely different version of success than they had imagined before. This feeling of finally finding the right spot was an unexpected side effect of leaving corporate life. And the (I admit it) fear and struggle I experienced creating this career was totally worth it. And it feels like the pressure is off and. Now I just get to have fun.

How I got here

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Starting a new blog requires some introductory sharing, since some of you who find it might now know me, and even those who do might now know the story of how I got here. I’ll try not to be overly self-indulgent, but we’ll need to get this post out of the way. And trust me, I do want to know about you. I’m much more interested in you than in hearing the sound of my own voice (or the sound of my own typing).

So here goes. I’ll tell you about my journey to employment branding.

I started recruiting in the mid-90s. It was kind of recruiting lite. I took an entry level job at a temp agency a few years out of college; we’ll call those the recession years. I would love to say that I took those few years to find myself, but the path kind of chose me and what I was really focused on was paying rent. I am sure a lot of you out there have had those special years as well.

After finding success in that environment, I thought about what my next step could be; something not too scary, not too big of a jump. So the next position was to recruit for a consulting firm. I’m not going to say too much about this other than it was not right for me. Some things that were promised in the interview weren’t delivered. I should have asked more and deeper questions. I ended up feeling alone, unsuccessful and realized I made a big mistake. This is important. I’ll come back to this later.

From there, I went in-house for a traditional corporation. I led a team, enjoyed living in downtown Chicago, but there was no career path. This company’s recruiting department was not very big and it was very flat. So next, I turned my sights toward a big company, in the tech space with a great reputation. I was referred by an employee at Microsoft, got the job and relocated to Seattle.

I’m not sure how to encapsulate my twelve years there. So I’ll give you the highlights. I started as a recruiter, then became a team lead and a manager. In 2004, I started a recruiting blog that got a lot of industry attention and I started doing a little writing and public speaking. Eventually, I ran a programs team, which did training, competitive intelligence, and other staffing-related programs. At one point, I was asked to take on a role I wasn’t particularly excited about but it was supposed to be for a short time. It was a significant need and I was told I was the person who could do it. So I took it on and decided it was not something I wanted to do long term. Then my manager left. And I was kind of stuck in this position. I spoke with our GM about what I wanted to do (build community in the talent space) and that kind of work just wasn’t available (at least it wasn’t back then). Anyway, that is when I left. I’ll spare you all the details of leaving a company you were with for 12 years and how I felt about it. Lots of conflicted feelings for many reasons.

Throughout my recruiting career to that point, what I really enjoyed was engaging candidates; not in interviews or cold-calls, but helping people understand what it was like to work at the company I was employed by. I had experienced major life changes as a result of joining new companies, and I had felt the pain of making a bad career decision. Turns out that experience, though terrible, helped me get where I am now. I also developed a perspective on branding and marketing as it relates to employers; that no employer is perfect, but every employer has a storytelling opportunity. I felt, and still feel, that sharing with a sense of transparency and authenticity helps the right people find your company and keeps the wrong people away. I saw the direct impact of this from the blog I created; I saw peoples’ minds change, I answered questions, demystified some perceptions, and could count the hires my blog work generated for the company. The result of my, or anyone’s, focus on authentic and transparent conversation is more productive recruiters, who don’t have to wade through as much volume of unqualified resumes, and better employee retention, because people know what the experience working there will be like before they join.

While I was at Microsoft, I had a number of people from other companies reaching out to me for advice. And that kind of made a lightbulb go off over my head. I realized that what I had learned from my experience to that point was something other companies valued. I decided a career in consulting made sense and it allowed me to tap into my affinity for not only helping companies tell their stories, but also my desire to help job-seekers pick better than I had in the past.

That was 2011 and early on, I decided to double down on employer branding. I’ll share more about why in another post.

So anyway, this is it; my path from entry level recruiter to employer brand consultant, including the horrible career mistake that helped get me here.