Happiness is the Wrong Pursuit!

 

March 29, 2017 • 9 minute read • by Saeed


“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” — Mark Twain

When you wake up in the morning, do you throw the covers off raring to go or do you pull them over your head and hide from the day as long as you can?

Are you engaged in your work and life?

You know What you do and you know How you do it but do you know Why?

In his famous TED talk and book titled Start with Why, Simon Sinek defines the Why really well.

Most leaders and companies focus on What.

But inspired leaders think, act, and communicate with Why.

The Why is your purpose, your cause, your reason to exist.

  • Why does your organization exist?
  • Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
  • Why should anyone care?

Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

To make his case, he points to Steve Jobs.

He says, “If Apple were like everyone else,” they would say,  “We make great computers, they’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?”

But instead Apple says: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Jobs challenged the status quo. Jobs was a different kind of thinker. He also studied and was influenced by the principles of Zen aesthetics found in the art of the traditional Japanese garden and Japanese minimalism.

In Japanese, the term ikigai translates roughly to “a reason for being.”

Let’s break that down: iki, refers to life, and kai, roughly means “the realization of what one expects and hopes for.”

Ikigai is the singular force behind your life, and as seen in the image below, it combines four areas: 1) what you love, 2) what you’re good at, 3) what you can be paid for, and 4) what the world needs.

Ikigai

Your purpose is found in the space where these four elements meet. It is in this ‘sweet spot’ where you provide the most value to the world and where life gives the most meaning.

Though it can be illusive and hard to discover, everyone (and everything) has a purpose and “a reason for being.” But once you discover it, you can achieve the satisfaction and fulfillment that gives meaning to life. The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worth living.

Defining your ikigai does not have to be complicated but it is also not simply about following your passions. Getting there requires reflection, experimentation, and patience. Take a moment to contemplate it.

  • What do you love?
  • What are you great at doing?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you make a living doing?

What is your ikigai? Why do you exist?

If you know the Why, you will figure out the What and the How.

Jobs used to say, “I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself if today were the last day of my life would I do what I am about to do today, and whenever the answer has been ‘No’ too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

The average person spends over 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.

What are you doing today?

Why?

 Ikigai watercolor by the Paper Seahorse – for Creativity and Mindfulness. http://www.paperseahorse.com

Killing Us Softly: The Deadly Impact of Work-Related Stress

February 3, 2015 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”

-Hans Selye-

The nature of work is changing at a whirlwind pace and stress related illness is a serious menace for people in the work force.

Not only have hours worked per week been steadily on the rise for decades, but the ‘always on’ connectivity and rapid development of new technology seems to be irreversibly driving the trend towards obliterating what thinly veiled boundaries remain. A recent Pew survey found that 35 percent of adults say the Internet, email and mobile phones have increased their hours worked. For office workers, the number rises to 47 percent.

This is the new normal: our digital life is here to stay.

Meanwhile, there is a wealth of scientific data on work-related stress, its causes and effects, and on some of the mechanisms underpinning the relationships among these. More general research is not needed. Numerous studies, for example, show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress-related illness for American adults. What is needed however, is for this research to be translated into policy and practice, and the effectiveness of the practice to be evaluated. What is required is a better understanding of the more specific questions about particular aspects of the overall stress process and its underpinning mechanisms.

Work vs. Life

The concept of a work-leisure dichotomy first surfaced in the mid-1800s while the more modern expression ‘work–life balance,’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and in the United States in the mid 1980s.

Despite progress in implementing so called ‘work-life balance’ programs, stress-related illness remains a serious concern and health risk in the workplace. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress.

For U.S. workers, the 40-hour, five-day work week became the standard in 1938. Ever since, Americans have been steadily increasing their work hours. Nearly half of U.S. workers today say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week, often without overtime pay. In fact, U.S. workers put in more hours on the job than the labor force of any other industrial nation, including Germany, the number one economy in Europe and Japan, where death from overwork has a name:karōshi.

The first case of karōshi was reported in 1969 with the stroke-related death of a 29-year-old Japanese worker. It became a full-fledged phenomenon in the 1980s when several high-ranking business execs who were still in their prime suddenly keeled over without any previous sign of illness.

Encouraged by always-on gadgets, so-called “work martyrs” on both sides of the Atlantic give hundreds of hours in free labor to their employers every year – working through nights, weekends, and vacations (and in the case of parents, their children’s most precious years).

More Work ≠ More Productivity

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University. Longer hours have also been connected to absenteeism and employee turnover, which cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. One survey showed that having to complete paper work was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals.

The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension and other disorders.

It appears then that coping is really an attempt to establish perceived control and that employers would do well to involve their workers in greater levels of decision making and autonomy. Not surprisingly, when they do, productivity levels increase.

Towards More Progressive Workplace Policy

Meanwhile, workplace policies are taking a schizophrenic turn. On the one hand, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s 2013 decision not to allow employees to work from home seemed regressive to many, while on the other, the world’s second richest man Carlos Slim more recently suggested that workers should shift to a three-day work week (with the caveat that we would put in 11-hour work days and stay on the job until age 70 or 75).

Surprisingly, a 2008 survey of workers by the Families and Work Institute found that 46% of those offered the option of a compressed week declined it most of the time.

The strategic argument for the management of work-related stress is that work stress is a current and future health and safety issue, and, as such, should be dealt with in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues. That is, the management of stress at work is and should be a serious policy consideration.

It has famously been said that Europeans ‘work to live’ while Americans ‘live to work.’ However, even in comparatively laid back Europe, things may be changing to keep pace with international markets. It appears that in addition to our cultural exports of such value as the Kardashians, we are also exporting our die hard work ethic. What we need is a recalibration of that ethic whose limits placed on professional hours worked and personal hours sacrificed seem to know no bounds.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese media recently cited a case of karōshi of an engineer who was reported to have been working 16-19 hour days.

These cases should be a wake-up call that the cure for our overworked culture will not be settled inside the laboratory but rather inside the Board rooms of America’s most influential companies who must establish progressive policy and common practice while developing consensus that the balance of American life is tilted dangerously, but not productively, in favor of work.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I Crashed My Motorcycle and Learned 5 Profound Life Lessons

January 28, 2015 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Every crisis offers you extra desired power.” ~ Unknown.

First off, I am okay. Thanks for asking. Every motorcycle rider expects to crash. What I don’t expect is to have my faith in humanity restored as a result of it.

Here is how it happened.

My crash set off a series of encounters with bystanders, the police, a tow truck driver, a motorcycle mechanic and the young father I met on the bus ride home that would each reinforce valuable and profound lessons.

My Kawasaki W650 (affectionately named Wilma by my son) is a rare and beautiful machine. You can see that in the picture above. I polish mine daily with unicorn fur. I was headed back from a business meeting volunteering for a nonprofit whose work I liked when the accident happened.

Three car lengths ahead someone slammed on their brakes causing a chain reaction to the rear. Because the W650 does not come equipped with anti-lock brakes, when I slammed on mine, I locked up the front wheel and laid down the bike. It helped me avoid hitting the car directly in front but I sacrificed my bike in the process. None of the vehicles in the accident made contact with each other but in an instant I was on the ground with a heap of metal on top of me.

Lesson #1: People are basically good…

I don’t know how many people rushed to my aid but it was many. Someone lifted the bike off of me and someone else pushed it to the side of the road. Everyone asked if I was okay. The best was an elderly man (Tom) and his wife who were in the car behind me when the accident happened. They pulled over to offer me a ride to the hospital and would not leave until they were 100% sure I was okay. I was basically okay. Road rash and limp but basically okay.

Thanks Tom. You and your wife are two of the kindest souls I’ve ever met.

Lesson #2: Judge people by their inside, not their outside…

Eventually a cop showed up as they often do to accident scenes where injuries are involved. I am weary of cops. Maybe it’s the cause-less rebel in me but I am. He talked to the lady driving the car in the front who slammed on her brakes. He found out she was on meds. What could I do? He eventually left and I was glad he did. I called AAA and waited feeling sullen about my beautiful machine that was now a mangled mess of metal. The scene started to clear out of other people too when I spotted the cop coming back. I thought, here we go. He’s going to hassle me. It turns out he was a motorcycle enthusiast and he just wanted to keep me company while I waited for my tow. We started talking about bikes and he told me about the Harley he rode to Mexico in his younger days. I loved his stories. The journalist trapped inside of me suddenly shifted the conversation.

“Officer,” I said, “may I ask you something?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“As a police officer, how do you feel about the police shootings and protests that have dominated the headlines this year?”

In the next few moments of conversation, Mark, an African American cop born and raised in Oakland, opened my eyes to race relations and the reality of community policing in the United States in a way I could not have imagined. It’s not a black and white issue.

Thank you Mark. Much respect to you and your profession.

Lesson #3: Optimism trumps adversity…

The tow truck driver was a surly and easy going man in his 30s but he looked much older. Another motorcycle enthusiast, at first he tried to fix my bike. Having failed, he mounted it on the truck with the help of the police officer. On the ride to the only mechanic shop I could find open, I learned he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and told he had three months to live. Nearly 15 years later, he is healthy and vibrant. In asking what got him through the ordeal, he replied: “I’ve always had a positive outlook on life.” I asked about his personal life (journalist again). He told me about his agoraphobic girlfriend. I imagined adversity but I was wrong.

“We are very happy together,” he said. “We plan to move to Iceland.” That took me by surprise.

“Why Iceland,” I asked.

“Because there was only one murder there last year,” he replied.

“What will you do for a living?” I asked, to which he confidently replied: “I am a tow truck driver — cars are everywhere. Wherever I go, I can get a job.”

After dropping me off at the motorcycle shop he offered to wait to take me home but I declined out of consideration for his time. I reached into my pocket and took out what cash I had left to offer him a tip and he declined out of consideration for my loss.

“You’ll need it for the ride home,” he said.

Thanks Bobby. Your resilience and optimism still inspire me. I wonder where you are now.

Lesson #4: Do what you love, love what you do…

My regular mechanic shop was closed. I love my shop and I refuse to take my bike anywhere else. The X factor with the two gentlemen who own the shop is that one of them is a former economist and the other a physicist. They’re both PhDs.They traded their life in academia for doing what they love and for what makes them happy — turning wrenches on bikes. I’ve been taking my bike there for years and never thought I’d go anywhere else. But today, the only shop I could find open was in the middle of the crack infested neighborhood in San Francisco called the Tenderloin.

The shop owner greeted me when we arrived and he immediately recognized my bike with a sense of affection.

“I have two of these myself,” he said. I was delighted. He knows how to work on my bike, I thought.

After a quick inspection, we got into a conversation. He was a refugee from Vietnam. He spent his initial years in a refugee camp in the Philippines separated from his family. When he finally made it to the US, he started life as a janitor in a motorcycle dealership before learning how to work on bikes. He saved money, was reunited with his family and after 30 years of hard work, he retired as the head mechanic of the dealership. In 2008, when the global economy melted down, he was laid off. He decided to risk everything and put all his savings into the motorcycle repair shop.

“I am not rich,” he said, “but I am happy.”

Eventually, Adam fixed my bike with a part off his own bike because the part was too rare to find even online.

Thank you Adam. You are the best mechanic ever. And you don’t even have a PhD.

Lesson #5: Help others and you will help yourself…

I left the shop with the intention to Uber my way home but decided to take the bus instead because surge pricing was in effect.

My cell battery was drained by now from use so there was nothing to distract me except the view out the window. We came to the next station and the doors swung open. A young man and woman pushing a baby stroller boarded and sat next to me. Once again, my inner journalist emerged.

I discovered that Anton and his girlfriend were not married. Their daughter was ten months old and he had a two year old son from another relationship. His ex girlfriend would not let him see his son. Anton told me that he never saw his own father and he did not want this to happen to his son.

I told Anton about community resources available through nonprofits I had volunteered for that could give him support and put him on the track to re-establishing a relationship with his son. I gave him the names and numbers of a couple of attorneys I knew who did pro bono work for the community. I got to my station and before hopping off Anton said to me: “I know there is a reason why God put me on the bus with you today.”

I got off the bus feeling a sense of renewed purpose and fulfillment for having been able to help another human being, albeit in a small way.

Thank you Anton. I think there is a reason why we met too.

A final Word…

It may sound mushy but my day left me feeling that life is mysterious and wonderful. I was aghast at how my disaster could become so inspiring. It was a beautiful day. That I walked away from a motorcycle accident is something in and of itself. That my faith in humanity was restored as a result, feels like a small miracle. I am sure that these encounters have a deeper meaning than I even realize now. There are angels everywhere if you care to see them. It is good to be reminded that sometimes you need to slow down, embrace the kindness of strangers, suspend assumptions and judgments, do the work you love, and open your mind, heart and eyes to the everyday magic that is all around you.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post.

If you found the article helpful or if it helped you think a little more deeply about this topic, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or to subscribe to read exclusive content on my Blog.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal, professional, and organizational development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By following, liking, commenting, and sharing, you are providing a direct feedback loop that tells me that what I am offering is of value.

I also just love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 — All Content and Photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Crouching Leader, Hidden Agenda: 10 Signs Your Boss Is A Toxic Egomaniac

January 15, 2015 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

– Lao Tzu – 

IF YOU HATE YOUR BOSS YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

65% of Americans feel the same way.

A venomous boss will likely jeopardize your career growth and impact your personal life. A study conducted by Baylor University, calls this the “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

To be sure, good leadership is hard to find (and harder than it looks). A good manager will help you thrive and bring out the best in you. Conversely, bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. In a 2007 study, Bennet Tepper, professor of management and human resources at Ohio State, found that nearly 14% of US workers are subject to abusive superiors. Because of the damage mean bosses inflict on workers’ self esteem and productivity levels, Tepper estimates that abusive supervision costs  companies $23.8 billion a year.

It’s important to identify the signs of an emerging messianic leader early on, before you get too involved (especially if you spot them during the job interview) because your boss will eventually crush all happiness you may be clinging to and short-circuit your career prospects.

To help you recognize and buffer yourself from these Leviathans, here are 10 signs that your boss is a toxic egomaniac:

  1. They have XL signatures: A study by a business school at the University of North Carolina analyzed the signatures of more than 600 American CEOs and found that the bigger the CEO’s signature, the more likely they’ll have an extremely high opinion of themselves. According to the study, oversized signatures are a sign of over-bloated egos and narcissism, and guess what… narcissists tend to be appalling decision-makers and managers. So, your boss could quite literally be signing your career away. For the record, the CEO with the largest signature in the study was Timothy Koogle, who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001.
  2. They don’t know when to quit: Managers that are there every day before their staff arrives and are the last ones to leave have a problem and need to get a life. There is a way to be productive and it’s not through burning yourself and your staff out. They either don’t know how to manage their own time or how to delegate effectively.
  3. They take credit for your work: A good manager is concerned with developing the people who work for them. They encourage people to develop their strengths. They offer training and professional development and constructive feedback (vs. criticism). They provide big picture input so that their employees understand the company as a whole, not just their piece of it. They bring them along and set them up for success. They stand alongside their employees rather than upon their shoulders.
  4. They are all about their own power: Bad bosses are on a power trip. They flaunt their title, act like they’re above it all, remain distant from the rank and file and cannot side step their own egos. Their power-centered authoritarian leadership style is the antithesis of what Robert K. Greenleaf coined as “servant leadership’ – those leaders that focus primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and communities to which they belong and serve rather than their own Selves.
  5. They don’t know how to empower: Rather than encourage and support their employees towards higher levels of performance, toxic bosses attempt to shame, blame and humiliate their employees into submission. In his provocatively titled book The No Asshole Rule, Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, advocates for companies to establish a rule to screen out toxic bosses and bullying behavior which impact morale and productivity. Two tests are specified for recognition of the asshole:
  • After encountering the person, do people feel oppressed, humiliated or otherwise worse about themselves?
  • Does the person target people who are less powerful than him/her?
  1. They have a hidden agenda: In a nutshell, the toxic boss has an objective to meet at your expense. If you find yourself not invited to important meetings you are qualified to attend, given performance reviews that seem out of whack, given feedback that is incongruent with your actual performance, or constantly having to read between the lines, there is likely a hidden agenda at play.
  2. They rule through manipulation: The archetypal manipulative personality is the narcissist (see: #1). Sitting nicely alongside the narcissist is the martyr, the passive-aggressive, the paranoid, the insecure and the control freak. Through their shrewd machinations, these personality types convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests. They need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others.
  3. They are all or nothing: Egomaniac bosses view challenges to their reign as akin to treason. You are either with them or against them. Unless you stroke their ego 24/7, you are the enemy. They demand blind loyalty and allegiance to their vision and they meet defectors from that vision with swift punishment.
  4. They are often charming: It is common for toxic traits to be hidden behind a mask of charisma. Toxic leaders are actors playing a role to overshadow their personal shortcomings. In fact, since toxic leaders often lack substance, their charisma and fear mongering is likely what has propelled them forward in their career . This points to a more disturbing trend within organizations:  as long as they are achieving results, we ignore the methods by which those results were achieved.
  5. They divide in order to conquer: Operating on the premise that competition fuels productivity, toxic bosses pit individuals and teams against each other creating seething swamps of resentment and back-stabbing. Nice! On the other hand, experienced managers discourage internal competition in favor of external competition. They encourage employees to channel their rivalry towards the competition rather than at each other. Poisonous leaders create divisions amongst their employees and sap their strength and creativity.

Detox or Depart?

If you have a toxic boss, you have to first decide: should I stay or should I go? Sometimes, leaving is the best option. If leaving is not an option, you have to learn to communicate assertively and set clear boundaries. Remember  that you have the right to be treated with respect. You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and wants. You have the right to set your own priorities and to say “no” without feeling guilty. You have the right to have opinions different than others and most importantly, you have the right to protect yourself from physical, mental or emotional harm.

There is good news in all of this. Companies are catching on to the high price of their bad hires and they are getting better at screening out these poisonous personality types. Remember Timothy Koogle with the oversized signature who ran Yahoo from 1995 to 2001? It appears he has not held a meaningful job since then.

Good Luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Reasons Why Your Job Search Is Failing You

December 19, 2014 • 10 minute read • by Saeed

WARNING: This post may be a difficult pill to swallow for some jobseekers (also it has lots of numbers).


“Nothing will work unless you do.”

– Maya Angelou –

Reality Check #1: 70% of people land jobs through networking.

Reality Check #2: 15% of jobs are filled through the traditional application process.

Reality Check #3: 42% of openings are filled by internal candidates.

If you were gambling in Vegas, which of the odds above would you bet your money on? The reality is that most jobs are either filled internally or through employee referrals. In your job search, Similarity Theory, which states that most people gravitate towards what’s familiar, is working against you. People don’t really want to hire strangers. That’s difficult-pill-to-swallow number 1.

But you’ve spent numerous hours hiding behind your computer and polishing your resume and cover letter because sitting at your computer and applying for jobs makes you feel productive. Which means you haven’t been talking to real people who can give you a real job. You’ve only managed to give yourself a false sense of security. The truth is that while you feel productive, your bank account is draining and the lack of response from employers is making you feel more insecure. That’s pill number 2.

Listen up. The problem is that what you have is a set of practices that amount to nothing more than a crapshoot. You don’t have a real strategy. You might as well go to Vegas and take your chances there. And that’s pill number 3.

So, what are you are doing wrong and how can you do it better?

1. You’ve adopted the shotgun approach

You believe that if you apply to enough jobs, you’ll eventually beat the odds and land one. You aim at your target like a shotgun, not a rifle. The problem is that when you adopt the shotgun approach, you often show up as over – or under qualified. Stop shooting in the dark and start doing some real field research. Ween yourself off your job board dependence. Imagine the job search process before computers. You had to hit the pavement and talk to real people instead of their avatars. Those were good days. Get out of your cave and into the light of day and press some flesh. That’s called being strategic. Which brings me to my second point.

2. You don’t like to network

Get over it – and I mean like yesterday get over it. How can you even survive in the workplace and advance your career if you don’t like networking? Networking is your number one avenue to work. Start identifying companies that you would like to work for and begin networking even before their jobs are posted. Yeah, I said it. Networking after a job is posted isn’t networking – it’s fly fishing (whatever that is). Also, forget HR. They’re too busy anyway. Invest your time reaching out to peer-level employees instead. Learn how they landed their jobs. Many employers don’t even know what they are looking for until they see it. Meet with actual people who have actual pain points. Then demonstrate how your skills, qualifications and background can solve their problems for them. That’s called writing your own job description. It takes time, skill and credibility, and it takes confidence. But trust me it’s totally doable.

3. You haven’t done your homework

I can’t stress this one enough. Why are you even applying for the job (besides the fact that you need one) if you don’t know anything about the company or the people? Why would they hire you if you showcase zero understanding of their work – their charitable nature? I don’t think so. And I don’t mean a rudimentary understanding either. Anybody can get on a website and read the About tab. Big deal. What you need to do is go deep. Find out about the industry, the competition, the customers – their past and future challenges and so on. Read their annual report. Look up their YouTube Channel, Facebook Page and LinkedIn page. Find out about the people in the organization by checking out their profiles on their website or on LinkedIn (I know, there is a fine line between stalking and research). Who did they work for before? Are their experiences similar to yours? Without exception, hiring managers are turned off by people who show up woefully ignorant of the company. So why should they hire you? That’s called, being smart. You know they’ll be checking up on you, so check up on them (wait till you get to the end of this post to find out how they are checking up on you right now – scary!)

4. You haven’t reached out to recruiters

Did you know that some jobs are only filled by recruiters? That’s right. They are not even advertised. Did you also know that temp-agency jobs often lead to regular employment? In fact, many employers use this as a try-before-you-buy strategy. So take advantage of it. It’s a good way to see and be seen. You still need to have a targeted strategy by reaching out to recruiters in your particular industry. But going through a recruiter or temp agency is a good way to get moving again and regain your motivation. That’s called being employed while you look for your real dream job.

5. You make lots of assumptions

You purposely submit a vague resume because you assume casting your net wide will catch you the most fish. Wrong! You’ll only get a call if you are a good match. Period. You also assume that every job posting you see is real. Wrong again. Some postings are just to see what kind of response is received and then the posting is modified based on the response. They are just testing the waters. Yes, surprise – employers sometimes don’t know what they are doing. Some job posting – no, actually many job postings are just filling the mandated requirement to post a job publicly when all along they have had an internal candidate in mind. Ouch! I know, it sucks. But this is the real world and it’s not pretty. That’s pill number 4. Finally, you assume that if you follow up with a prospective employer about your application, they’ll be annoyed with you and it’ll hurt your chances of landing the job. This is only true if you are annoying. Otherwise, a professional follow up call or email (and I do mean professional) to see if they have in fact received your materials and to see if there is any more information you can provide, is perfectly acceptable. That’s called showing interest.

6. You haven’t cleaned up your act

If you think they won’t ‘Google’ you, think again. When they do, what will they find? Is your Facebook profile full of photos of you stumbling over in a drunken stupor or mooning your BFF? Buh- bye. Want to hear something even more insidious? Social Intelligence, an online company that claims to be the leading provider of social media screening, uses “social media background checks” to dig up dirt on your social Self and provides the detailed ‘intel’ they’ve trolled up to employers. I don’t know how pervasive this practice is but it’s surely a wave of the future (if anyone does know, please comment below). And that’s difficult-pill-to-swallow number 5. It’s a brave new world and you have to learn how to navigate it. So use social media to your advantage and clean up your act. That’s called beating them at their own game. You should know by now that a well-constructed LinkedIn profile can be a boost to your job search. Consider your profile your virtual resume. Make sure it lines up with your paper one. But also know that that is only a limited use of your profile. There is much more you can do to boost your ratings. LinkedIn claims more than 250 million + users in more than 200 countries. That’s a lot of eyeballs (by my calculation, it’s 500 million stares). So what do they see when they see you? If your LinkedIn profile picture is of you lying in a hammock with a cocktail in your hand, well…

I know all this feels a little deflating. But please don’t feel defeated by your initial failure to land a job. Successful job seekers use a variety of tactics during their job search. If you’ve turned your home office into your own personal sweat shop churning out job application after job application and that’s all you do, realize you have become a one-trick pony. If you are waiting for the phone to ring only to be disappointed, don’t assume the world is against you and fall into a pit of despair and desperation. Realize instead that you are simply not using the right set of strategies. Pick up the phone, reach out to contacts and friends and generate new leads for yourself. Be proactive. They may not all land you a job but they’ll help you feel more hopeful and confident and take the edge off your desperation.

Above all, hold your head up high, know your worth and maintain a positive attitude. Your time will come.

Good luck.

5 Ways To Reboot Your Motivation

December 19, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

– Bruce Lee –

Your manager’s job is not to motivate you. If anything, your manager’s job is to maintain the motivation you started with.

Remember? You, like everyone else who starts a new job, came on board with excitement and enthusiasm. You grinned from ear to ear when you met your new colleagues. You liked the view outside of your window. You liked your new desk. Your cubicle. You liked it all.

But along the way, your managers slowly sucked the motivation out of you. Dysfunctional systems, lack of clarity, kooky policies, late nights, wacky performance reviews and, well you know the rest. That’s why people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.

Even if your manager’s job was to motivate you, they wouldn’t know how. To be fair, some do. But most don’t. If they did, a recent Gallup Poll would not have found that worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work! Listen carefully. These extrinsic factors can be demotivating, but research shows that even if managed brilliantly, fixing these factors won’t motivate you to work harder or smarter.

Most managers are still stuck on the carrot-and-stick approach of the industrial age. The secret to high performance isn’t reward and punishment. Far from it. True motivation is intrinsic. It is the drive to do something because it is meaningful and fulfilling. Most managers think you are motivated by money. But you and I know that you are not. Countless surveys on employee motivation have shown that money is much farther down the list for you.

In his book, Drive, former Al Gore speech writer Daniel Pink says true motivation boils down to three elements: Autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us, and purpose, the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves.

Motivation that is sustained is based on meaningful work, challenge, learning, growth, increasing responsibility and feeling good about what you do. You may or may not be able to attain this on your current job. You may have to find another one or even switch careers. You may have to stop doing meaningless work and finally go after that thing that has always stirred your passion. You may have to start mainlining frappuccinos.

But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to reboot your motivation where you are now. At least, you owe it to yourself to try.

1. Take responsibility for your own motivation

What if you were in control of your own outcomes and learning objectives at work? Talk to your manager. They may have assigned you a goal but they probably did not assign how you are supposed to reach that goal. Trust in your abilities. If you lack skills, learn new ones by taking a class. Talk to your colleagues and ask for help. There is no shame in that. Learn to take initiative and be proactive on a daily basis. Become more self-directed. Take responsibility for your own growth.

2. Get inspired

Inspiration is one of the best motivators around and your best source for inspiration is your own sense of creativity. Do you like photography? Take a class. Do you like to write? Start a blog. Do you like art? Go to a museum. Are you inspired by ideas? Listen to a TED talk. Think back to your childhood. What did you love to do? When did you feel so lost in an activity that you lost track of time? Do more of that. Join a community of people who are doing more of that. Meetup is a great source for this. Reach in – reach out. Don’t be afraid. It’s medicine for your soul.

3. Find your purpose

It may be stating the obvious, but your purpose is entirely unique to you. To find your purpose, you need perspective. You have to see the dance floor from the balcony view. Ask yourself: what am I really good at doing? What do I love to do? How would either of those things add value to the world? What would I be happy to do even if I wasn’t paid for doing it? If you are not sure yet, volunteer your skills at a non-profit or a community group. Giving to others selflessly, will help you feel fulfilled and purposeful. The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others (hint: that includes your teammates and your boss). Finally, try this: imagine yourself on your deathbed looking back at your life. What kind of life would you have had to lead in order to feel it was a life filled with purpose? Write the answer down. This is your manifesto from now on.

4. Write stuff down

Your deepest thoughts in a leather bound journal is great. But even for mundane daily things, write stuff down. When you make your own schedule and write your own to-do list, you will recognize what needs to be done and the best way to do it. You’ll become more efficient, focused and more effective at your daily life. You’ll feel more empowered and in control. You’ll get more stuff done. You’ll feel better and more motivated. Writing is also cathartic. We move so quickly from day to day that we barely have time to process what happened to us on Monday before it’s Friday again. Journaling, even for a few minutes a day, will help you understand your own feelings and motivations. Then, you can strengthen the things that motivate you and abandon those that don’t. Try it, it works.

5. Get a coach (or at least a cheerleader)

This may be one of the more expensive ways to motivate yourself, but the investment is worthwhile. We can all use a thought partner in the journey of life. That person is not always our relationship partner. A professional coach will work with you in a structured framework with the aim of achieving tangible results. Professional coaches know about motivation. If you struggle with communication, they can help you be more assertive. If you struggle with stress, they can help you combat it. If you struggle with your boss, they can help you find ways to manage up. They can help you face your fear of success or your fear of failure.

I know a lot of this is easier said than done. But give it time, be patient. Results won’t come overnight but they will come. Work towards creating new habits and abandoning old ones that no longer serve you. Monitor your thoughts to keep them positive. If you hear negative thoughts, stop them. If you are unable to achieve your goals, it may only be because they are too big not because you are incapable. So break them down and create mini goals. Take smaller bites off the apple and take responsibility for your own success. Ultimately, you may even shape the organization you are in and have a positive impact and legacy. You may even begin to like your job again.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Gift of Failure

December 17, 2014 • 10 minute read • by Saeed


“The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”

– William James –

He did not speak a word until he was 4 years old. When he did speak, he muttered incomprehensibly to himself causing his parents great alarm. He was visual. He tended to think in pictures rather than words. He had great difficulty memorizing words, texts and names. Compounding his poor performance in school, he routinely showed his disdain for authority. He was eventually expelled and told he would never amount to much. He flunked his college entrance exam. When he did finally get in, he skipped classes that didn’t interest him and he antagonized his teachers. By today’s standards, he would have been said to have had observable learning disabilities. He would have been labeled dyslexic, autistic or suffering from a personality disorder. Socially, he was inept. He was awkward, aloof, self-isolating and emotionally detached. His hair was long and unkempt and his clothes were old and drabby. He didn’t like public speaking or socializing. He was a philanderer, who had multiple affairs and a child out of wedlock.

By all measures, he would have been considered a failure before it was discovered he was a genius and before he radically changed our understanding of the universe. His name was Albert Einstein. And he is but one example out of many social outcasts and underperformers, who were considered failures but ended up achieving greatness.

In our modern culture, we stigmatize and try to avoid failure (and people we consider to be failures) at all costs. We worship at the altar of success. New York Times columnist David Brooks sees the American fixation on productivity and professional success as an epidemic that is contributing to our cultural demise. This is more or less the same sentiment expressed in the quote above by William James– one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced – more than a century ago.

So what is the opportunity cost for our societal obsession and hunger for success and what is the price we pay for our fear of failure?

Failure builds strength

While Wikipedia and Webster would like you to believe differently, success and failure are not polar opposites. “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor,” said Truman Capote. You often need to endure heart wrenching failure before you achieve success. Entrepreneurs have always understood this. Risk and failure are inherent to the process of innovation and success. The learning organization is not only the one that learns from its successes, but the one that is most willing to speak openly about its failures. But organizational egos get in the way. I noticed this first hand in my own work in philanthropy. Funders go out of their way to demonstrate that a project they have invested in is working. They never produce reports that demonstrate why a project failed – and they never admit their own role in the failure. Instead, they abandon grantees and move on to new projects rather than address the challenges within the existing ones. Of course, we should not throw additional resources at a losing proposition. But without a post mortem of our failures, we bury our heads in the proverbial sand and limit our chances for learning and innovation. We lose the opportunity to strengthen our knowledge base.

Failure builds knowledge

We fear failure. We fear jeopardizing our jobs and our careers if something fails on our watch. The reality is that in organizational life, failure, if managed well, can be enormously beneficial. Companies need to learn how to manage failure and mine the wisdom contained within it. Of course, blindly stumbling from one failure to another is fool-hearted. But a culture of continuous innovation requires organizational leaders to build psychologically safe environments so that the lessons of failure can be reaped without shame or blame. Leaders should provide the organizational structures that allow people to fail and to capitalize on the lessons learned and opportunities gained for improvement. Leaders need to create organizational environments where thoughtful experimentation, or what Duke University professor of management Sim Sitkin calls intelligent failures, are considered the norm and are used to advance knowledge and develop organizational resilience.

Failure builds resilience

“Through failure we learn how to cope,” says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. Experimentation is the true mother of innovation (and success). It also naturally spawns failure. But today’s parents go to great lengths to remove failure from the equation in a misguided effort to sanitize childhood. In our education system, we give primacy to testing over learning. As Elkind puts it, “Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they’re geared to academic achievement.” What we learn in childhood about failure is the lesson of shame and blame. Even without meaning to, we carry the guilt, shame, disappointment, and pain we associate with failure from our childhood into our adulthood and into our professional lives. This hyper-vigilance and over-protectiveness in childhood has the net effect of making us more fragile and less resilient in adulthood. It means that we never develop the fortitude and strength of character to bounce back from difficult experiences – to get up after a fall and go at it again. We never learn, for example, to master stress effectively. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that resilient people choose the way they think. Resilience is born out of repeated experience, that may in many instances, be perceived as negative. Resilient organizations need resilient people.

Failure builds experience

It never ceases to amaze me how closed minded some people can be. I recently spoke to an entrepreneur who was trying to get back into the workforce after she had been away for nearly 5 years. She had rolled her sleeves up to her elbows and had dug knee deep in her own startup venture. Like many first time entrepreneurs, she had experienced initial success but had ultimately been crushed by the competition. Trying to get back into the workforce, she described to me her experience of reluctant hiring managers who were denying her re-entry as if she had neglected to get her hand stamped when she had walked out of that club. Personally, I would favor hiring an entrepreneur who had risked but failed than a “lifer” who has never stepped outside of their comfort zone. Her experience, fortitude and persistence would be a major asset to any organization. Indeed, many venture capitalists won’t invest in a new enterprise if the founder has never undergone failure. Such experience not only builds character but it also feeds our emotional intelligence.

Failure builds intuition

A 2004 Nobel Prize winning discovery of how we recognize the smell of an orange suggests that intuition is a form of highly developed pattern recognition. In other words, it is an algorithm used by the nervous system to extract information and experience from the vast database of the mind. That database requires data entry. If you have never faced a negative outcome you have a critical gap in the body of experience that intuition is based on. Unfortunately, the demand for creating an organizational culture that can effectively capitalize on failure is in short supply in most companies. Fear, embarrassment, intolerance, lack of commitment to learning and a culture where experimentation and learning from failure is not supported, exacerbates the problem. Organizational hierarchies stifle the conversation about failure and with it, our potential for flexing our intuitive muscles. The main alternative to the intuition-based approach is rational thinking. Yet, we have all faced business situations where the rational decision making process becomes impractical. Throughout my own personal and professional life, intuition has been an invaluable tool when decision making and rapid response have been required. Howard Raiffa, professor of managerial economics and a pioneer in the field of decision analysis says that formal techniques and procedures used in today’s business environment actually inhibit our intuitive capacity from operating effectively. To use only logic and quantitative analysis in business, is to deny our own emotional intelligence – one of the most important traits of leadership.

Rather than surfacing the lessons that come from our failures, we drive our potential for innovation underground. It cannot be disputed that within our personal and professional failures is a gold mine of wisdom waiting to be tapped. But to access that wisdom, we have to work towards a collective consciousness that is free of blame and free of the stigma associated with failure. We must also learn to fail with intelligence and know when to declare defeat. Obviously, not all failures are useful, and even some that we could learn from we should avoid. We must recognize that the failures that harm us the most are only the ones we repeat. We must be-friend failure and stop fetishizing success. We must fail often but we must fail forward in order to build resilience in the face of failure. As one of my favorite Japanese proverbs says: we must fall seven times but stand up eight.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

On The Right Track: 5 Strategies To Build Your Career Capital

December 14, 2014 • 9 minute read • by Saeed


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

– Warren Buffett –

You are not in Kansas anymore. The idea that you can show up to work on time every day, do your job and get ahead is a relic of a bygone era. In the past, employers focused significantly on professional development to support employees advancement. Those days are gone – or at least fleeting fast. Much to our collective chagrin, the Darwinian principle is alive and well in today’s hyper-competitive workplace culture.

Earlier this month, when I wrote about The One Trait You Must Demonstrate In Any Job Interview one of the concepts that intrigued a number of readers was the notion of career capital. Jobseekers know that to advance, they must invest in the appropriate education, training, and skills. But they also know that that is not nearly enough. Today’s worker has to dig deeper, much deeper to find his or her underlying value and make daily deposits in his or her career bank account.

Most would agree that Warren Buffett is one of the greatest investors of all time. It is also widely known that he largely credits Benjamin Graham, a scholar and financial analyst who is widely recognized as the father of value investing, for his success. One of the key principles that Graham advanced was the notion of buying stocks based on the underlying value and fidelity of a business enterprise. If we apply this bedrock investment principle to career advancement, our task becomes one where the building of our own underlying value and fidelity as a professional becomes paramount and one of strategic consideration.

As with any business enterprise, a series of strategies must be adopted and applied with focus and discipline to achieve our desired outcomes. We must pilot our work life using an instrument panel similar to the one we might use for our investments. We must be willing to risk, to learn, to grow and to adapt ourselves and we must be willing to monitor and improve our own performance in accordance with a set of underlying principles in order to advance accordingly.

A recently conducted Accenture Survey found that more than 89 percent of professionals believe building their career capital is the key to success in the workplace. The following strategies draw upon the results of this survey and other workplace research that supports the notion that career advancement is a matter of intentional and systematic planning and execution.

1. Build your Efficiency in Completing Tasks

Get organized, get focused, get disciplined and lose distractions. The key here is structure. Use agendas to drive meeting outcomes. Use “To Do” lists and planners to manage your time effectively. Use the countless (free) available apps out there to help you organize your life. Learn to use them and get ahead of the pack.

2. Build Mastery and Competency

Competencies are the combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors. You are hired for your competencies so use and enhance them to achieve higher levels of performance. Knowledge is information developed or learned through experience, study or inquiry. So learn, learn, learn. Skill is the result of repeatedly applying knowledge or ability. So practice, practice, practice. Ability is an innate potential to perform mental and physical actions or tasks. Highlight these whenever possible. Behavior is the observable reaction of an individual to a certain situation. Ensure that yours is always positive. Mastery is the ability to blend skills and knowledge in a specific area of practice. Cultivate it.

3. Build Your Networking Skills

Your network is one of the most important career assets you have. If investment in real estate is all about location, location, location, then investment in your career is all about relationships, relationships, relationships. Nurture them and they will nurture you. The surest way to burn career capital is to burn bridges. Having said that, some bridges lead to nowhere and they should be burned. Just know which ones to burn, when, where, how and why.

4. Build Longevity in Your Career

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers have been with their current employer for a median of 4.6 years. That doesn’t include the 14 million Americans who are self-employed free agents. Building longevity is no longer about staying with one company and holding out for the gold watch. Rather, it’s about staying fresh and building career equity: developing a set of skills, contacts and relationships as well as behaviors that value self improvement and the kind of adaptability that will allow you to be seen as a change maker, not someone who wants to cling to the status quo.

5. Build Your Personal Brand

If you watch a Nike commercial, the last thing you’ll see is a reference to shoe laces and leather. Apple commercials never boast about their monitors or keyboards. Rather, what you see is an association: great athletes in the case of Nike and great thinkers in the case of Apple. To develop your personal brand, you must ask yourself what you wish for people to associate with you when they think of your name. A strong personal brand is reliant upon a strong narrative. As an exercise, sit down and write your own story (your past and your future) and then align everything you do with that story.

As you travel the highways and byways on the new map of your work life, you’ll find that the foremost rule of the road is that career tracks are no longer linear. If there was ever a yellow brick road, it has been replaced by interconnected webs of opportunity, exposure and experience where a willingness to learn, to grow and to adapt to a brave and yet uncharted new world gain the greatest returns on investment.

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

5 Strategies to Deal with The Pain of Divorce

December 14, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story. In a story, everything has an end and a beginning. “

– Olga Kurylenko –

Let go. That’s the advice we often receive when dealing with difficult break-ups. Easier said than done. This advice does not usually come with any strategies to support the process of letting go. Unlike fine wine, divorce does not get better with age. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Number one on the list is Death of a Spouse. Number two? Divorce.

Getting over a divorce involves two overlapping processes—recovery from grief and restructuring your life. Experts say most people should give themselves a good two years to recover from an emotional trauma. In addition to the financial and emotional upheaval of an acrimonious divorce, the time that it takes to drudge the misery of your relationship through the courts can take a serious toll on your health, job and even social status. To counterbalance that effect and help you deal with the pain, you need a survival plan based on daily routines and strategies that establish a foundation for your new future. You need to implement that plan and pace yourself so you can sustain it for the life of the divorce, and thereafter. While only you can design the specifics of your plan, there are 5 key areas that it should encompass:

 

  1. The Social Strategy: Humans are social animals – there is no way around it and time and again researchers have found this to be the single most effective strategy to cope with divorce and the accompanying effects of isolation and loneliness that go with it. So tap into your social network and if you don’t have one, prioritize developing one. This strategy is particularly important for men to adopt since men are more prone to socially isolate themselves.
  1. The Physical Strategy: You need the right nutrition, sleep, and exercise to look and feel your best. Period. All three are common stress busters but the secret is to routinize them in your life. If you are a parent, you know the importance of routines in children’s lives. Routines give a sense of stability, continuity, reliance, and consistency. This is counter to the realities of divorce: change, instability, fear, and uncertainty. So develop personal self-care routines and stick to them – no matter what.
  1. The Mental Strategy: Therapy works but only if you visit the right kind of therapist with the right kind of therapy. Shop around and find the right fit for you and then invest in this strategy wholeheartedly. To get the most out of it, be honest and do the work it takes to heal. The process itself will help keep your depression at bay and give you perspective when you need it. Whether male or female, make sure you find someone who is going to be in your corner: non-judgmental and compassionate. Most importantly, remember: therapy is not just an intellectual exercise. You have to feel your own pain. You have to go to war with it to overcome it. One stress reducer common across all history and every culture is the simple mechanism of releasing salt water from our tear ducts.
  1. The Spiritual Strategy: This is about getting in touch with your core self and whatever method you use to do it, be it prayer, meditation, yoga or trimming your Bonsai tree, just do it. Develop a routine and stick to it. Hard core Yogis devote a minimum of three hours a day to their yoga and meditation practice. You may not have that kind of time, but it’s the routine that matters most. It’s the routine that will ultimately anchor you and give you a platform from which to start your life anew.
  1. The Financial Strategy: The longer your divorce takes the deeper the financial ditch you will find yourself in so it’s imperative that you stay on top of your finances, which include vigilance over your credit score, assets and debts. If you can afford a financial planner, hire one. If not, see if you can tap into free community services, get help on-line or just talk to your bank.

There will be times when it will all feel insurmountable and you will feel like giving up. It is at those times when it’s important to fall back on these strategies and on your own specific plan. And remember, never ever lose hope. In the words of the great Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The One Trait You Must Demonstrate In Any Job Interview

December 12, 2014 • 12 minute read • by Saeed


“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

– William Shakespeare –

Blink, and you might miss her. At 5-foot-11 and 130 pounds, Wilma Rudolph was a sight to behold. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.

You might think that she was born with innate athleticism. You would be wrong. Perhaps even more incredible than her achievement as an athlete is her resilience as a human being.

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely weighing only 4 1/2 pounds and the bulk of her childhood was spent in bed. She suffered from double pneumonia, scarlet fever and later she contracted polio. After losing the use of her left leg, she was fitted with metal leg braces. She was only six years of age. As number 20th out of 22 children (yes you read that correctly), her family was poor and could not afford good medical care. The doctors had predicted that she would not walk again. But Wilma was determined to lead a “normal” life. Despite whooping cough, measles and chicken pox, she was out of her leg braces by age nine. Three years later, her mother came home to find her playing basketball by herself bare-footed. Later, she was encouraged by a track coach who recognized her talent on the court. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is clear that Wilma Rudolph faced great adversity, both internal and external. Despite that adversity, she became a great athlete and an inspiration to many. But perhaps even more impressive than her physical accomplishments, is her sheer will, determination, and resiliency. It is her mental fitness, more than her physical feats, and her dogged belief in her Self that ultimately drove her success.

From my coaching experience, I find that many people who fail to achieve their objectives, do not fail because of a lack of knowledge, skill or ability. These, after all, can always be acquired. With thoughtful planning and execution any objective is achievable. However, some, even when they have the ability to achieve an objective, still fall short of meeting their goals. Some, even when they know they can do the job, still fail to impress at the interview.

Why?

Research shows that, on average, interviewers reach final decisions about applicants in only four minutes after meeting them. According to Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, the decisions may occur even faster – instantaneously or in under two seconds. What he calls ‘thin-slicing’ has serious implications for job interview applicants. It means decisions are being made before the actual exchange of content.

That may seem unfair. Everyone, after all, deserves the same treatment and the same attention to factors such as experience, credentials and skills. And as with any job interview, a series of questions will be asked to assess the type of candidate you are. In truth, however, interviewers are less concerned with your technical abilities and more concerned with your personality type. They want to know if they can work with you. Hence the rise of personality testing in job interviews.

But beyond your personality type, the impression you leave behind of your Self has far more to do with your job interview success.

Agency and esteem are central to the construction of a concept of Self. A study of more than 500 students, academics and workers, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that those who appeared more confident achieved a higher social status than their peers. The conclusions drawn from this study have significant implications for professionals. The key to career success, in other words, is confidence, not talent. Despite your credentials, experience and expertise, a lack of self-belief will reduce your chances of success. Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think that you can or you think you can’t – you’re right’.

Self belief is that powerful. To succeed, you must first cultivate the mental posture and mindset for success.

In her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck argues that individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Those that believe their success is based on innate ability are said to have a “fixed” mindset. Others, who believe their success is based on hard work and continuous learning, are said to have a “growth” mindset. The distinction is crucial and can mean the difference between a life unfulfilled and one, like Wilma Rudolph, of extraordinary achievement.

That is because individuals with a “growth” mindset have higher intrinsic motivation to achieve. They are more likely to set higher goals and to persevere despite setbacks. Their underlying belief system tells them that if they really want to achieve something, they will find a way to make it happen. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset give up more readily when faced with problems. They are uncertain and doubtful about their ability and they more quickly lose interest and motivation.

Unfortunately, many people wait for their self belief to increase before they take action. That, however, is not how it works. You can’t sit around waiting for a sense of self belief to kick in when all your stars are aligned. You have to start developing your own self belief. The world will largely accept you at your own estimation. It is yourself that you have to convince of your self-worth, before you can convince anyone else. But once you are absolutely sure that you have what it takes to master any situation, you will act in such a way that your beliefs will become your reality. Mastery is made up of intention, concentration, and attention. To develop it, you must be willing to take risks and to face the inevitable rejections that come with putting yourself out there. You must practice, fail, learn and repeat until you succeed.

And if the interview doesn’t go your way, remember the words of Wilma Rudolph:“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.