What’s Your Story?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed

Want to up your job interview game? Learn how to tell your story.

Step 1: Start by asking a few ‘Origin Story’ questions by going back in time (pro tip: ask your mom the same questions):

  • What have I always gravitated towards naturally?
  • What activities did I lose myself in?
  • What did I talk about all the time?
  • What did I love to read?

Step 2: Extract key themes to ‘discover’ your true self.

Step 3: Connect these discoveries with what you do now or want to do.

Step 4: Look at job openings with this new perspective.

Step 5: Look for jobs that reconnect you to these early ‘values.’

Step 6: In the interview, connect a story from your past to the role you are applying for in the present and connect the two to show why you are the right fit.

Step 7: Sign offer letter.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Crush It In The First 90 Days!

April 26, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”Donald Rumsfeld

This is about your first 90 days. The most crucial period on your new job.

Your first 90 days on the job are the most crucial because what you do in the first 90 days can have a potential long term effect on your overall experience at the company.  That’s according to Harvard Business School professor Michael D. Watkins who in his 2013 book, The First 90 Days, outlined how these transition times are critical to ultimate success on the job.

If you’ve been on the job but you’re unhappy, think back to your first 90 days. If you are in your first 90 days, this is your chance to chart a course for one of success.

In brief, you have 90 days to prove that you were worth the trouble the hiring department went through to get you in your new seat. That’s true if it’s a new job and it’s also true if you’re promoted into a higher position at the same job. For this post, we are going to assume that the employer has done their bit in on-boarding you to make sure you have what you need to be successful. Now let’s get to work.

Time is not your friend

But focus and attention is. You need to hit the ground running and figure out what’s what quick. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses. What worked in your last job may not work in this one. You may need to acquire new skills, so acquire them. You may need to build new alliances, so build them. You may need to learn new content. So learn it. You need to know what you know and know what you don’t know. Most importantly, you need to be ready for the things you don’t know you don’t know.

What do you need to know?

In short, everything. But you need to prioritize and focus on what’s important. The tendency is to focus on the technical job skills and not enough on politics. It’s understandable to want to gain mastery over the core components of your new job. But it’s relationships and politics that often take us off track. To start, put together a learning plan. Figure out what’s a top priority and what can wait. Use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.  to figure out what’s important and what’s urgent. Do you know the biggest challenges your department or organization is facing? Why is your department or company facing these challenges? Do you know where the opportunities are? How can you find out? Do you know who the key players are; internally and externally?


How well do you need to know it?

Here is the thing: You fail because you fail to learn and  you learn by directing your attention towards what you want to learn. It’s not about intelligence. It’s about attention. Like sunlight going through a magnifying glass you have to focus your attention. On what? The essentials. What matters most. What keeps you moving forward or better yet what propels you.  If you put your attention on the wrong things, you’ll always be playing catch up. You’ll create head winds for yourself instead of putting the wind at your back. If you just engage in a flurry of activity and change for change’s sake, you’ll blunder and stymie your progress. If you must fail, then fail fast and fail forward. Learn quickly from your mistakes and press on. Your ideas got you hired. The quality of your execution keeps you hired.  

Momentum, Momentum, Momentum

They say in real estate it’s all about location. In the first 90 days, it’s all about momentum. Here is the wind analogy again: Your job is to get wind in your sails, not tears. Tears hold you back. Wind keeps you moving and even accelerates your journey. Wind =Wins. You need early wins to propel you. To get them, you need to adjust to the culture, adjust to your boss  and get in alignment with where the business is going. Don’t work against the grain. Don’t sail on sand. You need to root out misalignment (in yourself and in others) and address it. If you feel resistance (in yourself and in others), look for the release valve. Be a problem solver. Be a facilitator. Create value. Grease your own runway.

Get To Know the PPL

Unless you are a monk in a cave, work is about relationships. Know what motivates each member of your team. If you have A players, do everything to keep them and get them on your side. They’ll propel you the most. Take time to listen instead of showing off your knowledge and skills. Build credibility before visibility. Be positive.  Be collaborative. Be assertive. And if you’re in a position of power, recognize that direct authority is never enough and never sustainable. You have to build buy-in. You have to build coalitions. Don’t just focus “vertically” on managers above you—also create “horizontal” alliances. Remember, of all the people in the room, 50% will support you; 20% never will, and the other 30% are ‘swing voters.’ Where will you spend your time?

Why 90 days?

It’s a quarter, which is a recognized time frame in the business world. Companies often track how they’re doing based on how much progress they make each quarter. In presidential politics, the fixation with the first 100 days traces its history back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who passed 15 major pieces of legislation during the era of the Great Depression. Presidents have been trying to manage that impossible standard and the expectations surrounding it ever since.

The First 90 Days Are Your Architectural Blueprint

Your first 90 days are when opinions and impressions are formed about you. If you’re late every morning, you’ll be labeled accordingly; if you make mistakes you may be thought of as careless going forward. Reputations, once built, can be tough to break. Be on your best game so you can create the best impressions early and build off of them for the rest of your time. Be mindful that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

Harsh Beginning May Mean a Harsh Ending

And if you do all this and still have a harsh startup, don’t just ignore the writing that may be on the wall. You should absolutely try to right the wrongs, give the benefit of doubt, and try to make it work. But also know and be ready for how long that should take and when you should take action if you don’t see improvement in your experience. Statistics tell the story: 20 percent of employee turnover happens in the first 90 days of employment.  That means that one of every five people who start a new job today are likely to have left that job within just three months. And that, may be a good thing.

Invest in your first 90 days. It will pay you back in dividends.

Good luck.

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.

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