I was an early adopter of the BlackBerry in the mid-2000s — not the email only pager-like device, but the smartphone which was rapidly becoming an essential piece of equipment for serious business road warriors like myself.
If you got an email on it you could bet it was business related and probably important. When the mail alert beeped you checked the device, fully expecting to see a relevant email that related to a business engagement. The flood of social and marketing emails, from the ridiculous to the mundane and irrelevant, had yet to be the problem that it has become today. So few people had smart phones that when you pulled it out of the holster, everyone noticed.
“What is that thing?” asked a clerk at convenience store.
“It is my email and telephone,” I responded while scrolling through four new messages.
“Well isn’t that amazing,” she responded. “I can’t ever imagine needing to get my email on a mobile phone! That is just silly.”
A colossal understatement.
Today, smartphones are a vital component of our connected society. Today, if you do not have a smartphone — I am now an Apple iPhone devotee — you are either retired or hopelessly out of touch. Even panhandlers seem to have them — I caught a guy who needed $5 to buy something to eat using his smartphone to call someone after I told him that I didn’t have any cash on me.
In some households, text messages and even emails fly back and forth between siblings and parents who are sometimes not more than 20-feet from one another. And have you noticed couples in restaurants? Both have their phones out and appear engrossed in reading messages and texting but are not speaking to each other. That is beyond disturbing.
These phones appear to serve as a crutch for people who cannot imagine walking a few paces or being in an elevator or other space for more than 10 seconds without doing something. They pull out their smartphone — the one they checked for text messages or emails less than two minutes ago before they left their home or office — and begin the swiping and scrolling for new important messages. There probably aren’t any but it beats that awkward moment of inadvertently making eye contact with a passerby, or a neighbor or a colleague and perhaps having to respond the old fashioned way — oral conversation.
© 2014 John Gregory Self
Ask the Recruiter is a regular feature. We answer questions we receive from active candidates, those considering making a change or those in active transition. Send your questions to SelfPerspective.
I have been out of the workforce for more than nine years to start and raise a family. For 15 years I was a highly successful Managing Director for a public relations consultancy that specialized in helping non-profits raise money through major events. I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, and an MBA from one of the top graduate schools in the country. Now that my children are older, I am more than ready to re-enter the labor pool but I am concerned about the reception I will receive given the length of my stay-at-home mom status and the large number of people who were laid off in the Great Recession and have yet to find another job? What strategy should I pursue?
If there was ever a career that is “forgiving” of a prolonged family leave, this is it. Unlike working in a specialized field requiring current technical or market expertise, or a nice “rolodex” of potential customers, this field allows you to ease back in — by volunteering for a local charity, church or school. There are tons of event planners but very few that are in the top tier of performance and results. These are the people who know how to use limited budgets to maximize impact — and financial return. They posses a superior innate sense of style, savvy, judgment and a personality that can meld varied egos. Volunteering allows you an opportunity to showcase that talent once again. If you haven’t lost the touch, and you are in or near a major market like Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or New York — word will get around.
As you work on volunteer projects, begin renewing old contacts — clients and vendors — from your pre-kids years to share with them your volunteer successes. This is a potentially lucrative field, and the real stars of the industry are prized. In healthcare, these skilled professionals are becoming more important as providers turn with a growing sense of urgency to use philanthropy and special fundraising events to supplement shrinking reimbursement for capital projects.
If you have a question, write to John at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2014 John Gregory Self
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
That is one of the questions we ask in our in-depth interview with potential candidates. Some candidates, quickly assessing the risk-reward of an off-the-mark answer, try to guess what we want to hear. If you look at them, you can see the mental wheels working at high speed.
Something to consider, any time you start trying to figure what the recruiter wants to hear, versus the real best advice you have ever been given, you are in trouble.
And more advice, as important as the first: be authentic. We have all received guidance regarding our careers. If you are ever asked that question, share what resonated with you. The only thing worse than playing outguess the recruiter is to admit no one has offered you career counseling, or worse still, you can’t remember anything specific.
One of the best answers I have heard in recent years is this:
When you start a new job find a mentor or a coach, someone you respect who will tell you the truth and help you grow.
Simple and to the point, and it is probably the best advice that anyone can offer.
Whether you are a newly appointed CEO or a first year consultant, you need someone to help you maintain balance and perspective.
In this new era of healthcare, with the pace of change rapidly gaining momentum, the jobs we undertake, and the rules that govern what we do and how we do it, are also changing.
The smart organizations, that is to say those with the best chance of surviving healthcare reform, will be the ones, big or small, that invest in helping their people grow — providing access to outside coaches, or producing this type of leadership development service internally.
At the end of the day, success will be driven by these factors
To achieve these objectives, an organization must hire, develop and retain the best people. At a time when organizations are focusing on expense reduction, not investing in developing employees is beyond pennywise and pound foolish. More broadly, mediocre leaders and managers who see their work as a job not as a profession in which the highest standards of performance must be achieved, simply will not survive.
Organizations that do not invest in their people won’t fare much better.
© 2014 John Gregory Self