Going for It: Rapid Reinvention
POSTED AT 6:24 AM ET, 12/14/2010

A parachute for dream-job hunting

So, we're in the middle of career-ending season. I blogged some time ago that the holiday season is the time when many employers pass out pink slips. Seems Scrooge is alive and well in corporate America during the holidays. I wrote a little poem about it. Want to hear it? Here it goes:

'Twas the season of Christmas  and all over the land.
Bosses were slashing jobs to get budgets in hand.
Our resumes were snuggled in our laptops with care.
In hopes that if we get fired a new job would be there.

Clever, huh? Anyway, with the unemployment rate still above nine percent, there are a lot of people who are facing a jobless holiday season. Author and "career guru" Richard N. Bolles has a new book that may help. His "What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter's Workbook" offers tips on picking up the pieces after losing your job. This is the sequel to his "What Color Is Your Parachute?" book, which was published a few years ago.

Bolles, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, according to a news release, has been helping job seekers for 40 years. His new book, which is available today, contains worksheets to help "illuminate your favorite transferrable skills, fields of special knowledge, job environments, values and goals, working conditions, and levels of responsibility and salary." After completing the exercises in the handbook, the publicity for the book promises, "you'll have a comprehensive picture of your dream job, and be able to effectively target your ideal work situation."

As if we didn't already know. Come on, now. As if we weren't already in our perfect job situation. As if each and every one of us (writing or) reading this right now is anything other than absolutely certain that the job we hold at this very moment is the absolute ultimate. As if each of us isn't as happy as a clam, despite being supervised by someone with half our experience, a quarter of our ability and only an inkling of a clue. Shucks, not us. We know we've got it made. Nobody's looking for a job over here. This book must have been written for you.

So enjoy. Learn something. I've got to roll. I've got to get back to my dream job. I'm writing up my interview with popular syndicated radio personality Russ Parr. He's got like three jobs--deejay, screenwriter, movie director. Cool guy. I had a blast hanging out with him at his team at WKYS 93.9. Check out the piece in the next few days.

Meanwhile, in between completing tasks on your dream job, check me out on Facebook and Twitter.


BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:35 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

I'm baaack!

Hola! Did you miss me? I was on hiatus to help cover news for awhile. It was refreshing to go back to that life and my editor and I have decided that I will do more reporting while I continue to delve into the world of the Internet with this blog.

So, what's been going on? I was gone for about four weeks. Here are my thoughts on some significant stories from the last month:

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and his wife, Leslie, who was sworn in as a county council member yesterday, were arrested Nov. 12 after the FBI raided their home. The feds said they recorded Johnson telling his wife to flush a $100,000 check he had allegedly been given by a developer and to stuff almost $80,000 in cash into her bra. Google it on youtube. 

Michael Vick regained a lot of fans when he led the Philadelphia Eagles to an absolute shellacking of the Washington Redskins on November 15. The score was Eagles 59, 'Skins 28. Ouch! My husband, a devoted 'Skins ran, walked around in mourning for days. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I'm always happy to see the 'Skins take one on the chin. But I even felt sorry for them that day. I was also happy to see Vick redeem himself. I had a diabetic cat whom I cared for for more than a decade and I love animals, but I do think that he has suffered long enough for the mistakes that led to his downfall in Atlanta. What a reinvention!

President Barack Obama took an elbow to the lip while playing basketball with some of his boys on Nov. 26, resulting in 12 stitches. We haven't heard about anybody getting fired, but you know there were some consequences. That happened on the same day I converged on several local malls with my girlfriend Y for some serious shopping--marathon shopping, sore feet and aching back shopping. I love Black Friday!

Now, I gotta go. Have to finish a profile for Capital Business. On Dec. 13, I'm featuring Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. They do such wonderful work over there.


BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 2:28 PM ET, 11/ 9/2010

Having technical difficulties, redux

Are you there? Is anybody seeing this? I'm actually not sure because we are having technical difficulties today.

Welcome to the tech age, when very complicated computers and the Internet and gadgets of all sorts have made it possible for us to do amazingly interesting things, like research songs under the hair dryer at the beauty salon or find our way to a house in an unknown neighborhood with the help of a satelite floating hundreds of miles away in space.

A wonderful thing technology, right? I mean, would any of us want to go back to say, typewriters or map books? I think not. We've got it so much better off now. Heck, I can be in touch with a friend of mine in Japan in a matter of seconds. I can shop for a blouse at a boutique in Paris sitting right here at my desk. I can get a recipe for Jamaican jerk chicken from the Web site of a chef I met on vacation in the Caribbean last year. I can check in on my sister in North Carolina, my best friend in Iowa, my beloved eighth grade teacher in Indianapolis.

What I can't do, however, is put up posts from three of my bloggers today BECAUSE WE ARE HAVING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. When things work, everything is great. But when things don't work, everything goes to h-e-double hockey sticks. This didn't happen when they had typewriters, I'm sure. If you had a ribbon and some paper, you were in business.


My boss is probably sitting in his office wondering why I haven't posted this or why the bloggers haven't been posted. He probably thinks it is because I'm surfing the Web for blouses from boutiques in Paris or recipes from chefs in Jamaica. He probably thinks I'm chatting with my sister in North Carolina or my best friend in Iowa or my beloved eighth grade teacher in Indianapolis when, in reality, I'M SITTING HERE WAITING FOR THE TECHNOLOGY TO BE FIXED SO I CAN DO MY &%@* JOB.

Maybe I'll see what is going on on Facebook and Twitter while I wait. That's what I'll do. I'll face and tweet.

For crying out loud!

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:17 AM ET, 11/ 3/2010

Are you between successes?

I've got a favorite new term that I appropriated from Marshall Brown, the On Success career coach--"between successes." Don't you love that?

In his post recently, a reader asked Marshall what to do about business cards. He's unemployed and looking and doesn't have one, the reader told Marshall.

Then, the columnist set him straight. "First of all, you are not unemployed. You are 'between successes' and your full time job right now is looking for your next opportunity."

So there. If anything happens and you end up laid off, bought out, downsized or fired, don't consider yourself unemployed. You'll simply be between successes. That sounds so much better!

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:47 AM ET, 10/28/2010

Seeing your career as a marathon

Today's What It Takes subject is Doug Laughlin, 68, founder of LM&O Advertising in Arlington. He got into the ad game as a result of working in public relations for the Army after he was drafted and sent to Europe in the 1960s. His military p.r. experience led to jobs in advertising in the private sector. As I said in a previous post, he was part of the teams that dreamed up both "Be all you can be" for the Army and "Aim high" for the Air Force. When he was about 50, he started his company with only a few employees and one account. Today, his agency has many varied accounts and more than $150 million in annual billings.

I asked Laughlin about his worst job. "Digging post holes in west Texas during my first year of college at Texas Tech," which he attended before moving to Ohio and transferring to Kent State. "I earned some extra money repairing fences out in the prairie. That was a tough job."

I'm sure. He said owning his ad agency has been his dream job.

"You get real satisfaction from some of the things you can do when you are the boss. In every agency, you strive for the big idea and all of a sudden it occurs and you flesh it out and roll with it...I can bring a team along and watch them grow. It's been a pleasure each and every day. The last 15 years have been the best years of my life."

Then we talked about the kind of advice he offers to people who aspire to be successful. His answer was particularly profound to me, a 25-year newspaper veteran.

"Your career is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash," he said. "So often, young people want to succeed overnight and they look at things by week and month and year, when in fact, a guy like me has been kicking around for four decades. I advise people not to rush and to make sure they are ready for the next move...That's one of my criticisms of business--they are always in this quarterly mode when they should be thinking long range."

He also advises bosses to shine the spotlight on their workers. I hear from many of you that, in this time of dwindling corporate resources, there is even more of a tendency on the part of supervisors to hog the credit that should belong to their subordinates.

"There is a philosophy in the military, 'The troops eat first,'" Laughlin said. "The worst thing you can do is go to the head of the chow line. Let others go first. Be happy to give others the credit. In the final analysis, your people are what will make you a success."

And your hard work and longevity. So, long-time workers, be proud. However, if you look around and decide that you aren't happy with what you are doing, perhaps you should do what Laughlin did--your own thing.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!  

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:43 AM ET, 10/26/2010

Michael Jackson: richest dead celeb

I am still mourning Michael Jackson. It's been more than a year, but it still seems impossible that he is gone. I keep hoping that some enterprising journalist will discover him living on some remote Pacific island, hiding out from a world that was not always kind to him. I have this fantasy that his family has perpetrated this huge fraud--including employing some child actors to pretend to be his kids--to give him a chance to live a peaceful life.

Anyway, he is apparently richer now than he ever was alive, according to Forbes.com. The site lists Michael as the top earning-dead celebrity among several in the last year, including New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Elvis. MJ even made more than Oprah last year. I didn't think that was possible.

And, he's doing better than the two biggest living musical acts, as well. "Jackson not only took the No.1 spot on our 10th annual ranking of the Top-Earning Dead Celebrities, with gross earnings of $275 million, he out-earned the other 12 deceased stars on the list combined," the site said. "Still more impressive: His estate's 12-month haul was greater than the pooled earnings of this year's two biggest living acts, U2 and AC/DC."

Some of my money is included in that $275 million that makes up Michael's recent haul. I had his records and CDs from back in the day, but I supplemented my collection and bought the "This Is It" video and some T-shirts after he died. It was money well spent.

Michael was hoping for a reinvention. At a news conference announcing his "This Is It" tour, he told fans this was his last hoorah. That's why it was so sad that he died when he did. He never got a chance to reinvent himself. He has had several hoorahs since his death, including this one. Forbes.com said Michael was never named to the Forbes Celebrity 100 list while he was living, which also shocked me. I thought he was richer than anybody back in the days when anything that he recorded seemed to go platinum or gold.

It's so sad that we reached out to Michael in a big way only after he wasn't able to feel the love. As a fan, I wish he'd had a chance to see how popular he still is. I am comforted, though, in knowing that his children should be in a good financial place.


BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:05 AM ET, 10/25/2010

I've got the no more news blues

I read a story today from back when newspapers used to be newspapers and I got bluesy about what has happened to my business. That was not a good thing to do or a good state to be in when I needed to blog.

Ugh. As the sign on my desk says, I am now a blogger, which has led to tremendous change in what I do and how I do it. Once upon a time, I would have been on the telephone, interviewing sources, searching for some tidbit of news to turn into a story. I would have grabbed a notebook, driven too fast to some scene, talked to some interesting people and produced a piece, mostly  likely to appear on the Metro page of The Washington Post.

These days, I spend my mornings reading e-mails, texts and blogs, contemplating how to turn some slice of life--the opening of the new Wegmans in Prince George's County giving residents there a chance to reinvent the way they shop or former NBA great Allen Iverson trying to reinvent his career in Europe--into a column-like entry to send out over the Internet.

In a month, I will have spent a year blogging. It is completely different than anything I've done before. I am a good reporter. I am a good writer. I am not sure yet if I'm a good blogger. I'm not even sure what a good blogger is.

Those of us whose medium is the Internet ask frequently for feedback and participation. That is one of the ways we measure success. It's not enough for you to read me, I want you to also go to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I ask you to comment on the blog or send me an e-mail. You have to work these days. You can't just read.

Many of you contact me, usually by telephone or e-mail. Often, you share something that has happened to you that is related to something I blogged about, like getting laid off, getting fired, finding a job or about dealing with an unpleasant supervisor.

I enjoy those communications, but I have to admit that after a year, I don't feel that what I do is as important as when I reported news. I still love working at a newspaper. I enjoy being part of the new incarnation of journalism. But I sometimes miss what I used to do.

I especially miss it when I read a really good news story, like the one I was reading this morning. I have a collection of favorite stories I've collected over the years and occasionally I pull one out to read. This one is a 1990 piece entitled "Anatomy of a Bullet Wound." It was written by Paul Dean, then a Los Angeles Times staff writer. It is an in-depth piece about the impact of the shooting of a man named Juan Antonio Mendez by a security guard as he allegedly attempted to rob an electronics store in Koreatown. It was a detailed, expertly reported piece that my friends and I talked about with envy and fascincation over dinner the night it came out and in the newsroom the next day at the Daily News of Los Angeles across town where I then worked. It is the kind of story that we used to see many more of back when people liked to read long, detailed, well-reported stories and newspapers had the inclination and space to publish them.

Flash forward to day when people want short stories laced with gossip, when Tiger Woods' marital troubles are better read than stories about the economy. Thus my bluesy mood.

One of my colleagues was having none of it when I whined to him and others in the office a little while ago. "Then you should report news," he said. He preached at me about what I used to do and urged me, despite the changes in the newsroom, to continue to write news. "Blog and do news," he said.

So, I'm going to think about that and talk to my boss. Will let you know how it goes. 


BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 2:58 PM ET, 10/21/2010

Ginnie, give it up! Anita, don't respond!

Here we go again. Controversy about nothing.

This time, there's a tizzy around a telephone message that Virginia Thomas, wife of SCOTUS member Clarence Thomas, left for Anita Hill, the former aide who testified during hearings to determine if he would be confirmed that he had sexually harassed her. 

The Washington Post reported that Virginia Thomas called Hill earlier this month to ask her to apologize to her husband and recant statements she made during her testimony. She left her request on Hill's voice mail at work. Hill turned the recorded message over to security at Brandeis University, where she now teaches, then played it for the New York Times.

Suddenly, we have another media spectacle.

What was on Virginia Thomas' mind to think that Hill might apologize? Why would she bring this up again, almost 20 years later? And for Hill, why not just erase it or refuse to answer?

After surviving an episode in history that Hill and the Thomases have indicated was painful and difficult, why would Virginia Thomas do anything to bring this to public attention again? And why would Hill respond?

What else is newsworthy this week? Good grief!

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:03 AM ET, 10/18/2010

'Tis the season for lay offs

'Twas the season of Christmas  and all over the land.
Bosses were slashing jobs to get budgets in hand.
Our resumes were snuggled in our laptops with care.
In hopes that if we get fired a new job would be there.

Bad news came to me via e-mail a few days ago. It seems that we are in the season when some of us may not be jolly. Seems the fourth quarter is the favorite time for companies to dismiss employees, according to career coach and author Ford R. Meyers. Meyers, who wrote "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring," which I previously blogged about, sent me a list of six tips to help fight the "Pink Slip Blues." He warned us not to be caught unawares, so here is my effort to help you get ready. Has your boss been looking at you funny, not returning telephone calls or e-mails or generally evasive? Are you getting a vibe that disaster is about to strike? Are some of the managers taking off more sick days, and/or coming in late, and/or leaving early dressed particularly fetchingly these days? If so, they may know something you don't know.

Pay attention to what Meyers said:

1. Perform an honest assessment of the situation and of yourself. Although most layoffs have nothing to do with individual performance, you should still determine if you could have done anything differently to hold onto your job. 

2. Take a short mental vacation. Take off a few days to a week to take stock of your career situation, clear your mind and consider your options. Only then should you begin planning your next career moves.

3. Research the market. Spend time researching the employment trends in your industry and geographic area. This will help you to identify the best companies to work for in your field, which companies are growing and which are contracting.

4. Update your "Career Tool Kit." Finding a new job is easier when you have the right tools! Now is the time to develop some new "Accomplishment Stories" about which you feel proud. Polish-up that "15-second commercial" (a short verbal presentation about who you are professionally). Bring your resume and all your other job-seeking documents up-to-date.

5. Reach out and network...Your network - personal and professional contacts - is your most valuable career asset.

6. Practice your interviewing and negotiating skills. It's a fact: better interviews get better offers! Take the time to prepare questions in advance to ask the interviewer; even role play with a friend to get comfortable answering tough interview questions. In addition, devote time to performing diligent salary research. Make it a point to know what you're really worth so when you reach the salary negotiation stage, you'll be well-prepared and ready to win!

And, even if the ax doesn't fall this year, stay alert. "It's always best to 'stay ahead of the game' - making sure all your career documents and job search skills are current, just in case that pink slip finds its way onto your desk at the end of NEXT year," Meyers said.

I'm out. I have to go to an interv, er, I mean, lunch. That's right, I have a business lunch.Check me out on Facebook and Twitter! And make some lunch appointments of your own. 

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 4:35 AM ET, 10/14/2010

More with HR expert Jim Haudan

Yesterday, we learned about troubles facing HR managers. Today, we learn about upcoming trends in the industry from Jim Haudan, CEO of Root Learning. But first, more about Haudan.

ATL: Tell me about you.

JH: I have a BA in Education and an MBA from the University of Toledo. I've had the privilege of working with some of the biggest names in business, including Gap Inc., PETCO, Dow Chemical, Pepsi, FirstEnergy, Taco Bell, and Hilton Hotels. Some of the points I'm particularly proud of include being named Entrepreneur of the Year in Northwest Ohio in the Business Services Category in 1997 and writing a bestselling book in 2008, The Art of Engagement: Bridging the Gap Between People and Possibilities. Also, we were named one of the Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in America for the last six years and one of the Top Small Workplaces in America by the Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces in 2009.

ATL: What does Root Learning do?

JH: We arm our clients with the knowledge and tools needed to answer the most important question that plagues many companies, "What are your roadblocks to success?" We believe that people are one of the most critical levers to success and by using a blend of custom and innovative learning solutions, we help businesses figure out the most effective way to engage employees and solve business problems through people, rather than in spite of them.

I have the fundamental belief that people don't understand life-defining issues because they are not in the game. So, if there is a way to help people get off the bench and get into the "game of their business," a place we all spend between 40 to 60 perceng of the hours we are awake, we could get better results and people would gain meaning and purpose.

ATL: What HR trends do you see coming in 2011?

JH: Talent is always talked about, it's at the top of the list and HR is trying to match talents and skills to strategy. The talent needed for the future is now a company's strategic initiative.
Managers in HR also have to help leaders in business play at a higher level of altitude than ever before. Business leaders must shift from working in the business to working on the business. "In" the business is the tactical: doing things we do well. "On" the business includes the strategic things we've not done before. Right now, it's 75 percent in and 25 percent on. It should be switched or they, or their business, will not be successful.

And, while change, change management, and change leadership have all been talked about in the past, today's imperative requires that leaders lead change by making it personal and recognizing that the pace car for organizational change is their personal behavior. At company after company ,people continue to comment that the strategy isn't the problem, the problem is the fundamental disbelief that leaders will change their behaviors to bring the strategy to life.

Now, I've got to finish an interview. I'm going to try harder to get in the game. I'll see if I have time. I wonder if my boss would pay for Haudan to come here to talk to the bloggers? Don't forget to catch me on Facebook and Twitter!  

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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POSTED AT 6:50 AM ET, 10/13/2010

From high school coach to CEO

Put on your thinking caps. Today, we'll get a lesson in human resources management from Jim Haudan, CEO of Root Learning, who has helped to motivate employees at companies like AOL, NASA and Booze Allen Hamilton to resolve problems affecting their success. His company, incorporated in 1993, has offices in Chicago, Toledo and London. One popular tool used by Root Learning are Haudan's Learning Map visuals, colorful graphics produced to break down complex corporate strategies for employees. He was recently featured at the HR EDGE conference in McLean, sponsored by the Washington Technical Personnel Forum, which brought together some of the area's leading human relations managers.

ATL: You were once a high school football coach. Where and what made you give that up?

JH: I was a coach at Toledo Central Catholic High School. While I enjoyed coaching high school students, I was more excited about coaching in a business environment on the topic of servant leadership. I was also influenced by Tom Peters' book, In Search of Excellence. At its core, it instills ways for us to lead, inspire and create results.

ATL:  How did you move from coaching into business?

JH: I became the assistant to the superintendent of Catholic schools. So the blend of education and business really interested me. This was the beginning of putting things together that don't go together, breakthrough thinking. At the time, the breakthrough thinking was to think of the students and parents as customers and education as a service. Also, there was a lunacy in education of labeling the customer, students, as disabled, and nowhere else do we do this.

ATL: Often, the focus is on the struggles of employees, but as the messenger of bad news HR professionals have it tough how. What challenges are HR pros facing? 

JH: The first challenge is that there are still toxic levels of anxiety in organizations where people aren't sure about their company and their future in it. HR's challenge is at the very same time to represent the honesty and reality of an uncertain marketplace, while engaging people to take the risks necessary to build the company and the value of the future. The obvious challenge is to make it safe to take risks and lead change in the face of uncertainty and anxiety. They can over come those challenges by creating an environment where it's safe to tell the truth, for people to say what they think and feel and being honest themselves.

Tomorrow, Hauden will share HR trends for next year and talk about his success. I'm off to tour a new store and you know how I hate to shop! Catch up with me on Facebook and Twitter!  

BY Avis Thomas-Lester

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