Category Archives: Hobnobily Stuff

Process is unsexy, but necessary

How often do we go to events that energize and motivate us to change? I think all of us do that on a regular basis. Think of that corporate leadership conference your company sent you to. Or that science camp your parents paid for during the summer. Or church on Sundays. Yes…church.

These things are great catalysts to encourage and motivate us to get off our butts. They inspire us with great speakers, leaders we look up to, and the buzz of excitement that fills the halls as scores of others just like you mingle and chat at these events.

But all of that doesn’t come back home with you. Those great speakers don’t push you during those mornings you wake up tired and defeated. That air of excitement doesn’t fill the halls of your school or workplace on a daily basis. In other words, events are great catalysts during a single moment of your life. But that’s it.

What happens during the other 364 days of your year?

The only thing that ever creates true life change is what you do during those times you’re not at events. In other words, it’s the process you go through to apply the lessons learned into what you actually do. Otherwise, all the great stuff you heard at that last event is just knowledge…knowledge that goes unused.

So why am I talking about this? One of the biggest things I see time and again are people who are unwilling to go through the process in order to find something they truly love for a career. They’d rather experience events –– that networking event for engineers, or a case competition at the business school, or an internship –– during a single moment of their lives and hope that it translates to some progress towards finding their dream career.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as just showing up for events. Don’t get me wrong, they do help.

But after nearly a decade of working within the HR/recruiting space and working with people through Hobnob, I’ve become convinced that the BIGGEST thing that separates those who find their dream careers and those who don’t are the ones who understand the process that’s required to get there. (when’s the last time you saw a professional athlete go from nobody to superstar with no training, elite competition to play with, and strong support structure?)

Yes, the day-to-day grind is unsexy at times. No one ever really likes to wait patiently while doing things that on the surface seem mundane and routine. But you know what? It’s what matters most if you’re serious about finding work you love.

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Perception vs. Reality

It always interests me to hear what others think of certain professions or careers when trying to help them pinpoint a field of interest for themselves. There’s always a gap between their perceptions of a career vs. the true reality behind it. And what’s more interesting is to see that this is not limited to just high school students –– I see this with college seniors or adults too.

The gap that exists is through no fault of anyone’s, of course (at least not completely). You can’t expect anyone to truly understand the intricacies of every career out there simply because there’s only so much one can know without actually doing it themselves. But what IS interesting is to see just how many individuals –– regardless of whether they’re in high school or adults in their mid-40’s –– base their entire college or career decisions on incomplete information about a career without fully investigating it. A lot of times, decisions are based off of their own assumptions of what people do in certain career fields.

A popular one I always hear goes like this: “My parents told me that I should go into sales because I love to talk and interact with people.” While it could be true that the person would be ideal for sales, it could also be equally true that they’d be miserable in that role.

First, just because you love interacting and speaking with people, it doesn’t mean you like to push a product or service on them. In fact, you may not possess the mentality to close people on a sale because you just simply like talking with them and developing that relationship. Having to sell them on something would alter the nature of that interaction so much so that it’d make you miserable. In other words, you need to be a deal-closer who doesn’t take “no” in order to be an effective sales person. If you’re just a nice person who likes to speak to people, you’re actually the worst type of sales person…someone who talks to lots of people a day but never sells a thing.

Basically, there’s a behavioral style disconnect when a lot of people evaluate careers based on their initial perceptions. Even though you may be good with people, you may actually not possess the mentality to close lots of people on sales all day long. At Hobnob we use an assessment called DISC that measures people’s behavioral styles to this effect…but I digress. 😉

Aside from not possessing the right combination of behavioral styles, there’s a second big reason why there exists a gap between people’s perceptions of a career vs. the true realities behind it: lack of information from the people who actually do the jobs day in and day out.

It’s sounds pretty straight-forward and common sense, and it is. Unfortunately, it always strikes me to hear students (and adults) who base their perceptions of various fields off of very subjective “he said/she said” statements made by people who aren’t even in the field of interest to begin with. One of the best things you can do to fill the gap between your perception and reality is to intentionally seek others out who work in that career every day. Once you find them, talk to them. Learn as much as you can about the field.

Of course, getting insight into either of these is easier said than done. You have to be intentionally seeking out opportunities to discover more about your behavioral style (i.e. knowing whether you can excel in an role that requires you to sell to people vs. just interacting with them). You also have to spend the time to speak and learn from the professionals in the career you’re interested in.

These aren’t the only ways to close the gap between your perceptions and reality…but understanding these two things will go a long way towards helping you figure out some of the questions you’re trying to answer regarding a career. The question is whether you feel it’s worth the effort.

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Your career isn’t guaranteed.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s this: there are no guarantees when it comes to your career. I still remember being in business school and the “hot” career track was investment banking. It seemed like everyone was focused on a finance concentration…and the vast majority of those folks were gunning for a job at one of the big New York firms.

And then the financial crisis hit, and those same classmates I saw killing themselves for jobs on Wall Street were left disenchanted, jaded, and in many cases…jobless. What’s more, some of them went into the banking industry because they thought it was a sure thing –– not necessarily because they truly enjoyed it.

Whenever I meet a student who goes through one of our Bootcamps and they mention that the reason they are thinking about so and so career is because they “know” it’s going to be around for a long time…I find myself thinking back to my business school days. Perhaps if it were 10 years ago, I’d find myself in agreement. But now more than ever, I find myself in disagreement with that statement.

Nothing about your career can be guaranteed. Industries that thrived in one decade may find themselves close to extinction the next. That mere thought –– an entire industry becoming crippled –– would have been laughable as recently as 5 years ago. But I think the events in the last 2 years have shown how quickly things can change. What’s more, I think the frequency in which industries and careers do change will only increase as the years go on.

So before you think about jumping into that career because it’s “stable,” think long and hard about your decision. If the only thing driving your career choice is security, ask yourself how happy you’d be if you found yourself out of a job AND realizing that you just spent the past decade of your life doing something you learned to hate instead. I’ve seen and spoken with too many people who have found themselves in this position…which is probably why I find myself trying to get students to think through their career decisions on a more critical level as much as possible.

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Time = Passion

What do you spend most of your time on?

If the activity that you find yourself spending most of your time on ISN’T something you say you’re passionate about, you might have a disconnect.

When I was in college, we did an exercise in one of my classes…it involved writing the three activities we most enjoyed, and then the dates when we last did them. What was startling to find out (at least for me at the time) was that the vast majority of students had “favorite” activities that they hadn’t spent time doing for several months (or in some cases years) on end.

Unfortunately, that trend doesn’t seem to stop in college. It extends into the professional world.

People on average work 2,000+ hours a year out of a possible 8,760 hours. Even if you don’t work in an area that you’re passionate about, what are you doing with the other 3,000+ hours (assuming you sleep 8 hours a day) left over? I’d argue that if a good chunk of those hours aren’t being spent doing something you say you’re passionate about, something’s off.

Yes, life gets busy. Unexpected things happen all the time. But if you really are passionate about something, you can’t help but think about it constantly. It almost consumes you to a certain degree. You read about it. You find excuses to devote time to it. In fact, you forget about time while you’re doing that activity.

So…what do you spend most of your time on?

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The Importance of Passion

As part of our work with students, we try to help them narrow in on their passions. Why? Because without understanding what you’re passionate about, you’ll never find yourself engaged and energized about what you do. And if you lack these things, it’s really hard to do great work. In my humble opinion, doing great work is really the only way to ever truly love what you do.

One of my favorite quotes about passion comes from Andy Stanley (pastor of North Point Community Church) who said, “a Passion allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future.” In other words, a passion allows all of us to push through the inevitable crap that life will throw at us. Even after you find your “perfect” career, you will no doubt experience disappointments, failures, and setbacks. You’ll also find yourself doing certain tasks that don’t absolutely thrill you.

But at the end of the day, dealing with all this will still be worth it if you possess passion around what you do.

The common analogy we use for students is any professional sports team. The goal for a team is to win…not just a single game, but to win a championship. To get to that championship however, it requires a lot of stuff that is less than exciting. Drills, lifting weights, running miles and miles on end, skills development…the list goes on and on. A lot of athletes don’t jump with joy when they have to do these things leading up to game time. They just want to play. But they understand that these things are necessary to experience any sort of success at the most elite levels.

And so they push themselves through these activities –– not because they want to, but because they’re running purely on the “emotions associated with our anticipated future.” The teams that end up winning more often than not are the ones who can almost feel or taste the end goal. Their hunger for that championship fuels them the entire way. It helps them deal with the dull moments or trying situations of what is otherwise a dream career for them.

In the same way, passion does this for any other professional. Passion is the difference between doing great work and work that just has you going through the motions. It’s also the difference between sticking with something through thick and thin and hopping from one career to the next.

Passion isn’t the only ingredient that helps to define what your dream career is. But it IS the ingredient that ensures long-term sustainability in anything.

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Focus

People often me ask why they have such a hard time finding an internship or job in my line of work. And what strikes me is how many times it’s the same thing that’s holding them back.

They lack focus.

Focus is often the differentiating factor between mediocrity and success in anything. Tell me what you think will be more successful: shotgunning your resume to a thousand different companies (in different industries) online, or speaking and interacting with a handful of people at the same company about a particular position?

In my professional experience, the latter wins over 70% of the time. People snag jobs through job boards less than 7% of the time.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go after multiple options or that they shouldn’t use job boards. But when you’re clearly desperate for a job…ANY job, people pick up on it. And in this economy, when so many are out of work and employers have their pick of the crop…why should anyone hire you if they feel like you’d take just about anything from anyone? How are you special?

Find what you are passionate about doing –– the one or two very specific activities that you love doing and can arguably do well –– and then go after the jobs that possess those activities as their main responsibilities. Ignore all the other jobs out there. Going after stuff that doesn’t fall inside your focus just wastes your time and the employer’s time.

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