Retool for your new model year

My mother is getting her knees replaced this week. Both of ‘em.

She and my father are true globetrotters. They’ve hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, boated in the Amazon Basin, visited a Mount Everest base camp, and spanned latitudes from the Svalbard Islands to Tierra del Fuego.

It’s not often that a son will admit he lives vicariously through his parents.

But in recent years, travel has become painful and laborious due to her degenerating joints. So she’s taking time away from her passion for travel to get the problem addressed once and for all.

Soon she’ll be Mom 2.0 – back to her routine of pre-dawn walks around the neighborhood and packing her bags for parts unknown. Although now she may set off the airport metal detectors.

Retooling an assembly line

Mom’s story reminds me of how auto manufacturers close a plant to retool before beginning work on a new model year.

Machines are cleaned, repaired, replaced, and reconfigured to meet the specifications of the work to be done.  And when the workers return, they’re rested, trained and ready to put out a new and better product.

“Sharpen the saw”

Sawmill_Circular_Saw_BladeOne story Stephen R. Covey tells in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is of a frustrated lumberjack who is laboring to cut down a tree.  A passerby suggests that if he stopped his work for a moment to sharpen his saw, the job would go much more quickly.

The lumberjack replies that he can’t stop because he’s too busy sawing.  Sound familiar?

Sharpening the saw for a job search

This lesson is relevant to many aspects business and life. Particularly so in career development and a job search, where a stale or misguided message is not only un-productive, it can be counter-productive.

If you’re spending all your time applying to every position on a job board website, then you’re using dull saw, and there’s a chance you’re joining the ranks of the professionally unemployed.

You’ve got to take some time off from the SEARCH part of your search to do the deep introspection that’s critical to answering the question: What do you want to BE when you grow up?

It’s only when you do that retooling that you’ll truly understand the value you bring and how to prove that value to a potential employer. This also is critical at the early stages of your search for steering your network toward the companies and roles you’re targeting.

If your saw is dull, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Would you be ready to talk to the CEO of a target company right now if you got her on the phone? If you have that conversation before you’re ready, then you may come across as ill-prepared and unimpressive.  This may poison the well, and any approach to that company in the future will be in vain.

You also need to supply your network with information that’s actionable. Give your allies a solid profile of you and your targets, so they can more effectively help you make connections. “I know an accomplished marketing professional with strong experience in financial services, technology and healthcare.  He’s looking for a marketing leadership role within an innovative, entrepreneurial company,” is much more effective than, “I have a friend in marketing who’s out of work. Can you help him out?”

Sure, this may feel like it’s taking longer to see direct benefit than the activity of applying for every job you see. But when you’re ready to strike, you’ll be prepared with the self-understanding and confidence that will set you apart from the other candidates.

You’ll be on the way to finding your passion, and not just landing the next job.

Author’s Note:

I’m glad you’re retooling, Mom.  We’re all looking forward to your many adventures with Dad that are yet to come. Get well soon.


Categories: Human Resources, Marketing, Workplace Reality

Author:Doug Evans

Doug Evans is an accomplished marketing leader with wide-ranging experience in diverse business environments including non-profit, small private business, major national bank, and Silicon Valley software company. He has a knack for bringing together teams from across geography and organizational lines. He keeps active by playing and coaching soccer, and is also Marketing/PR Director for an acoustic music concert series in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

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4 Comments on “Retool for your new model year”

  1. March 6, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Great post Doug. I especially liked the hook at the beginning.

  2. March 6, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Thanks Kenan!

  3. Cheri Liggins
    March 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Doug, nice blog. I especially like the insight about sharpening the saw and giving our allies tools to help us. Great content!

    • March 7, 2013 at 5:57 am #

      Thanks Cheri – the process can be daunting when you don’t see a direct payoff every day, but know that all those seeds you’re planting are germinating… Spring will come, and you’ll see the blooms begin to appear.

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