A Life Journey, In English, Observation, Personal Observation

Developing Yourself, One Habit at a Time

I just read the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business” written by Charles Duhigg. And I realized that many things that I could not do well in life and work are rooted in my failure to develop productive habits.

I had been through 4 cycles of weight loss diet, and everytime a cycle ends, I would regain some of the pounds I lost. During 1997-2009, I even gained all and added 24 more kilograms. I was disciplined enough to keep a healthy and low-calorie eating patterns during the diet program. But after I completed the cycle, I would forget everything and eat whatever I wanted.

The reason is simply this: your body can only survive on 1,500 calories per day for so long. Afterwards, weight loss from eating low calorie diet must be replaced with a regime of exercise. From there, you can slowly return to 2,000 calories a day and maintain weight by doing regular exercise.

I lost the weight, but I failed to build a habit of exercising and of eating healthy food. According to the book, a habit can be learned, but cannot be erased. It can, however, be replaced by another habit. That is why as soon as I stopped the diet program, old habit of snacking and eating greasy food kicked back in.

Benjamin Franklin, the renowned US Diplomat and scientist, devised a method of self development. He made a list of 13 things he wanted to learn or master. Each week, he would devote himself to learn one thing in the list. On the 14th week, he returned to the first item on the list, and so on. In 52 weeks, or a year, he had reiterate the list 4 times.

I reckon that building a habit will take a similar route. I need to identify a list of habits I want to develop in a year, and to set aside a specific amount of time to learn the habit.

The book also mention what is known as a keystone habit. It is one habit that will cause you to develop other productive habits. For example, let’s say that you want to make it a habit to jog every morning. To give you enough time for that, you have to wake up earlier than the time you are used to wake up now. To wake up early, you must sleep early. To sleep early, you must stop watching TV and get in bed early. To sleep early without digestive trouble, you have to have dinner early. And in time, you become a healthier person who jog regularly, sleep early, watch less TV, and who do not eat at night. Morning jog in this case is your keystone habit.

The keystone habit that I need to develop is to write down my daily activities. I chose that because my biggest failure is not in my health and well being, but in my use of time. By writing down what I did daily, I will have a clear idea of my use of time and can manage it better.

What about you? What habit do you want to develop in the new year?

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In English, Lessons, Personal Observation

The Importance of Being a Good Person

During Dale Carnegie & Associates 67th Annual International Convention in Honolulu last December, I had a conversation with a colleague from Taiwan. I complimented him on the success of Taiwan team in the past fiscal year. With great enthusiasm I recounted some facts about their achievements (which in retrospect should be something that he already knew).

Of course behind all my excitement I wanted to know how they managed to make it happen. To be honest, I was expecting something in the line of, “Well, our team got together, we drew a strategy, and in the execution everyone chipped in their best effort.” Something that shows camaraderie, team work, hard work, focus, and so on.

Instead, Arthur gave me the biggest smile and said, “We have a good boss.”

At that moment, the doors were opened and everyone in the foyer began pouring into the ballroom for the morning’s General Session. I did not get to ask him what he meant by that. I wish I had pulled him aside and grilled him more on that. Since I didn’t, so I was left to myself to figure it out.

I know his boss. Although John Hei is a popular public figure in Taiwan, the first impression you take on him will not show that. He speaks with a soft voice, and he smiles a lot. One thing that truly leaves a strong impression on me is his humility. He is already in his 70s. In Asian culture, he is considered a senior to whom people pay a great respect. People will understand if he would choose to stand in the sidelines and let the younger generation do the hardwork.

Despite of that, he is not beyond sitting in a classroom with people half his age, to learn from a trainer 20 years his junior, as evident in a program that I had the privilege to be part of in 2011. He did the same exercises as the rest of the class, he took part in small group discussions, and the most amazing thing for me was he was willing to be coached in front of the younger people.

I am sure that is not where the list stops. If I were to interview his team members about him, I think I can get at least 100 more reasons why he is such a good and inspiring boss.

For me, this is where leadership plays an important role in an organization. All the management knowledge remains important to run a successful business. But in the end, what drives people is their leader. What the leader does, what the leader says, how the leader relates with others, will be the driving force behind a great organization.

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In English, Lessons, Personal Observation

Lessons from the Man of Action

The title on his business card said “Executive President – Asia Pacific.” It was quite intimidating for us, the three young visitors.

For me, it was the first time I had a meeting with a client in which I met the top man himself. No subordinates present, just us and the man. From what the title sounded, he’s not only the boss for the country, but also for the entire Asia-Pacific operation of the company. It did carry a lot of weight.

The broad forehead gave him the appearance of a scientist or an academic faculty member, instead of a corporate executive. His tall build, broad shoulder and tanned demeanor immediately commanded respect. He was there strictly for business.

“I assume you would like an introduction about our company,” I said, several handshakes, introductions and business card exchanges later. He nodded, and I quickly turned my 10.1-inch netbook to face him. I already loaded my presentation, and I meant to present it right from the device.

“Wait, you’ll need a projector,” he said, standing up. I thought he was going reach for the phone and call someone to get it.

Instead, he walked up to a sideboard cabinet, opened a drawer, and pulled up a small, black bag. He then proceeded to put the bag on the table, unzipped it, and took a small projector, about the size of a standard Bible. Without a word, he began to connect cables into it.

We were taken by surprise. It was an awkward moment. Should we help him, or not? It was apparent that he was the hands-on type of guy who didn’t mind doing all the work if needed, regardless of his title.

“It’s.. It’s the smallest projector I’ve ever seen..” I blurted weakly. But he didn’t seem to notice. He handed one end of the VGA cable for me to attach to my netbook. No time for small, insignificant talk. It was time to get the show on the road.

It was a no-nonsense meeting. Unlike interactions with fellow Indonesians, this one proceeded seriously. He listened to my presentation, asked questions, and he in turn explained what he wanted.

He had a clear idea what he wanted to see and what he wanted us to do. He knew the kind of people he believed to be capable of giving him the results he was looking for. No doubt, no nonsense. He chose to meet us ourselves instead of delegating the task so he could be sure that we got it fresh and direct from him.

In an hour, the meeting was concluded.

There was much to learn from the experience.
1. Being the boss sometimes mean you have to get down, get your hand dirty and do the job to be sure that it gets done right. Delegation is important, but there are things that you have to do it yourself to get it right.

2. Title is just a title. It shouldn’t stop you from doing what needs to be done. Goal oriented action is more important than your job description.

3. Knowing what you want, where you are going, and taking the necessary action to move towards that direction is what leadership is all about. Planning, organizing, directing, and the rest of management are just tools.

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In English, Personal Observation

Keeping Customer Feedback System from Backfiring

Customer Feedback is Good Source of Ideas for Improvements

Last night my wife and I went to a sushi restaurant for dinner. We chose a sushi place that is quite popular, located near the business district of the city.

It was a busy evening, and we had to wait a few minutes before we could get two seats in the non-smoking sections. Not unusual for a well-known eatery, so we didn’t mind the wait. We even put it to use by perusing the colorful and illustrated menu.

After a small mishap, where the waiter took us to our seats when those were not ready, we were finally seated. We placed our order, and not long after, the waiter returned with the food.

The food was good and fresh, the wasabi was strong, the service was OK. In general, we didn’t have anything to complaint, save for a fly that alighted on one of the dishes. In Jakarta, it wasn’t a big deal.

We found a customer feedback card on the table. Hoping to get special offers from the restaurant for customers who would give feedbacks, we decided to fill it out.

We paid our check, handed the feedback card to our waiter, and headed for the door.

My attention was drawn to the way the waiter reacted when she received the card. It was like she was getting a bad news. She lost her smile, and her face turned from friendly into concerned. She then went to the bar, gave the card to someone, and whispered something. I could not see how the other person react because I already passed the bar.

It was strange for me. I could only deduce that in that restaurant, feedback cards are synonymous to complaints, and any waiter who gets a card from a customer will be reprimanded.

Purpose of Customer Feedback
A feedback card is created to enable direct communication between customers to management. A feedback relayed through employees may be filtered or watered down, so that when it reached management, it won’t be true to what the customer wants to say.

It is a good source of information on how a company or organization can improve its customer service. It’s like checking for tiny punctures in a tire by putting it into a tub of water and looking for air bubbles: a feedback card helps company to quickly pinpoint weak spots in its service. It can also help company to identify good practices done by its employees that can be standardized throughout the organization.

Like any other monitoring tools, the effectiveness of feedback cards rely heavily on the attitude of the people using it. There are at least three parties involved:
(1) The customer as the source of feedback. The effectiveness of feedback is affected by the motivation behind it. Do customers write it as expression of satisfaction, dissatisfaction with expectation for improvement, or as a mean of getting back at employees whom they don’t like?
(2) The employees whose service may be the subject of the feedback. There may be among employees fear of getting bad-mouthed by customers. This fear may be even stronger when management tends to react strongly to negative feedback.
(3) The management as the recipient of the feedback. If management uses feedback to assign blames, it will render the feedback system useless. Employees may simply throw feedback cards into the trash bins, regardless of what they actually say.

It is therefore important for management to look at feedbacks in the most objective and supportive way.

Three things to mind when receiving feedbacks:
(A) Management must be able to tell the difference between sensible feedbacks, and poisonous ones, in which customers lash anger at employees who may have been just doing their job under difficult situations. When getting such inputs, management must be able to separate the poison from the cure, the customer’s blind emotion from the true circumstances.

(B) Management must take responsibility to make improvements as the feedbacks suggest. It will do no good to only penalize employees who got bad reviews from customers. Management must see any feedback in a bigger picture than just the mistake of one person. Could it be that there has been insufficient training for the employees? Could there be better way to help employees serve customers better?

(C) Even if after a careful and thorough investigation it is found that a bad feedback is genuinely a result of the mistake of an employee, management must take a wise approach in dealing with the situation. It must be seen as an opportunity for improvement instead as a hanging. The employee should be helped (a) to see how it is his or her responsibility to improve, (b) to know what improvements are expected from him or her, and (c) to see how he or she could achieve the improvements. From here, further feedback from management would be most useful and valuable so the employee could tell whether he or she has hit the target.

Any feedback is always beneficial. But what really matters is what is done about it.

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In English, Personal Observation, Personal Reflection

Pain, Pleasure and the Big Durian

I don’t do it so often, and I felt like I was ready to snap at anyone over the tiniest thing. I wonder how could thousands of people stand that, day in and day out?

I’m talking about driving in Jakarta’s rush hour. There is no rushing in rush hour in Jakarta, or the Big Durian as some call it after the prickly and smelly fruit popular in the South East Asia region. Everyone moves so slowly, it normally takes twice as long to drive the same distance as in normal traffic. That is if you’re lucky. If not, like when it’s raining hard with thunderstorm, then make it three times as long. Or ten times as long if it’s your downtrodden unlucky day, like when there’s a big flooding in the city.

Some calculated that the traffic jams cost the city about 550 million dollars annually. Enough to build about several hundred new school buildings.

So far there is no immediate nor long term solution. The government tried to get car drivers to take public transportation. But it may take years before that could happen.

I am humbly thanking God that I live only 5 minutes away from my office. But even that is not forever.

Time is becoming more and more precious for Jakarta people. You get less and less things done in a day. And the less things done are not at the office. It’s at home. Less time to rest, less time to spend with family, less time to do your passion.

Everything so mixed up here in Jakarta. Like I said, the people here have a love and hate relationship with the city. We love the high standard of living (at least compared to most regions in Indonesia), but hate the jams, and hate having to lose time in traffic.

What to do, then? For now, some take the attitude of “just enjoy it,” after a recent tagline in a cigarette commercial. Some focus on the love, some focus on the hate. And some just numb their souls and stop caring. Just going through the motion, and pretending as if it doesn’t cause any pain. Some others party and dance the pain away into the night.

For me, I would say I’m focusing on the love part about the city. I keep reminding myself to be thankful for all the good things the city provides. I am trying to keep myself from blaming and cursing, which, to be honest, are not easy to do.

How about you? What is your take and attitude about the place you live in?

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In English, Personal Observation

Lessons In Team

I watched a rerun of the first season of MasterChef US last night. It’s a TV game show contest for amateur cooks to win the MasterChef title and a $100,000 prize. I already knew who would win the competition, yet it was interesting to watch the episodes that I missed.

In last night’s episode, the remaining ten contestants are divided into two groups, blue and red. Each must prepare burgers for 100 hungry truckers. The winner of the challenge would be the team with the most votes for best burger from the truckers.

The blue team was led by the winner of an earlier challenge, and he picked best people to be his team members. The red team comprised of who were left.

As expected, the blue team had a very good start. They were well organized. Everyone knew what to do, and there was a clear sense of direction. When the first truckers arrived, they were all set and ready to serve the burgers.

The red team were at first a mess. They made a mistake of mixing blue cheese into the patty, and the cheese melted right into the hot grill. They basically ruined their first batch. But they quickly adapted their strategy. They made a new batch of burgers with all the tastiest ingredients thrown into it: meat, pork bacon, barbecue sauce, and cheese. They even put double meat patties when ordered.

The tide turned to the red team’s favor with votes for their burger adding up fast, and soon they were leading the tally. The judges came to the blue team with the red team’s burger and told them to taste it, and to adjust their recipe to match. But the blue team leader adamantly refused, saying that the red team’s burger was disgusting, and the blue team’s burger was better.

The truckers however, disagreed. In a short time later, 51 of them voted for the red team, making them the winner of the challenge.

Here are the interesting lessons:

(1) Do what is best for situation at hand, not what can serve your ego. The judges said that the chefs should think like a restaurant owners and serve what the customers wanted: gourmet burger, or simply the tastiest and satisfying burger. The greatest mistake would be to putting your ego first by serving gourmet meal for a non-discriminating crowd who are just looking to satisfy their hunger. The red team was able to discern this, and won the challenge.

(2) It is not shameful to admit that we are running the wrong strategy, and adjust necessarily. It’s better to be a humble winner than an arrogant loser. This was the blue team’s mistake. They were so confident that their burger was the best, they refused to accept the fact.

(3) Sometimes starting wrongly doesn’t mean that all is lost. As long as we can keep our spirit up, make improvements, and focus on getting better results, there is always hope that we can finish proudly.

(4) Never underestimate your team members, although they may not be considered as the best. What matter are:
A. Strong leadership with clear focus and ability to make quick decision
B. Spirit of camaraderie. Team of underdogs with excellent L’esprit de corps can still put up a relentless fight. A “Dream Team” can turn out to be a “Nightmare Team” if its members are more interested in assigning blame and defending ego.

Let’s go team!

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In English, Personal Observation, Personal Reflection

To Know or Not To Know Your Passion

For the past months my wife followed the Masterchef US on Star World, and I tagged along whenever I wasn’t too busy with something else. It was a reality show about a group of amateur cooks competing for the title “Masterchef.”

It was a wow-ing show for us because it brought the aspects of cooking we never knew existed, even after watching dozens of cooking shows from some of the best chefs. Like how in one episode 24 contestants came up with 24 different egg dishes, and none of them was egg-benedict-ive.

But after all, the show boiled down to ambition to win the $250,000 prize to start a restaurant, and a cooking book deal.

Tonight, after switching from one boring show to another, we came across “Junior Masterchef Australia.” It offers the same theme as the regular show, but the contestants were much younger.

The youngest one is an 8-year-old girl.

All of them cook like a pro. As a measuring stick, my wife said, “I don’t think I can cook what they are cooking.” Our jaws dropped as we were wondering how on earth these kids could cook like that.

The most adorable thing was, unlike “reality” TV shows in Indonesia where children tended (or perhaps intended) to mimic grown ups, those children work the competition kitchen as children. They cook as if they are playing their favorite game.

It was so enjoyable just to watch those kids at work, I really didn’t care whether the end result was delicious, well presented dishes or not. They were so lovable being children.

What stroke me as extraordinary was when one of the children said, “This is my passion. I want to do this in my life.”

Imagine finding your passion at such a tender age.

And to think that an elementary school student understands the meaning of the word “passion” is already mind blowing, especially considering that some of us probably never heard the word until the past few years.

Browsing through the channels again, we found “Gotta Dance UK” on AXN. The first season was won by a child dancer named Akai.

Where will us adults be in a few years from now if children are already making their marks in the world today?

Will there be hope for us?

It is encouraging to remember the words that I found in the book “Your Job Is Not Your Career” written by Indonesia’s career coach René Suhardono. The words went something like this, “If you are 20-30 years old now, you still have 30-40 years to live. It is therefore important to find your passion now.”

In other words, we adults still have decades to go before our dying days. Yes we probably spent the past half or quarter of our lives in the dark, not really knowing what our passions are. But even at this point in life, we still can make a choice: to make the rest of it more meaningful by knowing and living our passions, or to live by going through the motion without knowing what our ultimate purpose in life.

It is therefore not to late to dive deeply, and take chances now.

Have a great, adventurous life!

Masterchef and Junior Masterchef are TV Programs originated by BBC
Star World is a cable TV channel owned by News Corporation
AXN is a cable TV channel owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment

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In English, Personal Observation

Beautiful Place of Work

During one of today’s sessions in our management meeting, we discussed how difficult it was to find the right candidate for a job opening. Some vacancy gets a mob of applicants, while some others attract nobody. But at the end of the day, both kind of vacancies return the same fruitless result.

People who applied for what seemed to be the favorite opening happened to be not the kind of candidates that we are looking for. “We have posted the same vacancy five times, and still we got nothing,” a colleague said. Even the best known recruitment website does not guarantee satisfactory results.

It seems that good talents are so rare today, we have to pry one out of the clenched fingers of another company. And getting a good candidate is just half the battle. The rest remains in keeping the good people in. Some are just eager to find another job, after spending only a few months (in some cases, a few days) with us.

To win the battle in the tight talent market today, value proposition of a company plays an important part. What can people get from joining an organization?

Any working relationship between an organization and its people can actually be reduced to a simple economic transaction between time and compensation. What do people get for the time they give to a company?

The most obvious answer would be money. This is the most common transaction in our everyday lives. We pay for everything with money, either it’s the money that we have now (paying with cash), or the money that we believe we will earn later (paying with credit). A company may pay salaries to its employees in front (cash), or at the end of the month (credit) for their services.

These days, money is only part of a compensation. A company may also pay for the time of its people in benefits. This can take in many forms, but basically, it’s very much like a barter transaction, in which a good or service is paid with another good or service. For the time the employees render to the company, in turn they get a certain number of days a year in which they will get paid without having to work.

What comprises a value proposition of a company is a combination of both compensation and benefit. Those are usually stipulated in the employment contract.

The funny thing with people is that many times, things are not as plain as they seem. Yes, people work to earn a living, for those compensation and benefits written in their employment contract. But on top of that, there are other unwritten reasons that may keep some people working in one place for years.

This is where the concept of value proposition in a workplace gets murky.

Regardless of what a company can offer to its employees, those things are never a guarantee of loyalty. The choice to stay or to leave is always in the hands of each person, not in the management’s. Value proposition is therefore not much different from beauty: it is always in the eyes of the beholder.

And the funny thing about a company is, no matter how big or powerful it is, it will always be a collective of people. Whether a company is beautiful and attractive, or whether it is ugly and repulsive, all rests in what the job applicants see in its people.

It is therefore logical to say that the only value proposition a company has, or the only thing that makes a company different, whether in a good or bad sense of the word, is its people.

To quote Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, when he explains about the success of his company, “Obviously you can buy the airplanes, and you can lease ticket counter space, and you can buy computers; but the intangible things – the esprit de corps – is the hardest thing for people to imitate.”

So what does this mean to us? We may need to follow Southwest’s example: creating an esprit-de-corps that makes people falling in love with us and dying to join our company.

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In English, Personal Observation

Dreaming Mr. Dale Carnegie’s Dream

When I was in my early twenties, living a dream life was not something that I was much concerned. I was pretty much content with the life that I led then. I had a job. I had friends with whom I could hang out and enjoy the fruit of my work (in other words, spend money). It was great.

Then I was introduced to a group of extraordinary people. They have only one thing in their mind: achieving their dreams.

They have a particular system through which a person can build a network of product distribution to reach a level of ‘financial independence’. On that level, one is no longer dependent on a job to earn income. Once the distribution channel is in place, and goods start to flow through that channel, the person will earn a steady flow of comission-based income.

The person, who is in their lingo is called an ‘Independence Business Owner’ can literally ‘live’ his dreams on that stage. No more waking up early every day to beat the traffic to the office. No more bosses. No limit on what he wants to do on his next holiday. No problem in getting the big house with a swimming pool and 6-car garage (and the 6 cars to fill the garage, too).

It was a fun ride for a while. Then I realized that it was not the only way to realizing a dream. It depends mostly on what kind of dream that you have.

But ever since that stint in the network marketing business, I got used to the idea that dreams are not just to fill an idle afternoon. Dreams are supposed to be materialized. A dream comes to a person’s mind when it is time for that dream to come into being.

When it comes to dreaming, my first reflection is a carefree, comfortable, productive life. I dream of living in a beautiful house, in a quiet and affluent neighborhood. I dream of working from home. I dream of working not to make money, but to do my passion. I dream of helping less fortunate people to have better life and education. And so on. I can fill a book writing down all my dreams.

I dream of living my life having things, doing things. Too many things, in fact.

I remember the story of Mr. Dale Carnegie, the founder of Dale Carnegie Training. He spent years of his life trying to be successful as an actor. He was already doing an impressive job as a salesman for a meat company when he decided to quit, and use the money he saved to take a course in dramatic arts. He ended up applying his acting skills in a role in a traveling theatre troupe. Not like what he had dreamed of.

He ended up back in New York trying to make a living as a truck salesman. Yes he was an excellent meat salesman thanks to his upbringing in a farm back in Missouri. But selling trucks was a whole different game. And he didn’t like trucks, at all.

He wrote in his book that during that time, every night he went back from work to his small, cramped, roach infested room with a pounding pain in his head. He was so sick of it. He wanted to do something else, something that he would enjoy doing. He knew that he had nothing to lose but a job that he hated anyway.

Then he focused on his most basic dream in life. It was to have a teaching job at night so he can have the day for reading and writing.

From there, he thought of all the practical things he could do to make his dream come true. He found one thing he was sure would be beneficial for adults to learn. He convinced YMCA to let him do a night time public speaking course, and he agreed to be paid percentage of the profit. Then he worked hard to make sure that the public speaking class was successful.

Thus the abridged story of the birth of Dale Carnegie Training in 1912, the oldest business-oriented training organization in the world, which has since helped over 8 million people in over 80 countries around the world achieve business and personal results.

I kept thinking about that story, and I could not help being marveled at how apt it was to my condition now. No, I’m not saying that I am some sort of Carnegie-incarnate. It’s just I’ve been feeling like I am at a crossroad.

Remember all the things that I want to have and do? I should decide now which one I want to achieve first. Like in Mr. Carnegie’s case, I must find my simplest, most basic dream, the one that can be the corner stone for the rest of my dreams.

Right now my original dream is this: To have sufficient source of living that enables me to work for my passion without worrying about making money.

From there I must know the answer to the following questions:
1. What is my passion? What is the one thing that I am willing to do without getting paid?
2. If I don’t get paid for doing my passion, what will be my source of income?

To tell you the truth, it is the answer to the first question that is still elusive. The reason for that, believe it or not, is that there are several things that I would gladly do without getting economic compensation. In fact, everything that I’m good at I am willing to do for free. A problem arises when I am required to pick just one.

Perhaps, like Mr. Carnegie did, I should be more pragmatic and practical, and reverse the question. It is no longer about identifying things that I’m willing to do for nothing. Instead, from all those things, I must pick one of them that will yield the most benefit, and therefore people will be more willing to spend money on.

This is critical not only because it will be the most profitable skills to develop. It will also be the best use of time.

With that criterion in mind, I came to the conclusion that teaching, training and coaching skills are ones that people will find to have more practical values compared to my artistic interests.

Luckily, I have a less vague idea for the second question. I found a strong answer for this during my network marketing days. Day in day out we were reminded to build the distribution channel into a sustainable business, which in turn will replace our jobs as our livelihood.

I used to think that I have to build a business from scratch to achieve that. Now, I see my job in my company as a business building activity that will someday enable me to let go of my day job.*

The first time I read Mr. Carnegie’s words, I said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to spend the whole day just doing things you like?”

It never occured to me that I will have the opportunity to make the same choice.

*(Some of you are probably raising your eyebrows. What do I mean by my job is a business building activity? This is something I picked up from Cliff Hakim’s excellent book “We Are All Self Employed.” In essence, we are our own boss. Whatever job we do now is actually just a learning opportunity where we are trained in a trade, that may someday be useful should we decide to start our own business.)

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In English, Personal Observation

Resumes Don’ts

Recently MSN Careers published an interesting article, title “10 Ways Your Resume Irks Hiring Managers.” I’ve just been through hundreds of resumes myself as I am looking for candidates for vacant positions, so naturally the title is of a great interest for me.

The article lists the following 10 sins applicants make in their resumes. After comparing them with my own experience, here’s what I came up with (my comments in brackets):

1. Spelling Mistakes and Grammatical Errors. (Ah, this what makes my eyes glazed as I read resumes.)
2. Opening Objective. (No use whatsoever except for kissing up. Sometimes you have an eerie feeling as if a pair of lips were on your rear end as you read it. Especially when the objective is, “Giving my best contribution to the company…” It’s not that it’s wrong, really. But how can he/she knows that she/he can do that before an intensive interview?)
3. Personal Attributes. (We really don’t need to know that you have a black belt in karate. Unless we’re looking for a club bouncer.)
4. Interest and Hobbies. (Some interests do add value to your resume. But some are better to be kept to yourself. I remember one applicant wrote in his interest, “I hate the government.” It didn’t take me long to put that resume on the “Rejects” pile.)
5. Details of every task you’ve ever performed in every job you’ve ever had. (Some descriptions of past responsibilities do help to give an idea of your capabilities. But you don’t need 10 pages to detail them.)
6. Excessive Bragging.  (Unfortunately, I had no such luck with the resumes I read so far.)
7. Outdated Information. (I can’t figure out why some applicants still list their education way back to elementary school. Some even attached their elementary school diplomas!)
8. False Information. (One applicant had a suspicious name for his college. I googled it, and I found out the school was banned by the ministry of education because it sells out degrees. No need to say what I think about his impressive title and experiences.)
9. Unexplained gaps in  work history. (So far, no luck in this department.)
10. A lack of professionalism. (I got this a lot. From the way the resume is laid out, down to the ridiculous e-mail address. Would you consider an application from somebody whose e-mail address is his childhood nickname? With dozens of free web-mails available, I can’t understand why is it too difficult to create a separate e-mail account for business correspondence.)

Here are a few things that I would add to the list:

11. E-mailing resume to multiple companies in a single send. As soon as I see addresses other than mine in the “To:” field, I either perceive the applicant as being cocky (it’s like he’s saying, “hey, just  to let you know I’m not applying just to you,”) or simply as being too lazy to send each application in a separate mail. Cocky and Lazy. Those are two things in a person who I am so keen to keep as far away from being part of my company.

12. Wrong addressee. Some applicants sent too many resumes that they forgot to change the name of the recipient in the cover letter. I got that several times. Since it might  be just an honest mistake, I sent a reply pointing out the error, and ask for the applicant to send me another e-mail with the correct name in the address. When the applicant didn’t do what I suggested, I knew the person was just not worth my time.

13. Pictures Not Perfect. In Indonesia, especially in service industry, we do ask for pictures of the applicants. We do not mean to discriminate a person by physical appearance. We can learn about a person’s personality from the way he/she presents himself/herself in a picture. Also, it is a good security measure to know how a person looks like before inviting him in for an interview. Unfortunately, some applicants do not see this as an opportunity to sell themselves. Instead of a well-groomed image, they sent a cellphone photo, or a very miniscule graphic representation of themselves, or a photo so blurred it’s hard to identify the person. They took themselves for granted. Why would the hiring manager treat them differently?

14. Too Little Information. This is so true for fresh graduates applying for their first jobs. They thought that resumes can only contain work related experience, when they had none. Since they could not come up with anything they thought worth saying, they simply let their resume to be half a page long. This left very little room for discussion. And even the weather cannot make up for it. I had awkwards interview moments when I really did not know what else to ask, and the candidate had nothing else to say! When hiring new graduates, I like to probe for some activities in school that they are particularly good at. Anything that we can discuss in interviews that relates to work capabilities are worth noting.

15. Sending In Your Friends’ Resumes with Yours in a single e-mail. When all of you apply for the same position, and when you explain politely what you are doing, in the cover e-mail, it would not be a problem. Difficulties arise when each of you apply for different position, and you didn’t say anything in your cover e-mail. When handling this kind of situation under pressure of time, there is one thing the hiring manager will do: toss away the darned e-mail.

Well, that’s my take on what to avoid when making and sending resumes. Hopefully, it is of use to the readers.

Jotting Pad

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