CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for December, 2008

All the Best Wishes of the Season!

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Maybe I’m getting a little late start on the season, but to celebrate I’m launching a new and improved look for CareerSherpas.com and getting ready to start the year with a fresh perspective. Sure the economy is still grim right now, but in the season of hope we can all look at next year and plan for the recovery that comes after downturns.

New opportunities and possibilities will open up and many people will have the chance to grow further or even change directions to pursue what makes them truly happy. Even if you’re on a downward swing now, look for where you want to be, plan for it and set your plans in motion!

Have a restful and safe holiday, and I’ll be back next week with ideas for New Year’s Career Resolutions!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Where does success come from?

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Once again I’ve stumbled across a book I need to get through on my reading list, this time courtesy of an article at CIOZone.com. The book in question is “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell which clearly offers some great food for thought on what elements lead to success in the real world.

It’s always hard to pass up a book by someone with Gladwell’s credentials as the author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”, however more fundamental is the message that success is a measure defined by the sum of all of our advantages. In my experience it’s very clear that where individuals are successful a number of factors all come together to build both the foundation of and open the opportunities for that success.

While Gladwell sites a number of individuals who were poised to take advantage of the computer revolution, twenty years later it’s clear that the internet revolution produced a large number of similar success stories such as Pierre Omidyar with eBay and Jeff Bezos with Amazon. If one looks at the ages and stages at which these individuals appeared, it certainly adds further credence to Gladwell’s theory.

Perhaps more important for me are the points eloquently gleaned from the book by Ellen Pearlman of CIOZone. Not least among these are the point that the benefits of IQ scores are limited after the 120 mark and that being successful involves having assistance. The trouble that we all have in recognizing that the advantages we are given and the success we achieve are not necessarily bound up in what we do for ourselves has always intrigued me, but to have it spelled out in such a stark manner is a little disconcerting.

The questions I’m left to ponder after starting the book however are a fair bit more personal. What advantages have I received which can be applied now or which I can see applications coming? What advantages can I offer my children as they develop their own wonderful collection of skills?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Signal to Noise Ratio

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Whether you know it or not, you’re being inundated with information almost every waking second of the day. When you stop to think about it is the information really made up of messages you need to pay attention to or is it mostly just background noise filling in space?

When you hear dire news that the economy is in trouble what is your first reaction? Does your blood pressure rise as anxiety about the future builds? Okay so maybe that’s a bad example to start with, let’s try again…

When a farmer in Kansas hears news about terrorist attacks in Mumbai, terrible as they are, should a they worry about their safety in Kansas? When a sale is on for shoes you just have to have, do you need to run out to the store right then? When you’re asked to produce extra documentation on work that’s already “done”, is the extra documentation really the issue?

The short answer is probably not.

This overloading of less-than-immediate news happens all the time and for many reasons, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Unless the farmer has family in India, the Mumbai attacks don’t represent a need to worry about safety. The shoes, wonderful as they are, will probably be out of fashion in a few months.

There might be a message hidden in the request for extra documentation though, and if you miss it all the documentation in the world won’t solve the problem. The request itself might be noise, but the underlying problem might be something you really have to address.

Engineers have a nice term for this confusion of meaning and information, the signal to noise ratio. What this means is that in order to get a clear message through (the signal), it has to be able to get through a bunch of background interference (noise) which clouds the transmission. In order to understand the message coming through, you have to have a certain signal-to-noise ratio which matches the content you’re trying to receive.

So the question here is, to get back to the slow economy example, what is the message you actually need to pay attention to in all the hype and worry-making? Look closer to home and ask yourself what changes you need to be aware of in your company, your clients, your retirement and your situation. Is your company in trouble or making changes? Does it need to? If when it all boils down, your job is reasonably secure and you can make plans from where you are do you really need to worry?

Being able to filter out the meaning in the information you’re presented isn’t always easy, but knowing that there’s a lot of noise out there it helps to take a moment to ask if you’re getting the signal.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Honest Signals and Body Language

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I’ve recently finished Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World, which I found quite difficult to put down once I got into it. Pentland puts his considerable wealth of research into a very consumable and revealing manner. His framework for judging future performance is a very clear and in some ways surprising viewpoint on common problems like groupthink.

Having finished it, I was struck by the comparison with “The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Alan Pease and how much of Pentland’s work supports many of the points Pease has been making for more than three decades. Certainly I have a soft spot for my countryman’s work, but my sense has always been that Pease provides practical tools and understanding on how to interact with people that are lacking elsewhere.

Where Pentland provides a frame of reference for the problems and opportunities available in measuring and understanding body language, Pease gives a practical, step-by-step approach to using body language. Both works have a great deal going for them, but if I were to choose one as the more approachable and immediately useful, I have to recommend “Body Language”.

Want to know how to connect, communicate with and influence someone say in an interview? You’ll learn a thing or two from “Body Language”.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.