Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to give THANKS to your job search

Be Thankful-

Being thankful may be difficult this year. If you have watched the news or read a headline lately you may feel like someone just stole grandma’s pumpkin pie right off the thanksgiving table. Well I’m here to tell you, yes we are in rough times but we're not doomed. Let’s just take a quick look back at the historical context of this great holiday (I was shocked to find it did not revolve around falling asleep at your relatives house while watching football).

Thanksgiving has been a time of celebrating the bountiful fall harvest (that’s why we eat till were sick now). However in early America, there just wasn’t that much bounty to be thankful for (sound familiar). The pilgrims struggled to adapt to the new environment while suffering brutal winters. Their crops failed their hunting skills lacked & they flat out needed help.

That’s where Squanto enters the picture. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn & catch eel (I know that’s not on my thanksgiving table either). Essentially Squanto showed the Pilgrims that the opportunities were there they just had to adapt to the current environment. This brings us to today, yes the job market is tough but the opportunities are there you just need to adapt. So think of as Squanto as we layout a plan to help you find a job in today’s market.

Reality Check- Let’s assess just how harsh this climate is:

Let’s get some numbers for perspective here:

October 2009- What a difference a year makes! Unemployment breaks into double digits 10.2% (unemployment for college graduates over 25 years old 4.7%)

October 2008- Unemployment Rate- 6.5% (unemployment for individuals who hold a college degree is under 4%)

2000- Unemployment reaches lowest level in 30 years 3.9%

1992- Unemployment 7.7%

1982- Unemployment 10.8%

1932- Unemployment 23.6%

Looking at the numbers it appears that we Pilgrims have had harsher winters & yes our situation may get worse before it gets better but I’m confident we are not headed to historical highs. However just a percentage point shift in unemployment does change the level of resourcefulness you will need to apply to your job search.

So I’ve come with a holiday themed acronym to help you find a career & put a positive spin on this Thanksgiving:

We’ll call it how to say THANKS for your career search

T- Timeline-
Simply put there are fewer jobs & more candidates. Be prepared for a long protracted search. Know what you have in reserves & how long you can go without pay if you have to. Also understand it may be tempting to simply take a job to gain security, if you know your timeline you can have more flexibility to avoid that temptation & focus on a career move. Putting a timeline in place also provides focused motivation that will keep you on track & not wallowing in self-pity or aimlessly wondering through the job hunt.

H- Homework
- Just like a turkey didn’t stuff itself & jump into a Pilgrims lap a career isn’t just going to jump into yours. You must do your homework. Regardless of economic climate you must put the work into your career search. Research the industries, companies & their top management. You need to uncover the following- what am I interested in, what industries align with that interest, is this industry poised for growth, who are the leading companies in this industry & what opportunities do they have. Also determine plans B & C too (what alternative industries & companies should I be looking at that could still develop relevant experience to reach my A plan after the downturn). This homework should include:

Internet data mining- Keep those company websites bookmarked & visit frequently for employment updates. If the company is publicly traded keep tabs on their stock performance.

Industry trade journals & websites- this is where insider information is developed & will help you to understand how those inside think.

Subscribe to industry & company blogs

Focus on niche career websites- the big job sites are useless. You need to thin the heard (no sense in being one in 10 million). Find industry related & skill/background related job boards & aggressively search there.

Get connected to recruiters who specialize in your industry of interest
Revamp your resume & don’t hesitate to seek out advice from professionals

A- Aggressive- There is no room for the timid in this market. You must be direct & persistent in your career pursuit. Passive forms of searching are just not going to cut it. You simply can’t expect to just submit a resume online. Being aggressive means owning your search, hunting & prospecting for opportunities at all times. Don’t just simply apply online do your homework find out who’s involved in the hiring process & send them a letter directly followed by a phone call. Being aggressive means going to every career fair introducing yourself to every recruiter getting their business cards & following up. Also if you visit multiple career fairs you will quickly discover that the same companies & recruiters are there too. So this is more incentive to be aggressive, introduce yourself follow up & see them again at the next career fair (trust me if you do this right they will remember you).

I also want to insert another “A” here Attitude- so much of this is predicated on your ability to stay positive during the search process. I’m a firm believer of what you think & feel will manifest before you. Stay positive it will be tough, so you might as well enjoy it.

N- Network – (There is a difference between social networking & networking socially). Career opportunities are out there unfortunately they don’t always make it to the job boards before they’re filled. So how do you get privy to that opportunity before it’s off the market? Through networking, networking has proven time & time again to be the most effective resource for generating everything from job opportunities, sales opportunities to even friendship opportunities. Being known & knowing people will help you navigate through your professional career. So how do you start?

First you must have completed the TH of Thanks. In order to effectively network you need to have a firm handle on what you want & what you are looking for. This helps to clearly articulate to those you meet how they can help you achieve your goals. Where to network? The short answer is everywhere: Alumni events, sporting events, Chamber of Commerce meetings, trade associations & groups, targeted networking groups (I even know a guy who did his homework to figure where the senior associates/partners at the firm he was trying to get an interview with went for drinks after work & he just happened to be there to buy them a round). The point is networking is closely associated with doing your homework & being aggressive. If you can be direct in knowing what you are looking for (I mean specific industries & companies) tell those you network with exactly that & you’ll be surprised how they can help & who they can introduce you to.

K- Keep Tabs- All the homework, preparation & networking in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t keep tabs. Keeping accurate records will create efficiency in your search. I recommend creating an excel doc that will allow you to track all career opportunities & contacts to a help you manage the process from start to finish, setting timelines for follow-up & responses.

S- Social Networking- As previously mentioned there is a stark contrast between social networking (websites) & networking socially (face to face). Networking socially can really help at a local or regional level, while social networking can build your personal global brand. But unlike face-to-face meetings social networking is somewhat permanent. There are literally dozens of landmines out there that can ruin your career prospects (the monitoring of social networking profiles is becoming common practice in recruiting not to mention the shear number of companies who are directly recruiting off Facebook & twitter). So first order of business is be smart with what your post. Don’t write spur of the moment blog post blasting your company, boss, professor or coach. Don’t write gratuitous profanity or slanderous comments. Just use common sense here, determine whether or not you would care if your potential employer saw (insert: picture, post, comment etc.)

With that disclaimer out of the way, social networking is a powerful tool to build your personal brand, research employers & land career opportunities.

So when active in the hunt step one is to clean up & edit your profiles. Secondly let your status indicate that you are currently looking (unless you are currently employed & looking to make a transition, then more discretion is needed). Third utilize your profile to show your knowledge of the industry, post relevant topics & get involved in discussion groups surrounding those topics.
From a research standpoint the true democratization of information available is absolutely staggering. I recommend everything, specific searches on to following companies & employees on to gain inside access. I also recommend joining LinkedIn, Facebook & Ning groups centered on your areas of interest.
Finally be aggressive on these networks, be active in the groups ask questions & invite industry pros into your network leverage these tools & you can quicken the search process. If that doesn’t work you can always use Facebook ads to make employers hunt you down.

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to say THANKS to your career search.


Chad Pinkston
The Corporate Playbook

Monday, November 24, 2008

7 Reasons Leaders Fail

Around two-thirds of workers say the most stressful aspect of their jobs is their immediate boss, their line manager (Hogan, 2006). While this will come as no surprise to most, this statistic suggests a massive number of unhappy working relationships. So, does this mean that leadership is failing on a massive scale? Well, not exactly...

A recent article published in American Psychologist beautifully explains why so many people experience their managers as piping hot geysers of stress (Vugt, Hogan & Kaiser, 2008). What emerges is that bosses aren't inherently bad people (mostly), but that the modern culture of work sets them up to fail. Here are the seven main reasons I've picked out from this article for why leaders fail:

1. Strict hierarchies.

For Mark Van Vugt of the University of Kent and colleagues a large part of the problem with many modern organisations is their hierarchies. Leaders are at the top of the chain and are assumed to have all the answers, so they make most of the decisions. In reality knowledge and expertise is spread across people in organisations. But it's the leaders who must be seen to lead and so followers get frustrated because their superior knowledge and expertise is frequently ignored. This leads to:

2. Poor decision-making.

Leaders often don't make any better decisions than followers, and frequently make worse ones. This is another consequence of strict hierarchies. Rather than setting up leaders to fail, Van Vugt et al. (2008) argue it's better to agree that leaders are not always the best people to make the decisions. Spreading the responsibility around, or using more participatory strategies for decision-making is often more effective. But this isn't the way things generally work, part of the problem is:

3. Huge pay differentials.

Followers often hate their leaders because of the huge difference in their salaries. It's hard to feel any sympathy for someone whose pay is stratospheric (average CEO pay is 179 times that of average workers). And, because more pay means more status, leaders can quickly come to believe they really deserve the God-like status their pay suggests, resulting in their thinking they have all the answers and that they have the right to treat their employees less than fairly. In the bosses' defence, though, there are:

4. Impossible standards for leaders.

Perhaps because of the huge pay and incredible demands, followers expect their leaders to be almost superhuman. The leadership literature identifies a whole range of personal qualities thought important for a good leader. These include integrity, persistence, humility, competence, decisiveness and being able to inspire the troops. While a leader may be high on one or two of these, they are unlikely to have the full set. Followers are almost bound to be disappointed by what is, after all, another fallible human who is just trying to:

5. Climb the greasy pole.

If the boss is nice to you, it's a bonus, because it's not required for them to get on in the organisation. Leaders are promoted by those higher than them, not those below them - so it's only necessary for bosses to impress their bosses. This is a recipe for disaffection amongst the followers. Talking of which, forget the psychology of leadership, what do we know about the:

6. Psychology of followership?

One of the best points Van Vugt et al. make is that although it's leadership that has been most extensively studied and discussed, most of us end up as followers. So really the psychology of followership is more important than leadership. What is it that makes us follow someone else? And, more subversively: do we need leaders? For example, some research shows that when people know what they're doing, they resent having leadership imposed on them. Generally, though, there's little known about followership, and how to avoid:

7. Alienation.

As a result of the strict hierarchies, huge pay differentials, poor decision-making, greasy-pole climbing and feeling powerless to change huge bureaucracies, followers naturally develop feelings of alienation, and alienation kills motivation and productivity, along with any hope of job satisfaction.

Talk is cheap

By implication the way to rectify these perceived problems is to do the reverse. Don't instigate rigid hierarchies, discourage huge pay differentials, democratise decision-making and don't set impossible standards for leaders. Some organisations are already managing this - presumably those in which followers don't find their bosses the biggest sources of stress - but most are not.

Of course talk is cheap and recognising the problem is quite different to knowing what to do about it, or having the courage to do it. Anyone wanting to make these types of changes across an organisation would have to be a really great leader - and there are truly few of those around.

What do you think?

Do you recognise these problems in your organisation? Has anyone tried to do anything about it? Are there other major reasons leaders fail?

orginally posted on PsyBlog-

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Inflated Academic Credentials Surface in the Executive Suite

Inflated academic credentials in the nation's executive suites may be more common than generally thought.

A survey of 358 senior executives and directors at 53 publicly traded companies has turned up at least seven instances of claims that individuals had academic degrees they don't have. In some cases, the slip-ups don't appear to have been intentional, and may have been caused by misunderstandings.

Among the executives whose credentials don't check out: Dennis Workman, chief technical officer at Trimble Navigation Ltd., a big maker of global-positioning-system devices; and James DeHoniesto, until Wednesday the chief information officer at Cabot Microelectronics Corp., a supplier of chemicals and pads used to polish microchips.

Misstatements have cost top corporate officials or directors their jobs in the past few years at companies including retailer RadioShack Corp., vitamin maker Herbalife Ltd. and Usana Health Sciences Inc. The discrepancies at the latter two companies were unearthed by corporate sleuth and sometimes short- seller Barry Minkow.

Mr. Minkow also conducted the latest survey, which doesn't profess to be a scientifically valid sampling of corporate America. Mr. Minkow examined only certain companies or industries he already suspected of being prone to hype.

[Barry Minkow]

Barry Minkow

But the misrepresentations he uncovered may be enough to raise investor concerns about executive credibility as well as company procedures for vetting key management and board members and compiling their official biographies.

At the companies concerned, "You have to ask yourself, as any good investigator would say, what else might be there?" says Mr. Minkow, who heads the San Diego-based Fraud Discovery Institute. Mr. Minkow, who served prison time for the ZZZZ Best stock swindle in the 1980s, has won kudos from the FBI since his release for his role in uncovering frauds on the Internet, in the real-estate field and elsewhere.

After choosing the companies to survey, Mr. Minkow says he cross-checked their top officials' biographies -- usually included in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- against a database of college degrees open to private investigators.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed each case of an inaccurate degree claim with the university involved.

Mr. Minkow says he doesn't have any investment position in the companies where he found problematic credentials, but one of his employees has bought put options betting against some of their stocks.

One of the discrepancies Mr. Minkow turned up in SEC filings involves Mr. Workman, Trimble's chief technical officer. According to his biography in the Sunnyvale, Calif., company's annual report, Mr. Workman holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. M.I.T. says Mr. Workman attended the school, studying physics for two semesters, but never earned a degree.

A spokeswoman for Trimble, LeaAnn McNabb, says Mr. Workman thought he had received a master's degree when he left M.I.T.'s doctoral program in the late 1960s.

"The professor gave his assurance to Dennis that he would submit the necessary paperwork," Ms. McNabb says. "Dennis is working with M.I.T. to work out the situation." She declined to comment on whether Trimble had previously checked Mr. Workman's credentials or would update its annual report.

"I don't remember receiving the degree," Mr. Workman said in an interview. "It's my position that I earned it, that's for sure. I'm unequivocal about that." Mr. Workman says he had planned to earn a Ph.D., but had to leave school because of the Vietnam War.

"It was either leave the country, get drafted, or find a job with a critical-skills deferment, which is what I did," he says.

A corporate biography claimed Mr. DeHoniesto, the Cabot Microelectronics chief information officer, had a bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Pittsburgh. Although he did attend Pitt's school of engineering in the 1980s, the senior manager didn't earn a degree, the school says.

After Cabot received inquiries from the Journal about the matter Wednesday, Mr. DeHoniesto announced his resignation from the Aurora, Ill., company. He couldn't be reached for comment.

A biography of Sam Box, until recently the president of Tetra Tech Inc., appears repeatedly in the company's SEC filings identifying him as the holder of a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of California. After receiving inquiries from the Journal last month prompted by Mr. Minkow's work, the Pasadena, Calif. environmental-engineering company said Mr. Box "admitted that he does not have a college degree," and that it would demote him to vice president.

A spokesman for Tetra Tech, Michael Bieber, says Mr. Box came to Tetra Tech after it acquired his past employer, and Mr. Box's academic credentials weren't verified at the time. "It was a loophole in our system," Mr. Bieber says, adding that the company had tightened its process in response.

Tetra Tech declined to make Mr. Box available for comment.

Maurice Schweitzer, who studies business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, urges companies to take a hard line on misrepresented academic credentials "If you say, 'Look, the CEO has been doing a great job, we otherwise have no complaints about this person, so we're going to let it go,' my concern is that you're sending a message throughout the organization that you don't want to be sending," he says.

"I'm very concerned that if people believe you can lie and get away with it, then down the line people will start cheating on their expense reports, they'll start misrepresenting their billable hours, they'll start misusing their corporate funds," Mr. Schweitzer adds.

Further down the corporate pecking order, inflated credentials are fairly common, according to Jenifer DeLoach, who supervises background checks for corporate clients at Kroll Inc., the investigative arm of Marsh & McLennan Cos.

Kroll issues an annual report of its "hit ratio" that says about 20% of job seekers and rank-and-file employees undergoing background checks by their companies are found to have inflated their educational credentials. Those seeking jobs usually get turned down when discrepancies appear, Ms. DeLoach says.

But as executives climb the ladder and vie for posts at different companies, they are vetted by search firms and director-level search committees that often conduct extensive background checks.

Others with degree discrepancies discovered by Mr. Minkow in SEC filings and verified by the Journal with the applicable schools include:

Robert Lazarowitz, a director of Knight Capital Group Inc. The New Jersey brokerage firm had said Mr. Lazarowitz earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of South Florida. The school says Mr. Lazarowitz attended USF for only two semesters -- in 1975 and 1976 -- and never earned a degree.

In a statement, Mr. Lazarowitz said, "I regret and take full responsibility for this mistake." Knight Capital says it will take "appropriate steps to update our corporate materials."

Owen Kratz, the chief executive of Texas-based Helix Energy Solutions Group Inc. A corporate biography of Mr. Kratz claims he has a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Not so, says Stony Brook's registrar's office. Mr. Kratz does have a biology degree from the College at Brockport, a less-prestigious SUNY campus where Mr. Kratz transferred in 1974, according to that school's registrar.

A Helix Energy spokeswoman, Sheralyn Miller, acknowledges the mistake, and calls it "an internal error." She says Mr. Kratz had never claimed a Stony Brook degree, but "our proxy is off a little bit." Ms. Miller says the company will revise its filings.

[CQ]Harold[/CQ] Rafuse, a director of Life Partners Holdings Inc., a Waco, Texas, insurance broker. Life Partners had said Mr. Rafuse held a bachelor's degree in chemical technology from Temple University. But he earned only an associate's degree, not a bachelor's, according to Temple officials.

Life Partners' general counsel, Scott Peden, says the company will correct its disclosure in its next proxy. He says Mr. Rafuse had received what he thought was the "functional equivalent of a bachelor's" degree. The discrepancy isn't "material," Mr. Peden says.

Kenneth Keiser, the president and chief operating officer of PepsiAmericas Inc., one of the country's biggest Pepsi bottlers. Mr. Keiser has been identified for three years in annual reports and proxy statements filed with the SEC by shipping concern C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., where he is a director, as having a bachelor of arts degree from Michigan State University. The university says that isn't so. It says Mr. Keiser attended from 1973 to 1976, but never graduated.

A PepsiAmericas spokeswoman, Mary Viola, says the company was aware Mr. Keiser stopped attending college "10 or 20 hours short of a degree." She says C.H. Robinson had mistakenly imputed a bachelor's degree to Mr. Keiser in its past several proxy statements.

"I'm sure [Mr. Keiser] does read their proxy, but he doesn't read his own bio," Ms. Viola says. "It's unfortunate that a communication error of another company is drawing attention to this for Ken."

Angie Freeman, a spokeswoman for C.H. Robinson, says her company was responsible for the error and had "mistakenly assumed that he earned a degree." But Ms. Freeman says she believes Mr. Keiser signed off on his own mistaken biography.

"The company did periodically provide the materials for him to review," she says, in the process of preparing its 2006, 2007 and 2008 proxy statements -- all of which included the erroneous degree.

Write to Keith J. Winstein at

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why the NFL Spies on It's Players

Why the NFL Spies on Its Players

To Buff Image, League Broadens Discipline, Hires Ex-Cops; 'A White Man in Sunglasses'

The National Football League's unprecedented new effort to protect its image by cracking down on loutish behavior is making some of the league's 1,952 players a little nervous.

This sweeping new personal-conduct policy, which was announced before the 2007 season, allows the NFL to quickly and summarily fine and suspend players; not just for committing crimes, but for any act that's deemed harmful to the NFL's "integrity and reputation." To guard against these unpredictable suspensions (there have been 10 so far), NFL teams are hiring former police officers and FBI agents as security chiefs, ordering up extensive background checks, installing video-surveillance systems in locker rooms, chasing down rumors and sometimes forbidding players from talking to the press.

During a recent road trip, the San Diego Chargers not only conducted bed checks, but placed guards in the hotel hallways to make sure players didn't sneak out. The Seattle Seahawks have declared an entire downtown entertainment district off-limits, and the Denver Broncos have begun sending a former cop to local nightclubs on weekends to make sure the players behave.

The increased scrutiny has taken a toll on some players, including Broncos defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. Last year, after the policy was announced, Mr. Thomas had called his agent in a panic: He said he was convinced he was being followed by "a white man in sunglasses" who had been sent by the NFL. A league spokesman says NFL security did not follow Mr. Thomas.

Offensive lineman Langston Walker of the Buffalo Bills, who has an economics degree from the University of California at Berkeley, is no fan of the new code, which he considers too aggressive. When someone intentionally spilled a drink on him at a Los Angeles bar recently, Mr. Walker says he was worried about how the NFL's discipline czars might have reacted if things had escalated. "When you start not to trust your own organization or governing body, who can you trust?" he say

The NFL's new standards move it ahead of other U.S. sports leagues, whose policies on player behavior outside of competition are not as explicit. These changes come at a time when NFL players continue to make headlines for off-field incidents. Last year, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty to charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation. A study by the San Diego Union-Tribune found at least 57 NFL players have been arrested so far this year, and that about 10% of the league's players currently on rosters have been arrested during their playing careers. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says the league doesn't track arrest records. He says the 10% figure is misleading because it includes instances where charges were dropped.

The crackdown comes at a financially sensitive time for the league: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell warned last month that NFL revenues -- which total about $7 billion -- were "under pressure" and that it was searching "aggressively" for new sources of income. The NFL says the policy has

Some recent suspensions to key players handed down by the league have put teams in a tough spot. The Dallas Cowboys suffered an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals last month after cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was suspended indefinitely. Mr. Jones, who has a history of encounters with the law, was punished even though the incident -- an alleged tussle with one of his bodyguards -- didn't result in an arrest or any charges. (Mr. Jones, through his attorney, declined to comment).

The Minnesota Vikings lost three of their first four games this season while left tackle Bryant McKinnie was serving a suspension for an altercation at a Miami nightclub in February. Mr. McKinnie told reporters the incident was "blown out of proportion" and that he was surprised by the suspension's length. Under previous NFL policies, Mr. McKinnie would more likely have been fined or sent to counseling.

Kansas City's star running back Larry Johnson was suspended for this week's game after being charged with simple assault for allegedly pushing the side of a woman's face at a club in February. Mr. Johnson has declined to comment on the case, which has yet to be tried.

Dave Abrams, a retired police officer, was appointed security chief by the Broncos last year after a player was killed in a shooting. Mr. Abrams's BlackBerry is loaded with each player's personal information and he has trained dozens of bartenders and bouncers to call him when players show up. Sometimes he comes to take note of the women they're with and how much they've had to drink. "It's always fun to watch their eyes light up the first time they see me in a bar or a nightclub on a Friday night," he says. "It just makes them realize that someone's paying attention."

This June, when Bills running back Marshawn Lynch was suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run accident in Buffalo, Chris Clark, the team's new security director, was texting him within six hours. Mr. Clark advised Mr. Lynch not to talk to police without an attorney. Mr. Lynch eventually pleaded guilty to a traffic violation, which is not a violation of the NFL's conduct policy. The following month, Mr. Goodell assured Mr. Lynch he wouldn't be suspended. "You can't make things go away, but you can make things go a little easier for them," says Mr. Clark.

The NFL first started addressing criminal activity a decade ago with fines and mandatory counseling. In 2000, two NFL players, Rae Carruth and Ray Lewis, were charged with murder. Mr. Carruth was convicted and Mr. Lewis was exonerated. After this, the league's pre-employment screening was expanded to identify "at risk" players and every team was instructed to hire a full-time security director. Not every team did. Before the Cincinnati Bengals hired one last year, the team famously saw nine of its players arrested in a nine-month span.

Since Mr. Goodell became commissioner in 2006, he has taken steps to promote a more wholesome image for the league. He's beefed up the NFL's program for rookies, adding sessions on media training and eight hours of "conduct-management" class. He added a stringent behavior code for fans and issued a rule forbidding cheerleaders from warming up in close proximity to visiting teams. At his annual address to reporters at the 2007 Super Bowl, Mr. Goodell said he felt the number of incidents had reached "a few too many." Mr. Aiello says the policy aims to "protect the integrity of the game" and that Mr. Goodell is always looking for ways to improve the league's operations "and to aggressively enforce our rules."

The NFL players union says the personal-conduct suspensions and fines have been excessive, "particularly in cases where a player has been accused of but not found guilty of a violation of law," says spokesman Carl Francis.

In a few cases, judgments have been amended. Last month, Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. saw another side of the policy. After developing a staph infection (the bug had been plaguing the team for some time) he received text messages from a press official who challenged the hospital's diagnosis, warned it would be "very bad" to talk about the situation to reporters, and suggested he invent another illness. "We can give [the media] something, but not staph," said one.

When he refused, the team suspended him for detrimental conduct, citing the NFL's new policy. After Mr. Winslow showed higher-up executives the messages, the suspension was rescinded. "I think the player-conduct policy can be very subjective at times and might need some restructuring to clearly define what is and is not considered conduct detrimental, so it is not improperly imposed," Mr. Winslow says. A Browns team spokesman says "the matter was resolved several weeks ago and we've moved on."

In any event, the days of teams taking a passive view of player discipline seem to be over.

Last season, shortly after several San Diego players were cited for sneaking out of a team hotel, the team fired security director Mike Cash without explanation, according to Mr. Cash.

Mr. Cash says he never expected his job to involve babysitting. "They're grown men," he says. "They're going to do what they want." The Chargers declined to comment.

Write to Hannah Karp at

Corrections and Amplifications:

The National Football League keeps track of individual player arrests but doesn't compile the overall percentage of its players who have been arrested during their playing careers. This article incorrectly said the NFL doesn't track arrest records.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Networking? How to stand out

Fans of Bruce Mount sang his praises to BzzAgent before he applied to become vice president of engineering of the Boston word-of-mouth marketer.

In late June, the software-development manager asked nearly two dozen present and past colleagues to tout his abilities. "Even one sentence will help!" he assured them. Their testimonials ranged from a brief haiku to a multipage missive dubbing him "a freakin' goldmine of knowledge, ingenuity and kindness."

Mr. Mount's creative approach "made him stand out," recalls Rossana Y. de la Cruz, BzzAgent's director of recruiting. He was the frontrunner among 166 outside prospects. And though the firm ultimately promoted an insider, Ms. de la Cruz vows to consider him again for a relevant vacancy.

Unusual times demand unusual networking tactics. Most candidates find work through networking, surveys show. But in today's dismal job market, many feel frustrated with standard strategies such as tapping friends for referrals.

Clients of Laurence J. Stybel, a Boston outplacement counselor, fret that acquaintances ignore their aid requests because the contacts fear losing their jobs. Anxious about unemployment, people hoard knowledge about openings for themselves and closest friends. Networking "is perceived to be a zero-sum game," the president of Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire says.

"The bar has been raised on what it takes to make networking work," concurs Scott Allen, a consultant about online networking. "Virtual interaction allows us to create the illusion of networking by making electronic links with people," but online ties represent "just a starting point," he says. "You still need some kind of relationship."

For job hunters who use networking Web sites like, Mr. Allen favors a more-sophisticated approach. When you invite someone to join you on LinkedIn, he proposes including a personalized offer of help, such as an introduction to a customer or a useful link to a relevant article.

In the real world, you can improve your networking by finding out whether key executives of potential employers will attend a trade group meeting and then scheduling encounters during the event, recommends Brandon Gutman, vice president of business development at Battalia Winston International, a New York search firm. "Don't expect to just show up and bump into these people," he cautions.

Robb Leland wanted to move into mobile marketing, which involves targeting promotions at mobile devices. He identified three mobile-marketing concerns that were listed on an industry association's site as being registered for the group's March 2008 conference. He then contacted officials at the companies, including Shira Simmonds, president and co-founder of Ping Media.

Seated beside each other during a conference seminar, they immediately found common ground. "That's why I'm here today," says Mr. Leland, who joined Ping Media as senior business-development manager in September.

There are additional ways to network more effectively at events. "Be the only person like yourself in the room," Dr. Stybel advises. For instance, he encourages human-resources managers to attend local meetings of Financial Executives International and share their expertise about compensation practices. Because many HR executives report to chief financial officers, those who belong to that professional organization probably hear about promising HR positions.

An offbeat but memorable "elevator pitch" will also make you stand out in a crowd, says Lorraine Howell, a public-speaking trainer in Seattle.

Several years ago, Ms. Howell coached Wimsey Cherrington, a Seattle massage therapist who unearths hidden causes of chronic pain. The therapist was having trouble describing her specialty during gatherings of a women business owners' group. "Networking wasn't working at all," Ms. Cherrington remembers.

Things changed after the therapist began calling herself "a body detective." The catchy description "at least doubled my practice," Ms. Cherrington says.

Still frustrated? Your network may know why. Ask friends, relatives and associates to anonymously assess your strengths and weaknesses through, an online polling tool, suggests Diane Darling, a Boston networking specialist.

The gambit worked for her. Based on her SurveyMonkey feedback, she realized her artsy-looking purple pantsuits hindered her career success because she didn't look "corporate." Those contacts never "would have ever told me this in person," Ms. Darling says. She fixed her image by buying costly, classic business suits.

Write to Joann S. Lublin at

Monday, November 03, 2008

Boxing's Biggest Loser Wins- The man who won as a loser!

Peter Buckley- best known for being on the losing side of decisions & laying horizontal on the mat has become a living legend in Birmingham. But what can you learn from Buckley- perseverance, persistence, losing gracefully??? Yes all these qualities were actively demonstrated during his time in the ring but I think there is something more here. I believe Buckley played to his greatest strength he executed his talent to the highest degree. But what was his talent? "Losing"- yes that's precisely it. Buckley was a natural loser & a damned fine one at that. His ability was to prepare the future champions of Britain exposing them to a challenge to a quality fight, but ultimately a fight they could win. Buckley knew his role all to well & the irony of it is the guy went out on a winning note. So what's the point? The point is know were you fit, know your role, know your strength. It's your obligation to exercise your talent to the fullest. Even if your the most talented loser. I hope Mr. Buckely keeps the winning streak alive as he enters the next round life after sports.

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Peter Buckley, who has lost more times than any modern British boxer has even fought, stepped into the ring for the last time Friday.

Over 19 years, Mr. Buckley built an extraordinary record of 256 losses in 299 bouts. With his 300th and final fight in his hometown of Birmingham, the journeyman finally gained a sort of celebrity here -- less for his losses than for the way he kept coming back for more.

Going Out Fighting

Boxer Peter Buckley fought his 300th and final bout Friday, joining a pantheon of peculiarly British heroes.

Mr. Buckley, who first laced on gloves as an 11-year-old, joins a pantheon of peculiarly British heroes -- athletes whose main quality is their undying optimism in the face of overwhelming odds. The most notable is Eddie the Eagle, a short-sighted plasterer from Cheltenham who took last place at the 1988 Olympics as the sole member of Britain's ski-jumping team.

The 39-year-old Mr. Buckley's career has been filled with "close decisions that could have gone my way," he says. "That is the story of my life."

Friday night his was the third of seven fights at the Aston Events Centre, a ragged sports arena underneath a highway overpass, typical of the arenas where he spent his career. It drew 1,389 fans.

When the bell rang for round 1,745 of Mr. Buckley's career, his opponent Matin Mohammed, came out moving, circling Mr. Buckley around the ring. Mr. Mohammed bobbed and weaved, ducking punches that weren't thrown.

Mr. Buckley, by contrast, moved only when needed, or not much. At the start of the second round, Mr. Mohammed landed two clean shots on Mr. Buckley's chin. The veteran shook his head. On the counterattack, Mr. Buckley lodged points with quick jabs and an occasional left hook.

That defensive style made Mr. Buckley a valuable part of an unheralded group of boxers: the journeymen who act as a testing ground for up-and-coming fighters, many in their first fights. In his 256 losses, he was knocked out just 10 times. The light welterweight, at just under 10 stones, or around 140 pounds, and 5-feet-8 inches tall, fought 42 future British, European or world champions.

[Peter Buckley]

Peter Buckley

Had he won more fights, he wouldn't have been such an in-demand opponent, Mr. Buckley says.

His final opponent Mr. Mohammed is like many who have come before. He had fought just once before, a draw against Mr. Buckley just a month ago.

In a sport where anyone with 40 bouts under their belts can be seen as a veteran, the record for the most professional fights belongs to U.S. boxer Reggie Strickland with 360 fights, 276 of which were losses, boxing experts say. Mr. Strickland, in an interview from his home in Indianapolis, says boxing authorities withdrew his fight license after he was in a car accident and forced him to retire "prematurely" in 2005 at age 37.

Mr. Buckley "is crazy" to retire now, Mr. Strickland says. He's "got another good year or so left."

Boxing fans may wonder why Mr. Buckley was allowed to fight as often as he did. Robert Smith, an official at the sport's governing body, the British Board of Boxing Control, said the board made sure Mr. Buckley didn't become a punching bag. Mr. Buckley, like all boxers, had a medical checkup before every fight, blood tests and a yearly brain scan. Mr. Smith said he had "no concerns with Peter." His retirement is the "sensible thing to do," he added.

Mr. Buckley set 300 as his career goal earlier this year and wanted to finish in front of a home crowd. To make it, he fought seven times in the past eight weeks, pushing up against the sport's one-fight-a-week rule.

The most he has earned from a fight is about £3,000 (about $4,800), and the smallest crowd he has fought in front of is a handful of spectators. Often, he is paid as little as £300 a fight. Every day, Mr. Buckley sticks to his schedule: three hours of running outside, weight lifting and working out with punching bags at a local gym.

He has fought on as little as one hour's notice and turned up for fights with the scars of his last still on his face. He once drove six hours from Birmingham to Glasgow, Scotland, where he was met at the fight arena's parking lot and 10 minutes later found himself in the ring. In what he describes as his worst fight, Mr. Buckley was knocked down three times in the first round before the referee stepped in. After each fight, he calls his longtime girlfriend, Tania Donnelly, to say he is fine.

Born into a family of nine children in a working-class neighborhood in Birmingham, Mr. Buckley was caught robbing a shop and sent for four months to a youth detention center when he was 15 after his father died. He spent the next several years in and out of detention centers. A local professional fighter named Rocky Lawlor told him he would take him to a gym to keep him out of trouble. Mr. Lawlor told him to meet him there the next week, with the words "I mean it. Don't mess me about." There, he met trainer Norman "Nobby" Nobbs.

He turned pro in 1989 at age 20. In his first professional fight, "over six rounds, I beat him out of sight. I broke his nose, and yet they gave it a draw," says Mr. Buckley.

Mr. Nobbs remembers the fighter starting out with visions of future glory. With each decision against him, "he thought 'hang on a bit,' " Mr. Nobbs says, in a phone interview from his home in Birmingham.

On his recent streak of 88 fights without a win, Mr. Buckley only gained fans. As he approached his final bout, local newspapers and some TV stations paid attention. "People are coming up in the street, people who didn't know him before, shaking his hand and saying he's a credit to Birmingham and a credit to the U.K.," says Ada Foyle, who has known Mr. Buckley since childhood.

With five seconds left Friday night, Mr. Buckley unleashed a wild swing for the last punch of his professional career. It missed.

The bell rang. The crowd rose. Peter Buckley's name filled the air of a boxing arena for the first, and last, time.

The judge's decision came quickly. The score was 40 to 38 points. A tattooed arm was held up. The perennial loser had won.

"The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel boomed over the loud speakers. "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains."

Back in Mr. Buckley's changing room, fans asked him to autograph their fight programs, a first in his career.

"I know when the journey is over. It is over. That is it now," Mr. Buckley said.

Minutes later, as he disappeared into the crowd at a bar set up in a tent next to the arena, chants erupted: "There's only one Peter Buckley, one Peter Buckley."

The next night, Mr. Buckley left a party in his honor early. Sitting alone in the living room of his home in Birmingham, he said, "I felt empty thinking, 'What will I do now?' "

Write to Alistair MacDonald at

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Give Me No's!

I stopped in my favorite coffee shop this morning & bumped into a friend of mine who runs a software company. I pulled up a seat to briefly catch up with him. We exchanged the general how ya doin's & the conversation quickly turned to the economy. "How's the economy affecting your business?” he asked.

Well that's somewhat of a loaded question my company was founded in the midst of a recession so frankly we know no different we were forced to be lean & inventive from the get go. I shared with him our plans to launch a larger sales force into the recession, taking this as an opportunity to expand while others contract. I must confess, I thought I was somewhat of a maverick ("don't cha know") with this approach. Then he proceeded to enlighten me.

The conversation went something like this:

"Sales are up by 30% but no's are up 300%" He say's

"How the hell is that possible??? Your reps pitch must suck!"- Me

"The sales are in the no's"- He say's

All right I'll spare you the play by play but I want you to think about this approach. It completely flips conventional wisdom on its head. The goal of a sales rep is to get to yes right??? No it's not. The goal of a sales rep is to get a decision.

Think about how many times you hung on to a prospect too long (at what point does it stop being prospecting & turn into stalking?) You were afraid of the inevitable- the decision. This is the beauty of the no approach. You stop worrying about only contacting those you think will buy, only approaching those who have been deemed "good prospects". That's total bullshit you cling on to these "prospects" long after the decision has been made (oh it's been made you're just scared to ask). That's right getting to no is a liberating feeling. You cut the bullshit, you gain clarity. You fish or cut bait, you shit or get off the pot, you- ok I'll stop with the phrases but seriously you know where you stand. By asking yes or no you stop fabricating reasons & get them straight from the prospect. A huge benefit during this market down turn is you may not get a yes but you will know if your service makes sense for them & when budgets improve you are in the drivers seat.

This also limits the scope of your sales funnel. If you're afraid of getting no's you won't get enough into the pipeline because you'll start to exclude companies based on arbitrary information that you have hyped up & are convinced is a valid reason they will say no. You essentially start creating no's for them. This is the real driver here ACTIVITY! Activity breed’s activity, motion creates motion you know the deal. But it's true. If you are only focused on talking to those who you think will say yes you will drastically reduce your activity by excluding all those "no's".

Finally you learn from no's. Each time a prospect says no. You study that situation, you chronicle that sales call to understand what you did to get that no. After a sufficient number of no's you'll find they all become yes.

So what did I take away from this brief but insightful conversation? Go for the no, for these four reasons:

1. No= Decision= Clarity.
2. No= Activity
3. No= Learning
4. No=Yes

Good luck with your no’s.

Did the Phillies cause the recession???

The folks on South Street are cheering the World Series victory by the Philadelphia Phillies, but it would be for the best if the Phils didn’t get anywhere near a title again in 2009. Philadelphia sports franchises have suffered through a number of lean years, but when the teams finally ascend to the pinnacle of their respective sports, it’s at a time when the market’s economic condition resembles a drunken Flyers fan passed out in a bathroom. The last (and first) time the Phillies won it all was in 1980, when GDP contracted 0.2% for the year, the first leg of the double-dip recession (the second was in 1982, the year basketball’s 76ers were on their way to winning the NBA championship for only the third time). The brawling Flyers were at their best in the 1970s, winning titles in 1974 and 1975, which represent the last time the economy contracted for two consecutive years. It’s been a long time since the NFL’s Eagles won a championship, but two of their three came in years when the Standard & Poor’s 500 finished the year below where it started (1948 and 1960), and in the other, 1949, the economy contracted by 0.5%. When it’s sunny in Philadelphia, it’s gloomy everywhere else.

The Whole story can be found at David Gaffen's Blog-