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The Power of Passion

178865612 faeecb4c56 The Power of Passion

This is a guest post written by Jonathan Rick.

“We’re gonna make your logo pop! We’re gonna make the IPREX globe spin! And we’re gonna make the buttons beautiful!”

“A button can be beautiful?” asked a skeptical Susan.

“Oh yeah!” beamed a confident Jesse.

It was at this moment that Jesse had Susan. He’d been muddling through the meeting, but this burst of bravura, energy and passion was sincere and infectious—a gust of fresh wind that won him the contract to redesign

Similarly, when I myself interviewed with Susan, things coasted along for the first 15 minutes. She asked about my experience; I provided conventional answers. Then she deployed her pet question: “If you were an animal, what would you be?”

”That’s easy,” I grinned. “I’d be a dog.” It was at this moment that I had Susan. With great pride and obvious pleasure, I regaled her with stories of my miniature schnauzer, Wyatt.

One final example. I was one of three interviewing a potential subcontractor for a Defense Department project. It was clear this husband-and-wife team could do the job, but they lacked fire in the belly. And because it wasn’t clear that they really wanted the gig, it wasn’t clear if they’d be fun to work with.

Sensing this, my boss’s boss changed direction and pinged the pair with the following question: “Can you tell us about any of your extracurricular activities that relate to the military?”

The husband tilted his chair back, searched his memory, then tilted forward. “Sure,” Chris said, as he proceeded to uncork a heartfelt narrative about a recent weekend when he was home playing video games. When his wife returned, she told him about a veterans charity she had just read about. The story so moved Chris that he dropped his controller and stayed up all night voluntarily coding for the nonprofit.

“If these guys can sacrifice their lives for their country, I can sacrifice a night’s sleep,” he said with a gleam in his theretofore sleepy eyes. It was at this moment that he had us.

To an artist like Jesse, attention to the seeming minutia of Web design was no big deal. To a PR guy like me, naming five national reporters mattered more than discussing my dog. To an engineer like Chris, proposals ought to be won or lost on their merits, not on what the bidders do in their spare time.

Yet what all three of us failed to appreciate was the import of passion. Fortunately, we each were tossed a soft ball to rectify this. Not everyone is so lucky. It shouldn’t take prompting to light your fuse.

Passion, of course, isn’t a substitute for talent. It is, however, a key differentiator, revealing what makes you tick, what drives you, what you’re capable of achieving in the right circumstances. To exude such enthusiasm is to show character. To withhold it is to be average.

So, the next time you’re in an important meeting—be it an interview, a sales pitch, even a date—relax that uncomfortable façade, slacken your stilted smile, and unbottle your passion. No doubt, you’ll be more comfortable. And more successful.

Jonathan Rick, a social media strategist in Arlington, Va, blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.

Photo courtesy: Pink Moose
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Beware the Candidate Who Doesn’t Follow Instructions

3153035648 8bc33a9ab7 Beware the Candidate Who Doesnt Follow Instructions

A guest post by Jonathan Rick.

In the current edition of her e-newsletter, Claire Kittle, who runs the Talent Market staffing agency, recounts an anecdote that immediately rang true for me. With Claire’s permission, I’m reprinting the story, which I’ve edited slightly.

“I get dozens of applications every day, and you would be amazed to see how many seemingly intelligent candidates do not follow instructions. If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 50% of applicants fail to send me what my clients request.

I used to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt. I would follow-up with them and ask for the information they neglected to send the first time. But I learned that those same candidates often still fail to follow instructions on the second (and third!) attempts, and worse—they frequently get belligerent about being asked for more information!

Here’s a sample scenario:

Me: “Are you free for a phone interview Friday at noon? If so, what’s the best number where I can call you?”

Candidate: “Yes, that will work!”

Sigh. Now I’ll only throw the life preserver to candidates with very strong resumes, but I still file away the fact they didn’t send the right information off the bat.

All this prompts the question: If a candidate can’t follow instructions for a job application, how will that person perform on the job? Will he take direction? Will his work be sloppy? How will he treat your customers? It’s hard to say for sure, but the initial data points don’t bode well for his future as an employee.”

Indeed, although I don’t work in HR, I encounter this bugbear routinely. A recent example:

Vendor: “Please provide profile details.”

Me: “Can you let me know if you can’t get this info from the document I sent this morning?”

The vendor’s response? Silence. Apparently, she could; it was just easier to ask someone than to find a previous e-mail herself.

I learned this passive-aggressive technique from an old boss. Rather than explicitly point out a mistake I had made, he would take the mistake to its logical conclusion. For example, if I wrote that a campaign would run from April-March (rather than March-April), he might reply, “When did our month-long budget get extended to a year?” While my first reaction was, Huh?, upon reflection I appreciated the humor—and gentle guidance.

So, what can we do to minimize these miscommunications? While people will always and forever be lazy, the principles of Web writing suggest separating out anything crucial from the body text. To wit: Any questions or requests should be put in (1) list (2) format, or  at least be bolded or highlighted. The extra time this takes upfront will save you from wasting time down the road.

Jonathan Rick is a social media strategist living in Arlington, VA. He blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.

Photo credit: Richard Masoner
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The Post-Interview Follow-up Dance

pc capture372 179x300 The Post Interview Follow up Dance

This is a guest post by Jonathan Rick.

If ever you've interviewed for a job you didn′t get, no doubt you've bumped into this unpleasant experience.

You interview, you send a follow-up letter"”maybe even with some writing samples or references"”and then you wait. A week or so goes by, and you check in, yet hear nothing. Another week passes, and your frustration mounts.

If you're lucky, eventually you receive a form letter that the position has been filled.

Excuse me, but what the fuck?

If two parties take the time to schedule and meet for an interview"”in addition to conducting any background research"”doesn′t common courtesy demand acknowledging subsequent communications? Is it that burdensome to respond with boilerplate such as, "We'll let you know if we decide to move forward"? Keeping people in limbo is just plain rude.

So what to do? A recruiter might advise you to keep your chin up and plug along. E-mails being ignored? Pick up the phone. Calls going to voice mail? Leave a message with an assistant.

Let me suggest an alternative. If a prospective employer refuses to give you the time of day, then check that company off your list.

Too often, we strain to craft the polite but pointed e-mail. "Just want to make sure you have everything you need?" "Was wondering if I should plan to uncork a champagne bottle this weekend?" "Thought I′d touch base"¦"

Instead, spurned job seekers would do better to take their talents elsewhere. Just because prospective employers tend to have the upper hand doesn't mean they should abuse it. And just because prospective employees need jobs doesn't mean they should let themselves be taken for granted.

Granted, many job seekers do not enjoy the luxury of being so choosy, especially when the unemployment rate stands at 9.8%

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. Yet this advice not only serves your self-respect; it's also practical, grounded in the experience that if a company is interested in you, it will get back to you, usually promptly. When that doesn't happen, rarely does  following-up change minds.

Jonathan Rick supports clients across the federal government on the strategy and execution of various digital initiatives. He blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.

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Personal Branding vs. Accomplishments

imagen 24 300x98 Personal Branding vs. Accomplishments

This is a guest post from Jonathan Rick.

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Would you hire this self-described Internet strategist? He rarely blogs, doesn′t much tweet, and uses YouTube for quick and dirty videos filmed with a Flip camera.

Would your mind change if you knew he were a veteran of Microsoft and Yahoo, whom the Washington Post described as "one of the elder statesmen in the "¦ class of online political operatives"? What if credited him with expanding the Republican National Committee′s e-mail list from 1.8 million to 12 million, and "dramatically improving the party's social media outreach"? His name: Cyrus Krohn.

What about this guru? He, too, rarely tweets, much less blogs, and enjoys only 285 Facebook friends. Yet he′s spent the past two and a half years building, from scratch, what the Politico ranks as the fourth best e-mail list in politics. Last year, PoliticsOnline and the World E-Democracy Forum named him one of the "Top 10 Changing the World of Internet and Politics." His name: David Kralik.

Finally, unlike Cyrus and David, our third executive is active on Twitter, yet has only 271 followers. He suspended his personal blog more than a year ago, and only rarely comments on the blog he helped found, RedState. His day job? Executive Vice President at Edelman, the largest independent pr firm, where he runs the digital public affairs practice and his clients include Wal-Mart and American Petroleum Institute. His name: Michael Krempasky.

Clearly, these guys are major players in the digital media field. They speak at conferences, command sizable salaries, and boast enviable records of accomplishment.

Yet their efforts at personal branding"”their own PR"”are relatively lackluster. In short, they′re behind-the-scenes operators, who keep their heads down. They′ll give a quote to a reporter, but client work is their priority.

And yet, if these folks were job searching, a recruiter no doubt would advise them to raise their own profile"”to beef up their LinkedIn page, optimize the search engine results for their names, and start publishing thought-leadership pieces.

This advice is well taken, but perhaps overdispensed. Even if you work in digital media, you need not have 500 Facebook friends, as David All asks of his potential employees. In fact, you′d do just as well to help a client gain 10,000 Twitter followers than to attain this feat for yourself. As Sean Hackbarth can attest, even being a well-connected blogger since 1999 does not guarantee gainful employment.

Put another way, Show me what you′ve done for others, and I′ll discern who are.

Jonathan Rick supports clients across the federal government on the strategy and execution of various digital initiatives. He blogs at No Straw Men and tweets at @jrick.
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