Sign of the Times

A friend of mine mentioned that her daughter’s school is celebrating “Back to the Future” day. She went on to explain that today – October 21, 2015 – is the date that Marty McFly traveled to in “Back to the Future II”. Naturally, we reminisced on the movie and discussed what predictions actually came true, which ones were feasible, and which ones were absolutely absurd. Can you imagine the logistical nightmare if we had flying cars? Yikes! That would make Dallas traffic at its worst feel as seamless as breathing.

Although I haven’t seen this movie in a very long time, this conversation did remind me of a little piece that I wrote after watching “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” – a movie released two years prior to BTTF2.

And yes – I do realize that this post really doesn’t have much to do with career transition. Nonetheless, I do find it interesting how much technology has changed the way our society functions in general. Of course, this also includes how we search for and apply for jobs.

That said…here you go. Enjoy #TBT – a day early.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – How That Movie Would Look Today

Recently, I watched the 1987 movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with my boys (ages 10 and 6). And, although some of the adult humor flew above their heads, they seemed to enjoy it. Throughout the movie, I found myself amused by how much traveling – and the way our society functions in general – has changed.

Let’s say that, hypothetically, some movie producer is hell bent on releasing a 30-year anniversary edition of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, here’s how it would need to be re-written to fit into today’s complex digital world:

  1. Neal Page would have no need to race Kevin Bacon’s character to the available cab; he’d just pull up Uber on his smartphone and order up his own personal driver.
  2. On the way to the airport (or perhaps even as he’s waiting for the meeting to end), he’d receive a call from the airline, notifying him of flight delays. If he was still at the office, he’d probably decide to stay and join his friend at happy hour until further notice. Then, he’d call his wife and give her a heads-up on the flight delay.
  3. Assuming he took a chance and decided to head to the airport – in hopes that his flight will take off on time or shortly thereafter – he’d immediately scan the digital kiosk for instant flight updates. No need to wait for an airport staffer to post the “Delayed” sign.
  4. Everyone on the aircraft looked like they were sitting in first class. I ain’t gonna lie – I salivated a little at the thought of having that much room to stretch out in coach. Today, we’re all packed in like one big happy sardine family.
  5. Once the plane diverted to Wichita Falls, Neal could quickly look up a place to stay on his smartphone, instead of standing in line, waiting to make a call from the payphone. In fact, with the right app, he could probably book a room in a few quick swipes.
  6. The vibrating bed at the Wichita Falls motel had me in stitches! As far as I’m concerned, the only coin-operated vibrating beds exist in 80s movies. I’ve never, ever seen one.
  7. I find it hard to believe that the train operator would make its passengers walk a mile and a half to the highway. But, maybe that’s a result of living in a cushy, microwave, app-for-absolutely-everything world.
  8. Neal shouldn’t need to walk all the way across the tarmac to the rental car area in the St. Louis airport, once he noticed his car missing. First of all, the rental car lot is typically situated in very close proximity to the office. A rental car employee would’ve been available in the parking lot to assist him. And, they would’ve been able to provide him with another vehicle right away. But I found the banter between Neal and the concierge – and the series of F-bombs – quite amusing (albeit feeling a bit embarrassed that I allowed my boys to watch that scene as well). Oops!
  9. Obviously, when their car caught on fire, Neal – or Del (even though he’s homeless and essentially broke) – would’ve called roadside assistance to pick them up.
  10. Neal’s wife and kids, theoretically, shouldn’t have been worried and wondering when – and if – he’d be home. Assuming he’s a devoted husband and father – or at least a decent human being – he would’ve kept them apprised of his whereabouts via his smartphone.

Ahhhh….sign of the times.

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Hook, Line & Sinker: Wading Through the Vast Waters of Webinars

Anyone who’s attended a conference, seminar, webinar, or any other informational meeting – either virtually or in the flesh – can attest to the old (albeit apropos) idiom, You don’t get something for nothing.

I have an innate hunger for knowledge. And early in my career, I’ve admittedly been excited to attend special presentations with high hopes that I’ll leave with lots of valuable intel – only to feel duped and resentful that – not only did I leave empty-handed, but the time I spent listening to an infomercial will never be redeemed. Sort of reminds me of that scene in the movie “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie finally hears Little Orphan Annie’s much-anticipated members-only “secret code”.

In today’s “microwave” society with jammed-packed schedules, increased competition, and expectations to perform and produce at an all-time high– feeling precious time slipping through your fingers feels yucky. Feeling money slip through those fingers for an overpromised/under-delivered service feels even worse – especially when it’s your money.

Particularly during the past six months, I’ve received (on nearly a daily basis) numerous invitations to webinars, promising “valuable insight” into various marketing, career search, and general business techniques to help land that dream job, stand above the crowd, gain more revenue, and conquer the world. As time permits, I occasionally tune into these webinars, just to gather whatever free info I can extract. Afterwards – as always – comes the pitch for exclusive information and services that’ll help reach your business goals. And, of course, these are limited-time offers so you better act fast! Special add-ons – such as eBooks and extra expert consultations – are packaged in to add even more value. And then you hear their asking price, which is always way lower than their regular fees.

Most of the time, I simply refuse the bait and hang up. On very special occasions, I’ll conjure up an internal feud with a dialogue that resembles this:

“Well, what if this really does work? Sometimes ya gotta take risks.”

“That’s such a waste of money – money you shouldn’t be spending.”

“Yeah, but I could consider this to be an investment in my career.”

“Ummm…don’t you think you can get this expert advice cheaper somewhere  else? Or maybe free? There’s a world of info available on the World Wide Web if you look hard enough….”

“But what if I can’t find it anywhere else?”

I will admit – some of these “business experts” who are selling their services do make a strong case for themselves. And, with any significant financial commitment, I do search for reviews prior to taking the bait. I’ve sought out reviews for a few of these services – only to come up virtually empty-handed. Not sure why.

Then, out of curiosity, I posted the following question on some of my LinkedIn groups:

I’ve been receiving quite a few emails with invitations to webinars on various marketing topics. Of course, I’m fully aware that there’s an ulterior motive for offering free webinars (i.e., promoting services, etc.). That said – I’m wondering if anyone has decided to engage any services promoted at the end of a particular webinar. If so – what was it? Did you find any value? Or, did you find it to be a scam to make a quick buck, particularly from job seekers?

I only received a couple of responses so far. Here’s one of them:

Not recently, but what I found is: If the content (free) during the webinar is outstanding, the product usually is. If their webinar is pretty general and vague, (because they’re saving the goods for their product they say) then it’s a red flag.

Hmmmm….makes sense to me.

Your Turn

What do you think? If you’ve received an invitation to a webinar discussing a product or service, hosted by a company that provides that particular product or service – have you ever taken that next step and hired them? If so, what was/were the deciding factors? And, did you find value in what you received?

When You Missed the Memo

The other night, I had a very long and disturbing dream. I was living in a modest, urban apartment, sleeping peacefully. Suddenly, I was jarred awake by a loud crash. Moments later, I heard a fist pounding on my door. A man wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard informed me the building will be demolished in less than 24 hours and that I needed to pack up and evacuate immediately.

WHAT?!?

In a half heart-wrenching panic/half utter incredulity, I took a quick inventory of what needed packing. To my relief, I didn’t notice too many belongings.

I can work fast and get this done today. But, why in the heck did no one tell me about this demolition? And where I am going to live?

Then, my phone beeped, reminding me of a flight for a business trip scheduled to depart in 2 hours. My world felt like it was crashing down all around me – literally! Somehow, I pulled myself together and called just in time to re-book the flight. As I was hastily packing up my things, I grew angrier at each passing minute. I saw no signage anywhere about the demolition plans. Building management hadn’t said a peep. How could I possibly miss something this important? A little while later, I found a 4-month-old newspaper. Lo and behold – an article about the city’s plans to demolish my place of residence and replace with an office complex splashed across the front page.

This anecdote was obviously a dream. Admittedly, though, one of my greatest fears is missing important deadlines. I hate that sinking feeling when – on a rare occasion – I miss an appointment because I entered the wrong day or time in my calendar. But it happens. We’re busy. Some of us are doing the jobs of multiple people – either at home, in the office, or both. And, life’s occasional curveballs whizzing by our heads leaves us little, if any, margins for error.

Today, I missed a coaching call because I entered the time in my calendar as Central Time instead of Eastern Time. This pained me, as I had been looking forward to this call and rearranged my morning activities around it. Thankfully, I’ve been able to reschedule. Yet, I had no one to blame but myself for the time zone oversight.

Chances are, you’ve been – or will be at some point – on both the offensive and defensive end with missed deadlines or appointments.

The following may come off as a bit obvious, but – if you’re on the offense:

  • Own Up To It –ASAP. It never ceases to amaze me how many people simply don’t acknowledge their faux pas. Keep in mind that the person(s) with whom you were to meet are likely just as busy as you, and they’ll never be able to reclaim those minutes they waited in your absence.
  • Apologize, and Provide a Brief Explanation. Had to stay home with a sick child and missed a deadline? Got a flat tire on the way to your meeting? Things happen. Just don’t embellish too much on the details. You’ll appear as though you’re lying. At the very least, you’ll probably annoy the other party. That is, unless you can tell a story unusual and engaging enough to tell onstage at Open Mic Night.
  • Go the Extra Distance to Remedy the Problem. Need to reschedule a missed appointment or finish up an overdue project with an overflowing schedule? Re-prioritize and rearrange. Chances are, there’s something on your agenda that can wait.
  • Be Kind to Yourself – But Don’t Make This a Habit, Either! No good will come from beating yourself up over a missed deadline or appointment. You’re human. Just make a pact with yourself to hold on to the reins of your schedule a little tighter.

The job market is competitive enough. You don’t want to establish yourself as unreliable. That’s the professional kiss of death.

And, if you’re on the receiving end…

  • Show Some Grace and Don’t Judge – especially if this is the first “offense”. He or she may be facing some extra challenges at home. Keep in mind you will likely drop the ball at some point. And when that day comes, you’ll want to be shown some flexibility and understanding.
  • Fool-Proof the Deadline/Appointment. Send brief reminder emails and texts. And, if you correspond with those in other time zones, PLEASE accentuate the time zone for which you’re scheduling the meeting or deadline. If possible, translate the meeting time or deadline to the recipient’s time zone in your reminder messages. With the exception of those who frequently correspond with others across the country – or across the world – we’re typically hard-wired to default to the time zone in which we live.

Most people are understanding and are likely to appreciate honesty and initiative when you’ve “missed the memo”. Reciprocally, be mindful of others’ valuable time. Be kind to yourself and one another. It’ll prove to be more beneficial than you realize.

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