How to Write a Blog Post Once a Week

Blog printed on an old typewriter

Remember:  A blogger blogs!

I get inquiries all the time about blogging:  how to do it, how often to do it, and what to write about.  All are good questions but the answer varies by mission.

Here’s a simple answer:

  • Blog about how you and your solution helps people solve problems.
  • Blog as often as it takes to get your message out without crossing the line of being a pain in the ass.
  • Blog with a theme that enables you to write in a pattern that best gets your message out.

Blogging is one of my best business drivers.  It’s how I reach my potential audience.  I try to inform and build rapport.  It’s what you should be doing.

I recommend using the same methodology some preachers use.  They might have a 6-part series on relationships, or a 4 – part series on faith.  There is a theme and each week supports the theme.  This works really well in blogging.  The good news is that each year has some fairly predictable theme backdrops.  I’ve created a really handy calendar guide that gives a theme for each month that you can use as your guideline.  It doesn’t matter whether you sell coaching, training, strategy, career guidance, etc.  You can use these themes to get your thoughts (and blog) in order.

Remember, a blogger blogs.  If I go to your site and don’t see an updated post newer than a week, I know you’re a wannabe.

Blogging takes commitment.  If you’re up to it, my calendar tool will help.  Download it at www.TennesseeMack.com/FreeStuff

Are You REALLY Ready for the Next Level?

Beware!

Beware!

Last week, while driving to the airport, I heard an ad on the radio promoting a technology that would “take you to the next level.”

That term the “next level” is one of the most overused cliché’s and I’m ashamed to admit it, but at one time had that as one of my taglines.  The problem is that besides being overused, the “next level” may in fact NOT be where you need to be.

What is the Next Level?

The “next level” implies the next logical step in a process.  It might be a promotion at work, a bump in income, a move to a different company, an upgrade to a bigger house or a nicer car.  While all seem great, they all come at some form of a cost.

In my work, traveling around training and coaching managers, I run into a lot of unhappy folks who jumped at the chance to be at the “next level” only to find themselves in way over their heads and very unhappy.  Unfortunately, once you get to that “next level” it’s difficult or impossible to go back.

In relationships, the “next level” might be marriage, or later on, having children.  In either step, those “next levels” are increasingly difficult and challenging and turning back then is going to cost something.

If you’re truly interested in the “next level”, take some time to figure out what it REALLY is and if you REALLY want it.  In my opinion, doing great at the current level isn’t a bad goal.  In my case, taking my business to the “next level” might be attempting to get on the GSA Schedule to take on government clients, but the hassle, cost, and bureaucracy might actually make the “next level” more of a headache.  I’m still wrestling with this one.  I’m not going to blindly jump to the “next level” and hope you won’t either.

So next time you hear a radio ad for something that promises to take it “to the next level”, take a moment to think about it.  That’s one cliché you don’t want to ever use (or overuse).

Attention Transitioning Military Members:

You're Not All That Special

"Thank you for your service"

“Thank you for your service”

Now that I have your attention, just know that this post is done out of love. Nobody is calling you entitled.

One of the most challenging life stages for a military member is that transition from soldier/sailor/airman/marine to civilian.  Having done it myself in 1998 and in working with hundreds of transitionees over the past 10 years, I can personally vouch for this.

The Department of Labor and other groups have provided resources, namely the TAP and ACAP/SFL programs but those are just “check the box” programs that may contain dated content and are often attended either too early or too late in military member’s transition.

Often when I meet with folks in transition, they’re close to getting out or have already done it and are experiencing anxiety, frustration, and a sense of hopelessness.  I’d like to offer up some ideas that I think will help.  Please share them if you know someone who is struggling in transition.

Concept #1:  “Thank you for your service.”  Now let’s move on.

Having been in the Navy in that quiet period between the Vietnam war and 9/11, I never experienced the love and support that active duty and veterans get today.  Nobody ever stood and clapped for me in the airport, gave up their first class seat, or bought me drinks.  It’s ok.  Me and all of the other veterans from this period are over it.

That said, the current love and affection will someday wane and those offers of employment or support will vanish.  Ultimately, it will be up to YOU to achieve career success.  Make sure that you’re building your connections and networks NOW.  Your service may get you noticed, but your performance will get you in the door and keep you in your job.

Concept #2:  Embrace the Pain

My transition from civilian to sailor in 1983 was a painful one.  Navy bootcamp, while probably not as hellish as some of the other services (save for Air Force bootcamp where it was rumored recruits were told to pack bathrobes and slippers) was still tough.  In a short 13-week period we were transformed in rapid fashion into sailors, complete with new clothes, haircuts, language, mindset, goals, and skills.  No day of training was shorter than 14 hours and there was no such thing as a weekend.

If it took that long and was that painful to go from civilian to sailor, why would you expect it would be any less long or painful to return to civilian life?  If this is you, quit complaining and spending your days feeding resumes into the online black hole and get busy networking yourself into a job!

Concept #3:  What Makes You So Special?

While transitioning veterans may not have some of the tangible, specific skills civilians look for, they are told there are some transferrable skills that actually set them apart from the competition.  The list usually includes leadership, ability to work under pressure, adaptability, multi-tasking, driven, etc.  Those skills are useful particularly with an organization in crisis.  Unfortunately though, some organizations just need worker-bees.  They want players, not necessarily superstars.  Their expectation might be as simple as wanting someone to show up for their shift, on time, and sober.  They may also want someone with a particular set of technical skills you don’t possess and that need isn’t negotiable. Here’s some thoughts.

First of all, realize that leadership, ability to work under pressure, adaptability, multi-tasking, etc. are not unique to military veterans.  Not every transitioning member has them nor is every veteran a superstar.  I met plenty of lazy troublemakers during my 15-year career who I would never consider hiring.  Not only that, I’ve met plenty of great leaders, pressure-performers, multi-taskers and hard chargers that were never in the military.  All I’m saying is that you need to identify and demonstrate how great you are and be prepared to prove it.

Secondly, if you’re a veteran and you’ve told people you have these skills, how about putting them to use in your own job search?  There is no organization in bigger crisis than your household is if you don’t have a job.  Pushing through pain is what got you through your active duty so apply that same drive into your career transition.  Doing the hard stuff like picking up the phone and calling strangers, networking at meetings, and talking about your accomplishments sets you apart from your job seeker competitors.  Get busy using those transferrable skills NOW!

Concept #4:  Accomplishment vs. Activity

Activity is good.  It makes us feel productive.  In a job search, activity becomes the trap that actually prevents accomplishment.  If 80-90% of all jobs are found through networking, why are you spending 80 – 90% of your time mindlessly shotgunning your resumes out to online postings?  It’s so you can tell folks you’re too busy to go to networking events.  If you’re honest though, it’s because you’re afraid to network.  You put effort into the thing that gives you the lowest return on your investment to avoid the discomfort of talking to people.  If you’re following Concept #3, you HAVE to switch these activities around!

Concept #5:  Can’t vs. Won’t

All of your hard work is paying off.  Now you’re getting interviews.  All is well until the dreaded salary questions comes up.

“What kind of salary are you looking for?”

If you haven’t practiced this one, get busy now.  Rather than stand there like a dummy, give your answer.  If you’ve done your research, you have an idea of what the range is.  That number is probably a fixed number.

BUT…

If you were making 60K per year in the military and the job is offering 52K, you’ll probably say:

“I can’t work for less than 60K per year.”

You CAN’T or you WON’T? 

“Can’t” suggests your budget won’t allow it.  But if you want the job, can you rework your finances at home?  Spend less on entertainment, phones, and eating out?  Can you take a part-time job to supplement until you gain the experience to promote or find a better paying job?

“Won’t” suggests your ego won’t allow it.  There’s nothing wrong with this.  Just be clear on what you’re willing and not willing to do.

But be realistic.  Nobody cares that you need a higher salary since you made more in the military.  A civilian job has a budgeted salary.  Your job is to be educated enough to speak intelligently in that process and negotiate what is actually negotiable.

Concept #6:  Assertive vs. Aggressive

Assertive means that I ask for what I want.  For you this includes the information on the process of getting the job, the job itself, and the salary that’s negotiable.  It also means you ask for the next steps in the hiring process from that hiring manager and follow up by phone (yes, by phone, email is another one of those ACTIVITIES, calling gets you an ACCOMPLISHMENT!)

Aggressive doesn’t work.  Demanding, showing arrogance, boasting about how your service makes up for their experience requirements will not help you.   Be assertive, not aggressive.

Finally…

Please know that you will eventually succeed in your new career if you push as hard in your transition and second career as you did while in the military.  You have to. If not, poverty, unhappiness, and maybe even homelessness could be in your future.  You served to keep the wolves away from this country.  Work just as hard to keep the wolves from your career, your checking account, your family, and your ultimate success.

As a fellow vet, I am always available to answer your questions, chat with you about your situation, take a look at your resume, or just be available if you want to vent.  As your shipmate, I have the responsibility to look after you, even if you’re in the Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force!

Are You REALLY an Expert?

Why SMEs are not created equal

Are you really an SME?

Are you really an SME?

I think all of us admire expertise.  We’re dazzled when our accountant can take a folder of receipts and five days later present us with a neatly prepared tax return that just so happens to give us a return we never expected.  We’re amazed when the auto mechanic calmly explains that our Check Engine light panic is unfounded as he resets it after tightening the gas cap on our car.

Experts solve our problems and make us feel secure.  In our organizations, experts figure out strategies to help us become profitable and leaders in our markets.   We even pay experts to come in to supplement our in-house experts.  Experts know that they’re compensated by the value they bring, not in the hours they work.

But an expert that can’t teach others their expertise are really only half-experts.

In my business, I’m paid to be the expert.  People call me when they need help building a supervisory development process, performance management strategy, or simply help them get up the courage to fire some poor performers.  It’s rewarding and profitable.  Yet at the end of each intervention, I’m amazed at how smart my clients really are.  They just don’t know how to leverage and, more importantly, how to teach their expertise.

When I help clients develop training initiatives, I ask them to identify their internal Subject Matter Experts (SME) to assist me in the design.  After all, I’m an expert in training and development design, but have no practical knowledge in IT, banking, hospitality, or manufacturing.  I build the structure and the SMEs fill in the gaps.  The client gets a stellar product and I get paid.

But I always ask myself why those same SMEs weren’t able to teach their own expertise.  You see an expert that can’t reproduce expertise is really missing a core component of expertise.  Sure it’s a job security guarantee, but wouldn’t an SME be more valuable if they could expand the organization’s knowledge?  Would you rather have one goose that lays golden eggs or a golden goose that could rear up more geese that could lay golden eggs?

I can’t immediately fault SMEs.  Teaching isn’t that easy.  However, with some work, and by implementing the following five strategies, I believe ANYONE can be an effective teacher, and by default become the organization’s most valuable SME:

Strategy #1:  Break your expertise into learnable steps.  When you teach your kid to drive, you start by showing them the blind spot.  Then you move on to starting the car, checking the mirrors, hitting the turn signal, and stepping on the gas.  Simple steps done consistently with the REASON for the steps clearly communicated.

Strategy #2:  Knowing how your student learns.  In my experience, there are four types of learners:  Activists (learn by doing), Reflectors (learn by listening), Theorists (learn by studying), and Pragmatists (learn through trial and error).  You can’t teach everyone the same.  If you ignore just one style when teaching a group, you lose the group.

Strategy #3:  See one, do one, teach one.  I borrowed this from my Navy days.  That’s how you teach someone something when you don’t have a lot of time.  Show someone how to do something, have them do it while you watch, then have them tell you how they did it.  Fast.  Just in time.

Strategy #4:  Teach to the lowest level of expertise.  Everyone will then get it.  When I was a supervisor in the Navy, I always ran what I called the “Smith” test.  Smith (not their real name) was the slowest learner in my clinic.  If I could teach Smith how to do something and they got it, I knew everyone else would easily grasp it.  You may think I’m cruel by doing the Smith test, but I could have just ignored Smith and focused on my quick learners.

Strategy #5:  Get busy teaching!  Fear of speaking and other podium anxieties fade with constant practice.  You’ll never get stronger if you avoid the gym.  You’ll never get smarter if you don’t read.  You learn to teach by teaching more.

Expertise is your most valuable commodity.  This week, focus on being a true SME.  If you can’t teach it, you don’t really know it.

Networking: Your Best Career Multi-Purpose Tool

Networking is better than one of these!

Networking is better than one of these!

Human beings are wired for connection and relationships.  Sure there are some folks who deviate from this world (watch Life Below Zero on NATGEO for some examples) but generally speaking, we seek connection.

Moving from a purely biological perspective though, connection, via networking, is a key component of career success.  You’ve probably heard that 60 – 80 percent of all jobs are discovered through networks.  If that’s true, and I believe that number is actually higher, then you better start networking!

What is networking?

Networking is the act of building a professional connection with another human being for the purpose of developing skills, revealing opportunities, and sharing knowledge.

What is NOT networking?

  • Posting political commentary on LinkedIn or Facebook.
  • Forcing business cards on strangers at a networking event.
  • Amassing a huge list of people whose names you drop in order to look important.
  • Building a network for the sole purpose of benefitting yourself only.

Another way to look at it?

A network is like a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

I know lots of folks who are embarrassed to reach out to a network when they’ve lost a job or need a lead.  It’s because they know they’ve not worked the network before and don’t want to look selfish reaching out in time of need.  How do you prevent this?  Work your network!

Here’s How:

  1. Make networking a practice.  Reach out to people in your network on a regular basis.  This includes calls for no other reason than to say hello.  It means forwarding a link from an article on a subject your networking colleague is interested in.  It’s sending a card in the mail periodically to check in.
  2. Make networking a REGULAR practice.  Do the above frequently.  The right time varies but if people hear from you enough to remember you when an opportunity is there, you know you’ve hit the mark.  I have an email subscriber list that hears from me once a week.  I rarely if ever try to sell them anything.  I do however hear from them when they need a speaker for an event or have some sort of organizational problem they need me to help them solve.

All of us have valuable skills, resources, and knowledge.  We have it not only for our own benefit, but for that of others.  By not networking, I believe you’re wasting your best stuff.  This week, make an effort to develop a networking plan and strategy.  You may be the missing link in somebody else’s success…and maybe that somebody will return the favor!