Wednesday, December 9, 2009


The fuel door on my car is busted. We had a little mishap at the gas station the other day and the fuel door latch was thankfully the only minor casualty. It won’t take much to replace it however the interruption to the crush of work and holiday schedule is annoying. It sounds odd perhaps but I think it was my car’s way of telling me to slow down the usual pace before moving forward. Compatible to the inevitable year-end reflection and resolution-making, the following is my glimpse in the rear view mirror and course corrections for the road ahead:

o Encouragement. This has been the all-purpose road sign of the year! Vague ideas, frustrations, cocktail conversation, and constructive feedback all incited action in 2009. Starting the blog, my recent published article (“Be the CEO of You”), and a significant de-cluttering of the clothes closet were a few new things that made it into the line-up. Support and encouragement from others indicate that people are listening, observing, and willing to engage. We all need propping up when the going gets rough, but encouraging someone when they have momentum or enthusiasm is just as important. It can come from anywhere and you have to be open to receive it. Many consider encouragement the personal green light giving you permission to go-go-go. I view mine as a yield sign, allowing me to assess the surroundings appropriately before moving ahead.

o Patience and Persistence. This combination is my fuel. I need more and will use more to go farther. One without the other is like sand in the gas tank! I have learned to be more persistent about achieving my goals, and to be patient so that results will come with the right level of persistence. Onward.

o “Social” is my word of the year. Yeah yeah, “social networking” is the latest buzz phrase. “Tweet” is not a verb in my vernacular, although I make good use of online networking tools. It provides an avenue to stay connected with clients, customers, colleagues, friends old and new, family members (who are among my very best friends), and assorted professional contacts developed over the years, all who have and are becoming more than just a roadside attraction. Online activities prompted more in-person interaction which is both professionally and personally rewarding. My chosen career as a legal search executive requires constant interpersonal interaction which is one reason I like it so much! Lawyers, business executives, recruiting and HR professionals, it’s a fascinating mix! Best scenery for this driver is one that changes all the time. Social is always part of my course.

o Community. Regardless of your political views, election and inauguration days were momentous occasions in our nation’s history. Voting speaks. So does other political activism like writing to elected officials or engaging in political forums and political action committees. The future is too important to abdicate by inaction. Contributing to community helps people help themselves, which has never been more important in a time when others are struggling. You are likely reading this because you have access to the internet, which puts you among a privileged group of people. Good, that means you have something to spare.  Time, money, goods, or services – write a check, cook dinner at a shelter for families in transition, help out once a month at a legal aid clinic…. it isn’t rocket science. Contributing improves life for others. We all live in each other’s ripple. Speak up! Get with it! Get on the bus Gus and take the damn wheel!

o Wildlife encounters. From bears in the backyard to seals on the city beach, animals are sure to cross our path. Animal interaction reminds us we all share the planet. Be mindful that we share a precious resource and we will all have somewhere to go for many years ahead.

o Humor. My motor won’t engage without this essential. Drama is meant for the theater. As my cousin Kai was fond of saying, “get over it.” Sometimes you have to stop and see the levity. Be willing to snicker at your own foibles. A little good-natured giggle on occasion keeps your blood pressure down and the fun factor high.

The 2009 road was riddled with the potholes of a lousy economy, and careers and retirement plans for many detoured by recession. The signposts of fabulous family, friends, and colleagues all kept my roadblocks manageable. For that fact alone, I could not be more grateful. My packing list for the next journey includes those lessons learned, a bright-eyed wonder of what lies ahead, and the confidence to maneuver around the roadblocks. As soon as that fuel door is fixed, it’s a quick trip through the car wash and back on the road to 2010. I’m just hoping for fewer mishaps!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

All stoked up about that job offer? The details in hand, now is decision time. Go down the list – job scope and title, your new colleagues, company stability and prestige, corner office, compensation and benefits, check that list and yep everything is in place so time to accept that offer. Now the hard part, telling your current boss who you know will be crest fallen because after all they love you in your current job but just aren’t paying you enough money. If only they had told you how valuable you are then maybe you would not have looked elsewhere for another opportunity. But this might work out once you tell them you are leaving; maybe they will find the money and ask you to stay. Renewed confidence, you break the news to your boss that another company wants you and……what’s this, they make you a counteroffer to keep you? More money, better title, and you get to stay put, how could this be anything but a bonanza? Score!

Hang on my friend, accepting a counter offer from your current employer is often a bad bargain. There is more to it than your immediate perspective, and there are consequences that may not be immediately apparent in this situation. Here’s what you are gambling:

o Credibility: If you take a counter offer you are damaging your credibility with both companies. You just went through the hiring process with a company that brought you to the point of offer. They invested time, resources, and a hiring manager at least has stepped up internally within that company to be your advocate to bring you to the point of offer. By accepting a counteroffer from your current employer, you are essentially saying that you were using them as leverage to get a better deal out of your boss. That employer will be frustrated that you used them solely as leverage and feel tricked by your apparent previous interest in their company. The double whammy is that you have now also planted the seeds of doubt with your current employer by revealing that you are looking elsewhere for career opportunities. They will doubt your loyalty and, even if you accept their counteroffer, will doubt your longevity. In fact, a lot of employers will start looking for your replacement immediately even if you stay, assuming that you won’t stick around much longer. You may as well light a match to your believability with either of these companies because you just burned two bridges simultaneously. If you did this all through a search firm, then you hit the trifecta because you just damaged your credibility with the recruiter. Good luck working with any of these people again.

o Money does not buy happiness: We are not talking the lottery jackpot here. Maybe your current compensation is contributing to your lack of job satisfaction, but compensation alone is not going to solve your motivational problem. Job hunting is not a sport, so be honest with yourself about why you were looking in the first instance. There are all kinds of perfectly legitimate reasons why you are pursuing a job change. Be honest with yourself about what those are, and what will ignite and excite you in your next role. The money in a counteroffer is never enough to offset your pursuit of different/better/more elsewhere. There are trade offs in every move and you should evaluate them carefully, but be circumspect about replacing money for other values.

o It is never what you think: Chances are that counteroffer comes with strings attached. It’s not as if the company just found money in the bank they forgot to pay you. It could mean greater scope of responsibility, more travel or investment of time on your part, or higher level of performance expectations, all of which may come at a personal sacrifice on your part. Even if it is more money for the exact same job you have been performing then you best check the fine print for claw-back provisions or stricter non-compete provisions. No counteroffer is free.

o Ego: Are you trying to get your employer to say you are indispensible by manipulating them to come up with a counteroffer? In this economy? What are you thinking? The best way to get your employer to demonstrate their appreciation for your contribution is through excellence in performance. Period. If you think you are not getting the credit you deserve, have THAT conversation with your manager, and think carefully about how you market yourself and the accomplishments of your team internally.

o Apples to oranges: When comparing an offer and a counteroffer, there can be several components which factor into the equation of how the comp packages end up looking different. Lawyers for example are compensated very differently in a corporate environment than they are in a law firm. Public companies structure their pay differently than privately held companies or non-profit entities. Along with those differences are also subtle differences in the style of the role. Add that up and of course the compensation looks different. By the same analysis, the exact same job in a substantially similar sized company is not going to have a huge disparity in compensation. You should not expect to substantially improve your compensation by taking the exact same job you have now by moving to a competitor.

Other articles describing counteroffer effectiveness mention studies which suggest that the majority of people who accept a counteroffer leave for another job within a year. I wonder how many of those people burned bridges along the way and found that what they bargained for was a bust and not the bonanza they expected?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Recently published its list of the top 50 law firms for women that by virtue of their numbers and programs are among the best places for working-mom lawyers. The legal profession and law firm partnerships in particular have long had the image of being dominated by white men. The female enrollment demographic at law schools has really only seen an appreciable increase during the last 30 plus years so from the historical standpoint the image is not too surprising. In the modern day however law schools are fairly well balanced with many if not most law school student populations hovering at around 50% women. Law schools are the feeder candidate pools for law firms so it stands to reason that many firms are also reporting that approximately half of their incoming associate classes are women. The published data in the aforementioned top 50 law firm survey bears this out.

Steadily over the last twenty years greater emphasis has been placed on diversity in the lawyer workforce generally and more women and people of color are entering the profession. (The plethora of goodness that comes from this is well stated elsewhere and not the subject of today’s post.) The firms mentioned in the top 50 list are implementing worthy initiatives to attract, retain, and develop the incoming female talent to insure they have the tools to develop and contribute as equals. Those firms should be applauded for their results and encouraged to continue their winning ways. I am optimistic that these firms get it, and are pushing for even greater results in the years ahead.

But I am alarmed at something. Puzzled. Frustrated. Okay, downright irritated if you must know….The percentage of incoming women associates is at the 50% mark which is consistent with the available talent pool. Great. But “the best” firms average just over 20% female partners. Whoa!! That means that women are leaving law firms in droves during the formative years of their careers, and at a rate significantly higher than their male counterparts! Something more than the childbirth years is at play. This is a level of attrition among a single workforce population is way beyond explaining away by women choosing to be stay-at-home mothers. What is happening between the time of entry and the time when partnership decisions are made that is causing this huge drop in population? My sister, where are you going?

The reality is that we don’t know where these women are going. Statistics on lawyer demographics are not readily available in aggregate form for comparison or analysis. We do know from law firm surveys like this that women are leaving law firm life at a rate that will quickly deflate the progress of women in the legal profession if it is allowed to continue. If you are a law firm leader – partner, committee chair, HR – I hope you are as disturbed as I am over this situation, because it is unacceptable. A significant portion of your greatest asset, your lawyers, are leaving in droves. Your talent is walking (at this rate more like running) out the door. Your clients demand to see their matters staffed with diverse lawyers from all levels in your firm, and if that is not a message you are hearing from them now I can guarantee you will hear it when you go to develop new business. This is a situation of urgency that needs your attention.

Here’s the good news – this is a situation which has the ‘everybody wins’ potential written all over it. The recession is ripping into the traditional law firm business model and turning recruiting and retention on its head. Law firms are being forced to rethink summer program and entry level associate recruiting models because their cost and efficiency is no longer sustainable. Compensation based on billable hour production is facing opposition from in-house counsel like an oncoming train in the form of demand for fixed fees and other cost control measures. How lawyers develop professionally, demonstrate their value, gain skill and expertise, and ultimately how they are evaluated for entry into the partnership is all tied into this and is being tested. Traditional methods of training, compensating, and ultimately retaining talent are on their way out. Firms that are creative and visionary enough to develop a new strategy will come out ahead in the longer term.

If you are a law firm leader, this is the perfect time for you to examine every aspect of how you run your business and make it all that it can be. This is no time to be complacent with old ways of doing things. A *true* leader has to be willing to challenge the status quo. Competition for "the top 10%" is no longer defined by virtue of elite law school law review membership. Greatness is not defined by the logging of time any more than it relies on a person's gender or race. Dispense with the old worn out definitions of how you evaluate and promote talent and you may well uncover the potential that has been in your organization all along. This isn't just "a women's issue" that you can appoint the women in your firm to solve for themselves. It takes commitment and action from the top. It isn't something to be delegated to the firm's recruiting committee, a small handful of mentors, or the marketing department. Roll up your sleeves and make it a business priority with accountability, timetables, and measurable goals. Get creative.

Your talent base, to be attractive as service practitioners to your clients, must be as diverse as their businesses and their customers. That population is really all of us in the working world. If you are a law firm leader, the solution to your competitiveness as a firm lies in your ability to attract, retain, and foster a diverse talent base, most certainly including women. Look no farther than half of your incoming associates as the first step in the equation. As a law firm leader, you can demonstrate your true leadership by solving this dilemma. You can create a rewarding workplace replete with happy clients and hold out your firm as being a leader in the profession. Half (or more) of your incoming talent, that you worked hard to recruit, will turn over at a much lower rate and be happier and more productive. High turnover costs money, you keep that money in the bank and your profits will be more sustainable. Everybody wins.

I really really really hope when I read the survey next year that someone has moved the needle. There is so much opportunity for progress. Don’t let next year’s story be a sad déjà vu.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…..” This lilting jazz standard written by George Gershwin in the 1930’s evokes the feel of a lazy gentle summer day. You can almost imagine swinging in a hammock, sipping lemonade, or a leisurely stroll. Ahh, summer. Personally, it is my favorite season.

Besides the opportunities for quality lounge chair time, the treats of July include two things of which I am a HUGE fan: Le Tour de France, and The Blue Angels annual air show during Seafair in Seattle. There is nothing like these two events that fuel my inner sports fan! I marvel at extraordinary athletic accomplishments, and these two events are right up there for what it takes to perform. My personal sporting life is all about the leisure and amusement for others, largely due to my complete lack of eye-hand coordination. (No snickering from those who have seen me fall countless times, please.) Neither of these events are without some controversy, but at the very least each requires unique remarkable ability to accomplish, and can easily end in disaster if not executed with proper precision. I have to believe that even the most physically adept among us appreciates a world class performance like this that only few achieve. How do they do it?

I became an avid follower of Le Tour after reading Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.” The book was a gift from my cousin in 1999 who was battling breast cancer at the time. She found it inspirational and thought it would help me understand her battle with the insidious disease. Love him or hate him, with seven Tour wins and a foundation devoted to wellness, Lance has quickly become a modern day icon among those battling cancer and fans of the elite bike racing circuit. The Tour, if you don’t know, is a month long bike race through the valleys and Alps of France and neighboring countries during the month of July. This is no unhurried pedal through the Loire, folks, it is a grueling 2,000+ mile bike race that includes inclines so steep they are beyond classification! Fast! In the heat! Are you kidding me?! Shift your vision quickly to the impact of chemotherapy on someone’s physical stamina and assume if you must that it takes a good year or two for the average person to regain daily stamina. Back to the Tour, seven wins in a row after *that*?! That, my friends, takes more than devotion to bike riding. Let’s not forget the other 150+ guys that actually finish the race every year (out of 180 or so who start.) Surely they have top of the line equipment, coaches, sponsors, and countless hours of training, but where does the motivation come from, why, and how?

The Blue Angels are the US Navy’s elite jet demonstration team. They frequently perform at air shows mostly around the US and are known for their grace and precision, flying up to 700 miles an hour with the jet wings seemingly inches apart, sometimes upside down, sometimes side by side, sometimes flying directly at each other, and usually 6 in the air simultaneously. The fortitude required to endure Mach speeds alone can sideline the physically adept, and usually claim some local news reporter’s lunch when they are treated to a quick guest ride when filming for the local media. You think a baseball hurled at 90 miles an hour is scary, imagine the skill and precision it takes to twirl a fighter jet in the air like a baton…without dropping it, ever!

Accomplishment in the aforementioned feats is certainly not possible without focus. It has to be much more than that to reach this cream-of-the-crop level. Focus can be defined by its fixation on a vision, goal, or purpose. It is the clarity of the sight line. It is a critical element to reaching the pinnacle and achieving any goal. What does it take, and how do we build this for ourselves to achieve the greatness we are reaching for in business or in our daily lives?

o Goal: Articulate what you want to achieve and believe in it. Make it actionable, tangible, achievable, measurable, and most importantly, make it your own. Unless you are passionate about your purpose, building motivation and sticking to your plan will feel like an albatross.

o Skill: Equip yourself with the knowledge and ability necessary to be credible. Technique and skill can be learned through “practice, practice, practice” as my mother reminded me when I played the viola. Apply yourself to mastering manipulation of the equipment and push yourself to learn its limitations and possibilities. Blue Angels pilots do not wear a Mach suit and are required to have a sophisticated knowledge and skill in flying a jet. Thankfully they have simulators for a learning environment, but the rest of us are more like Lance in that the pavement reminds us when we get it wrong. The important thing is to acquire the skill, and in every situation that takes trial and error.

o Performance: Learn by doing, repeatedly. It’s part of the skill mastery process utilized in the real world. You might not come in first every time, but only by performing outside of the wind tunnel will you know what it truly feels like to battle a head-wind and internalize what you have to do in the moment to get break through consistently.

o Precision: Doing the same thing repeatedly gets you nowhere if you can’t execute it cleanly. Lance talks about this in his book in understanding why he lacked consistency in his hill climb times. A random approach is behind why it was not always working out for him. Even in a three week bike race, winners and losers are sometimes separated by mere seconds.

o Endurance: Tasks are solitary actions. Goals, regardless of the timeline, require commitment to the purpose for some duration. Be prepared to stick to it, and understand that you probably need more than an adrenaline rush to get the job done. Learning to deal with setbacks and course corrections will equip you for the long haul.

o Determination: Goal attainment requires work and discipline of effort. You have to want to succeed and be willing to hold vigilant in working through obstacles. Don't even think about quitting mid-stream. If you stand still everyone else will blow right by you. Motivation is your friend and fosters momentum when the going gets rough.

The great thing about bringing focus to what you do, who you want to become, or a goal that you want to achieve, is that you can create and follow your own sense of purpose. It may seem big, inordinately challenging, and complicated. Focus helps you to spot the blur and tackle that which obfuscates your success. Focus makes extraordinary results possible. Just ask Lance.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Popularized by "mad men" marketing wonks in days gone by, "must be present to win" is the tag line you've seen and heard a thousand times in contest rules. Face it, no one is going to hand you the keys to the pretty sports car in the window based on you scribbling your name on the equivalent of a cocktail napkin - you have to be there when the drawing is conducted with legitimate identification at the ready. With the evolution of online media, being "present" has taken on new meaning. With the a few screen flicks and a little typing anyone can be present on the glorious worldwide web. Cool! Uh, really though? I mean, you can have the prettiest web page or most well-written article but if no one sees it you are the equivalent of one hand clapping. And who wants to be that?! Not so helpful for your career....yes Virginia, you need to be present to be noticed!

Bill Gates Sr. writes about this in his current book "Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime." A quick read written by a gracious and intelligent man, the concept is beautiful in it's simplicity. Early in my recruiting career when internet technology was in it's nascent stage the tools I had as a recruiter to attract a diverse pool of talent were fewer than today. But I often thought it odd to be asked how my employer could attract, for example, more securities lawyers, when those we had in that role did not network among their colleagues who worked elsewhere. It seemed so basic to me. Looking across the desk my question back would always be "who do you talk to, and where do you go where you meet others like you?" The answer stems from the same basic premise: you must be present. Whether it is your career or your kids or your personal life, if you don't show up then you do not have any kind of presence and will lose out to whoever is there and whatever is going on in your absence. Call it what you will, the result is the equivalent of one hand clapping, everyone else moving forward while you stand still, acceptance in silence. Ouch.

Being present can take several forms. My list starts here:

  • Listen. Completely, thoroughly, attentively, listen. Multi-tasking while you are on the phone? I bet you are not getting, or giving, that conversation the full attention it deserves. While you tell yourself you are being efficient with your time, you may be easily missing out on important content of the call. Worse yet, whatever else you are doing at the same time isn't getting your full attention either! No need to wonder why laws are cropping up legislating that people just hang up and drive. Focus your attention on hearing every word and observing every expression in a conversation, and engage in it, fully.
  • Be in diverse communities. Does your organization have people who actively participate in activities where women and people of color are present? Good, because that is far more effective than the tag line on the bottom of your career page that says you welcome people from diverse backgrounds. Mean and do what you tell others is important to you and your company.
  • Interact in person. Oh I love the internet and email, you can reach so many people and quickly. Remember the days before email and VOIP when we were only on the phone during "normal" business hours and live conversation dominated? Trust me, I am happily an email power user these days, but in my line of business particularly there is still no substitute for the in-person interaction. Corporate cultures are not created telecommuting, and you will miss the total experience if you are not there to interact with others.
  • Observe and process. Act on the information and knowledge at your disposal. I don't mean to beat up on mobile phone technology, but did you see the online article about the teenager who fell into an open sewer because she was texting while walking down the street? Unpleasant to be sure and dangerous, to say nothing of the liability. Use your senses to observe what is going on in the world around you. Whether it is sidewalk construction in your path or world events, there is so much information available to us that we have no excuse for not paying attention. Scrutinize and absorb what you see and hear. Think about it critically, and act on it. So many people do not do this that you will be ahead of the game by this simple step alone.
  • Network. Interested in art? Go to art galleries or a guided gallery tour and I bet you will meet like-minded people. Curious about another industry or market segment? Your local business journal probably sponsors free breakfast-hour talks given by local business leaders. Updating your CLE credits at a seminar? Strike up a conversation with the human sitting next to you or make it a point to exchange business cards with one other person in attendance. Voila, you just expanded your professional network. Easy.
    Be attentive to yourself. How you present yourself sends a message just as important as the words you use. Use spell check when you write. You don't have to spend a lot of money on clothes or grooming products, but be mindful of what your image says about you. Ask someone if you need help finding things that fit or look good. Think of it as part of being all you can be.

I will leave you with an example. I will never forget a candidate I interviewed once who I was recruiting for a lobbyist position. Being a Washington D.C. insider does not happen overnight, and requires a great deal of finesse and skill to penetrate and become a member of networks not easily joined by outsiders. It can be a bit of what comes first the chicken or the egg kind of proposition. I wanted to know how he did it, so I asked him what methods he used to subtly gather information and meet people. I won't give away all his secrets, but the one that perked my ears was his choice of cash machine. He made it a point to always use the one near the Senate building so he could increase his odds of bumping into a key staffer or member of Congress. The point was to go where he could increase his odds of being seen by people he wanted to see. He isn't a household name, but he is very successful. I can tell you that some years later when we had dinner together in D.C., our dining booth had more traffic than Grand Central Station. It seemed like EVERYBODY knew this guy. Impressive.

Like everything else in life, it is about striking a balance. Stop for minute and consider how much more you can get out of your career and your life by being present in every sense. Now close your email and get back to work!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Making Interviews Great ~ 5 tips

The competition for jobs is fierce right now. Companies and law firms everywhere have been downsizing resulting in good people looking to find a new job. Reports abound of companies being overwhelmed with hundreds of resumes instantly after positing one available position. Making it through the resume screening process is the first daunting step, followed by the all anxiety-producing interview.

Whether or not the interview is the most appropriate way to assess a candidate’s ability to perform the job is a separate topic. The fact remains that employers are going to rely on the interview as a principal component in the hiring process. No matter which side of the table you sit on, there are things you can do to maximize interview effectiveness.

I can see the nods of agreement from my recruiter and HR pals when I suggest that not all hiring managers and interview loop participants are adept interviewers, no matter how much training they get. Particular to the legal profession, lawyers can be brilliant interrogators but terrible in the job interview as employer or candidate. Why? The approach of only asking a question to which you already know the answer or, (worse yet), employing a style of “fact finding” through a contentious questioning style, is not conducive to eliciting useful information about a candidate for employment. Productive information should be exchanged so that each party can evaluate and act based on what is learned during the interview. Both employer and candidate participate and therefore each controls the method and quality of the interview. The following are tips for getting it right and making it great.

• Prepare: A great interview starts with thorough preparation. Reading the resume is 101, but I am stunned at how many people skip this step. Great interviewers will prepare a few questions ahead of time based on the resume and any other preparatory documents. As a search consultant, I often prepare detailed candidate write-ups for my clients to supplement the resume which specify experience and background data as well as a skills assessment. Cover letter, deal sheet, whatever documents the candidate or recruiter supplied ahead of time are all fertile ground for information that can be covered in an interview. Candidate preparation should include company research. Candidate prep 101 is reading and understanding the job description (again, an oft overlooked step.) Smart candidates will read the company’s annual report and public disclosure filings, pour through the company’s website to see how they describe themselves, and conduct an internet search for recent news articles. A candidate who knows about a significant recent company event can engage the interviewer intelligently about their business, and set themselves apart as someone who is both interested and invested in the discussion.

• Organize: A great interview flows almost effortlessly. Start with congenial greeting to establish rapport, briefly describe what you want to talk about (“I am a manager in R&D and would like to learn about your experience in the invention disclosure process”), and follow a logical topic sequence before moving into another area. It allows the candidate to follow the interviewer’s train of thought, and the candidate employing active listening techniques will quickly engage in the discussion. Candidates with an organized thoughtful answer which stays on topic, and who resist the temptation to bring in tangential topics, will keep this flow moving easily. It’s a little like ballroom dancing – both leader and follower have to do their part to stay in step.

• Listen: Employer interviewers should follow the basis 80/20 rule - listening 80% of the time and talking 20% of the time. A great interviewer will use information from the candidate’s answer to develop further questions. Too often interviewers log the answer and move onto the next question, as if running through a list. Candidates who demonstrate active listening skills similarly show the interviewer they are engaged and attentive – qualities every employer looks for in an employee! Candidates who deliver rehearsed answers immediately demonstrate that they were not paying attention. Why would anyone do this? I have interviewed candidates who gave me the answer they thought I wanted to hear, instead of just answering the question I asked. Save the academy award speech for another audience, in the interview setting it will only earn you a ‘no hire’ vote. Great interviewers are not looking for snappy canned answers, they want their question answered. Great candidates respond thoughtfully to the topic at hand.

• Clarify: This is part of active listening. Because not everyone asks concise questions, you may have to help them along by clarifying before giving an answer. Check that question and answer when discussing vague concepts or terms of art in any profession to make sure you are both on the same page. Great interviewers will use probing questions with candidates to get specific detailed answers. Questions like ‘what was the result, how did you decide on that course of action, looking back would you do anything differently, what did you learn from the experience’ will yield a complete picture of the candidate’s thoughts, action, and competencies. Candidates will similarly learn far more about a company’s culture and workplace environment by asking follow-up questions around business plans that impact the job they are seeking, as one example. Use what you hear from the other party and probe for more at the appropriate time during the interview.

• Respect: Actions speak louder than words. Show respect for the other party at every step of the interview. Turn off your cell phone and put the land line on do not disturb, stay on schedule, pay attention, say please and thank you and never ever treat anyone as if their time or place in the process is beneath you. That may sound like advice from mom, but the right actions can quickly set you apart from others who are just dialing it in. Engaging in the interview is the most important thing you are doing at that moment. If you are a candidate it is critical to your career. If you are an employer it is critical to the success of your company or firm. You may interview 2 or 20 people for one job, but all of them will remember how they were treated and if treated well is your best unpaid advertising. Candidates who treat employers respectfully increase their odds of being called back when an even better opportunity comes along, or in an encounter within their professional circle. Respect in the interview process is professional dividend.

Employers and candidates are behooved to know thy basics from the get-go. Employers – know the competencies and traits which spell success in your environment. Candidates – be equipped to speak specifically about your work product and provide examples of your work. The best interviews leave the candidate feeling enthused about the employer and knowing they were able to convey their unique skills and knowledge. The employer will have a detailed picture of what the candidate brings to their organization and a clear understanding of if/how that person can contribute to the organization. The ultimate result increases the likelihood of matching the right person with the right employer.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


You have to be living under a rock to have missed the recent buzz regarding President Obama's selection of the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the US Supreme Court. Serving on the US Supreme Court is an appointment for life, and only held by nine people at a time. Beside being President, this is arguably one of the most powerful jobs in the free world and, from an HR person's point of view, probably the lowest turnover of any job on the planet. (The only way out of the job is death, retirement, resignation, or conviction on impeachment - no "at will" employment here!) An appointment is a big deal for anyone who gets the nod. The outcome of the President's appointment ultimately relies on the outcome of the Senate confirmation process, which will unfold in the coming weeks. Until then there will be speculation, opinion, and discourse throughout the media about Her Honor's qualifications and suitability for such an important job. There should be!

The Supreme Court ultimately decides on questions of constitutional law - you know, that document which is the foundation for American democracy. Our Constitution is a dynamic document, filled with ambiguity, meant to guide a country for generations on the fundamental values of how we are governed and live together on our little chunk of the planet. The Court serves a critical role in serving and protecting our democracy. Interpreting this document is not something to be left for the faint of heart or intellect, nor is it a job that we leave to one person. The number has changed over time but has been set at nine for awhile with no foreseeable change on the horizon. The constitutional rights, responsibilities, and freedoms we enjoy as United States citizens are ruled on by nine people in black robes who are appointed to their jobs for life. That is a lot of power, and I don't know about you, but I care a lot that those nine people are smart, fair, can solve complex problems, are humbled by the gravity of their job, and appreciate that what they decide will have an impact on millions of us. I'm not being trite when I say, however simply, being a US Supreme Court Justice is one big job.

Who serves on the Court, what kind of qualifications should they have for this very big job? Citizens who care about the future of democracy are sure to have an opinion about who serves on the Court. It seems fairly obvious that among the many skills and traits required to perform this job well, one of those critical traits is perspective.

Oh yes, perspective. Much is being made of Judge Sotomayor's point of view. She has admitted to being influenced by the fact that she is a woman and a person of color. A quick glance at a photo of the current Supreme Court Justices will tell you this appointment, if she is confirmed, will make her unique among her colleagues. The fact that she is a Latina will alone mean she has a background unlike any of her predecessors in the history of the Court. Stop there for a minute and flip back your history book pages to life on the Court after the appointment of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black man to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. His appointment was a huge chapter in our nation's history, and one which changed our nation for the better. Justice Marshall committed his powerful intellect and legal capabilities to the Court along with his white brethren. We also know that he contributed "perspective" to the bench and to the decision making process and dialogue that occurred out of public view but which ultimately impacted our lives through decisions the Justices rendered. Justice Marshall, by imparting his perspective throughout the course of performing his job responsibilities, shed light on a world which his colleagues had no way of experiencing firsthand. I suspect the other eight had a similar influence on him. For nine people working together to solve problems for millions who are unlike them in many respects, sharing perspective makes that problem solving process more robust. Much of the modern research around problem solving suggests that differing points of view are more apt to prompt more thoroughly reasoned conclusions. The contribution of a diversity of persective brings about thought out conclusions.

Oh yes, Judge Sotomayor's perspective. To some people, this is a problem. She has admitted to being a product of her upbringing and environment. She has stated the obvious - she is woman and person of color - and her experiences as such contribute to her opinions on certain things. Charges of "reverse racism" (whatever that means) and biased thinking are being hurled around by her detractors and people who haven't taken the time to listen to her speak or watch her work. Politics aside, good grief people, is this any way to evaluate someone for this all important job? Shouldn't we want her to have a perspective that is different from the other eight so that she can contribute to her fullest and add to the dynamic of the decision making process which will influence the future of American democracy?

Having worked in the legal profession for the last thirty years, I have seen many lawyers ply their craft - good, great, and not so good. The best among this profession have qualities we expect and want from our fellow human - empathy, fairness, ability to listen and communicate, thoughtfulness, reasoning, intellect, and humility. Academic distinction and other professional milestones are arguably signs of achievement, but if that alone was the criteria for a great lawyer we would choose our Supreme Court Justices with the simple act of a resume scan. We don't do that because the other qualities that distinguish people from robots are important here. The human stuff. Like perspective.

Judge Sotomayor will be scrutinized, criticized, and hailed in the coming weeks. I suggest we all listen to her, formulate our own opinions, and hope that the other eight learned Justices appreciate the perspective she brings if/when she becomes their colleague. We all depend on it.

Friday, May 22, 2009


On the opening day of baseball season I had a rare opportunity to be a flag bearer of the gigantic US flag carried out onto the field for the national anthem before the start of the game. Many of you have seen these at sporting events or before a big game on TV. We had a rehearsal the day before to sync our timing and handle the flag properly, and in doing so we practiced in the venue – the playing field at Safeco Field in Seattle. As a middle aged woman I can’t imagine having another sanctioned opportunity to be on a professional sports field, so it was a new experience and, as a baseball fan, quite a thrill. As we first stepped onto the baseball field I was a little overwhelmed – the smell of fresh cut lawn, looking up into a beautiful stadium, my first thought was “why do they pay these guys anything to come to this office everyday? They play a GAME, applause greets you when you arrive (except for A-Rod in this town anyway)….baseball players should work for free!”

We know, of course, that they don’t. In fact, their compensation levels are sky high compared to almost any other line of work. One could debate the merits of professional sports compensation endlessly, but let’s leave that commentary for someone else’s blog. The reality is that no one works for free – it’s an untenable proposition. But playing a game as a job, what fun! How lucky is anyone to have that choice?

I know a woman who recently left her senior management job after 11 years of working for a profitable brand-name Fortune company, where she was well-compensated and considered a strong performer and leader. She does not have another job lined up, no big severance to fall back on….in this economy?

Oh and the law firm and corporate lay-offs just keep coming, with perfectly talented professional people who have never needed to look for a new job suddenly thrust into this horrible economy when few are hiring. What to do next?

What do they have in common? The choice of doing something they love! No matter what you do for a profession, work SHOULD be as fun as it can possibly be. We have all heard the popular saying “work for free and you will never work a day in your life.” Passion for your profession plays an important role in career satisfaction and has a significant positive impact on job performance. It stands to reason that the happier you are in your work, the better you will perform, which will contribute to your personal bottom line. Employers all factor personal performance metrics into their compensation system at some level, be it base salary increases, bonus rewards, or other long term incentives. Even highly paid athletes have performance incentives built into their contracts. Home runs do more than win games and make fans happy.

Professional work is hard enough without enjoying it. Whether or not you are at a point where you are considering your next career move, there is no better time than now to articulate this part of your professional vision. It is too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks to stop and focus on this, however it may be one of the best things you do for your career. Consider it a piece of self-assigned homework. Set aside an hour of time, situate yourself in front of a blank screen/whiteboard/paper and pen in a distraction minimized zone (locked bathrooms work, if nothing else) and make two columns – likes and dislikes. Brainstorm about your professional work and list items in each column specific to you. What do you like about your job content, your profession, the kind of work environment where you are happiest, the pet peeves or tasks you don’t like doing, the things you do not do well, qualities you want in a boss, the industries or topics you find dreadfully boring…you get the idea. Write it all down in their respective plus and minus columns. Some of the items will be tied to other life priorities – supporting a family is one example. On the other hand, maybe your misery index will encourage you to retool your budget and accept a lower income in another kind of work that increases your daily dose of personal fulfillment and lowers your blood pressure.

Unless you commit your criteria to a tangible document you will lose sight of all these elements. Once you commit it to paper, it will be much easier to see trends and set priorities. Developing a professional vision around your talents can be very liberating and enlightening. Armed with your list, you are now well positioned to make informed choices about everything affecting your career. You may make trade-offs along the way as you use this list to evaluate a new job and as you move throughout your professional career. That’s ok, and encouraged. Examine the list from time to time, make changes or additions, and tweak your criteria as you consider new options. Give that list a long hard list when you get a job offer and compare it to what you are signing up for in the new gig. Is there something you should explore a little further before taking that new job, maybe something in the minus column that should be fleshed out? Job offers, particularly good ones, have a way of obfuscating the downside. It pays to be vigilant and thoughtful before you leap. Your plus and minus list will keep you honest and focused. The important thing is that you have a tool to keep on track and your eyes on the happiness prize. We may not be so fortunate as to choose a job with a built-in adoring public, but truly enjoying what you do may well make it seem less like work, and more like a game.

Monday, May 4, 2009

False Intimacy

So you think you know me, but you don't know goes the lyrics to the familiar love ballad. Well, familiar if you are my age and listened to your parents' music or have heard the beautiful remake by Diana Krall. It is a song about the mix of realism with imagination in a relationship, and the resulting melancholy of unrequited love. (My interpretation at least.) The phenomenon of perception created by one's observations without a real means to test their true meaning. Actions by one person are ascribed a meaning by the listener/observer without regard to the feelings of the actor. It leads to misperception...."you don't know me." Is the true the same in the context of modern day social networking? Does the plethora of communication through technology create a false intimacy between actor and observer?

Social networking has spread like wildfire in recent years. The evolution from mobile phone, instant messaging, the PDA, texting, Facebook, and now Twitter, has changed how people communicate as well as the content of the message. Do we assume that the words "I love you" spoken in person carries the same as "luv ya" in a tweet? The pace of daily life moves so fast that it seems we really haven't taken time to consider the power of truncated messages used in the modern day, to say nothing of the relative lack of privacy of those messages. Take the Facebook status update as an example. Users type in a brief status message that is posted to their "wall" (more or less a personal homepage), out there on display for their connected friends and people in their network to see. The prompt on Facebook poses a question to the user "What's on your mind?" Type in a sentence or two, click on the 'share' button, and voila, you have just communicated your innermost thoughts to 200 of your closest friends. Those friends can respond to the note, post their own note, post a link to an article or video with a comment, post photos, and on and on.

What is all this creating? Facebook calls them "stories." But what do we truly know from these stories? The user may be doing everything from revealing their innermost feelings about something they just experienced ("Getting a hug from my kids is the best part of being a dad"), or testing fodder as an aspiring fiction writer ("it was a dark and stormy night.") Here's the rub - how are we to know the difference? The readers of those updates may ascribe an entirely different meaning than what the person posting ever intended in either case, real or imagined. This can all dangerously lead to a sense of false intimacy: the feeling that we deeply know someone based on a series of 140 character blurts in cyberspace. I just wonder if this too easily creates a false impression.

Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of technology and applaud the innovators who find new ways for it to bring new dimension to our daily experiences. I also believe in the principles of free speech. Easy to see how I could be an internet junkie, eh? As an executive recruiter I look people up on the internet everyday. I look for common things like published articles and professional bios posted on web sites, and stumble on incidental things like wedding announcements. My clients pay me to know the candidates I present to them well enough to have vetted basic appropriate background information, and I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't spend the time to obtain information first hand from candidates as well as through independent verification and exploration of someone's background. I could cripple my credibility if I were to present a lawyer candidate to a client without checking for their State Bar admission status and later learn the person had been disciplined or disbarred. But do I disclose their latest party weekend indiscretion posted in a tweet? Of course not, that crosses the line between social banter and professional behavior. It may be the mindset of my client however to check the social networking sites, or make an assumption about what they see on a Facebook post.

Recently an unemployed lawyer networked their way to my inbox, and in the message was a link to what I reasonably believed was a legitimate website. (Hear that scream of the IT tech in the background?) It was indeed a blog, chock full of info about this well-credentialed and earnest lawyer, one of many perfectly capable people in the unenviable position of being between opportunities in a lousy economy. It started out with the usual info - education pedigree details and work history, a chronology of professional employment, all appropriate. As I scrolled through the info there was a discussion of this person's journey through finding new employment, complete with a scorched earth opinion of corporate interview practices. Wow, any prospective employer would read this and be repelled by the cynicism and disdain expressed in this perspective on hiring. What to do with this info, do I consider it as part of my evaluation of a prospective candidate for a client? Is it the understandable temporary frustration of an otherwise credentialed professional? The reader wants us to know them, but are we getting to know this person's background, their opinion, or is it just another creative use of social networking. In this case it was relatively easy to pick up the phone, call the person, and find out for myself through good old fashioned person to person contact. That is not always practical of course but it drives home the point that misperceptions are easily created.

You can tell that I am skeptical about the appropriateness of social networking chatter encroaching into professional territory. The underlying premise however is that we all make assumptions based on what we see out there. I worry we draw assumptions so quickly that we fail to discern true feelings from mindless banter. Let's not forget the power of what we all put out there, and the increasing power of unintended consequences. Oh yeah, and maybe it's not a bad idea to pick up the phone once in awhile. Because otherwise....."you think you know me, but you don't know me."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Being graceful in ungraceful situations

Recognition for a task well done can come in many forms ranging from a simple thank you to a raise in base salary or other form of monetary compensation such as a gift certificate. Assuming, of course, that the employer or boss has the intelligence and manners to make the acknowledgement (sure to be a topic of future blogs, so stay tuned), there is a certain maturity to accepting the acknowledgement. You don't want to act so crass as to give the impression that of course you deserved this for your work, or worse yet curl up your nose if the gift is not suited to your personal taste or, heaven forbid, tacky and cheap. There is a certain maturity to accepting these acknowledgments with class. And sometimes, no matter how graceful you might be, something embarrassing happens to compromise the whole situation. The result, and how it reflects on the recipient and the giver, is not dependant on what transpires but in how you recover.

Face it. In the work world there is so much human interaction that awkward moments are bound to ensue. We are all human after all, not robots, so the occasional mishap is inevitable. Nerves get the better of people in the best of situations. Raise your hand if you have ever stumbled over your words in an interview, blanked on a word or point when giving a presentation, spilled coffee on yourself on a way to meeting, or flat out tripped over your own two feet walking down the hall for no reason at all. See what I mean? There is a bit more at stake when these things happen at reward time.

So when can this happen and what to do? A few illustrations:
The 'thank you' lunch - There is so much opportunity for things to go wrong in this setting between employer and employee that it can be it's own longer topic. My personal experience with this once involved a multiple comedy of errors. I was working on an arbitration with one of the senior partners in the firm, and at the conclusion of the case he wanted to take me to a prestigious private social club for a celebratory thank you lunch. I dressed particularly nice that day in a fitted long jacket, silk scarf, black skirt with a tasteful kick-pleat, and the perfect pointy-toe black high heels. It was a rainy day, and as I arrived at the walkway entering the club my sassy heel caught in the brick walkway and I went face down on the pavement. My purse contents went flying, I scraped my hands bracing the fall, and my skirt split up the back along the seam of the kick-pleat to a less than professional degree. The partner was inside waiting for me! Recovery was needed, and fast! A kind stranger helped me to my feet, picked up my bag, inquired if I was hurt (no, just embarrassed), and escorted me inside. (Tip #1 - be kind and helpful if you see something like this happen.) Upon entering the club I had no choice but to tell my host what had just happened, at least to explain the scrape. He politely offered me his overcoat to drape over my shoulders to hide the torn skirt, gave me a minute to freshen up in the ladies room, and asked the hostess to seat us near the fireplace convenient to warming up and minimal walking across the room. (Tips #2 and 3 - put the other person at ease by acknowledging the situation and offering a way to minimize the visibility to others.) I am sure the story he told over lunch about inadvertently hitting a judge with a wayward tennis ball was fictitious and intended to humor me, which it did. (Tip #4). Thankfully I knew better than to order the spinach salad. (Tip #5).

The gift - These should be chosen carefully. Unless you know the recipient very well, it is best to stick to something that is broadly acceptable without risking offense. Useful, appropriate, versatile, no expiration date, like a American Express cash certificate fits pretty nicely into this category. Companies often use this for project oriented or spot rewards and are a nice gesture. As a giver however one should resist the temptation to make this a huge production or put people on the spot. A friend of mine received one of these at her workplace for exceptional performance on a sensitive project. The division VP was thrilled with the outcome, and her boss went out of his way with a department e-mail praising her work and the big result she obtained for the company. Very nice. When it came time to present her with the reward check, he did it in the hallway with all sorts of people passing by, loudly proclaimed the amount, asked her where she was going to spend it, and gloated about the amount of the check. She was horrified, and appropriately so. It put her on the spot, publicly no less. Worse yet, the amount was quite modest and while she did not want to offend her boss, she also was challenged trying not to hide her surprise when the check was handed to her in front of her peers. My friend was at once honored, flustered, embarrassed, pleased, and caught off guard. What started as a thoughtful and well-earned acknowledgement turned into an awkward moment. It really is not the gift that counts, but avoiding the pitfalls will make the gift count beyond it's face monetary value.

To get everyone past the odd interlude and get back on track, someone involved has to be graceful about the whole thing so that all can breath a sigh of relief and truly enjoy the moment. The best way to disarm others is to put them at ease. Using the tools of humor, manners, and gentleness can go a long way to diffuse many ungraceful moments that occur in the workplace.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Memorable impressions

I was inspired today by the power of a great memory, and it sent my mind abuzz with thinking of all sorts of parallels to my professional and personal life.

I was attending the funeral of Bob, technically my great uncle - he was married to my grandmother's youngest sister on my father's side of the family. Growing up, I simply referred to them as aunt Mary and uncle Bob. Aunt Mary is alive and kicking and pushing her mid-90's. Bob passed a few months ago at the tender age of 95, shortly after renewing his drivers license. These were, and are, active, alert, life loving people, despite their chronological age. Bob was a compassionate and talented man who lived a relatively simple, long, and happy life in rural America.

So I am standing graveside on a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon in a tiny rural town in southwest Washington. Few people are in attendance, among them an elderly couple who looked vaguely familiar. I come from a big Italian family and all of us are predisposed to being gregarious and the center of social activity. My grandparents and their siblings were all very social, entertaining people in their homes as long as I can remember. Family, neighbors, friends, a lot of Italian community folks, everybody at some point rotated through my grandparents house for dinner or socializing every weekend. Over the years my big extended family tree has grown smaller, so that attending funerals at this stage of my life (let's call it 50-ish), is not particularly uncommon. My dad, a spry 86 this July, knows everybody, or so it seems to me. I thought nothing of him talking to this elderly couple. Everybody seems to know my dad. He and the elderly gentleman were obviously engaged in a warm and familiar conversation, smiling, laughing, very convivial. A short time later this gentleman approached me and in one breath introduced himself, extended his hand, and asked my name. "Hello, I am Alisa Tazioli" I replied, and nodding in the direction of my dad, said "I am Eddie's youngest daughter." I was greeted with a beaming smile, and words I never expected to hear . . . "Oh yes, I went on a date with your grandmother."

Let me pause here for a minute. Carrying a distinctive last name that is rare in this country, much less the one my ancestors came from, it is not uncommon when I meet someone who has EVER met another person with my last name to immediately blurt out the the question "oh, are you related to . . .?" followed by the name of any one of my aforementioned gregarious relatives. I am no spring chicken either but am among the youngest of my generation, so most people know someone older than me. But my grandmother?! She passed in her mid-80's when I was, well, considerably younger. She would have been well over 100 by now. Who WAS this man?!

He then proceeded to recount to me a story of traveling to Seattle in his youth with my uncle Gino and aunt Alice (another of my grandmother's sisters), who suggested they call my grandmother for a night out on the town, hanging out at a night club where there was music, dancing, and lots of other Italians. It is what people did in that era. My grandmother was a petite somewhat reserved earnest family devoted woman. She was never boisterous or loud. She was an intelligent conversationalist, and loved nothing more than to be surrounded by family anytime anywhere, so a call from her sister visiting from Portland would surely get her attention. My grandfather loved staying at home, and although they rarely were apart, on this rare night apparently my grandmother decided to go out with her sister, her brother-in-law, and their gentleman friend - the man now standing before me. Nothing nefarious, just a fun night out.

With a memory no doubt somewhat clouded by the passage of time, this elderly gentleman nonetheless recounted the evening events with great clarity. They visited multiple clubs in downtown Seattle where Italian musicians were performing, one club had a new Italian chef recently arrived from Lucca (the motherland!), and they stayed out until "after hours" courtesy of one restaurant proprietor. They laughed, drank, sang, socialized, and had a night of fun. Among the remnants of his memory he described with great precision my grandmother's laugh, her smile, and her demeanor. "I'll never forget it" he said with a bright smile and gleam in his eye. This gentleman is easily in his 90's. The memory of this evening had to be at least 60 years prior. It was sweet and clear. Impressive. I can't remember where I put the ear thumps to my iPod and he can remember a few hours out of his vast life like it was yesterday. THAT is what I call memorable. Something so riveting it sears an enduring home in your memory so that you can recall it at a snap decades later. Say what you will about how older people recall memories of events years earlier when they have trouble recalling yesterday's lunch, but the way he described it was obvious and powerful.

It got me thinking about what creates enduring impressions. In the modern day we are bombarded with media, music blaring in every retail outlet, billboards that spin with graphics and neon, cell phones ringing everywhere all the time, televisions in airports with pundits and spin doctors loudly espousing their controversial views, even advertising placards in restrooms! We are all so drenched with this stuff it is lucky we can remember where we are going, yet advertisers are assaulting our senses every waking moment. On a planet inhabited by billions of people in this media overload era, how do we distinguish ourselves at all? Has life has become so busy and crowded in the 21st century? Is it harder because there are so many more people? Are we numb to it all now, or just not paying attention? Or are we so oriented to the masses that we lose sight of the individual that is right in front of us?

I linger on that last question a lot. It is part of what I think about every day. I am an executive search consultant for the worlds' largest search firm devoted solely to recruiting lawyers for our client law firms and corporate legal departments around the world. Our firm serves hundreds of clients, large and small, and individually I easily speak with hundreds of lawyers and the people they work with every year. Over a recruiting career that is a little shy of 20 years, that equates to a lot of people. I talk to employers and candidates alike who are as unique as their individual fingerprints. So what makes others stand out among the rest? Part of what I do for a living is help my client distinguish themselves to attract top talent, and to help that top talent distinguish themselves from other talented and capable people. Especially in the current economy, whether you are a candidate or an employer, you better stand out too. Look at your odds if you don't. But with all the sensory overload, it isn't a numbers game or who shouts the loudest. It's about the impression you create.

I have noticed a fair amount of trade chatter recently around employment branding. Admittedly I have not read much on the topic yet, but seems to me it relates to distinction. A few observations:

Honestly define yourself. Hold up the mirror and inspect the image, warts and all. That which defines you is what others see, so if you are candid about it you will attract the right people. The most intelligent employer brand marketing describes a company's corporate culture and values consistent with what employees experience and what the company or firm expects from their employees routinely. Expect long hours and reward with generous bonuses? Say it! An egalitarian structure where every fee earner is a partner and has a truly equal vote in major decisions? Spell it out! Mo matter how big of a company you are, the truth is you don't want everyone to work for you. The people you want are the ones who have the attributes necessary to succeed in your unique organization. It does no good to stand in front of the mirror and say that you look like everyone else when you don't. "We hire the best and brightest" . . . like your closest 100 competitors say anything different. Employers who appeal to the masses will get exactly that = masses. Don't appeal to a ,mass audience expecting to net specifically oriented highly talented individuals. In the legal profession, yes there are hundreds of great lawyers out there. Not all of them are going to be great in your organization. Focus on finding the few who will excel in your unique culture, and don't spend your time on the hundreds who might because you are afraid of missing someone. You will never make a decision, and you will alienate good people in the process because you cannot show them who you are as a company.

Know thy self. Yep you have smarts, experience, maybe a few things that aren't your strength but you can you do it all, right? Well, not really. Even if you graduated summa grand pooh-bah, you really are not all things to all people, nor do you want to be. That jack of all trades master of none guy was never the king of anything, much less his own career. Where's the destiny and accomplishment in that? You do want to be memorable for the right opportunity at the right time. I am a big fan of "the list." Start with a pad of paper and a pen, one column for what you like, one for what you don't like, and one very short one for items you are willing to compromise. Make your list without distractions, without regard to specific employers. Don't be trite or gimmicky. Do be honest about your strengths so you can maximize them, your weaknesses so you can minimize them, and what truly motivates you so that you can find it. Be true to your list in your search. Gear your questions around it when you explore opportunities with a prospective employer. Evaluate it again when you get an offer. Enjoying your work will bring the best rewards. You will be happier in the long run, and when that happens you will be more productive, your employer will reward you, and in it you might actually have fun.

Distinct candidate, meet the perfect employer. It should be so much easier, shouldn't it? It can be memorable, real, and powerful. And maybe it will put a gleam in your eye.