The Problem With Networking, Part 2

If you haven’t yet, go back and read The problem with networking, Part 1.

There is a lot of truth to the statement: “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” While many employment consultants will tell you to get right out there, doing so before you are prepared is not far different from going to a job interview wearing pajamas. They will tell you to go to networking events now and often, to make contacts and give out business cards. They will tell you to use these contacts to expand your network.

In a down industry, networking events tend to be empathy events. Rather than entering a room full of potential employers or even leads, the networker is entering a room full of peers sharing a common problem. There is plenty of opportunity to commiserate but little opportunity to get closer to employment. If that is what you want or need to help your emotional state, fine. Just don’t waste the chance to make a good first impression on any real opportunities.

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Decisions, Decisions…

We all make decisions. It’s a part of life, and more specifically, a part of our jobs. We make so many, that you’d think we’d all be pretty good at decision making by now.

Unfortunately, that’s often not the case; even for confident people. Well, actually, most of us are pretty good at making those decisions, but we like to refuse to accept that we are good at it. Our brains play tricks and convince us that we might mess things up, get fired, not be accepted, be put down, be rebuked, or be presented any number of an endless string of negative reactions.

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Cost Reduction in Design – Advice for Makers

If you’re looking for the absolute, cheapest possible assembly service, you’ll need to look outside of North America. If you really need a decent price with good quality and good service, you can keep your gaze West of the Atlantic and East of the Pacific.

Like everything else in the modern world, design decisions can have a pretty big impact on your cost. So, lets take a look at some design decisions that can make your manufacturing more affordable.

  • Accept longer lead times

Lead times are one of the biggest factors in electronics manufacturing. Screaming Circuits (my day job employer) can turn a kitted assembly job overnight, but it costs a lot of money to do that. Screaming Circuits also has a 20 day turn-around that is much, much more affordable. Accepting longer lead times on PCB fab will drop your cost as well.

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The Problem With Networking, Part 1

Unemployed? Looking for a job? Network. Get out to all those networking events. Call people and ask for informational interviews. Whenever you speak with anyone, get referrals from them. Right? Well, maybe. Sort of.

A number of years ago, I went through a period of fairly long-term unemployment, and I think I learned quite a bit about that world. Not much was really new to me, but the perspective certainly was.

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How to succeed in marketing without really trying

If you’re old enough, you might remember the 1967 movie, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Well… you don’t really need to be old enough. The movie’s before my time and I’ve watched it.

vertical_marketsIn the movie, window washer J. Pierpont Finch, reads a book titled the same as the movie, and takes it to heart. Shortly after starting to read the book, he talks his way into a mailroom job. Within hours, he’s manipulated and bumbled his way upstairs and eventually lands a coveted corner office without, as the title suggests, really trying. At least, he didn’t really try working for his success. He did try a lot of manipulation, fast talking, and subversion.

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30 Minute Job Interview Seminar, Part 2

If you haven’t read it yet, might want check out Part 1 of this series.

The job applicant needs to not just show competence, but also needs to show fit in the company. As a hiring manager, I know it’s rare to find candidates that have all of the skills and experience I need. Given that, what I’m looking for is relevance, transferable skills, and a willingness to learn. Actually, “eagerness to learn” is probably a lot closer to what I need. I like to see a candidate that is not just willing to learn, but that actively seeks our new knowledge. A healthy thirst for new knowledge can be the difference between a good fit and a one-way trip out the door.

If you know enough about the company, you can get a feel for what they really need. You can highlight skills that are relevant to the company, even if not listed in the job description. You can fill in the skill blanks, or discuss how you can fill those blanks. Like step 1, step 2 should be obvious as well, but also like step 1, it’s far less common than you might think.

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Beware The Double Disruption

Have you ever been involved with the disruption of an established industry? If you’ve worked in a start-up, or have been a part of a new product release, you most likely have to some extent. New products and services are an endless chain of disruptions. However, what I’m talking about is the type of disruption that smashes an industry into pieces.

I’ve been lucky enough to have helped cause a major disruption more than once. Back in the 1990’s, LCDs were primitive. Computer projectors were huge cathode ray tube devices that required extensive installation and maintenance. They were big, expensive, and of limited practical use.

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Run Your Own Race

High School was a long time ago for me. It wasn’t a particularly bad time for me, nor was it anything close to the highlight of my life. I don’t have “moments of glory” from my high school days to reflect back at. It was, however, a time and place of defining moments, and one of those moments came one hot and dry day, while on a training run for my high school cross-country team.

I was a back of the pack runner out on a stretch of the dike alongside of the Coweeman river (near Kelso, Washington); a regular training route for the Kelso High School cross-country team. I had run the dike many times before, and been near the back on most of those runs. What differed on this particular fall afternoon would stick with me to this day.

It was my senior year, and we had a new coach in the mix. He was a former Kelso graduate that had set records in college, and could run in the company of world-class distance runners. I didn’t know more than that about him; just that he was really fast.

It wasn’t my experience that coaches, especially coaches that were world-class in their own right, would spend much individual time with the kids that wouldn’t be helping to win tournaments. Joe Stewart wasn’t like that. On that training run, he came up to me from behind, and matched my pace. As we ran together, he gave me feedback on my form, advice on how to improve it, and words of encouragement. After running together for a bit, he sped up and met up with the next runner in the pack.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to take a top place in any meet, nor, as a senior, was I material to build on for the future. That didn’t seem to matter to him. What I suspect mattered to him, was that I was out there. I was doing it despite trailing the pack. Instead of berating me for running slow, or telling me to “suck it up”, he encouraged me to run my own race. He told me that running my own race, that bettering myself, and measuring myself against my own goals and my own performance, was the most important competition I would ever have. I’ve kept that with me through my life and career.

Running your own race isn’t just about athletics. It’s a metaphor for a philosophy of life. It’s a way of thinking, a defense mechanism against anything and everything that life can throw your way.

Now, some people live to overtly compete with others. These folks are largely extroverts. They have to look around them for motivation and measure. The way of competition – of external motivation –  isn’t better, nor worse than the way of running your own race. It’s just different. Competing against others is always an option. It’s easy to do. If that’s you, go for it. But know that it’s not necessary.

Measuring against others can limit your potential. If you stretch and gain a lead against your competitor, once ahead, your motivation diminishes significantly. It goes from offense to defense, from “playing to win” to “playing not to lose.” It becomes more difficult to think in terms of improvement. You can quickly fall into the trap of looking backwards, not forwards.

If you think in terms of competing with others, it’s easier for judgmental people to hold you back. People sneering at you or jabbing at you can have a tremendous negative effect on you if you’re living to compete. Yes, it can trigger an “I’ll show you” response, but again, once you’ve “shown them”, you go back to defense. You become vulnerable again.

Certainly, it is possible that your best is only just a little bit more than your competition’s best. That could happen, but it’s much more likely that you have a lot more to give beyond what competition is doing. By living for external competition, you put all of that extra potential at risk.

On the other side, if your best really is slightly less than that of your competitor, and your motivation is to beat that competitor, you may never be good enough. You’ll put what motivation you do have at risk. You put yourself at risk of switching from motivation as your driver to desperation as your driver. That rarely helps.

Run your own race. Let the others, individuals or organizations, compete with you. Let them see you as a threat. Let them live defensively. Set your own goals based on what you can or would like to achieve, not based on what others are doing. When you pick your own definition of success, you can’t be beaten.

30 Minute Job Interview Seminar, Part 1

I’ve been interviewing potential hires for close to twenty years now and a number of years back, I had a long unemployment stint myself. I think it’s fair to say that I have quite a bit of interview experience on both sides of the table. I’ve been recruiting a few positions here at Screaming Circuits recently. At times it’s gone quite well, and at other times it’s been pretty frustrating.

There aren’t really that many things to think of when attempting to get a job. Most should be pretty basic. Sadly, though, it’s frequently those very basics that candidates miss on. There are a million books on the job searching process – yes, a million. Not one more and not one less – and there are day long and multi-day seminars and classes all over the place.

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