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Finding Motivation

Your Career & The "Premium Rush"

I live one block off Broadway on New York City's Upper West Side. This morning I was on the way to brunch with a friend, and I saw something unusual: two and a half blocks of cabs and cars all lined up on the street. Parked. Only a few of them were there. The street corners were packed with police officers, people wearing orange reflective vests, and people with microphones and wires in their ears.Traffic_blur

I heard one of them say, "How do you spell brunch?" as he typed out a message on his iPhone? And then, many of them came inside the restaurant to join my friend and I. We sat at separate tables.

I asked a few questions and learned that the crowd I saw had gathered together for a common goal: They are shooting stunts for a movie, Premium Rush. The movie is about a bike messenger, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets involved in a chase around the city. You can learn more about it on this blog, or via IMBD.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't in my neighborhood this morning. Apparently the shots that are being filmed are what you will see as he zooms through traffic, but he won't be shooting the stunt.

But before I left the scene, I did take a couple of mental pictures that I do want to share with you. It takes many staff to film a movie...more than I imagined. Did I mention there was an entire side street filled with trailers and production vehicles, too'?

Despite all the job reports--the stories about lack of jobs in entertainment, for recent grads, etc.--there were people of all ages taking place in the shoot. There were people moving large scale equipment, people working to direct traffic, people who specialized in communication, videographers, technicians, and security. If I were in the movie industry, I could tell you who else was there, too. But that's not what I do.

The mental picture I left with is just how many jobs there are--to take part in a big project. Not everyone gets to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt and star in a movie,or to perform stunts, or to work as a senior producer. But if you're in a rush to land the career you want, perhaps a good way to start is by finding out all the task that go into producing the finished product of your dream job--and then look for a side door.

Do you have any experience with this? Share.

To Your Success,


The Year in Review (or Lawn Mower Lessons Part II)

I've lived in Manhattan for almost three years now, but I'm still in a long-term relationship with a lawn mower in New Hampshire. We have known each other for seven years now--and for the past three years I've gained a gradually greater appreciation for this--my personal Yoda. WLawnmowerho knew that a red Craftsman push mower that sometimes starts with a sputter and who smells like gasoline could share life lessons? And even more oddly, would reveal these life lessons over time--when I was ready to learn them.

Seven years ago, in the infancy of our relationship, I was a first-time homeowner. I did what many people do these days in a new courtship--I read a how-to-manual before our first date. I wrote down the operating instructions and followed them to the letter. I remember filling up my plastic gas jug at the Citgo station. The customer behind me in line tapped his foot, and said "Are you finished?" I remember driving home with the window open, and the smell of gas on my hands. It took me at least two and a half hours to mow the yard that summer. I did it two or three times, and then my neighbor, Mike, offered to cut the grass on his riding mower. "It is easy for me to do," he explained. "Especially since your yard runs into my mother's and I cut her grass anyway." I put the lawnmower in the basement.

Several summers went by and Mike's mother got sick. I took a new job as a recruiter for a start-up that was in rapid expansion mode. I had never worked in HR before, and the mower hadn't started the last time I tried. "Put your work first," I told myself. My then-boyfriend suggested that I borrow his push mower. I looked at my three-quarter acre yard, and hired a landscaping company. I traveled frequently for my job. The mower stayed in the basement, behind my tires.

A too-good to be true work opportunity presented itself in New York--a job working with students and international travel. I rented my house out to a female engineer. "You can use the lawn mower if you want. It didn't start the last time I used it, but maybe it will work for you."

The lawnmower worked for my tenant; the job didn't work for me. I decided to start my own new ventureI stayed in Manhattan. There was no need for a lawn mowers and well kept parks within a seven minute walk. The house in New Hampshire was three miles from the "Little Store" which closed after dark. In New York I was block away from a 24-hour-diner, a drugstore, a bodega, and a hardware store.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to house sit in my own house for a month. I was trying to write and couldn't find the right words, and I took out the lawnmower for a spin. It started up immediately, and didn't stop. I decided that the lawn mower was trying to teach me a lesson in time management: If I stopped--even for a minute, it choked, and wouldn't start again. The lesson, I deduced was this one: I needed to keep going. If I started to write, I couldn't stop until I was finished. That was the lawn mower lesson for the summer of 2009.

I went back to New York. I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to co-author a book on Twitter with colleagues. We finished it in less than four months, it came out in March. I slept very little.

My tenant moved out in June, enabling me to spend a significant amount of time at the house this summer. I canceled the lawn service. The first time I mowed the grass, the lawn mower stopped after ten minutes. I pumped the primer three times. I held the handle down, pulled back the throttle and heard no sign of a motor. The lawn mower was broken. I went inside, got a glass of water, and asked myself, "why? Why can't I hear a motor?" My mind did a flashback to seventh grade science class, and I formed a hypothesis, "this must be stuck on something."

I turned the motor over on its side. There were big clumps of wet grass and dirt under the rotating blades of the mower, one of them was preventing the blade from turning. I used my hands to clear the grass from the underbelly of the motor. The lawnmower started again. I went inside, my shoes were green, my hands were green, my thumbs were green. I was covered in grass clippings and required a shower and a post-scrub to rid myself of all the grass. Then I had to clean the shower drain, the floor and the sink. There was grass everywhere. I returned to New York with fingers that were still stained green, but there were fewer circles under my eyes. I was afraid to go for a manicure, but I had learned that I could sleep in the midst of writing.

When I came back later in the summer, my mower and I met again--and again. I explored new strategies for staying "unstuck." I lifted a side door and propped it open with a stick, sending the clippings everywhere and resulting in more Cat-in-the-Hat like cleanings inside the house, but resulting in an interruption-free mow. I mowed the yard more frequently, and discovered the mower was less likely to stall.

Today, I unpropped my stick and mowed the yard, gently lifting the mower up so it could disperse clippings on the grass without sending them all over me. It worked.

When I finished, I cleaned the underbelly of the mower. I wiped down the top with a fresh cloth. And I stored the mower in the front side of the basement.

The next one to use the lawn mower will be a new tenant. This will be her first experience. I look forward to hearing her lawn mower lessons...and what--if anything--they teach her about life.

Did you miss these other lawn mower installments?


Starfish, JobAngels and Making a Difference

Over the holidays, I took a sunset walk on the beach with my nieces and family friends. The South Carolina winds were cold enough to require my thickest fisherman’s sweater. But the sea was calm and the light was spectacular. With less than a week before the New Year, we set out with thoughts of good cheer and optimism.Starfish

This was a familiar beach to all of us, and we were looking forward to finding conch shells and sand dollars, stepping over jellyfish, and watching periwinkles dig deep back into the sand as the tides receded. Instead we found thousands of starfish washed up along the beach at the edges of the shore.

I began to throw the starfish back. One at a time, I pitched many of them back into the sea as far as I could toss them. (Truth be told, I don’t have a long reach with my pitching arm.) I threw the starfish back because someone told me to: I remembered reading a story many years ago, about a boy who encountered a similar situation of countless starfish along a beach and a grumpy elder who said, “you will never save them. The boy replied “but I made a difference to that one.”

So I threw many of the starfish back as far as I could hurl them. After watching me for about ten minutes, my niece Amelia, turned to me and said, “Aunt Chandlee, I think you are playing favorites—you’ve only tried to save one gray starfish. All of the others you’ve thrown have orange spots.” I have to admit that she was right. I was naturally drawn to save the orange ones because they looked more alive than the gray ones. So I started to throw back the gray starfish, too. I hope that I made a difference, but it’s quite possible they were all already dead—victim of extreme weather conditions or a change in tidal patterns. (The local paper reported that about 50,000 dead starfish also washed up on an Irish beach in November.)

I’ll never know if my “made a difference to one” starfish campaign worked, but I do think it provides a great metaphor for this month’s Career Collective theme of making the most of the New Year: What will happen if you could make a difference for another person?  A year ago on January 29, 2009, Mark Stelzner (@stelzner) asked a simple question on Twitter, “Was wondering what would happen if each of us could commit to helping one person find a job? Are you game?”  Three hours later his question had become the #JobAngels movement on Twitter, by November over 1,000 job seekers had secured new jobs as a result of the collective outreach. (To learn more about JobAngels and to sign up as a volunteer or job seeker in need of a little help from a friend, visit

While you may be reading this post in an effort to help yourself, I challenge you to seek out ways to help another person out along the way. It might lead to new opportunities for you as well, and it may just help make you feel better. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

This is my thought for on2010, see what my colleagues had to say here:

Follow us on Twitter with our hashtag #careercollective and read these posts:

@KCCareerCoach, Career Chaos, “The Art of Being Gracious: Much Needed in Today’s Job Search,”

@MartinBuckland, Elite Resumes,  Career Trends and Transition 2010

@heathermundell, life@work, Kaizen and the Art of Your Job Search

@barbarasafani, Career Solvers, Looking Into the 2010 Careers Crystal Ball

@resumeservice, Resume Writing Blog, The Resume and Your Social Media Job Search Campaign

@kat_hansen,  Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog, New Year: Time to Assess Yourself and Your Career

@keppie_careers, Keppie Careers, Help for job seekers in a rut

@heatherhuhman,, Job seekers: 5 tips for making the most of 2010

@DawnBugni, The Write Solution, Ya, but

@ErinKennedyCPRW, Professional Resume Services, Advice to Job Seekers in 2010–learn Yoga?

@Chandlee, The Emerging Professional, Starfish, JobAngels, and Making a Difference

@ValueIntoWords, Career Trend, Is Your Job Search Strategy a Snore?

@debrawheatman, Resumes Done Write, Making the most of a new year

@walterakana, Threshold Consulting, Starting anew – tips for truly managing your career

@careersherpa, Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa, The Year of the Tiger

@WorkWithIllness,, Dogs Can Do It, Can You?

@JobHuntOrg,, Lifelong Learning for Career Security

@AndyInNaples, Career Success, What Are You Getting Better At? Make This the Year You Become the Best You Can Be!

@GLHoffman, What Would Dad Say, A Flash of the Blindly Obvious

Career Lessons from My Dad

Today is my father’s birthday. He’s notoriously difficult to buy gifts for, so this post is one of the ways that I’m marking the occasion! Here are seven gifts that he’s given me that I’m thankful for:Dad_at_work

  1.  Expectations. One of the biggest presents my dad ever gave me came in the form of a warning. Before I started college out of state, my dad told me to “Make a B average every semester—or you can come home and study here.” At the time, I wasn’t a bad student, but I had my shares of C’s in Math and Science.

    Knowing my dad had confidence in me to perform at a higher level helped me stay focused at school. I missed a lot of weeknights out with my friends, but I didn’t see any C’s. The work paid off when I got into the University of Virginia for grad school--a feat that I could not have imagined after high school Geometry!

  2. Pride and Non-Prejudice. My dad is a professor, and he takes great pride in the work he undertakes—from his golf swing to his own research and writing. I’ve seen him rehearse a simple lecture reading up to four times just to get the intonation right. But he’s also fully aware—and accepting of the fact that not everyone wants to work as hard as he does. On many holidays, he takes leave of our family for a few hours to help out his students so that they, too, can have a break. He’s a poster “nerd” for work ethic but isn’t judgmental about it. I admire that. 

  3. The importance of heroes. Over the years, I’ve watched my dad go through some tough times—who doesn’t? He’s always persevered, and one of the strategies he uses is to look for guidance from others—both real people and those who lived before us. He keeps quotes and aphorisms everywhere to remind him to keep perspective—it’s a strategy that has worked for me in tough times, too!

  4. Time management. My dad is a master of getting things done. Borrowing guidance from one of his heroes, the late and renowned physician William Osler to “live in day-tight compartments,” he creates a schedule for himself every day and prioritizes his work. His desk is never completely clear, but he’s consistently making progress. (He’s also a master of the cat nap and an avid Boston Red Sox fan but that is another story.)

  5. A talent for remembering names and creating long-term relationships in the community. My dad loves to talk to people, and asks everyone their names. As a result, the staff at his local Starbucks has his order memorized, and the dry cleaners know him by sight alone as well. These relationships make even the most mundane errands much more fun.

  6. Perseverance. Several years ago, my dad wanted to write a book. Like many aspiring authors, he received a polite rejection note from a potential publisher, “We think this is a great concept, but we’re not sure the book will sell.” He surveyed the needs of his potential audience, pitched the book on his own, and presented the would-be publisher with an advance order of several thousand copies. They published the book.

  7. The ability to make the most of any moment. My dad once taught me to “shag” (the South Carolina state dance move) in the waiting line at Wendy’s. “Would you like fries with that?” I was 14 and mortified. Now it’s a treasured memory that I will never forget.

These are just a few of the life lessons my Dad has given to me along with compassion, support , and understanding. He’s helped me succeed both professionally and personally—so here’s a formal thank you. (And happy birthday, Dad!)

Do you have any similar life lessons to share?

Alexandra Levit's New Job, New You

A book review to kick off the new year…Alexandra_levit_

If you’re looking for it, there are hundreds of different sources of career advice. What’s important is that you find a source that speaks to you when you need it. Some job seekers prefer straight forward how-to guides. Others prefer videos or podcasts. I’ll read anything, but my favorite sources of career advice are the ones that come with stories attached: When I can see how other people have made a transition, it’s easier for me to see how I might make an adjustment myself. Have you ever found that to be true? What works for you?

One of my favorite sources of career stories is Alexandra Levit, author of “Who Scored that Gig?” and “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.” A career columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra is also a great story-teller. Today, I’m writing to give a plug for her latest book “New Job, New You.”

Ever experienced a moment in life where your “out of work” experiences make you want to refocus your career priorities? Or simply hit a wall at work and know that something has to change? Such realizations can be exhilarating—and paralyzing, especially when you don’t know what to do next.

Enter Alexandra and her comprehensive conversations. In New Job, New You, Alexandra tackles seven common “game changers” that can lead you to re- examine your career—family, the desire for independence, the quest to learn more, the pursuit of money, passion, setbacks, and sheer talent (or the natural gifts you’ve been given). She ignores celebrities and the “exceptionally lucky” and provides five “real life stories” of career exploration and change for each “ball game” followed by practical advice.  Reading the book is the equivalent of having 35 intimate conversations with people who’ve been there, and then leaving with the “questions you need to ask,” and a short list of resources to get started in forging your own path. Naturally, this doesn’t do your exploratory work for you in your own career search, but it’s a great start and an easy read for 20 and 30-somethings interested in making lifestyle changes or another career transition.

Lessons Learned From Cheering On MLB's Most Lovable Losers

This is the final installment in a three part series from recent grad, sports fan, and PR enthusiastic Megan Ogulnick. Megan is currently searching for her first full-time job, you can find her on Twitter: @MOgulnick.

I was born bleeding Cubbie blue. Cheering on the Yankees or Dodgers was never an option. It was embedded in me like DNA. I had brown hair, green eyes and I was a Cubs fan. At a young age the charm and personality of the Cubs got me and I watched more Cubs games than I did cartoons. The first time I entered Wrigley Field, my fate was sealed. The atmosphere, the sounds, the tastes and smells, the ivy covered walls and the old-school scoreboard. It was enchanting and my heart still skips a beat every time I return. The Chicago Cubs have a power over me that words can't describe. It's a love, a passion, a union that only Cubs fans can understand. They can give me the ultimate high, but have the power to bring me to indescribable lows.Cubs

 I was sitting in section 205 on October 14, 2003 as the Cubs were 5 outs away from making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. In my face paint, handmade Cubs shirt and Cubs print pants; I hid behind my hands too nervous to watch. Hiding was a good idea. With 5 outs to go, Moises Alou lost a foul ball to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Alex Gonzalez let a ball go through his legs, Mark Prior imploded,  and the Florida Marlins went on to score 8 runs. All with 5 outs to go! This wasn't the only time the Cubs were the reason I cried for hours. Being a Cubs fan means enjoying the highs, but expecting the lows. People ask me constantly, "Why are you a Cubs fan?" Why? Why do I cheer on a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908? Why do I support an effort that is 101 years in the making? Why do I constantly set myself up for disappointment? I had no choice. I was destined to be a Cubs fan. And while my mom constantly reminds me "Why do you love them so much? They don't give anything back to you!" I know that's not true. The Cubs have taught me the importance of loyalty, dedication and persistence. Being a Cubs fan has prepared me for anything and given me invaluable skills I use daily. Sure I'd like a World Series ring, but a few, good life lessons will do for now.

“If at first you don’t succeed..”

We've all heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect." The great thing about this saying is that it can be applied to anything we do in life from playing sports to landing that perfect job. Practice is the key to success and is something that even the most talented athlete does daily. After an 8-game winning streak the Cubs won't cancel drills just because they're doing well and a player won't just hang out in the clubhouse during practice if he's batting .380 in June. The best keep going. They keep practicing. They keep honing their skills. They try each and every day to better the athlete they were yesterday. Texas Ranger pitcher CJ Wilson said, "We practice every day despite having played the same basic game for over 20 years...Think about how weird that is!"

The same applies to the job search. It is rare to find someone who wakes up one morning and is just naturally good at interviewing.
It's a skill and something we need to practice. Rehearse answering important questions in the mirror, set up mock interviews with family or educators, research keys to successful interviews and go on actual interviews as often as you can. My friend Sarah recently went on an interview with a company that she didn’t know much about. While she was apprehensive at first she saw it as an opportunity for practice. The interview only lasted two minutes, but the point was that she gained more experience and knowledge through it. No harm there, right? You can’t win every game, nor can you knock every interview out of the park, it takes practice, dedication, and persistence. Someday I will have the home run of all interviews and land that perfect job, but until then practice makes perfect.

Perseverance "Yet we still believe it's gonna happen. Maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe in 50 years. We'll wait."- No Love Lost, ESPN

Sports have taught me some important life lessons including, dedication, preparation, practice, experience, and persistence. However, I feel this last lesson is truly the most important; perseverance.
It was Wednesday, October 14, 1908 the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. 101 years ago. Chicago fans are constantly reminded of it and the players are too. Yet at every Chicago Cubs home game you'll be pressed to find an empty seat, the crowd will be cheering louder than even the day before and the players will sprint out there with one goal in mind; win. The Chicago Cubs understand the definition of perseverance. They eat, sleep and breathe it. Regardless of any obstacles, the cynics or their history, the Cubs know that one day they will win the World Series and until then the only thing they can do is put everything they have into every game they play.

The truth is, the job search can be exhausting. Constantly being told "no" by companies can take its toll. And being turned down for positions you've dreamed about can be heart breaking. I know, because the Cubs still haven’t offered me an interview. Regardless, the important thing is to keep going. Never take no for an answer and never accept failure. My dream is to work in sports and I won't stop until that dream becomes a reality. A baseball player doesn't quit after going 0-for-4 in an important game and neither will I. Now, let’s play ball!

Hats off to Megan for this expansive "job series." And if you're interested in hiring her, please feel free to give her a shout!

On Aspiring to a Career in Sports & "Living the Dream"

I've been lucky enough to meet some wonderful recent grads on Twitter, several of whom have shared with me their goals and aspirations. This is the first installment in a series of three from Megan Ogulnick. As you'll see, Megan is seeking a position which enables her to combine her love of sports with her interest in PR. Stay tuned to follow Megan's adventure on carving a path in a tough market.Megan_ogulnick1

I've been a sports fan my entire life. The earliest support of that is a picture of me at 6 weeks old in a Chicago Bears sweater and Harry Carey glasses on. My dad, being born and raised in Chicago, was a die-hard Chicago sports fan. It was all about the Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks. That being said, it was no surprise I had Chicago Bears Onesies, Cubs school supplies and was able to recite the entire Bulls starting line-up including Bill Carmrine, Horace Grace and Scottie Pipsen (I know now those aren't their names) by the age of 4. My uncle, who now does Pre- and Post-game radio for the Texas Rangers baseball team, was a constant presence growing up, which meant so was sports. I grew up following his career in sports media and admiring him for following his dream. And now, not surprisingly, his dream has become my own. Like family, sports has always been a presence in my life. A presence that has taught me about as much as any class ever as. One of the biggest lessons that sports taught me was one that my uncle learned at a young age; follow your dreams.

Confucius once said, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." In my opinion, truer words have never been spoken. Growing up this was a lesson I was told often; do something you're passionate about. This was one of the first lessons I was taught from sports. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to go to Minor League baseball games. Many of the players were barely out of high school and on their own for the first time. These boys loved the game and you could tell. With scouts watching and local fans cheering them on they put everything they had into the game. Getting paid close to nothing, traveling constantly and staying in motels every night, you knew these boys were there for a reason; they loved the game. It was their passion, their life and they would do whatever it took to make their dream come true.

Some people, like myself, are born knowing what they want to do. Others have to experiment a bit to truly realize what they’re meant for. In difficult economic times such as these many people are settling for any job they can find, but my hope is that eventually they will follow their hearts and do what makes them happy. Everyone’s dream is different. Mine is to work in sports.

But regardless of the shape or size of your dream, all of them are attainable. The first step is simple; ask yourself what it is you really want to do. Has it always been a thought in the back of your mind? Do you have a particular passion? Have you been afraid to try? If you are not sure, do some research! Learn about different career options or paths you could take. Some people need to try a few things before they know for sure. In that case, take a few internships to see what it is you really enjoy. Experience is key to truly learn about a particular industry or career path. Lastly, do what you have to do to make your dream happen. Hone your skills or go back to school if you must. No dream is unreachable and if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.

My dream is to work in sports. I want to meet new people, travel the country, help others and put my passion to work. I know the power sports can have in impacting people’s lives and I want to be a part of that. New York Mets General Manager, Omar Minaya once said, “We were born with baseball in our blood. It’s more than just a sport. It’s a passion. It’s an opera. It’s just a way of being. It’s almost like breathing.” I was born with sports in my blood. It’s part of what makes me the woman I am today. I know there will be obstacles and I know my dreams won’t come true with the snap of a finger, but I do know that I can make it happen. So for now I’m okay traveling from city to city and staying in local motels, because it will all be worth it when I finally get the call, “You’re goin to the Show.”

You can find Megan on Twitter: @MOgulnick

Onions, Hepburn, & Jr. High: Commencement Wisdom

One of my favorite pastimes in May and June is to read commencement speeches, and scout for anecdotes. Put together a diverse audience of parents, grads, and visitors, combine it with the need to be concise, interesting, and not "too preachy"--and voila--a unique challenge for even the most seasoned of speakers. It's a unique challenge. (Here's some advice on how to do it well if you ever find yourself in this position.) 


My favorite commencement speeches are ones that are short, funny, and provide concise "timeless" advice. Without further ado, here are three of my all-time favorite snippets of wit and wisdom.


During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth, author Louise Erdich worked as a cook for a campus dining hall. Here's an excerpt from her commencement address at her alma mater in which she recounts peeling 60 pounds of onions before going to class--and what the experience taught her.

My problemthat day was that I smelled like an onion.  You know how it is when you smell like an onion.  You can’t smell how badly you smell.  I walked into class and everybody moved away from me.  I was frozen with embarrassment.  Now, I was sure anyway, coming from North Dakota, that everyone was smarter than me.  And at the moment, not only were they smarter, but I was the only one who smelled like an onion.

Lesson?  If you smell like an onion, hold your nose and take notes.  I passed the class, but did not become a philosophy major.  Instead, I became a writer.  Even if people were smarter, I had the advantage of knowing onions.  I had stories.  Most important of all, I had humiliation.  If there’s one this we all have in common, it is absurd humiliation, which can actually become the basis of wisdom.

The experience caused me to invent The Law of the Onion.  It goes something like this:  you have to risk humiliation if you want to move forward.  But the Law of the Onion also states: don’t take things personally.  If other people’s opinions are not personal to you, good or bad, you have a kind of freedom to be who you are.  You have the freedom to do the work that is most meaningful to you.


ABC News Correspondent Cynthia McFadden was the first in her family to go to college. Her father worked for a telephone company in Maine. When she graduated from Columbia Law School, her dad told her: " just remember one thing little girl, you've struggled real hard to get this degree…. Now it is up to you to find work that gives you joy. Anyone can have a job they don't like. " Her advice: Make sure you don't.

In a 2008 Commencement address to Columbia Law School graduates, McFadden provides additional "life lessons" that may play out particularly well in a "down economy" (as many job offers today start out as contract or "temp to perm" assignments). This advice comes from a glamorous source--her friendship with Katherine Hepburn.

I was offered a new job. My first as an on-air reporter.   I wanted it desperately but was afraid I would fail. I went to Kate's (Katherine Hudson) for dinner. --- I told her--- "the good thing is he's offering me a three-year contract--- so even if I stink I am still employed!"

She looked at me with horror. "HEAVENS NO! You must sign for as short a time as you can. If you're good you want them to have to pay you a lot more money and if you're bad you want to be able to get the hell out. "

'When you are young," she continued, " you must always bet on yourself.' I signed for one year. I was good. And he did pay.

So ... Bet on yourself. Take a chance. I hate to quote a greeting card on an occasion as important as this one but here goes "what would you do if failure weren't an option." What indeed.


I'm often surprised by how much "grown-up" life resembles childhood. I've had jobs where corporate e-mails sent by senior leaders ended up in the wrong in-box--and the result has felt like a "passed note" gone bad, and I've worked for companies which have changed bathroom policies based on poor "seat behavior." And, never mind the fun of occasional office politics...

And with that, here's my all-time favorite piece of graduation advice, courtesy of Tom Brokaw's 2005 Commencement speech at Dartmouth College:

..You have been hearing all of your life about this moment - your first big step into what you have been called and told is the real world.  What, you may be asking yourself this morning, is this real life all about?  Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2005 at Dartmouth, it's not college - it's not high school.  Real life is junior high.

The world you're about to enter is filled with adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still be making silly mistakes, you'll have a temper tantrum, you'll have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, you'll say something dumb and at least once a week you'll wonder, "Will I ever grow up?"

You can change that.  In pursuit of passions, always be young.  In your relationship with others, always be a grown-up.  Set a standard and stay faithful to it.

What are your favorites? Share...

Lawn Mower Lessons on Motivation

Jason Alba, founder of Jibber Jobber, and I have something in common: We have a complicated relationship with our lawn mowers--and have only recently found peace with them.  Mower

Most of the time, I don't have any need for a lawn mower. After all, I live in Manhattan--and I would probably be issued with some sort of citation if I tried to use one where I live on the Upper West Side or in Riverside Park. But, I'm working remotely from New England for three weeks and have been reunited with my lawn mower in the process.

My lawn mower and I haven't spent any time together since the summer of 2005, and that summer it wasn't exactly quality time. The yard I mow is rather uneven has rich native soil, and includes rocks, a girl-made ditch, and an occasional mini-stream after it rains diverse terrain. In the past (when I spent summers in New England on a full-time basis), I was very good at putting off mowing the yard, and when I did I could only deal with it in spurts. I might mow the slightly soggy ground backyard first, before moving onto the annoyingly deceptive  gently sloping hill in the side yard. Either way, I always took a break as I mowed--and more frequently than not--this break was self-imposed when the mower cut off or I flooded it with gas. The mower had a habit of dying stalling out, even though it was practically brand new. I took it back to Sears once for repair, and the kind repair staff suggested that I might not be very good at it try again as they could not find any errors.

Like Jason Alba, I hated my lawn mower, and I really dreaded it.
After four or five bad afternoons, I picked up the phone and called a lawn care service. As I always say, it is good to know your strengths--and mowing clearly wasn't one of mine.

Fast forward four years, and I find myself in the same yard with very quick growing grass. The first week, a house guest was kind enough to volunteer. But after three days of rain last week and a healthy dose of sun, I found myself with a new crop of grass--and I was out of excuses.

To my amazement, I started it up, and it purred. I decided to keep a good thing going, and so I resolved to try something new: No breaks. It cooperated over rocks, bumpy ground and falling pine cones my varied terrain. It didn't stall out, and I finished in 45 minutes--instead of the hour and a half it used to take me.

Jason found that all his lawn mower needed was a few minutes of care and attention; I found that mine had simpler needs--it merely needed me to let it do what it was supposed to do without stopping. And here's where I find the moral in this adventure: time management. When I allowed myself to stop and take breaks in between my dreaded lawn mowing work, the lawnmower choked I stalled--and had a harder time finishing what I needed to do.

My lawnmower experience reminded me of a conversation I once had with one of my favorite people of all time a former colleague, the late Mary Morris Heiberger (co-author of the Academic Job Search Handbook). Mary loved to write and was a prolific writer, but occasionally she procrastinated had a hard time getting started.

Mary's trick to overcome writer's block: Take ten minutes and force yourself to do the thing you are putting off. Let yourself stop after ten minutes. She said, "most of the time, I keep going...because it's getting started that can be the hard part."

Do you have any tales of struggles similar to the ones I've had with my lawnmower? What gets you unstuck? Share.

On Mentoring & Following Up On Ideas: Lessons from Leonardo DaVinci

One of my favorite places to hang out online is Career Hub. I'm privileged to be one of the site's contributing authors, and have found that I enjoy learning from my colleagues as much as I do writing my own pieces.Davinci

One of my fellow contributors, Sital Ruparelia of 6 Figure Career Management, recently published a post on lessons to take away from Leonardo DaVinci.

His tips in brief:

1. Don't be defined by your job title

2. Be clear about your unique talents and transferable skills

3. Focus on the results of your talents
4. Be ok with screwing up
5. Open your mind

As I recently attendeda “Models” exhibition which showcased physical representations of DaVinci’s concepts based on his journal writings, Sital's post inspired me to share a few additional observations.

First a quick note on what I saw. The “models” exhibit featured hands-on models of DaVinci’s ideas—all constructed by modern artists and woodworkers in Florence.  The models are a comprehensive collection of ideas and inventions—from ball bearings and wind motion detectors to ideas that never quite worked as DaVinci envisioned--my favorite among these were "skis" that he believed would allow people to walk on water.  (This exhibit has been staged in cities around the world; click here for a gallery of some of the “models” developed by Florence artisans. ) 

In his post, Sital provides five terrific lessons we can all learn from DaVinci—from refusing to be defined by your job title to focusing on the results of your talents, being okay with screwing up, and keeping an open mind.  Here are two strategies you can use to put these lessons into action.

As you pursue your interests and explore possibilities, write them down! Leonardo's journals have made a "priceless" contribution to society; keeping track of your ideas can help you create your own solutions to problems. Here's a great book by Columbia University Professor William Duggan that explains how the "aha" moment happens, and how you can spark your own creative intuition:

Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Intuition

I had the good fortune to hear Professor Duggan speak last year, and he made an analogy that the mind is like a file cabinet; one of the elements of strategic intuition (or solving problems with innovative solutions) is recall. Keep a journal of your ideas, and your mental "filing cabinet" will be naturally more accessible!

Find a mentor, and stick with them--even when you've learned all you think you need to.

DaVinci may have had innate skills, but he also had training from the masters. At age 14, he became an apprentice to Verrachio, one of the premier artists of his time. Through his work with Verrachio and other apprentices, Leonardo was exposed to a vast pool of talent and technical skills--and the opportunity to learn everything from drafting and painting to mechanics and metallurgy. At age 20, DaVinci became a Master in the Guild of St. Luke, and subsequently was able to set up his own workshop. But he continued to collaborate with Verrocchio. As I see it, here’s the lesson in this: Long-term mentors can help you throughout your career, not just in the short term.

This is what I see in DaVinci’s work, do you have any additional observations to share?