Archive for November, 2011

Hiring & Managing BAs – a Podcast on The BA Coach site

I recently recorded a podcast with @theBACoach on hiring & managing Business Analysts. Feel free to check it out and offer feedback or suggestions!
http://www.thebacoach.com/managing-and-hiring-business-analysts/#comment-320

November 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

Start Looking for Your Next Job Now

Things have changed over the years. You can no longer count on having a job with the same company for your entire career.  According to a survey from the US Department of Labor in 2010, only 20% of employees had been with their employer for 5-9 years, and only 10% had been with their employer greater than 20 years.  If you are in the workforce right now, assume that you will change employers at some point.

My suggestion is – start getting ready now.

There are steps you can take to be ready for the time when you want or need to look for a new position whether within your existing organization or with a new company.

1. Keep a “What have you done lately” file – Keep a list of your accomplishments in your current position.  These accomplishments will come in handy when you need to update your resume (facts/numbers speak on resumes) or prepare for an interview.  Let’s face it, when you need to think of these things, it’s hard to recall anything with precision.  Jot down a few notes about what you did, who you worked with, and the overall impact to the business.

Example: Reduced call handle time for customer service by 15 minutes on average (300 calls daily) by analyzing call routing system.  Allowed business unit to avoid hiring additional staff member at $60,000 annual salary.

2.  The Master File of Job Stuff – How annoying is it when a job application asks for your 3rd supervisor’s work phone number and email? Such is life when applying for a job so prepare now! Keep a master file of this type of information.  I would suggest keeping a list of:

  • Supervisor’s name, phone number, and email
  • HR contact information
  • Work address
  • Starting salary and bonus opportunity
  • Training classes that you took
  • Performance reviews/ratings

3.  Have a roadmap – This one is a little tougher as it really requires deep thought.  What do you want to be when you grow-up?  Even if you don’t know exactly where you want to be when you retire at age 50 (a girl’s got to dream) – you likely know what other positions interest you.  What’s the next logical step for you?  What skills do you need to work on to prove that you can handle that role?  Have a list of those skills and review it often.  Talk to your manager about it so they can help you find ways to improve on that skill while in your current position.  And learning is not always OTJ (on the job) – you can also find ways to gain new skills while volunteering or by paying to take a class (if you aren’t willing to pay for your career growth – why should your employer?).

4.  Look at postings – Waiting to look at job postings until you need to find a new position is not a good idea.  Expectations for a role can vary by employer.  Do not wait until you want to find a new position to find out that other employers are looking for a particular skill.  Using sites like LinkedIn can also help you see how often a company is hiring which might give you a perspective on turnover or growth opportunities.  I love the “follow” feature on LinkedIn as I can pick a few companies that I am particularly interested in working with and watch their updates.

5.  A list of questions – When I interview a candidate, I look forward to a great two-way conversation.  I have information to share with them, and questions to ask them.  I expect that they have the same for me… but sometimes you get that person who says “Nope, you’ve covered things well” when I ask if they have any questions.  Really?  Wow.  Nothing?  Why not make a list of questions now?  What things do you love about your current job?  What questions could you ask to find out if this potential job may have this same element?  What do you hate about your current (or past) job?  Think of ways to find out if that situation may exist in your potential job.  If you think about it, it is really amazing that you accept a position with an employer after an hour or two of conversation in an interview.  They are taking a shot on you – but you are taking a shot on them.  Both of you are accountable to come to the interview prepared to make sure this is the best fit possible.

6.  Do Not Work on your Resume – Did not expect this one, did you?  Do not spend a ton of time on your resume.  Build a solid shell of a resume.  Pick a style/format that fits you and best illustrates your experience.  Stop at this point.  It may sound like a lot of work but with each job you apply for, you should customize your resume.  Find accomplishments (see #1) that align well to the position that you are applying for and add them to your resume.  If you do #1, your resume will be a breeze.  You should also pick out a cover letter template that works for you – and plan on spending some time customizing it to any position that you apply for.

Hopefully these ideas help inspire you to start looking for your new job now.  It may seem like a lot of work but if you spend a few hours getting your files setup, and then make a plan to update them on a quarterly basis, you can be in great shape!  The hard-work will pay off!

You only have one career – and if statistics are true, you will have many employers.  It is up to you to make it the best it can be.

November 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm 2 comments

Not Now – What Else?

I am addicted to The West Wing.  I have probably seen every episode 5 times.  I have recently bought Season 2 and found a clip (Lame Duck Congress) so very relevant to problems that I see everywhere I turn anymore. Sorry but no YouTube clip – couldn’t find one.

The White House staff is in the Oval Office after a discussion with the President.  They turn to Leo McGarry, the Chief of Staff, and he asks them each for what else they’ve got for the President.  As each staffer says their topic, Leo says, “Not now.  What else?”.

When was the last time we stopped to ask ourselves when bringing something up or taking on a new task was the right thing to do at that moment?  It is hard.  Everyone wants to do good work, and when you see a fire burning, you want to put it out.  But wait – a fire in the trash can at an empty desk really doesn’t deserve your attention if the microwave in the break room is blowing up, does it?  Again, it is difficult to turn away but we must train ourselves and our organizations to prioritize.

In my Human Resources class last night, we discussed staffing.  The professor talked to us about how to determine when it is time to hire based on the demand for labor versus the supply.  If you have more demand than supply, you hire someone – simple enough.  Then he pulled up slides to talk about what you do when you have more labor than you have demand.

Seriously.

When was the last time your organization had more LABOR than DEMAND?  I know it happens but these days, in most organizations, it does not.  Everyone is doing more with less which means it is even more important that the MORE that you are doing is the right MORE. The tasks we are addressing should be a blend of strategic (move the needle) and tactical (keep the lights on).  They should benefit our Customers, our Shareholders, and/or our Employees.  And I know this is difficult to believe, but we should be able to estimate their value and be held accountable for it.

There is always tomorrow.  Tasks that have value to the organization but little additional value if started at this very moment should be added to the list of things to do.  The next time your team plans out their quarterly efforts, you can prioritize where this task falls into line.  The same goes with even having a conversation.  Last time I checked, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Even when someone brings up something interesting but currently irrelevant, maybe we need to say “That’s a great point – we should talk about that at next month’s meeting” or be even more straight-forward “Great point – let’s talk about this at a later date – it doesn’t belong on our radar right now”.

Personally, I am horrible about doing this.  My to-do list lately has been 2 pages long, in two columns per page.  I realized that I was 1) taking on things that did not add immediate value, and 2) mixing my immediate tasks with 30-60 day tasks.  So I re-grouped.  I still like to have my immediate tasks on my to-do list (first page of my notepad so it’s in front of me), but I have the back page of my notepad dedicated to 30-60 day tasks.  When I have 15 minutes because a meeting wrapped up early, my focus goes to my immediate list.  And when I have an idea of something new to take on, I stop and think about whether it really deserves to take a spot on the list.  Does it add as much value as the others?

Not many organizations have a Chief of Staff like Leo McGarry but we do have people in leadership positions.  It would be great if those leaders challenged us as to whether it is the right time to take on something else.  Or that we’ve assigned the work to the right person and am not just adding another task to them which will cause other tasks/deliverables to suffer?

I dare you to go to work tomorrow (or even try it at home) and when someone says that you should do something – ask them of the business value of doing it now.  Or when someone on your team comes to you wanting to take on a new activity – ask them why they picked now versus another time, and what other tasks will pay a price.  Maybe we’ll start to see a trend of people saying “Not now.  What else?”.

November 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Attending a Conference 101

I am just leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida after attending the Building Business Capabilities conference.  I had a fantastic time and am leaving with so many ideas and new friends.  But I had never attended a conference like this in another city over multiple days so I also learned a lot about what to do to prepare and maximize the opportunity – so I thought I would share some of my experiences and seek input from others so that my next conference can be even better!

1. Wear comfy but outstanding shoes – Everyone probably knows that comfortable shoes are a must but I learned that by wearing shoes that stood out a bit (patent red leather with a slight heel), people would recognize me due to my shoes.  Three times I had people come up and say “weren’t you in my last session – I recognize your shoes”.  Who would have thought!  But it was a great way for people to introduce themselves to me and everyone seemed to enjoy making Wizard of Oz references once they found out that I was also from Kansas.

2.  Be ready with a story – I met many people at the conference, and thanks to Twitter, business cards, and stories, I will probably remember half of them in the weeks to come.  Twitter & business cards are tangible but the people who I will easily remember are the ones who shared great stories.  Whether it was something funny about their conference experience or a story about their workplace and how they might use something from a session that we both attended, their stories were interesting and quirky – and very memorable.

3.  Research your surroundings – Before you arrive in a new city, use Yelp or another app to find a well-rated hot-spot that you & your new friends could visit if the conference turns dull.  You can also use the hotel concierge if you have one – but why not go prepared?

4. Schedule Optimization – Got this tip from Sarah Knudson (I remember her name because of a story….) – she said that she reviews the presentations in advance (assuming they are available online) to see which presenters appear to be speaking from their slides as they are full of content.  She skips those sessions (unless extremely interesting) and attends other sessions that appeal to her with less content-rich slides.  Those speakers are likely to share great information in their sessions that you can’t pick up from their slides.

5.  Break! – I found myself overwhelmed quickly with information, and we rarely had more than 10 minutes between sessions.  I found a spot in my schedule each day where I could skip a session and find a quiet place to sit.  I used this time to re-focus, jot notes about people I had met or sessions.  I really wish the conference planners considered this feeling of being overwhelmed when planning – but that’s a post for another day!

6.  Take a friend – I traveled to this conference alone but other people who I met brought a friend/co-worker with them.  They were strategic about which sessions they each attended to maximize their overall exposure.  While bringing a fun friend would be tempting – bring someone who might take good notes or retain information they hear!

7.  Output – Before you arrive at the conference, consider your objective carefully.  What is your goal with the information that you will obtain?  Are you enriching your own knowledge?  Planning to share with others?  If you consider your goal(s) in advance, you can go into each presentation with a plan.  For instance, if I’m only going to enrich myself, I may take a few notes about things that only I care about.  I may grab only a single handout.  If I am going for the goal of sharing with others, I may be more detailed in my notes, take a few pictures (if able), and grab a couple of the handouts.

8.  Location, Location, Location – If you can, get to the conference location before it starts.  Scout out the restrooms, drink machines, coffee shop (assuming you are in a hotel with one), and the pool (again, assumption about being in a hotel).  All of these locations will come in handy in-between sessions or if you plan to take a longer break.  Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel hosting the conference (I didn’t), you can still take a break to chat with some new friends by the pool after an interesting session.

9. Know Your Speakers – Take some time before you leave to research the presenters at your conference.  Recognize their faces if you can and know a little about their history.  This may help you decide which sessions to attend but also to strike up a conversation while mingling in the vendor exhibit.

Hope those tips are helpful to anyone getting ready to attend their first conference.  What tips would you add?  I’d love to know as I think this will be just the first of many conferences that I will be attending if they are all as valuable as this one!

November 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm Leave a comment


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