Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2004 /18 Kislev 5765

Marty Nemko

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Straight talk about your career | People place a premium on being positive. That extends to career advice. As a result, I believe that important negative statements go unsaid. I'll remedy that here.

Many people fail in their careers because they're lazy, yes lazy.
Psychotherapists may make those people feel better by labeling their laziness "fear of failure" or blaming it on their good-for-nothing parents, but I've concluded that most of the time, the core reason people don't land a good job is laziness. We all fear failure, but the not-lazy feel the fear and do it anyway. Ask yourself honestly: Have you worked hard enough to find a good job or succeed on the one you already have?

Procrastination is career cancer. You may have first acquired the habit of procrastinating in school. You waited until the last minute to do an assignment or study for a test, the adrenaline rush motivated you, and lo and behold, you got a good grade. Soon, you became dependent on the adrenaline to get you through an assignment.

But there's no grade inflation in the real world. Procrastination is career cancer. If you must do a task, please start it as soon as it's assigned. Be aware of the moment of truth: when you're deciding, consciously or unconsciously, whether to start the task or to procrastinate. If you say you'll start it later, chances are you won't until the last minute, at which point, you probably won't have time to do a quality job.

When you reach a hard part, struggle for no more than one minute. The odds are that additional struggling won't help. At one-minute mark, decide to get help or that there's a way to complete the task without doing the hard part. People tend to procrastinate hard tasks because they fear they'll never figure out that hard part-that's agonizing. The one-minute struggle technique makes tough tasks less painful.

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Unless you're smart, driven, and well-connected, do what is commonly loved (e.g., the arts, media, biotech, fashion) and you risk starvation. If you're a more average person and your passion is commonly held, do what you love as a hobby.

Recognize that owning a home with a big mortgage usually hurts your life more than it helps. It often forces you into a career that pays well to compensate for its not being intrinsically rewarding. Spending a lifetime in an unrewarding career usually hurts your life more than a nice house helps it.

Higher education is America's most overrated product. Yes, if you do school much better than you do life, school may be your best bet for career enhancement, but other people should avoid a long back-to-school stint. Consider foregoing State U let alone Private U for You U: a combination of mentorships, articles, books, workshops, and conferences.

Networking isn't for everyone. Yes, 2/3 of jobs are acquired by networking. But most of those are obtained by natural-born schmoozers or by already well-employed people who network their way into even better jobs. If you're currently not well-employed or tend to not be instantly likeable, and especially if your network is small and unlikely to help you, you could end up homeless before networking lands you a job. Focus your job search on finding lots of on-target ads to answer and doing a great job of answering them.

The musts for successful self-employment
Self-employment makes ever more sense in an era in which you usually must be a star to land a good non-offshoreable job. Self-employment enables you to instantly go from schlepper to CEO. However, to avoid failing you (or your partner) must:

1. Be a self-starter, not a procrastinator.

2. Be smart enough to quickly solve real-world problems.

3. Have a nose for buying low and selling high.

4. Make a good first impression.

Even more important:

5. Keep your business simple: selling one high-profit-margin, not-faddish product or service that requires a small investment. One example: Help website owners drive more traffic to their site.

6. Don't innovate; replicate. Most innovations fail-at great expense. So, only wealthy individuals and corporations can afford to risk innovation. Most people are wise to copy a successful business in a different location or to buy a franchise. Interview at least a half dozen franchisees before signing on the dotted line.

7. Hire smart, fire early. Put the time into hiring a great person. If, in the first day or two, you sense he or she is not working out, fire the person fast. Significant improvement on the job is rare and each day you wait increases the risk of having to endure a painful wrongful termination suit.

Lest this column's advice all be negative, consider my father's story. He spent his teenage years in concentration camps. When I was a teenager, I asked him, "How come you never seem angry about that." He said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Martin, never look back; always look forward." We all have had bad things in our lives: parents or spouses who abused us, bad luck that impeded us, weaknesses our genetics perpetrated on us. But the people who spend time looking back, playing victim, have much sadder lives than those who never look back; always look forward.

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11/09/04: Bush voters may not be so stupid
11/05/04: Career Lessons from the Bush Win
10/20/04: In Search of a candidate I can be passionate about
10/14/04: Better than a management book
09/29/04: ‘Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work’
09/14/04: How to tell what career you should choose
08/23/04: Nemko's Rules: A contrarian approach to career and job finding
07/29/04: Are you lazy?
06/17/04: We already send too many students to college
06/11/04: The case against work/life balance
05/13/04: The Dumbing of America and how to make it (and you) smarter
04/26/04: Do you talk too much?
12/08/03: How Open-Minded Are You, Really?
11/05/03: Driven to an early grave
08/18/03: The Truth About Teaching
05/12/03: Today's #1 hirer
04/30/03: What Are You Good At, Really?
04/10/03: Career advice I'd give my child
03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
02/11/03: The World's Shortest Course on Managing Diversity
02/03/03: The Good Employer
01/29/03: What do you want to be when you grow up?
01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko