There’s no shame in jumping from job to job now

Well, there probably still is somewhere. If you’re in the legal profession, maybe it’s still frowned on. If you’re a footballer, maybe – no, I can’t even think of an example, I know that little about sport. If you’re a writer who can’t think of football analogies, though, then it’s fine to get out of that sport website and go somewhere else.

We all used to be told we had to stay in jobs for a decent amount of time. I did it myself. I stayed with one terrible job for exactly a year because I thought less looked bad and would hurt my career chances. It was a bad year. But it had the benefit that I then appreciated every good job I got and ultimately it probably helped me down the line toward going freelance.

There’s just no way to know whether I was right to stay or should’ve got out of Dodge the first chance I got. There’s no way unless I am a carefully-chosen representative sample of many people in many jobs across many careers.

Everyone from your mother to your mentor has advice about the best way to switch jobs. But how can you know whom to trust? Especially since what was true in the job market 20 years ago — even two years ago — is not necessarily gospel now. And the market is constantly changing.

Consider the power dynamic between candidates and employers, for example. Though it differs across industries and regions, and is dependent on the health of the economy, in the past few years, experts have described the current labor market as “candidate-driven.” Job seekers hold more power than employers, a trend that seems to be deepening.

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Setting the Record Straight on Switching Jobs – Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review (10 July 2015)

That graphic was created by Harvard Business Review and you can see it embiggened along with other data in the original article. Read the full piece for this plus an interesting examination of the age-old certainty that you should never tell your current boss that you’re looking to leave.

Becoming Steve Jobs

Nobody’s perfect. But some people are very interesting. I’d have said both of those things to you about Steve Jobs a long time ago but I’d also have added that I wasn’t that fussed. I’m not sure that I am now but if nothing else, that man got stuff done. You can well argue that it was all the people around him, but he got many or most of them and he got them doing the things they got done. He managed them, at the very least, and reportedly inspired them too.

Actual inspiration. It does happen. I have been inspired by people. I had a natter this afternoon that has set me off writing something I Do Not Have Time For So There but I will do.

But I’ve also had just the smallest, tiniest taste of what it is like managing people and I don’t want to go there again. I think I’ll have to, but I also think this time I’ll get to pick the people. Wish me luck.

Becoming Steve Jobs is a biography with a purpose: while it charts the Apple guy’s life, it does so to examine very specifically how he began as this wild child and ended as this venerated industry genius. Not how he got his ideas, so to speak, not what he did with his talents or his time, but how he worked with others and became great at it.

Or at least mostly great. Usually great.

The book is not the hymn of praise to Jobs that you might expect after Apple staff keep talking about it: instead it is very clear about his reprehensible traits.

Some of those you know, especially if you made it through the boring official biog, but there is plenty that is new in this book and I want to cautiously recommend it. If you’re an Apple fan, go get it, you were going to anyway. If you’re not, then go to Amazon and have a look at the Peek Inside stuff, see what you think. There is much to enjoy here and much to learn from, too.

Though I did just say the official biog is boring. If that’s down one end of the scale of biographies, there is one that is at the other end – it’s much better than either the official Jobs biog and it’s better than this new one. Unfortunately, it’s not about Jobs. It’s Leander Kahney’s Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products.

Such a good read.

Know when you need help

When the Wright brothers made their historic first flight in 1903, lots of other inventors were trying to fling their own shoddy little planes into the air. And in 1977, when Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple II, there were a zillion other nerds working on building a personal computer.

But Woz beat them to it, and Jobs knew how to sell it.

The Apple II was the product that turned Apple into Apple. It was the iPhone of its era, the product that redefined every machine like it that came afterward.

Its real magic was Wozniak’s minimalism. He integrated many technologies and components that no one else had put together in the same device, and he did it with as few parts as possible. It was, as Wozniak wrote in his autobiography, “the first low-cost computer which, out of the box, you didn’t have to be a geek to use.”

But as genius as Wozniak was, the Apple II almost didn’t make it out of his brain and into a product that the rest of the world could use.

Apple’s first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez – Feature – TechRepublic

Read the full piece.

In this week’s newsletter… November 28, 2014

What to do when you get things wrong. Say so. Right away. Such as me, for instance, I got a big thing wrong and I admit it right at the top of this week’s newsletter.

Sorry? A man getting something wrong – and admitting it? Songs will be sung of this day.

Also, a couple of Black Friday deals that shouldn’t really happen in the UK but do plus a terribly absorbing video summarising Steve Jobs’ advice about business. Recorded the day after he died, it’s a speech by Guy Kawasaki who abandoned whatever regular talk he was supposed to give and instead talked about Jobs. It’s very Apple-centric as you’d imagine but each word is useful for us whatever our work is.

Plus, it has a comparatively off-the-cuff feel about it so rather than a studied presentation, it feels like a chat.

All that in the newsletter which you can read here and then sign up to get your own copy each week.

Write like you’re the CEO

There’s an interview doing the rounds that apparently features John Sculley talking about Steve Jobs and Apple. (Previously on Sculley… Jobs hires him, they’re best pals, then they’re not, Sculley fires Jobs. Now read on.)

I say the interview apparently says this because, on the one hand, I haven’t watched it yet – I thought we could do that together – and on the other because every bleedin’ interview with that man is about exactly that same topic.

What I’m interested in more, from our productivity point of view, is how Sculley attempted to shape his story when he was still in the thick of it. He wrote a book called Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple which at the time I really enjoyed. Later I said that to someone and they looked at me exactly the way I would now. Because of them, I got the book back off my shelf, opened it up, shut it again.

It’s not a very good book.

But here’s a guy attempting to put his career and its single most notable moment into a shape, a narrative that ultimately showed him in the best light. I don’t care whether he succeeded or whether it was even possible, I do care that we could try the same thing.

Why not? You are CEO of your work, I am of mine, let’s write our autobiographies in such a way that we make sense and most importantly that our successes get better coverage than our failures.

I’m not sure I’m really advocating that we write 100,000-word books about us, I have limits to my ego – says the man with two blogs, a speaking tour and previously a podcast – but that bit with the successes and failures could be big.

I forget things I do that are good. If I pull something off then no matter how hard it was for me, it’s done now so I know it’s easy for everybody else and I undervalue my own effort. But I just went a bit bombastic for a second, wrote about my towering glory and that time only last night when I successfully roasted a chicken at 1am, I could feel good about myself.

Possibly also silly, but.

Here’s that Sculley interview if you’re sitting comfortably.

Writers’ notes: how to write a CV

We are taught – if we’re taught at all – that we write CVs in a certain way with chronology of work, every detail in sequence with gaps explained. References. Interests.


Do this instead:

1) No modesty. There’s a difference between boasting and going too far the other way. Of avoiding boasting by instead lying by omission. You got on the New York Times Bestseller List? Say so. It’s a fact. Don’t qualify it (all US book writers were on strike that week), just state it.

2) Nuts to academic good practice: you are not applying for a university post, everything they tell you to do on CVs is wrong. Nobody gives a damn about how you’re interested in ballroom fish photography, they want to know you can do the job. Tell them that by leading with your latest work and then follow with the next most relevant thing. Divide it up into sections if that means you can group two long-apart events without looking strange.

3) Remember that the job of the CV is to get you an interview. Don’t put so much in there that they can effectively interview you on the page. The CV gets you in the door, nothing more than that.

4) Be plain, be simple, don’t go over a page.

5) References. Let them ask for those. Have them ready if you can and if you must but nobody needs them to take a look at you.

And that’s all a CV is for. Now it’s up to you with your writing and your pitching in the interview.

Your boss can read your mind, a bit, with some help

Imagine one of your managers walks into their subordinate’s office and says, “Our data analysis predicts that you will soon get restless and think of leaving us, so we want to make you an offer that our data shows has retained others like you.” Would your employees welcome the offer, marveling at the value of your HR analytics? Or, might they see images of Big Brother, and be repelled by a company snooping on the data they generate as they work? Predictive analytics can enable a customized employment value proposition that maximizes mutual benefit for organizations and their talent; but at what point do predictive analytics become too creepy?

Predict What Employees Will Do Without Freaking Them Out – John Boudreau, Harvard Business Review (5 September, 2014)

I think predictive analytics are creepy, full stop. I’m just okay with it up to the point when some bloke – you know it’d be a man – says anything to me like “Our data analysis predicts that you will soon get restless” and says it with a straight face.

But if figuring out that someone is going to leave means bosses take steps to keep you happy, I’m good with that. The full piece goes on to show that it’s worth these company’s time and investment in analytical software. Unfortunately, it also goes on to creep me out more:

Consider this object lesson from marketing. Pregnancy is an event that changes otherwise stubborn purchasing habits, so retailers want to know about a pregnancy as early as possible. Duhigg’s New York Times story reports that Target marketing analysts built a predictive algorithm to identify pregnant customers based on their purchasing habits and other demographic information. They sent those customers ads for pregnancy related products. What could be wrong with helping pregnant women be aware of products or services they need, as early as possible?

Apparently, women responded negatively if it was obvious that they received pregnancy ads before they revealed their pregnancy. They responded more positively if they received “an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers.” Duhigg reports one executive saying, “as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons…As long as we don’t spook her, it works.” Duhigg also reports that Target company executives said the article contained “inaccurate information,” so the story may exaggerate, but the lesson remains: Effective predictive analytics depends on how real people react, not just on the elegance of the analytics.

Let’s just repeat a sentence there: “Apparently, women responded negatively if it was obvious that they received pregnancy ads before they revealed their pregnancy.” I am torn between saying “Well, duh” or “You think?”

It’s interesting to me that these quotes are from the same Harvard Business Review article but HBR didn’t spot the connection. If a marketing firm can accurately predict when you’re pregnant, so can a personnel department. If given the same data anyway. So you’re at work, you haven’t told anyone you’re pregnant – because you’re never going to tell anyone before the first 12 weeks, are you? – but your boss knows. I don’t like where that’s going.

When you’ve got that new job, do this

Last month, as you might have heard, I started a new job.

That’s Angela Ahrendts, previously world famous (in the retail and business world) for being the CEO of Burberry. I hadn’t even heard of Burberry. Now she’s world famous (in the computing world as well as retail and business) for being the new Senior Vice President of Apple Retail. If you don’t happen to know who runs what in Apple, I commend you on your excellent life choices. But this is an interesting position because it’s been done so extraordinarily well that it transformed Apple into the success it is – and it’s been done so badly that there were visible dents in that success.

Now Ahrendts is in charge and everything I read impresses me. But today what I read is nothing to do with Apple, it’s her writing on LinkedIn about what it is like taking a very big change in one’s employer or one’s career.

I am by no means an expert at these transitions, but I’ve always tried to be consistent in how I run, exit and begin in a new business. I thought I would share a few professional and personal insights which are helping me adapt to a new sector, culture and country. (Silicon Valley can feel like a country unto itself!)

…Also, trust your instincts and emotions. Let them guide you in every situation; they will not fail you. Never will your objectivity be as clear or your instincts sharper than in the first 30-90 days. Cherish this time and fight the urge to overthink. Real human dialogue and interaction where you can feel and be felt will be invaluable as your vision, enabled by your instincts, becomes clearer. In honor of the great American poet Maya Angelou, always remember, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I would argue this is even more important in the early days.

Starting Anew – Angela Ahrendts, LinkedIn (23 June 2014)

Her full piece isn’t a huge amount longer but it’s worth your time.

What unemployed people Google and what that tells us

I’m not sure this is a wonderful indictment of human society but if the number of searches for pornography goes up, it can mean that the searchers are back in employment. Out of it, they were spending their time searching for jobs. Once they’ve got one, they’re searching for, well, anyway, indeed. (Have you hired someone recently? Don’t ask them.)

Google found that rising unemployment was not only linked to phrases such as “companies that are hiring.” It was also closely correlated to searches for new technology (“free apps”), entertainment (“guitar scales beginner”) and adult content (“jailbait teen”). The company said its data can improve the accuracy of standard estimates of economic data in a current month as much as 10 percent.

At the University of Michigan, [University of Michigan’s Matthew] Shapiro and his colleagues scoured more than 19 billion tweets over two years for references to unemployment, hunting for phrases such as “axed,” “pink slip” and “downsized.” They indexed the findings and compared them to the government’s weekly tally of people applying for unemployment benefits for the first time.

Their results are remarkably similar — and where they do diverge, the Twitter index may be more reliable. Computer malfunctions and the government shutdown last year distorted the official numbers, while the trends in Shapiro’s index held firm.

The Weird Google Searches of the Unemployed and What They Say about the Economy – Washington Post (30 May 2014)

Read more of what this analysis can find and remember that BBC newsrooms now regularly have rolling displays of what people are searching for. I’ve always assumed that was an edited list, I never saw anything untoward. But maybe the only people who read BBC News Online are unemployed.

Jeff Goldblum and Steve Jobs on connecting to the internet

Inspired by the video of today’s teenagers reacting to how the internet was in 1990 and also by how today is WWDC day where Apple announces something or other, let me show you two things.

One is the Apple way of getting online back in the olden days:

And then there’s this. This is the Apple announcement in 1999 when Steve Jobs demonstrated wifi. It’s now impossible to imagine there was a time we didn’t have this so, strangely, it’s also impossible to conceive how jolting this Jobs presentation was. As ever, wifi existed before, but as ever, you wouldn’t know it from how no other firm got us using it so completely.