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Book review: We are the new radicals

We Are the New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World

By Julia Moulden

McGraw Hill, $26.95

With a 40th birthday fast approaching, there’s a voice in my head I can’t tune out. Maybe you’re hearing the same voice too.

The voice isn’t telling me to trade in the minivan for a Ferrari 360 Spider. Or drain the kids’ RESPs to do an Eliot Spitzer at the Sheraton Hamilton.

No, this voice is reminding me that life is short and the end credits can roll before you’re ready.

My dad was 50 when he died. One week, my parents were checking out dream homes in cottage country. The next week, my dad was in the ER. Six days later, he was taken off life support in the intensive care unit.

My dad didn’t make peace with a life cut short. He was furious. Felt cheated. And he regretted putting big plans on hold for a post-retirement second life.

The voice also reminds me not to take my family for granted and points out all the times when I forget to walk the talk. The voice also reminds me I’m a very lucky dad, thanks to the remarkable team at the McMaster Children’s Hospital who saved our boy wonder and restored my faith in happy endings.

And the voice is making it impossible to ignore all the kids in our community who are swamped with adult-sized problems. It’s bad enough that they’re going to bed hungry. Even worse, they’re falling asleep unsure if anyone gives a damn and waking up with smaller dreams and a little less hope.

So the voice is making it tough to concentrate on the daily grind and be anything but intolerant of ego trips and power plays and indifferent to the prospect of promotions and bigger paycheques.

So what’s it going to be, asks the voice. Make more money or make a difference? The clock’s ticking.

Sound familiar? Author Julia Moulden says there’s a fast emerging movement of folks who are transforming themselves and reinventing their work to serve the greater good. North America’s 80 million Baby Boomers are leading the charge, with Gen Xers and Nexters getting in on the act too as emerging New Radicals.

"We’ve been building our careers for decades — many of us doing variations on a theme for a very long time," says Moulden. "The work can’t possibly be as interesting as it once was. Even those of us who got dream jobs hit the wall at some point.

"Now, at mid-life, boomers like me are lifting our heads, looking around, and wondering what comes next. We want something more from our work. We want it to reflect our values and to help us make a difference in the world."

New Radicals are applying what they’ve learned in the first half of their working lives to try something new and step off the typical career trajectory. According to Moulden, New Radicals fall into three categories: activists who serve the less fortunate and make the jump from the private sector to the nonprofit world, entrepreneurs who launch new businesses where making a difference is an integral part of their work, and innovators who do an inside job on influencing their organization.

"Pretty much everyone wants to start today," says Moulden about aspiring New Radicals. "But the truth is few people step directly into a New Radical role. Even if they get a ‘bolt out of the blue’ idea, there is still much to be done."

Moulden says you’ll spend months or possibly years working through three phases of research. First, you’ll take stock of what you have to offer. What skills and experience can you bring to the table? Second, you’ll get introspective and figure out what really matters to you and ignites your passion. And third, you’ll look around and identify the most pressing issues of our times and look at how you might help make a difference.

Expect delays, roadblocks and folks who’ll wonder if you’re having a mid-life meltdown.

"One cautionary note," says Moulden. "New Radicals soon discover that not everyone is thrilled about what they are doing.

"One of my clients told me outright that she wasn’t going to inform her family and friends. Only her husband would know what she was planning.

"If they knew, they’d only try to talk me out of it, and I can’t cope with that right now. I have more than enough anxiety to go around.’"

But the anxiety and soul searching are well worth the effort.

According to Moulden, there are 10 benefits to becoming a New Radical. You’ll change someone’s life. You’ll change your own life. Your skills are needed. You’ll discover the power of synchronicity. Your view of the world will change. You’ll influence those around us. You’ll meet exceptional people. You’ll feel connected to something bigger. You’ll play a part in saving the world. And you’ll die happy.

So if you’re hearing that voice, keep your eyes open, your senses on full alert and let Moulden help you find your way in doing work that matters and makes a difference.

Ways to blow a job interview

Courtesy of CareerBuilder.com and a survey of 3,000 U.S. hiring managers.

When asked about the most common mistakes made by candidates during job interviews

  • 51% of managers said inappropriate dress
  • 49% said negative comments about previous employer
  • 48% said interviewees who appeared disinterested

Rounding out the list of missteps guaranteed to not get you hired were arrogance, evasiveness and poor questions.

Working for the Boss

Saw Bruce Springsteen last week in Hamilton.

Stood on the floor of Copps Coliseum. Unobstructed view. 30 feet out and just past the Pit. Surrounded by diehard Springsteen fans.

Great, great show.

Bruce seemed to be having a blast. Played off the audience. And he worked hard to give us our money’s worth.

So what if everyone brought to their jobs the same passion, professionalism, energy and enthusiasm? And what if we left our clients / customers / coworkers feeling the same way that 18,000 of us ticket-holders felt that night on the way back home?

Book review: Good in a room

Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience

By Stephanie Palmer

Doubleday, $27.95

I’ll let you in on a secret from the other side of the interview table.

Within a minute of walking into an interview, we know if you’re the one. The one we can’t wait to hire. The one we can’t wait to have join our team. The one we’ll be calling first thing tomorrow morning. The next 40 minutes are a formality. You had us at hello.

At the same time, we know in under 60 seconds if you’re not the one. The one we’re not going to hire. The one we’ll call at the end of the week and say that while you impressed the hiring committee, another candidate had more of the skills we were looking for. And we’ll be running through our 12 interview questions as a formality because you can’t scrub an interview just a minute in.

This isn’t about your looks. What you’re wearing. Or who put in a good word for you before the interview.

It’s about whether we like you. Whether we can see ourselves working together and getting along. Whether you’re someone we want to take back to the office and introduce to the boss.

And we can pretty much figure that out by how someone walks into a room and breaks the ice within the first 60 seconds.

A surprising number of job candidates enter the room with all the enthusiasm of a dead man walking. Or they seem annoyed at having to take time out of their day and prove they’re as brilliant as they appear on their resume.

Either way, there’s no smile. No eye contact. No personality shines through. No warmth. No small talk that brings welcome relief from the monotony of having to ask the same questions for the whole day in a windowless room while the e-mails, phone calls and deadlines pile up back at the office. No attempt to stand out from the previous four candidates who failed to impress and called into question the screening process used by HR.

So bring a little sunshine into this room. Make us forget about the work we’ll have to do tonight to get caught up. And the job is pretty much yours.

In short, be good in a room. In Hollywood, good in a room is a term used by agents and managers to describe clients who know how to pitch a project.

In a job interview, you’re not pitching the next Hollywood blockbuster or surprise hit at the Sundance Film Festival. You’re pitching yourself and angling for a bigger paycheque and a better challenge. So you’d better be good in a room and a notch above the other candidates vying for the same job.

Author Stephanie Palmer was on the executive team at MGM for six years before setting up a consulting practice. She supervised 20 films with multimillion-dollar budgets. She sat through more than 3,000 pitch meetings with writers, directors, actors and producers all angling for a green light. And Palmer paid close attention to how these folks made or broke their deals.

"When I was at MGM, the hardest part of my job was not cutthroat studio politics or gruelling production schedules," says Palmer. "The toughest part of my job was whenever I had to say no to an idea that was almost there.

"I had to say no a lot. Every buyer does. The buyer’s work is to say yes to projects that are ready, not almost ready. And no matter how good the idea is, if the seller can’t pitch it in a compelling way, how can the buyer see the potential? How can he get his colleagues on board? How can he recommend the seller to his supervisors? The fact is that poor pitches doom good projects."

"Whether you’re a screenwriter, a journalist with an idea for a story, an entrepreneur with a business plan, an inventor with a blueprint or a manager with an innovative solution, if you want other people to invest their time, energy and money in your idea, you face an uphill battle," says Palmer.

You win that battle by being likable. Buyers prefer to do business with sellers they like. They buy from people they like. They hire people they like. They promote people they like. And they tend to like people who are a lot like them.

"The ideas, products and services that are pitched more effectively win," says Palmer. "That’s just how the game is played. No sense getting upset over it. Instead, let’s accept the challenge and learn the strategies and tactics that allow us and our ideas to succeed."

According to Palmer, the key to success and your most important asset is your ability to bond with other people.

"When you have rapport with someone, they are paying attention to what you have to say. Without rapport, they are not. Developing rapport quickly is the first and most important ingredient of being good in a room."

The key to being likable? Be empathetic and interested.

"Empathy means that you care. You can step into the other person’s shoes, understand her feelings and share her perspective. Interest means that you’re curious about her; you want to get to know her better. If it is clear to the other person that you care about her and that you are intrigued by her, she will want to spend time with you and will have an easier time trusting you."

Palmer also shows that you have how to master the five stages of any successful meeting and effectively answer the questions every Hollywood exec and interview panel will be sure to ask. Best to figure out the answers before stepping into the room.