Today, three subjects. We begin by asking an important career question: are you doing the work you really want to do, and if not, why not?

Second, we will talk about the 9 essential elements of your personal brand management….

And we will end with a short essay on the dangers of business travel.

I have a strong belief in the concept of paying it forward. One of the ways I exercise my belief is by providing pro bono advice to a wide range of professionals – from graduate students and early careerists, to leaders who want a perspective check and to those making career transitions.

The first question I always try to ask is this: Are you doing what you really love? Are you really passionate about being a CEO, COO or VP of Operations or Marketing, or are you in a job because it just happened – career progression by happenstance?

You might be surprised at the number of executives who are trapped in jobs they really do not like, with people they do not respect because of the financial trap – they are making too much money and have decided that changing a financial lifestyle is far more traumatic than suffering through a job they do not love.

When I ask that first question, the dead giveaway that there are major problems in the person’s career is based on what I call the torture index rating; how tortured is their answer? The callers try so hard to be passionate, confident and professional, when all the time you know you are hearing the artful dodge, or their struggles to believe something they think they should say.

Unless you are five years or less from retirement and have no intention of ever working again, you need to know that it is OK not to punish yourself any longer. Really, it is never too late to follow your dreams, to pursue your real passions in work and life. Do not find yourself in the place of the bright young law partner I met several years ago. He was making more money than he could ever spend, but he was obviously painfully dissatisfied with his job and his life. “I only have to do this for 20 more years and then I can retire.”

How tragic an answer.

That answer blew the top off my torture index rating.

I have a refrigerator sticker that I look at every morning that I am in Dallas. It asks this important question:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Consider this: The last time I checked, we have only one life to live. If you are not happy, the angst and the challenges of changing jobs and/careers is a lot less painful than a long retirement chock full of deep regrets.

Have courage.


Nine Elements of Career Brand Management

Executives and managers hoping to navigate the turbulent economy with a minimum of disruption must develop excellent career brand management tools.

Here are nine elements to consider.

  1. Discipline: This is the cornerstone of effective career management. The greatest lament of executives who suddenly find themselves out of work is that they wish they had spent more time on developing a bigger network, boosting their presence on social media, writing articles for professional journals, etc. The second most common thing I hear are excuses – reasons why they didn’t devote more time to enhancing their career brand.
  1. Personal Vision Statement: Writing a vision statement is important. This statement should define who you are, what you believe in, how would you want to be perceived, and what you want to achieve. Like a strategic plan, this, too, will have to be updated periodically. I strongly suggest you revisit this statement annually. Then have the discipline to tie every thing you do or say to it.
  1. Know Who You Are: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. A weakness will never be a strength. Be honest with yourself. Not everyone is destined to be a CEO or senior executive. Use this assessment in preparing your personal vision statement and in making career choices.
  1. Social Media: The Internet has forever changed the landscape for career brand management. Today we have a host of sites including LINKEDIN, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Next week, next month or next year, there will be a new “latest and greatest” tool that can be used. Learn the “dos” and “don’ts” now. LINKEDIN, the largest of the professional social media platforms, has quickly emerged as a key tool for executive recruiters to track and identify talent. Having a profile page is not enough. You must add content and actively connect with others, sharing ideas and information. Social media is vital to establishing and maintaining a relevant brand.
  1. Build A Network: If you do not develop and maintain a robust and focused network of professional contacts, you are making a big mistake. Again, your efforts here should tie back to your personal vision statement. “I am too busy” is the most common excuse I hear on this subject. My response is that if you are not actively engaged in building the type of quality network that can add value to your career, you are limiting your potential and probably prolonging the time it will take to find a new job.
  1. Deliver Results: Delivering positive results is the backbone of a professional career brand. It may not guarantee you uninterrupted employment but people with an excellent track record typically can find a new job much faster than those who have an uneven record.
  1. Maintain Career Journal: This is very important. The journal should include details of each employer, each job, supervisors, compensation, dates of employment and, this is very important, quantifiable accomplishments. It should also include thoughts on performance – a replay of events and decisions — to determine where improvements could be made. Regulated thinking – also known as gamefilming, a replay of events with a more detached perspective – is a vital tool for personal performance improvement.
  1. Exit Strategy: Always have an exit strategy. Include your family in this plan. A mentor once told me that there are two types of executives: “The ones who have been fired, and the ones who are going to be.” In this new economy, the executive who can navigate an entire career without a termination or two, is going to be extremely rare. Given that 40 percent of new recruits as well as managers who are promoted from within quit, are fired, or forced out in 24 months or less, it is foolish not to have a plan for this career certainty.
  1. Be Flexible: Executives who limit themselves geographically will prolong their job search. In an industry like healthcare where over the last two years the average executive transition has ranged between six to 14 months, limiting a job search to one city or even a region will probably extend the time it takes to find a new job by four to six months, or require a career change and probably a reduction in income.


The perils of traveling — I wrote about this experience in 2012 but I can assure you the flying experience has NOT improved.

Traveling for work has always been hard but now it is becoming increasingly more dangerous. Just ask any executive who travels regularly, a term defined by more than four or five flights per month.

The danger of flying is not in the 35,000 altitude or navigating nasty storms. I have found that the really dangerous part is defined by the phrase “sitting in an aisle seat.”

This phenomenon has nothing to do with homeland security, long lines, marginally effective air conditioning in the crowded gate “lounges” or that most US airlines have adopted the Greyhound bus model for boarding and seating passengers. And I pause to offer my apologies to Greyhound for the comparison.

No, it has to do with two seemingly unrelated things: technology, to wit “smart” phones, and the overwhelming amount of stuff people bring with them on planes, down narrow aisles that were apparently not thoughtfully designed to take into consideration that there is an epidemic of obesity in this country. I have discovered that to sit in an aisle of an airplane — especially a “regional” jet — requires the same level of alertness for potential injury that is required if you sit behind the third base dugout at any major league baseball park.

Whack! Right across the face. I had let my guard down. I was shielded by another traveler and did not see the danger lurking in the aisle. It was a woman with a huge “tote” bag over her shoulder, her arms clutching more magazines and books than anyone could possibly read during a 4 hour flight. She was holding a large coffee drink with gobs of chocolate drizzled whipped cream, a beverage, given her size, was probably not something she should be consuming, but to each their own. Now is the where things got dicey: Her “smart” phone was wedged between her shoulder and her ear, holding it in place by crooking her neck at a very odd angle. She was talking on the phone! I did not hear a lot of what she was saying, but enough to know that this telephone conversation was not was not that important. If you think drivers are dangerous when they talk on the phone, beware of airline passengers during the boarding process. The woman turned quickly in an attempt to slide step down the aisle and that is when her oversized tote bag hit me in the face, full on, knocking my glasses onto the lap of the startled passenger sitting next to me. The woman didn’t have a clue her bag had just molested a passenger.

My fellow travelers — witnesses to the attack — were apparently caught between the emotions of being shocked at the woman’s lack of consideration and a strong impulse to laugh. Not two minutes later, when a fidgeting, very grumpy and tired two-year-old in the arms of his father kicked me in the face, they yielded to the temptation. “These are nice glasses,” my seat mate said, as he retrieved from floor against the cabin wall. “Maybe you might want to hold on to them until the barbarians have boarded.”

For someone who has been traveling for business since the mid-1970s, I have no illusions about the decline in service. Most have mediocre service. Even the domestic airlines that excel like Virgin America, their best efforts can be hampered by wayward passengers — the occasional traveler, the amateur who is clueless about airline travel today. I am betting that the woman with the aforementioned tote bag and half of her public library’s book and magazines falls into that amateur traveler category.

For all the road warriors who yearn for a return to days of better service and decent food forget about it. The airlines will be providing less and charging more because they can.

If you have two choices for the future of airline travel — hope springs eternal, that service will improve, or grin and bear it, I believe option two is the safer bet.

Thanks for listening. Remember to visit us tomorrow at JohnGSelf.Com for our latest blog post and on Saturday for the next installment of John Self TV — a short video with insight and information regarding career management.

As we close, remember this:

Good leadership depends on a trusting relationship with your employees and your customers. Without truth there can be no trust.

Truth is not a value of convenience.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask the little boy who cried wolf.

Thanks for listening. I am John Self.