Break the status quo

Educate yourself so that you understand more than a simple, narrow field. It helps to read history, literature and philosophy...You'll be a better scientist and professional.

When your next project is moving to a new role, consider breaking from the traditional way of presenting yourself to your prospective employer.

Dr Howard Moskowitz, CEO of i-Novation, suggests turning the job interview into a "collaborative collegial interaction".

Give a short presentation of a study of the company and its competitors: "By the way, I did some work on your company and here is what I discovered. Here is an opportunity for you, whether you hire me or not."

"It takes the stress out of the interview," says Moskowitz. "All of a sudden, the listener becomes a colleague."

"When you go to a job interview, they are not thinking about how wonderful you are," he explains. "They are thinking, 'I have got this problem', and when you show up, are you going to talk to them about this problem and provide a solution?" "

And if you don't get the job? "They will call you back."

Moskowitz is confident this approach -- which can be used for pitching a project or selling a product -- will work because he has been applying it for more than 40 years as researcher, scientist and author of books and academic journals. Moskowitz, who has a PhD in experimental psychology from Harvard University, has also invented market research technology that has been used by a range of companies including Hewlett Packard, Campbells and MasterCard.

He discusses with CIO New Zealand how to apply some of the principles he has been using, to building and nurturing a career as a business technology leader.

"Traditionally, people with technical backgrounds had their own little empires and they were a magician, the shaman," he says. "Today, we are living in a world where most of the technology is drag and drop. You have to assemble things easily. You have to work with other people. It is not about you anymore, a lot of it [involves] much more emotional intelligence."

He suggests taking a sabbatical without leaving the job, just taking on a different perspective. Instead of directing how the organisation should move, do little experiments on using new business technologies and present it to your colleagues, he says. "Go on the road and present it to other companies."

This is akin to a graduate student working in a laboratory. "Why don't they [CIOs] work in their own laboratory, and come out of it as if they were 25 again?" This sabbatical can last up to a month and can also be done by other executives. It will help "rekindle the excitement" on the job, Moskowitz says.

He also proffers building a "systematic knowledge" through the years, and documenting this. Come up with work-related experiments, projects or research, and collate the results in a presentation. "Every year, create another piece of your portfolio so when you go out into the world, you have a series of five to 10 studies. That is your portfolio of knowledge," he says. And if you change career, you can show this portfolio to your new employers.

He is likewise emphatic on making the effort to get published -- by writing a book or chapters of it, a column for a business magazine or contributing to an academic journal. "First of all, it forces you to crystallise your ideas," says Moskowitz, who has written written and edited 26 books and over 400 articles and conference proceedings. "Two, it brings you face to face that you are not as good as you think you are. It is a humbling experience. You put your ideas in front of everybody else."

And, if you are unhappy in your current role, you can generally move. "If worst comes to worst, and it does, think about going out as a consultant. You can then get fired by each client, and still survive," he says. "Change, don't die."

Sidebar: 'Becoming a fossil in a sedimentary layer'

Dr Howard Moskowitz shares some of the pointers in nurturing a professional career in one of his books, You! What you MUST know to start your career as a professional. The New York-based Moskowitz, 67, describes the book as "intensely personal" and "a testament on how to live".

But, as he wrote, there are not many guide books "to this wonderful land of professionalism which deal with the specifics, the daily arm wrestles, and pleasures and some of the pain."

Here are some of his life lessons, or as he calls them, "reflections on becoming a fossil in a sedimentary layer":

• The odds are that you're going to live a long time. Don't mess up the feeding trough that will be the source of your professional growth and, more than likely, your livelihood. Be sensitive about what you do. Things do come back to bite. You don't want that to happen. Period.

• Kindness, kindness, kindness. I once read a blog which stated that: 'When I was young I admired cleverness; now that I'm old, I admire kindness.' You can't be too kind. It will pay dividends.

• What you do as a young professional is excusable. You may think that an error you make when you are young will follow you around. Chances are that no one notices it, or if someone notices it when you are young, it will be forgotten.

• It's better to be 80 percent right and on time, than 100 percent right and late. When you miss the train, miss the boat, miss the chance, it's gone. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

• Educate yourself so that you understand more than a simple, narrow field. It helps to read history, literature and philosophy. It's even interesting. There was a world before you were born, there were ideas before you were weaned. The truth is, these will be there long after you're gone. So imbibe some culture... You'll be a better scientist and professional.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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