Career and Life Planning Snippets

by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLab®

Photo by Riccardo Annandale

My clients have been my teachers as much as I have taught them. 

As I look back over a 40-year career, these thoughts repeat in my mind. They seem evergreen and long-lasting. They make sense regardless of one’s age or generation. They endure because they reflect human nature.

This list is a work in progress. It will always be tweaked and updated as life changes. These are random thoughts, not in priority order, or even organized in a careful way. 

They sat on my hard drive for three years because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t posting something off the cuff. They’re just a brain dump and I hope you find them helpful:

  1. My heart teaches me, and experience confirms it, that there’s a right place in the world of work for everyone, including you. Finding that place may mean ignoring social media, news of wars and layoffs, and not fretting about job postings.


  2. The Bill Frank 1% Rule:
    If your . . .


    • focus is 1% sharper than your competitors,
    • letters and resume are 1% better,
    • appearance is 1% better,
    • attitude is 1% better,
    • research of your target company is 1% better,
    • interview preparation and answers are 1% better,
    • closing comments are 1% better,
    • thank you notes are 1% better,
    • follow-up is 1% better,
    • references are 1% better,
      Then all of a sudden, you’re 10% better than your competitors.


  3. There’s a logical next step in your career. When you describe it, your friends and family say, “That’s perfect for you.” 


  4. There are many things you could do. The right questions are, “What’s the best and highest use of my talents? Where and how can I help the most people?”


  5. Effort Equals Results (E=R).


  6. Stop seeking, searching, or hunting for a job. Instead, proclaim your talents and convey excitement at using them.


  7. Some Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) carry the subtext that “We’re going to micromanage you, criticize you constantly, and force you out of the organization.”


  8. Very few careers end before hitting a speedbump, and the speedbump may feel like a brick wall.


  9. This is my story: My grandfather was a physician. My Dad was a doctor, Mother was a nurse. I was the only kid in kindergarten who thought he was in pre-med. Sadly, that vision came to an end my second year in college when I hit analytic geometry, calculus, organic chemistry and statistics. I learned I’m not a scientist, and it shattered my world. I spent the next 15 years trying to figure out “Who am I?’ But that crisis is how I ended up here in my 99% good fit. 


  10. I’m going to help everyone around me win” is a better long-term strategy than “I’m going to get to the top.” 


  11. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Sell what you have, not what you don’t have.


  12. Many companies are like big sick families: sibling rivalries, internecine wars, and rampant politics. If you’re in one, get out.


  13. Some departments or business units in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” are hostile, toxic environments.


  14. Some company cultures are so brutal, hostile, and cutthroat, the leaders should shut the company down.


  15. Comparing oneself with others can be deadly. Never forget, dishonor or demean your one-of-a-kindness. It’s why you’re here.


  16. By the time a client reaches me, they’ve done 90% of their career marketing. They have a history, a reputation, a following (network), a brand. I can’t change that, but I can use the remaining 10% to maximize their career and personal life and to achieve a “95-98% good fit” in their next assignment.  Regardless of outward circumstances, your future is bright, even if you’ve been terminated, fired, or laid off.


  17. Nearly everything Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale and the other classical success writers said is true.


  18. Someday your network of friends and acquaintances may be more valuable than your MBA from Wharton or your Ph.D. from Harvard.


  19. In the job market, you’re looking for your next boss as much as a job title, company, or salary. Your boss can either be your teacher, trainer, mentor—or a career derailer. If the boss is right, that’s 80% of the battle.


  20. The futurist and technology pioneer, Kevin Kelly, taught me: “Don’t just be the best. Be the only.”


  21. It was a sad day in my career when a 3rd-year law student hired me because she hated the law. Testing proved her to be an artist, but her father and uncles were all attorneys. They insisted that she join them in the law firm. When I asked, “What did you really want to be?” she answered, “A ballerina.”


  22. If leadership assigns you an executive coach you don’t want or need, embrace that person wholeheartedly, become their next best friend, drop the defensiveness, embrace their dumb reading and exercises, and they’ll report that you’ve made an amazing turnaround. A miracle, in fact. If you fight them, you lose.


  23. Buzz Sullivan, my high school swimming and diving coach, taught me that “A champion is someone who goes so far they can’t go another inch. . . . And then, they go that inch.”


  24. George Bernard Shaw added, “To be a champion you must live like one.”


  25. Your work accomplishments and achievements (measurable results) account for 80% of the value of your resume.


  26. Here’s a Bill Frank Law: They never treat you better than when they’re trying to hire you.  If a prospective employer doesn’t return calls, texts, or emails, if they are late or don’t show up, if they break promises, or are just plain rude, be advised to walk away. Repeat: “They never treat you better than when they’re trying to hire you.” If they treat you badly during the hiring process, it will only get worse once you’re onboard. Much worse.


  27. Everything today is digital. A handwritten note is highly-effective, because it’s counter-cyclical, a mind blower.


  28. It’s helpful to have a one-sentence life mission statement. Mine is “To love and be loved.” That’s pretty easy to fulfill.


  29. One of my childhood friends is a hero, because he turned down Library Director jobs to remain a community college Librarian. He liked learning and helping students to learn. He knew where he fit and didn’t let ego interfere with his happiness.


  30. “Self-Love and Self-Care” are at the heart of career success and life happiness, especially in times of trouble.


  31. I learned it from David Ogilvy On Advertising. Never write an angry letter on your company letterhead. Better yet, never write a purely angry letter or email. If you do, hold it for a day or two, and show it to one or two trusted friends before sending. As one book title said it, “What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook.”


  32. Often, when I ask clients why their job went terribly wrong, they say, “I didn’t trust my gut. Something inside was telling me I shouldn’t accept this offer, but I did.”


  33. When LinkedIn began, it was optional. Today having a “Superstar” profile (their term) is essential for good career management. Hint: don’t take a selfie. Hire a professional photographer for a headshot.


  34. If you’re in the job market, don’t consult full-time, because that stops you from pursuing better permanent offers. Consult only 3-4 days per week. It takes time to send email, make phone calls, and attend business functions.


  35. When someone is fired, I say, “I’m sorry to be meeting you on a difficult day.” When I ask, “When did you see signs of trouble?” I hear, “A year ago,” “18 months ago,” “two years ago.” When I ask, “Why didn’t you take corrective action or resign?” I hear, “Because I thought things would get better.”


  36. It’s possible that the company you joined 20 years ago isn’t the same company around you today. Perhaps then it was heaven. Perhaps today, it’s hell.


  37. Focus is the most important word in a career transition.


  38. To keep to true north, it’s helpful to have heroes who are not Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk. A hero is a hero, even if they were born 2,500 years ago, like Lao-tsu, author of the Tao Te Ching (Book of the Way).


  39. In one sentence, what is your greatest gift? Not the many things you can do or do well. What is your greatest gift? If you aren’t doing so already, you can build a career around that.


  40. In the go-go days of my career friends asked if I was a workaholic, I said, “No, I’m a work enthusiast.”


  41. But work can become an obsession and addiction like cocaine, liquor, or heroin. Work can be just as deadly.


  42. A career counselor or consultant can help you the way a Sherpa helps climbers on Everest. Just be sure your consultant is a Sherpa.


  43. My father, the internist, said the one thing he regretted about being a doctor was that patients waited too long to see him. “They waited until there was nothing I could do,” he said. No one who has hired me as a career consultant has ever told me, “Bill, I started with you too soon.”


  44. There are 10 career paths: tune-up, lateral move, higher-level job, downshift, consulting, small business startup, franchise, buy a business, life rebalancing, retirement. Oh, and walking off the field.


  45. There are four kinds of consulting firms: 1) Lone Ranger, 2) partnership, 3) small, regional, boutique, 4) national.


  46. You can be 2-3 degrees off course and walk into a wall instead of a doorway. The same applies to your career. A two-or-three change of direction can be fatal, or it can open new worlds.


  47. Draw a timeline of your life happiness. Make the vertical axis “Happiness” on a scale of 1-10. Make the horizontal axis the years of your life. What does your chart reveal?

  48. You’re a highly-talented person who could make a big contribution in most any organization you joined. The good thing is you get to choose which company to help.


  49. The skills young people need for success: critical thinking, writing, self-awareness, self-knowledge, teaming (collaborating), speaking-presenting, learning.  Not everyone needs to be an IT professional or rocket scientist. As a matter of fact, it’s better if some aren’t.


  50. STEM is the big thing these days. Technology is in; humanities are out. I got a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a masters’ in philosophy. They taught me two things useful in business: 1) how to think, and 2) how to write.

    I’m more of a PALM guy (Philosophy/Psychology, Art, Literature, Music).

  51. In traffic, in the boardroom, or in line at the supermarket, I’ve never gotten into a fistfight or shouting match by letting the other person go first.


  52. Early in my career I discovered a multi-level marketing business called “You were born to be great.” Sadly, it was a fraudulent pyramid scheme, but the idea is correct: You were born to be great.


  53. My 357 corporate clients and scores of private clients have come from a concept I call “Selling by not selling.” That is, listening, caring, and helping.


  54. Some personality types thrive on conflict, or even like to wreck other people’s lives. If you’re not one of them, seek a more collegial, collaborative environment. Get planted in the right pot.


  55. Near-perfect jobs exist, but to find one, you have to believe they exist.


  56. Regardless of the job title, if your network of friends and acquaintances is large, I know your career transition will go well. If you have a small network, or none at all, it could be a steeper climb.


  57. Your goal shouldn’t be to get another job; your goal should be to arrive at the “95-98% good fit.”


  58. Salesman Rex Gamble gave the best breakfast talk I’ve heard: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”


  59. Here’s a Bill Frank law: Sometimes the best thing to do in a crisis is absolutely nothing.


  60. In a book on marketing consulting services the author said, “Write down 10 reasons someone might not hire you.” The first thing I wrote was: “They don’t know I exist.” Visibility is essential for career success.


  61. In my mind, “A consultant is someone who wakes up every morning unemployed.” And I like it that way. It demands high performance.


  62. Your work won’t “speak for itself.” You have to talk to others about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. This isn’t bragging; it’s communication.


  63. Mother taught me “It’s just as easy to get A’s as it is to get B’s.” She pounded it into my head. She was wrong of course, but I pushed myself to get more A’s than B’s.


  64. Vince Lombardi was right. “Winning isn’t a sometime thing. Winning is an all the time thing.”


  65. Write your business plan on the back of a business card. If that passes scrutiny, write your plan on an index card. If that works, expand to one page. If that sells, go to three pages. After critique, expand to the length it needs to be.


  66. Two accountants wrote a 300-page business plan that spelled out everything including fabrics on the furniture and the color of paint on the walls. They purchased expensive computers and software, spent their hard-earned savings leasing offices, and quickly went out of business. The plan had not focused on getting a customer and putting a check in the bank.


  67. Zig Ziglar was right: “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you’ll be fired with enthusiasm.”


  68. If you make money your primary goal, the world may be deprived of your genius.

    The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; —
     ~William Wordsworth


  69. Geologist, then Financial Planner, then Car Salesperson isn’t a career. Unless you continue to sell cars for 35 years. Junior Accountant, Senior Accountant, Controller, Vice President of Finance, CFO is a career.


  70. If you’ve held 6-8 short term jobs, maybe you aren’t an employee. Maybe you’re a consultant, (and you’ve been planted in the wrong pot.)


  71. Bob Junk, an executive recruiter of 500 bank presidents told me, “There are two kinds of people in the workplace: Superstars and Tap Dancers.”


  72. If you’re in the job market, don’t guess who your friends are. It’s impossible to accurately predict who will help you and who won’t. You’ll be wrong 50 percent of the time—maybe more. It’s interesting, and sometimes disconcerting, to find out who can be counted on when you need a helping hand. Some of your “dearest friends” will let you down, and some people you have written off will come out of the woodwork and shower you with badly needed love and attention.


  73. Being fired isn’t the end of the world. It may be a new beginning.


  74. There are 1,000 ways to ruin your life. I don’t say that to be negative or cynical. I say it as a reality. You see evidence around you and in the world news. We’re faced with temptations, distractions, and shiny objects in all directions. Therefore, as Anna Jo Haynes, Founder and CEO of a $5 million United Way agency taught me, “Keep your eye on the prize.”


  75. Jeff Baer, the owner and CEO of Famous Amos Cookies told me, “Where business is concerned, it’s easier to get into a thing than to get out of it.”


  76. Let’s say you’re interviewing for the job of a lifetime against 3 tough competitors. During reference checks, the employer reviews your social media postings from the last 5 years. What do they see? Are you still an A+ candidate? I hope so.


  77. I asked someone with a failed career what had happened, and he said, “My career is like a marble I dropped at the top of a mountain. It rolled down hill taking the path of least resistance, and here I am.”

:: Return to index of articles.