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Career Skills, Training and Transitions

Posts Tagged ‘Rapport’

All You Need Is A Little Confidence

Posted by jamesseetoo on May 27, 2010

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who you just knew wasn’t confident in what he was talking about? I have and my natural reaction fluctuates between simple disbelief in what the person was saying to this person is a BS Artist. Now, that doesn’t mean that the person actually didn’t know what he was talking about but in the absence of any other information my snap judgment is negative. And it takes a lot to change that impression.

At the same time, have you ever gotten information that you were pretty sure was wrong but because the other person was absolutely confident in it you went along with it? I have, and I’ll even admit to having given directions that I was totally sure of when I was giving them and then thought about it and was completely wrong. But when you are confident and congruent people go along with you.

Now, wouldn’t that be a good characteristic to have when you’re interviewing for a job? And also, when you’re recruiting – I would have to say if you’re not confident in what you’re talking about all you’re going to get are the desperate and unqualified.

So what is confidence and how do you get it? Well, you could say it’s an attitude, or a way of conveying that you’ve been there and done that. But it would be more useful to think of confidence as a function of the mind being able to handle the unexpected. Yes, experience gives you that kind of mental frame where you can handle something similar to what you’ve handled before. But there are people who’ve been through situations many times and still come across as not confident.

So what is going on in your mind when this happens? I would suggest that rather than relating the unexpected to an experience where you’ve been successful, you’re relating it to when you’ve been unhappily surprised. Your mind is trying to prepare you for the unexpected and you end up getting canned responses that don’t work for you or your mind creates an incredible amount of scenarios that end up paralyzing you with too many choices.

Well, here’s a little mental trick that you can try. Obviously if you’re reading this you’ve had some success in your life. Think about that time when you actually planned what you were going to do and succeeded at it – not when you were surprised you were successful but when you executed according to plan. See what you saw, feel what you feel, hear what you heard and picture that time. Okay, got it?

Now, picture what you want to happen and see it in the exact same terms that you had when you were picturing when you were successful. Notice that it’s the same brightness, that you’re seeing it from the same angle, that you hearing the same kind of sounds around you, feel how warm or cold it was and use that same frame for what you want.

Once you’ve got that, step into it and notice the world around you and try to feel unconfident. Notice the absence of that feeling. Pretty cool huh? Do this before going into an interview or when you’re cold calling someone and enjoy the difference a little confidence makes.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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Reading the Interviewer’s Mind – Part 3

Posted by jamesseetoo on April 27, 2010

Okay, so we’ve covered how to talk to the Tester.  Remember, the Tester is someone who always thinks there’s someone better out there and a lot of times will need to see upwards of ten candidates before making a decision.  So it’s really important to take control of the conversation and ask the Tester where other candidates didn’t meet expectations.

Now to the Investor.  Have you ever had a situation where you just clicked with someone?  I’m pretty sure if you haven’t grown up under a totalitarian government where every person you meant could possibly be a secret police agent waiting to through you in a gulag it’s pretty reasonable to assume that you have.  The Investor is looking for that connection.  She’s trying to find someone she not only can work with but wants to work with and it’s not always a rational decision.

I had a hiring manager just click with a candidate at an interview once.  When all the feedback, including my own and he was my candidate, was that after meeting the candidate in person, he wasn’t a fit for the role.  And I mean all the feedback from five different interviewers.  But the hiring manager just kept saying, “I really like the spring in his step.”  Investors will talk about liking a person’s energy, or just say “there’s something about him”.  In an interview, you’ll know you have an Investor when she begins projecting future responsibilities and career path and begins to speculate about where you might fit in down the line.

The Investor wants someone to mentor, someone whose career she can help grow.  Now, it’s very important to remember that a Tester will often become an Investor after getting to know you.  And the Investor will sometimes be forced to be a Tester if there is institutional pressure withing the company to find someone fast. Just remember it’s part of their interview strategy and something that you as a candidate can use to your advantage.

So just like knowing the Tester will want to make sure the boxes are checked – and what do we do about that?  That’s right, ask what those boxes are so you know you’re covering them.  When the Investor talks about synergy, teamwork and career path, go along with her and talk about those things.

Essentially, they’re covering the same points but in different contexts but like yelling fire in a crowded theater it’s all about context.  It’s okay to yell fire when the theater really is on fire isn’t it?

Make sure you prepare for your interview by having measurable achievements ready to discuss but be flexible in your delivery.  The Tester will want to check off the boxes before going into detail.  The Investor will want a narrative that will show how you “fit” into the environment and the team.

Like the recent NFL draft, you can draft for need or for best player available.  Testers will try to fill needs, Investors will want talent on their side.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Reading The Interviewer’s Mind – Part 1

Posted by jamesseetoo on March 25, 2010

Well, I’ll just take it for granted that you’ve been following this blog and might have noticed that I haven’t posted in a few weeks. I’ve been researching a new approach to interviewing and there will be some new perspectives presented in the next few episodes aimed expressly at building your interview strategy by being able to read the interviewer’s mind. Now, this is specifically aimed at giving you the keys to an incredibly powerful interview, not trying to figure out what the interviewer is thinking about the cute server at the local Starbucks. Full details of this system will be introduced in an upcoming ebook (shameless plug).

But getting back to the matter at hand. When you go into an interview, wouldn’t it be valuable to be able to profile the interviewer quickly, to get past the canned questions and answers? I mean, how often have we interviewed with someone who is just reading questions off a list and not really listening to our answers? I know, it’s happened a lot with recruiters on phone interviews but I can guarantee it doesn’t happen with the me so I’ll leave myself out of that category.

Hiring managers and interviewers as a best practice go into an interview with a firm idea of what he/she wants or in other words, a profile.  But as a candidate, you should also be ready to read the interviewer in order to pick the best strategy to communicate with that person.  Now, it’s important to note that one type or profile is not better than another but it’s a way of enhancing the way you communicate with that interviewer.  So here are the first two profiles the Tester and the Investor.

So the first thing we’ll want to do when we meet for an interview is to find out the interviewer’s timeline and that’s where the Tester/Investor profile fits in.

Have you ever had the interview process drag out for weeks or even months? As a recruiter, we find this happens all the time – the Hiring Manager who always believes that there is a better candidate out there and will take forever to make a decision even if he likes all the candidates. The Tester’s not interested in lost opportunity costs even if he has to hold down extra work that should be handled by his team. He’s looking for the perfect candidate, even if he hasn’t nailed down exactly what “perfect” is in his own mind.

On the opposite end, there are some people who will make a quick decision based on not just your skill set but also on your potential for growth. This interviewer is an Investor. The Investor “falls in love” with a candidate and believes that this person will be an invaluable asset regardless of skill set. Now I’m not saying she will view every candidate this way but when the “halo effect” hits, it’s very hard to make her move off her opinion. Usually it’s her boss that will overrule her in that situation making it hard for anyone to get the job.

Now, both the Tester and Investor have good points too. The Tester will become an Investor once you’ve proven that you are the person for the job and the Investor will absolutely offer you opportunities to shine. But there are strategies for communicating with each of these Hiring Managers and we’ll go into these in more detail in the next blog so stay tuned.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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Judging A Book By Its Cover

Posted by jamesseetoo on February 22, 2010

The old cliché says you can’t judge a book by its cover and like every cliché, it has more than a kernel of truth to it. And just like every cliché, we do it anyway. We judge people by their looks, resumes by their format or lack thereof and I’m told, women even judge men by their shoes although since I’m in Southern California it’s hard to tell since a lot of people don’t really wear shoes.

So it’s enough to say that we shouldn’t judge by appearance alone. Okay, that’s enough then. But while we acknowledge that, shouldn’t we as recruiters and/or candidates pay close attention to our packaging? I mean, after all when you look at Tiger Woods, who thinks male slut – okay now, but what about a year ago?

So since it’s still early in the year and hopefully everyone is still on their resolutions, I would propose we not only look at making over our resumes but also ourselves. I know that most of the recruitment process happens over the phone but at some point we will have to meet people face to face either as candidates or recruitment consultants. And we shouldn’t forget that candidates are also, or should be interviewing our companies and clients. So all around, I would suggest we take a good look at ourselves. Should we be hitting the gym? Eating a salad instead of a burger? Changing out those shirts from the 90’s?

Personally, I’m in a bit better shape than I was a year ago but then again, I’ve been hitting the gym regularly and have tweaked my diet. I’m not saying it’s a make or break situation but if you go back to an earlier blog (shameless plug here) it really is all about sales and you have to put your best foot forward.

And if there ever was a time to brush up your skill set it’s now. If you don’t want to spend money, perhaps there’s a local interest group you can join, Meetup.com seems to be pretty good and a lot of them are free. Or maybe you should start your own group – it never hurts to expand your network.

I think the economy is forcing us all to become leaner if hopefully not too mean. So polish up your resume by all means but remember, a good book cover only goes so far.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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Is Talent Overrated?

Posted by jamesseetoo on February 5, 2010

It’s a fact of life that when you live in Southern California there’s less opportunity to read than there is when you live in New York City or any other place where you have to rely on mass transportation. After all, when you’re crammed into a sardine can with your fellow human beings pressed all around you a good book or a cheap newspaper can be the life-preserver that saves you from drowning in too much contact with your fellow human being.

Granted, there’s always the sport of people watching which is pretty interesting, especially when you’re there’s a myriad of people from all over the world sitting on top of you but all in all, you end up getting a lot of reading in.

So I’ve turned to audio books. Yes, I know it’s a geek thing but at least I have them on my iPod, well maybe it’s not so cool since it’s a Classic and not a Touch, but hey, books take up a lot of space and 64GB just doesn’t cut it. I listen while I’m sitting in my car and while it’s not the same, at least I’m listening to someone reading.

And one of those books is: “Talent is Overrated” by Geoffry Colvin. Colvin’s book sets out to dispel the idea that people are born athletes, musicians, writers – well you get the idea. Basically he says it’s hard work that wins the day. Hurray for the tortoises of the world! He makes a pretty good case that someone like Mozart became a genius by working really hard from a very young age with a father who was not a musical but a pedagogical genius. That’s pretty compelling.

So, as a recruiter, if I’m looking for “talent” am I looking for the wrong thing?

Well, yes and no. I think of talent as a raw material or if you’re more technologically savvy you can think of it as bandwidth. The real question is, is that bandwidth being used properly? Like empty bandwidth or a raw material like crude oil there’s potential in talent. But is that potential being realized? And it goes beyond schooling or starting out with a great company. Those things are great for a resume but the real question is, what has the candidate accomplished?

Colvin uses Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE and Steve Balmer. CEO of Microsoft as examples of talent that was refined from the beginning. They started together at P&G and he uses them as examples of people who have distinguished themselves from all the others who started out at P&G at the same time. Now, I would say that yes, they’ve both distinguished themselves but in my mind, they haven’t really achieved anything good for their companies, but that’s another discussion.

It’s enough to say that regardless of pedigree, and yes, there are some companies that love pedigree (Ivy League, Harvard Business School etc.) these are not necessarily indicators of achievement. It’s what you do with the talent you have that counts.

So if you’re putting together your resumé or interviewing, make sure you speak to achievement. Here’s a tip, try framing your achievements in terms of SMART: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound. In other words, what did you do, how did you do it, what was the result compared to the goal, did you make your goal on time?

People have said to me, “you’re a talented recruiter,” and I always say, it’s not talent, it’s skill.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,
James Seetoo

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There’s Always Next Time

Posted by jamesseetoo on January 22, 2010

Well, I’m not sure how many of these sports analogy blogs I’ll be doing since my Packers lost to Arizona but there’s a good lesson here so I’ll take the opportunity while I can.

Like playoff fever, it’s natural for a candidate to be excited about a position as she’s going through the interview process and each round brings more and more excitement because naturally, the goals seems to be getting closer.  And it really is a competition since one blown interview means “one and done” in most cases.  As a recruiter, I get as excited as the candidates as they successfully get to the next stage of the process, like moving towards a championship game or in this case, a final interview.

Then something happens.  Either the job gets put on hold, another candidate surfaces, someone internal to the company gets the job and there’s a real letdown – very much like when your favorite team loses a playoff game.

And then comes the mourning phase, you’re let down, saddened by what happened  and it’s easy to get really upset and discouraged.  It’s normal.  It’s also short sighted.  Because here’s the thing, you were good enough to get to the interview stage.  You were picked out of a pile of resumes to go into the process when there were a lot of other people who never made it that far.

And you’re not alone.  As a recruiter, we all feel that same sense of disappointment – after all, we’re on the same team.  In fact, it hurts almost as much since if we’re contingency we don’t get paid and if we’re retained, we’re still out there working on it when we want to get on to the next project.

But think about it.  It’s a chance to learn something about yourself and the company you’ve interviewed with.  Searches usually evolve as candidates go through the interview process.  It’s a chance for companies to learn about their organization and what they really need.  Sometimes it’s a lot different than what they thought they needed and they feel the same loss when a candidate turns them down or if they hire the wrong person for the job.

So when things go wrong it’s natural to be down.  Remember, you’re never as good as you think you are or as bad as you think you are.  The important thing is to set aside feelings and objectively think what could have gone better.  It could be nothing but it’s important to keep from being overwhelmed by emotions at this point and get on to the next interview.  After all, at the very least you’ve probably just made a few new connections that might help you in the future.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Talent + Hard Work +Character = Success

Posted by jamesseetoo on January 7, 2010

Well, it’s NFL playoff season and while it’s a bit cliché, sports really are a good metaphor for life and career.  It’s not enough to be talented and it’s not enough to just want something.  Now, I’m going to come clean here and proclaim myself a Green Bay Packers fan.  I like other teams but as a native New Yorker I’ve seen teams leave my city and that’s something that the Packers won’t do.  And it’s such an underdog of a small market compared with the rest of the league.

But aside from that, they have one of the top rookies in the league, Linebacker Clay Matthews who was a walk-on at USC and has maximized his talents with tons of hard work.  Matthews has had a huge positive impact on his team and leads the Packers defense with 10 sacks. Contrast this with Raiders Quarterback Jamarcus Russell who was the top pick in his draft and has tons of talent but – well it seems has a work ethic that’s questionable at best which goes a long way to explaining the splinters in his butt from riding the bench and his early vacation.

So you might ask, how does this relate to recruiting, career and job searches?

I had a question from a reader who asked me to write about recent graduates as they often need some guidance.  Now, some will be graduating from highly acclaimed programs and others will be graduating from small, unknown schools or training programs.  As a recruiter, we can look at things on a resume and sure, pedigree will be something that you have to take into account – especially since most hiring managers will have a bias towards or away from certain schools.

But it’s not just what you’ve learned that’s important to a recruiter and the recruiter ideally will be looking for how a candidate is trying to apply what he’s learned.  There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom or in this case I like to say “savvy.”

I can’t tell you how often a hiring manager got a resume and was totally blown away by the pedigree listed but ended up hiring a person who just showed more passion and drive.  And we’ve all had managers refuse to give a person without a pedigree a chance and live to regret it.

As a recruiter, it’s important for me to present the best candidates for the job and try to guide the decision as a consultant – not just throw resumes at my hiring manager.  It’s vital for us to look beyond the pedigree or lack of pedigree and look at drive and character and how try to forecast how the candidate will perform in the role.

I would suggest recruiters, hiring managers and candidates discuss what the expectations each have for the job – especially on a 30, 60, 90 day and first year goals.  It’s equally important for the candidate to take the initiative if she’s not asked this question.  It will speak well of your interviewing skills.

So, a last word on character.  There will of course be very successful people who lack character and I like to use the definition that character is something you do when no one is watching.  In the long run or possibly the short run too, character will make a huge difference in how someone will perform.  Here’s another famous football analogy.

Everyone knows Payton Manning, the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.  When he was drafted, there was a big choice to be made between Manning and Ryan Leaf.  Leaf was seen as possibly being even better than Manning.  Now those of use who live in the San Diego area are very familiar with this story since San Diego decided to take Leaf in possibly the biggest draft disaster of all time.

When asked why they chose Manning, the Colts say that when they interviewed him, they asked him what he would do after he signed his big contract.  He said something to the effect of bank the money and get into the film room to start studying the system.  Leaf said he’d take his buddies to Las Vegas.

Needless to say, one has been successful and one was a disaster.  Leaf was recently charged with burglary.

So it’s important to remember to cover all three of those traits in an interview because otherwise we’ll be getting good candidates but not great ones.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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Once More With Feeling Or Should I Just Stick To The Script?

Posted by jamesseetoo on December 21, 2009

The Script.

Isn’t it great when an interview goes according to the script? The interviewer asks the list of question he has and the candidate feeds back the perfect answers. Everyone comes away from the encounter happy and the right candidate gets the right job. That’s of course, when the everything goes right.

Whether you know it or not, if you’re preparing for an interview – whether you’re the interviewer or the candidate, you’re scripting. You’re going over the questions in your mind and preparing the answers you want. It’s a great tool as long as you don’t get too tied up in it. Remember, it’s your script and you haven’t exactly passed it out to all concerned.

How many of you have ever gotten a phone call with someone reading a script trying to sell you something? No matter what you say, they just seem to keep going because they’re more concerned about reading through their script than in having a conversation. Perhaps you’ve had recruiters call you doing the same thing. It’s definitely not something that inspires confidence.

The worst example of poor scripting I’ve ever come across was when I was serving on jury duty. The defendant’s lawyer was pretty much going through the motions. BTW, the defendant was caught red handed but still, there are standards. The defense lawyer cross examined a witness by reading a list of questions, not looking up to engage the person he was supposed to be questioning and barely waited for the witness to answer before asking his next question.

I’ve seen some very junior recruiters doing this when they’re just starting out, more worried about what they’re going to say than the candidate’s answers. But it’s even worse when a candidate does it – and I charitably call that being “overprepared”.

So where’s the balance? Should we just “wing it?”

Well, if you’re used to doing improv, I suppose you could but I think it’s important to remember that the map is not the terrain. It’s the same thing as doing a Karate form. The form is not fighting, it’s an exercise and that’s exactly what scripting should be, an exercise, something to get you used to speaking about yourself or about a job. It’s a map to give you an idea of where you’re going but you still have to flexible in case you need to change directions.

If there are specific points that require a lot of detail, then you should definitely script out what you want to say. But I would say they should be more like talking points that would act as a lead-in to further conversation. And that’s the point of great scripts isn’t it? In movies it’s dialogue that sounds real (Quentin Tarantino does this brilliantly).

So yes, by all means use a script but use it to keep the dialogue flowing. You’ll find that your interviews will be much more interesting for it.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

James Seetoo

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Job Search Frustrations During The Holidays?

Posted by jamesseetoo on December 4, 2009

Okay, I admit I took a little time off during Thanksgiving, which is why I didn’t post last week. But mostly because I didn’t think I’d be alone in that and that gave me the idea for this posting.

As we move into the holiday season, or I suppose we’ve already done that with Thanksgiving – the recruitment process for both the recruiter and candidate can become increasingly frustrating.  Let’s be honest, recruiters are people and they can become increasingly busy this time of year with the business of planning the holidays.  But let’s not put it all on the recruiters.  After all, we don’t have the final say on a hire and we are often thwarted by candidates’ holiday plans and even more so, hiring managers’ plans.

How often have you gotten the “no word yet” message from your recruiter even after you’ve gone through several interviews?

Believe me, it’s not that recruiters want to put you off.  We really, really do want to fill the open reqs on our plates because that’s how we’re judged by our companies and realistically, that’s how we keep score with each other.

So here are some things that most people don’t think about that hopefully will make this time a little less frustrating.

1) Once the holidays get started, people just aren’t around to make a decision.  The more consensus driven the decision the more difficult it is to gather opinions for the hiring decision. Anybody ever work in a matrix organization?

2) Fourth quarter forecasts.  Yes, companies need to hire people but realistically if budgets are tight and since we really are near the end of the year some companies will hold off on hiring until the beginning of the first quarter.  This will hold down base costs and make the year-end numbers look better.

But it’s not all bad news.  Because like any cycle, hiring generally picks up at the beginning of the first quarter and many companies that aren’t disciplined will front load their hires in the first few months of the year.

Although it’s normal to be impatient, you really have to view the situation in context.  If a hiring manager has gotten this far without filling the position, it’s pretty easy for her to put off hiring until her and her team’s schedule has cleared a bit.  So remember, make sure you’re staying on their radar screen, make sure your recruiter and your contacts know you remain interested and make sure you let them know what your holiday schedule is looking like in case they are able to move before the end of the year.

In other words, treat them as partners in your job search.  They’ll appreciate it and how you handle the stress of the holiday job search goes a long way to showing how you would handle stress during the rest of the year.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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What’s Your Tribe?

Posted by jamesseetoo on November 19, 2009

Do you lead one?  Do you have one?  It’s a pretty good question these days since there’s a lot of talk about Tribes going around.  And it seems to be an evolving situation but an interesting one since it’s apparent that it’s becoming a very powerful cultural phenomenon.  I would say that it’s probably because of the increased connectivity we all have allows us access to people who have the same views and values.  For more on Tribes, I would recommend Seth Godin’s book, oddly enough titled: Tribes.

I had the priviledge of attending the recent PGC200 (www.pgc200.org) launch event in San Diego CA.  It’s a group that I’m advising that is creating a tribe.  It’s primarily made up of technical professionals (scientists and engineers) who are banding together to support one another professionally during trying economic times.  The featured speaker at this event was Gary Ridge, President and CEO of WD40 who has recently published a book with Ken Blanchard called Helping People Win at Work.

What’s exciting to watch about the development of PGC200 is that it’s a welcoming place for people who are not usually used to doing things like marketing themselves to interact with others who are good at that type of thing.  And it was only fitting that Gary Ridge was the featured speaker because he has actively worked to develop the Tribe culture at WD40.

In the book, Gary and Ken Blanchard describe a tribe as being a place where someone belongs as opposed to a team which is something someone plays on sometimes.

That’s an interesting definition and I think it’s highly effective when looking at a company’s culture during your job search.  Is it a place where you “belong” or someplace you go to play eight hours a day?

Gary and Ken also define leadership as a partnership which I think is a great definition.  In this partnership, are you helping someone to be successful and is someone helping you?  In this way, you can be a leader without a title and those you help become members of your tribe just as you become members of the tribe of those who help you.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are good places to find examples of Tribes.  People become followers and friends on these sites based on common interests which can be as simple as a joke of the day.

Like her or not, I think one of the most interesting examples of the Tribe phenomenon is Sarah Palin.  My take on her resigning the governorship of Alaska is that she is leading a tribe of followers, drawing people who are disaffected with their political parties and are looking for a place to belong.  We’ll see if that translates into political office but it’s certainly translated into book sales.

Tribes seem to be popping up all over the place, so maybe it’s time to start yours.  If you’re in a company, help others to be successful and they will become part of your tribe.  If your looking for a job, let your tribe help you. If you don’t have a tribe, start one by going beyond networking to really create a place where people feel they belong in your circle.  As Jay Abraham defines it, it’s the difference between a client and a customer.  A client is someone whose interests you watch out for rather than being in a transactional relationship.

So let me know what you think of this Tribes phenomenon.  I’m interested and hopefully you’re following this blog regularly.  It’s kind of like having a Tribe of my own.

P.S. – PGC200 will be having another event in San Diego in December featuring Ken Blanchard, stay tuned for more information or go to the http://www.PGC200.org.

Remember, your skills are your job security.

Best,

James Seetoo

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