Quick Hits

Jobs for You: Alexandra Levit's Advice

Alexandra Levit/Twitter
Alexandra Levit/Twitter

Alexandra Levit is a workplace author, speaker, columnist, and consultant. She was a Money Magazine Career Expert of the Year in 2010 and has been a Career and Workplace Consultant to the Obama Administration and the Fortune 500.

Dreaming Made Simple: I read where you expressed concern about people who go from job to job with the idea that the grass is always greener elsewhere. My question is, how can someone tell if he or she has an 'objectively good job situation,' or if it’s time to look elsewhere? When is it advisable to bide one’s time for a job situation to improve and when is that not the best idea?

Alexandra Levit: It's critical to get a few outside opinions.  Talk to a trusted mentor in your field (not a parent or one of your parents' friends) or someone who coaches people on their careers, and spell out the situation.  This will provide the reality check you need to make a sensible decision.  In general, you should stay in a new job at least a year, and unless your daily life is intolerable, I would stick around until you've exhausted all opportunities for growth and learning either in or outside your current job responsibilities.

Dreaming Made Simple: If someone is interested in trying a different field, what advice do you have for convincing a decision maker that this person has enough transferable skills, etc. to be a good fit in the new career?

Alexandra Levit: Don't leave it to their imagination because they won't take the time to make the leap.  Once they see that you were in finance and they're in healthcare, you'll be out of consideration, regardless of the fact that many of the skills transfer well.  Look at sample resumes and job descriptions online for that field and craft your marketing documents to look exactly like those.  Include skills and keywords that are mentioned often and, wherever possible, showcase results that map to what you'd be expected to achieve in the new field.

Dreaming Made Simple: With a mindset that your early post-college positions will be 'temporary stops' as you continue to develop, how would you recommend sampling other fields?

Alexandra Levit: I agree with this sentiment, though I do think each job move should be purposeful even when you are young.  Ask, "What skill can I learn?  What experience can I have that will help me down the line?"   I would also take advantage of the opportunity to do volunteer work outside of your regular job to see if a particular career is for you.  This has the dual benefits of allowing you to give back to your community and try a new field with minimal risk.

Visit Alexandra Levit's workplace blog or follow her on Twitter for more advice on jobs for you

Startups Quick Hits from Startup Professionals' Martin Zwilling

Marty Zwilling is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that educates and aids startup founders worldwide. Marty has experience as an executive in general management, computer software development, product management, and marketing. He has also authored the book, "Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?"

Dreaming Made Simple: You have written that a young man or woman shouldn’t ask too much of a mentor, even though the mentee could stand to learn a lot. Yet someone in their twenties should be seeking a lot of advice. How does he or she narrow which aspects to pursue in mentoring?

Marty Zwilling: A good mentee, in my opinion, shows respect for the mentor by doing his own homework first so the questions don’t have obvious answers available from other sources, and doesn’t ask the mentor to make all his decisions for him.  Generic questions, like how do I get rich quick, are not impressive.  Asking your mentor to do your business plan won’t work.  A good common sense rule is to pretend the roles were reversed, and think how you would feel if used the same way.

Dreaming Made Simple:  You have also said that a startup needs to be relevant, a startup must gain traction, a startup needs to build community. How does a startup do this if it does not have a product or service to sell initially?

Marty Zwilling: If you really don’t believe you have anything to sell, then you don’t have a business.  You may still be doing a good thing, by providing inspiration or educating people in need.  On the other hand, I’ve heard of blogs that bring their authors income in the six figure range, from advertising, or provide brand building for well-paid speakers or book authors. My advice is not to start a business without first having a clear view in your mind of the problem you are solving, how you make money, who your customer is, etc.  Then write a business plan to see if all the elements fit together.

Bookmark Marty’s daily startups advice blog, follow him on Twitter, or pick up a copy of his book

Soles for Souls Former Chief Wayne Elsey Quick Hits

Wayne Elsey is the founder of Soles4Souls, a shoe charity aimed at adults and children in need. Currently he is the head coach at branding and communications agency Wayne Elsey Enterprises to be launched this fall. Wayne authored the book "Almost Isn't Good Enough."

Sam’s Dream Blog: How did your prior work at Soles4Souls and in the footwear industry prepare you for what you are doing now?

Wayne Elsey: PEOPLE are searching for direction and HOPE. My experience, both in the for-profit world and nonprofit world, has enabled me to bundle the knowledge, drive and ambition to make a larger footprint in the world. At Soles4Souls, I founded, started and put a lot of energy in getting it to the point it is today, financially strong with an incredible team! Therefore, why not build a bigger tribe of people who want to make a difference and just need a nudge or the direction to do it? People need to realize that they matter. YOU MATTER, your cause matters. It all starts with that.

SDB: Why is now the right time for your new venture?

Wayne Elsey: It was the right time for me personally. Focusing on ME, health and what I really want to accomplish motivated me to resign [from Soles4Souls] and move forward with a vision that has been in my head for over a year. PEOPLE are looking for direction; I want to offer that to them. They are looking for HOPE, and again, I want to offer that to them.

SDB: How have your dreams and goals changed?

Wayne Elsey: They haven’t - they have increased in size as I clearly have seen the hurting people right here in America and around the world. We are better than that, to turn our head or offer them a handout. I am all about handups, not handouts!

Keep up to date with Wayne’s Web sitefollow him on Twitter, or read a chapter of his book by clicking here

Educators: Kaya Henderson Quick Hits

Kaya Henderson/DCPS
Kaya Henderson/DCPS


On the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, here is another educator making a profound impact.  Kaya Henderson is Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. She is one of TIME's "12 Education Activists to Watch in 2012" as well as one of Forbes’ seven most-powerful educators in the world.

Sam's Dream Blog: What's your dream for D.C. schools? How do you practically pursue it?

Kaya Henderson: From the first day I began working at District of Columbia Public Schools, I have had one dream for our schools: Turning DCPS into a world-class school system that prepares students well for success in college, career and life.

I want every student in this city to have the opportunity to learn from an outstanding teacher in a classroom that provides the tools and technology to help them reach their potential and pursue their own dreams for the future. And I want every student in this city to have access to fun and engaging programs that get students excited about learning and going to school.

But more than a dream, creating a world-class school system is a moral imperative. The future success of our city and our nation depends on a well-educated workforce, and I want our students to be able to compete with their peers in the D.C. area, the United States and around the world.

Over the past five years, we have been working diligently at our schools and in the central office to recruit and retain the most talented teachers and school leaders; build and rebuild high-quality modern schools that are wired for 21st century technology and feature some of the best amenities we can offer; and, through our community partnerships, we are creating exciting programs that engage students’ interests in academics, the arts, athletics and technology.

This year, in particular, we’ve made significant strides in pursuing our goals by launching a rigorous, new academic plan that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and designed to improve student performance. And, in our new five-year strategic plan, titled 'A Capital Commitment," we’ve made specific bold spending and programmatic decisions to reach our goals.

Over the next five years, DCPS has committed to the following five goals:

Increase district-wide proficiency to 70 percent while doubling the number of advanced students;

Improve the proficiency rates for our 40 lowest-performing schools by 40 percentage points

Increase our high school graduation rate from 52 percent to 75 percent

Ensure that 90 percent of DCPS students like the school they attend; and

Increase our enrollment.

These commitments support our goals for the next five years and the promises we have made to the District of Columbia and all our stakeholders to provide the students of this city with a world-class education.

Behind each of these goals are real, specific financial commitments that will help us build on the momentum we have seen over the past five years and move forward aggressively toward dramatic improvements.

SDB: Does your dream ever seem daunting?

Kaya Henderson:

Dreams always seem daunting at first. It’s not until you set goals and develop specific plans to reach those goals that you see the very real possibility of turning a dream into reality.

In DCPS, we take a strategic, systematic approach in setting goals for improvement - whether that’s academics, programming, operations or facilities. We set ambitious goals for our students, teachers, school leaders and central office support staff, and hold regular school stats throughout the organization to monitor progress and troubleshoot potential problems.

When you set ambitious goals in an effort to reach your dreams, it is critical to have the support of all your stakeholders - from city hall to communities and partners. We have been fortunate to have the unwavering support of Mayor Vincent C. Gray and look forward to engaging our communities and partners and garnering their support as we move forward with our five-year strategic plan in pursuit of our goals.

Did you think about some meaningful educators in your life last week? If not, here is another reminder

Teacher Appreciation Week with Leslie Jacobs

Teacher Appreciation Week:

Leslie Jacobs/Tulane
Leslie Jacobs/Tulane

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Who better to feature on Sam’s Dream Blog this week than Leslie Jacobs? Jacobs has helped to re-shape the New Orleans school system to the point that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called New Orleans the most improved school district in the country in 2011. Late last year, Forbes included Jacobs among the world’s seven most-powerful educators.

Sam’s Dream Blog: You’re a New Orleans native.  When did education of New Orleans youth become important to you?

Leslie Jacobs: I am a New Orleans native.  When I returned to New Orleans after college and the birth of my first child, I was looking to engage in something meaningful.  I became a business partner with an elementary school next to a housing development, which was one of the lowest performing schools in the city.

SDB: More than 60 percent of schools were failing before Hurricane Katrina. What was the effect of Katrina on student and teacher morale, and what got them hoping and believing again?

Leslie Jacobs: Public schools in New Orleans are much better than they were before the levees broke in 2005.  We are the most improved school district in the state.  Our dropout rate has plummeted.  More students are passing the state tests. Fewer schools are failing.  Why the change?  Many reasons:  The freedom and autonomy of public charter schools (close to 80 percent of students attend charter schools), the return of veteran teachers and principals along with many new ones, an embracing of a "no excuses" culture - the adults in the building need to find a way to overcome the challenges students bring with them to school. These are some of the key changes.

SDB: What’s your dream for New Orleans schools?

Leslie Jacobs: My dream and expectation is that New Orleans becomes a national "proof point"' that demonstrates to the country that we can successfully educate large numbers of poor and minority youth.

Who is a teacher in your life who you can say thank you to this Teacher Appreciation Week?

Carol Roth, New York Times Best-Seller and Biz Guru

Carol Roth:

Carol Roth

Carol Roth is a business strategist, former investment banker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. Hundreds of organizations have employed Carol’s business expertise.

Listen as Carol shares with Sam’s Dream Blog about gaining credibility and about what kind of business is right for you.

Check out Carol Roth's Web site for plenty more business insights!

John Maxwell Quick Hits

John Maxwell is the world’s foremost authority on leadership and has authored more than 60 books. Maxwell gives Sam’s Dream Blog readers his advice on going further than you ever thought you could on your dream journey.

Sam’s Dream Blog: Talk about how, by being diligent in pursuit of a dream, you will not only achieve that dream, but will go way beyond it. How have your dreams exceeded your original dream?

John Maxwell: When I started EQUIP, I had a strong sense that I wanted to train leaders internationally. But I didn’t have a strong sense of specific goals. Only by starting and doing the training were we able to discover the goal -- of training a million leaders worldwide. Once we focused on that, we not only reached it but exceeded it. Today we’ve trained over five million leaders in more than 150 countries.

SDB: On "Minute with Maxwell," you made the point that authority is earned rather than a title. How does someone become an authority on a subject, like you have with leadership?

John Maxwell: When I said that, I was speaking in the context of influence, not expertise. One gains authority in that context by progressing up the five levels of leadership. Position is just the starting point. To increase your influence, you go to level two and develop relationships. Once you’ve done that, you move up to level three, production, to help the team succeed. Once you’ve accomplished that, you focus on developing people, which is level four. If you continue to do that, you have the chance of someday reaching level five [the pinnacle of respect.]

Now when it comes to being an authority on a subject, spend one hour a day, five days a week, for five years. Earl Nightingale says that by doing that, you can become an expert on any subject, and I’ve found that to be true.

SDB: What’s a big lesson you have learned in regard to pursuing dreams?

John Maxwell: Don’t sell yourself too short. Coming out of college, my "lifetime" goals really were the goals for the next five years, but I didn’t know it. You have to dream big, based on the reality of your strengths and situation.

John Maxwell is hosting a special webinar about dreams on Thursday, March 1.  Don’t miss it!

Natalie MacNeil, EMMY Award Winner Quick Hits

Natalie MacNeil is an EMMY Award-winning media entrepreneur. MacNeil founded the women’s entrepreneurship blog "She Takes On The World." "She Takes On The World" earned a spot on Forbes’ list, "Top 10 Entrepreneurial Sites for Women" and on the ForbesWoman list, "Top 100 Websites for Women."

Dreaming Made Simple: I read that you were recognized as Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.  As a twenties-something, how does someone get his or her ideas to be taken seriously by much older decision makers?

Natalie MacNeil: Being taken seriously as a young go-getter requires unwavering confidence. There are people who judge me based on age -usually before they see my resume -but I don't let that bother me anymore. You have to look inwards and know that age does not limit what you can achieve. I truly believe that the only limits you will face are the limits you put on yourself.

Dreaming Made Simple: The name "She Takes On The World" sounds pretty ambitious.  How does someone decide whether his or her dream is too big, and how do you go after the really big one?

Natalie MacNeil: There is no such thing as dreaming "too big." You just have to remember that anything big you're going to accomplish will take time. When I set out to achieve a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), I start with 5 milestones or strategic actions that will be necessary to reach the goal. Then I work backwards to determine how to schedule those milestones into my calendar so that I have a timeline laid out for achieving my BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). My last piece of advice for reaching those big dreams would be to surround yourself with a strong support system. The people you surround yourself with can make all the difference!

Keep your eyes on Natalie MacNeil's blog to learn more about women changing the world

Arianna Huffington Quick Hits

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group. Huffington shares about women pursuing their dreams and about stepping out to go after dreams with Sam’s Dream Blog.

Recently, I read Ken Robinson’s book, "The Element." Robinson’s copy on Huffington is the basis for this Quick Hits post. Two excerpts from the book precede the Sam’s Dream Blog exchange with Huffington.

"I am struck by how often, when I asked women to blog for the Huffington Post, they had a hard time trusting that what they had to say was worthwhile..."

"Huffington says there were two key factors in pursuing her early dream. The first was that she didn’t really understand what she was getting herself into. My first taste of leadership came in a situation where I was a blissfully ignorant outsider’? (140-141, Element).

Sam’s Dream Blog: How does a woman find her voice and her place of influence while pursuing dreams and goals? 

Arianna Huffington: As Sheryl Sandberg told Barnard College graduates this year: "As men get more successful and powerful, both men and women like them better. As women get more powerful and successful, everyone, including women, likes them less."

But it's more than just our culture's concept of femininity that deters women from sharing their ideasand voicing their opinions and makes them second-guess the value of their contributions. Far too often, our doubts are self-inflicted. And because I know there are so many women out there who have ideas, experiences and stories worth sharing, I'd like to invite them to email me at Arianna@huffingtonpost.com. We’ll set you up with an account and you'll be blogging in no time.So the key to finding your own voice is to use it -- the more you know it and become confident in it, the less affected you'll be by those who try to doubt your value.

SDB: What advice do you have in terms of stepping out toward a dream in terms of timing and knowledge? How much should you know about the situation before you take a risk?

Arianna Huffington: Very often, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to stepping out toward our dreams. What I've learned is the importance of not letting the fears in my head get in the way, and not letting that voice of doubt, which I call the obnoxious roommate living in my head, have the last word. Especially when that word is "no."

And, because we will all experience many failures on the way to success, I have always believed in the importance of having what I call a "fearlessness tribe," a group of people who are always in your corner, always there for you, whether you succeed or fail.

Your tribe is there to give you honest feedback, to support you when the going gets tough -- and, just as importantly, to help you celebrate the good times. If you don't have one, get one.So when you encounter challenges you didn't know were coming, you'll have the continuity of your tribe to carry you through.

Read Arianna Huffington's columns, and let me know who else you would like to see on Sam's Dream Blog

Mark Cuban Quick Hits


Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, among other properties. Cuban is also the Chairman, CEO, and President of HDNET TV network. Cuban gave Sam’s Dream Blog his take on pursuing your dreams.

Sam’s Dream Blog: If cost is not a primary factor in making a decision, how do you prioritize which dreams to pursue?

Mark Cuban: You have to know what you love to do and whether or not you can make it a career.  You also have to determine whether or not you are willing to commit to working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week to reach that goal.

SDB: How do you evaluate whether to follow the crowd’s ideas and improve on them, or to go in a different direction?

Mark Cuban: You have to determine whether or not you are prepared to excel in either. If you don’t think you can be the very best at a business, you shouldn’t be in that business.

Read the new e-book by Mark Cuban, "How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It"