Be passionate. Be real

I cannot overemphasize validity and effectiveness of the advice given by the some of the best recruiters and successful managers in the industry – Be passionate. Be real.

Over the last few days, I have been updating my resume in my bid to get a job in the industry of my choice. I went through a lot of career websites and advisory articles that claimed to offer the best practices to build and present your profile to your prospective employers. I read, and read, to the point of getting dizzy. I traced the records of my previous jobs and mined my previous experience, work done, accomplishments and all the keywords that I should include in my profile to improve my chances of getting hired. I spent a lot of time and effort on it, a lot!

However, after a lot of applications, (it’s just been three days), I got my first interview call for the interview. And, if there if anything that I must say, I am 100 per cent sure that none of the industry buzzword on my profile was the key in getting the interview call. Neither was it my academic and professional qualification, nor was the supposedly successful record that I presented on my resume.

The only reason and the most important one, that secured an interview call for me was the fact that I was really passionate about the job when I applied for it. I was real with my words and honest with my application. I really wanted to get hired for ‘that’ position and do ‘that work’, which was listed on the job description.

When we are passionate and real about our application, we often go beyond the standard templates and drafts of our cover letters and often express interest and enthusiasm, which goes beyond the mechanical application process that we otherwise adopt in our application spree.

I understand that we have the urge to go all out and apply for a lot of jobs that are posted on the career websites. But, do we apply for the sake of getting employed or do we apply for really doing the work that is expected of you in that particular position? The answer to this question matters a lot to the recruiter. In our applying spree, we cannot make out this difference, but when we apply to some openings with real passion and honesty, the application stands out by the little things that we say in your cover letter. The hiring managers have an eye for these subtle nuances. And I am sure that even we all know when that passion flows out in our applications.

Having experienced the benefits myself, if there is one advice that I want to give to everyone who is seeking a job out there, it would be to be passionate and be real.

And it is not that difficult do it. It’s actually very simple – Just don’t stop your search till you come across ‘that’ perfect position. Once you do, you can be nothing else but be passionate and real. And be sure to extend that passion and honesty in your interview and in your job once you get hired; and everything else you do in your life.

Cost of calculations

There is a cost for every thing. For every choice we make, something is left unchosen, and there are opportunity costs to it. For every thing we choose to do, there is a transaction cost to it. And similarly some more costs for some things that we often do, and even for the things we don’t do. Economists, financial analysts and accountants will help you to better elucidate these costs.

But, it is important to remember that our life is not a corporate mission. In life, there are some costs that are best left uncalculated. For in calculating these costs, you often end up spending considerable time and effort, eventually incurring more cost of calculations than the one you set out to calculate in the first place.

For example, I see a recent trend of reliance on task managers and productivity apps. While I am not a tech-averse person, I often wonder at the amount of time we spend researching and comparing the plethora of products out there before deciding to download and install one. Do these apps account for the time spend in researching and installing them in the first place?

Setting up calendars, scheduling weeks and months ahead of time only to reschedule it, creating to-do lists, reminders, and other such productive tasks are quite a paradox in my opinion. Although they claim to increase our productivity, I find that they are counter-productive instead.

Trying to control and align too much has its own costs. Trying to manage and squeeze out the maximum has its own costs. This is applicable in the present as well as the future. In fact all of us incur costs in the present to avoid potential future costs – this is how insurance industry thrives!

What is it about Twitter?

It is not 140 characters, but rather 140 opportunities to make an impact. It is about doing a favor to the current time impoverished world by being concise and precise. It is a good tool to practice and improve your  signal to noise ratio. It helps you cut the fluff and get to the core. It is about getting to the crux of the matter.

It follows Steve Krug’s ‘don’t make me think‘ principle transposed from design to content  – ‘don’t make me search and skim, make me read instead‘. It eliminates the need for Ctrl + F in your posts. It makes sure that the reader reads it and not just skim it. It gives the publisher two of the most scarce resources available today – time and attention.

More time to create less of more compelling content and more of 100 per cent attention from your audience. (Marketers, take note!)

However, while I say this it is very important to remember what Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Less is only more when more is no good.”

At your service – The Amazon way

How many times have you wasted 20 minutes walking through the aisles of a supermarket looking for a small utility product that you would have just purchased and walked away in a couple of minutes, had you found it quickly in the first place?

Probably many times. And this must have happened to most of us.

Well, just counter this with a situation where you wanted a particular product, and just as you walked into a store you magically landed up exactly in the aisle carrying that product, and exactly in the front of the rack displaying it.

Wishful, but unrealistic? Not in the online shopping world, especially at Amazon.

Amazon knows what you want even before you login to their website. It takes you where you want to go. Rather it just gets the products you want and places them right in front of you.

This is what their recommendation engine does. Inspired by your browsing history, their recommendation engine throws up a slew of options for you to consider. These options present you with items to consider, items to explore, items you have viewed, recently viewed items, featured recommendations, items to sell and other such modular boxes, which make up the homepage of Amazon.com (only if you are logged in). Another element that frequently garners significant click through rates is the ‘Frequently brought together bundle’ that plugs other related products, or products that other similar customers have bought together.

Judging by Amazon’s success, the recommendation system works. A lot of that growth can be attributed to the way Amazon has integrated recommendations into nearly every part of the purchasing process from product discovery to checkout.

The recommendation engine presents specially curated content boxes personalized to suit your preferences and are based on your behavior, or interaction with Amazon in the past. It is the result of some algorithmic magic being able to read your mind by analyzing and extrapolating past data; and it more often than not succeeds in meeting your buying criteria and getting you hooked to the items listed in one of these boxes. The magic boxes!

It isn’t surprising that their recommendation engine is such a big part of their overall user interface right from the product discovery through to the checkout stages. The recommendation engines incorporate typical marketing concepts including affinity analysis for the identification of primary driver items and that of affinity items to selective target up-sell and cross-sell products. So, while the primary purpose of their recommendation engine is to delight their customers by allowing them to serendipitously discover great products, we can see that there is a significant role-play of data capture and analytics, rather than being a mere serendipity!

However, there is one caveat here. More so for Amazon Prime customers.

Amazon offers a premium Prime membership that caters premium services to its subscribers, including free two day shipping and other such benefits. However, considering that it is a premium service, there is not a plausible rationale to have more than one user account for every household. Hence, it would be fair to say that there are multiple users in a given household for a single user account. And all these users accessing the same account have different preferences and buying criteria. So, there would often be instances of completely irrelevant, or even contradictory browsing history and patterns as a result of multiple users accessing the same account. What this does is that it throws up irrelevant recommendations to the users accessing the same account, and hence potentially leads to lost sales.

What Amazon can do to overcome this problem is something similar to what Netflix has already done with profiles. Netflix profiles allow different members of your household to have their own, personalized Netflix experience, built around the movies and TV shows they enjoy. Netflix allows up to five individual profiles within a single Netflix account.

Similarly, Amazon can allow to have multiple access ids associated with a single primary account. They can limit the number of access ids to say 5 per account. What this will ensure is that each member from a given household will then be able to browse independently of each other without affecting the recommendation engine algorithm. The algorithm can then associate different attributes and preferences for each of the access ids and thus will improve the quality of recommendations being presented. Can and whether this service should be extended to include multiple wishlists is a different concern, but it definitely makes a lot of sense for recommendations.

It will go a long way in helping Amazon better realize their mission statement, which reads, “Our mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

The order of interrogatives

I am practicing to develop a habit of asking myself these questions in the given sequence before making a decision.

  • Why, do I need to do it?
  • What, should I do?
  • How, am I going to do it?
  • Which, when and where, should I do it?

The ‘it‘ in above questions can be different for different people in different circumstances. However, the ‘it’ carries no weight and context without proper interrogatives affixed to them. And it is not only the interrogatives affixed that matters, but also the order in which they are arranged. If you don’t start with Why followed by What and How; and then by other three ‘W’s (which, when and where), then the very purpose of ‘it‘ may be defeated.

We must first know ‘why‘ we want to do some things and to what effect. It must be followed by the evaluating ‘what’ alternatives do we have, and then selecting the one that we think would be the best possible alternative so as to satisfy the requirements of being an answer to our first question. And once we have the best alternative, we then have reflect on ‘how‘ would that alternative be actually implemented. Once the first three big ‘W’s are answered, then we can bother ourselves with the nitty-gritties of which, when and where.

You mess up the order of these ‘W’s, and you may see that the task we finally accomplish may well be irrelevant to the very purpose of doing ‘it’.

And this is applicable to everything in life, as well as work. Be it learning a new language or a musical instrument or just climbing mountains; or improving your customer service, product design, or instituting a process change or anything fancy that you may do as a part of cultural-shift in your lives and organizations; unless we have compelling answers to these questions addressed in a proper sequence, the outcomes of our efforts may not be in our best interest.

In life, I believe the answers to these questions must all come from within. In work place, I believe the answers to all these questions must come from the outside, usually the customer.