Official Blog of Center10 Consulting

Want to switch jobs? Do these things first

on Wednesday, October 29, 2014
This article was first published in Marketwatch on October 28, 2014
Sital Patel (@Sital) interviewed me on how to start a job search in the current environment, and be innovative about it....
As the job market improves, it’s tempting to jump at the next best offer. But career coaches say don’t jump before considering some important factors.
Stalk trends, and be the panther in your job search!
Illustration: Srushti Hebbar
“We work on a series of assumptions at work and at home,” said the career coach. 
Before making any dramatic changes, focus on what you are doing, what you want to change and what the best way is to change that, said Roopa Unnikrishnan, career consultant with Center10 Consulting.
“Be ready to make the jump by looking at the options out there and the capabilities you have been building over the last few years,” says the career coach. 
Unnikrishnan says there are a few important steps to consider before taking a leap.

Evaluate your situation

Before you do anything, you need to dig deep and understand your situation and why you want to switch jobs, said Unnikrishnan. Ask yourself whether your lack of fulfillment in the situation you are in or the lack of motivation from yourself to make the most of the opportunities presented by the role you’re in, said Unnikrishnan. “Be thoughtful about your current situation.” You don’t want to leave opportunities on the table. In digging deep, if it turns out it’s time for you to leave, you have your motivations and goals clearly thought out for when you speak to a potential employer, she said. It will be a more thoughtful story, where you have learned, delivered, can do more, says the career coach. Figure out what you are passionate about. “When push comes to shove, it helps to be convinced about the product or service you are providing or interested in.”

Assess your capabilities and passion

Next, ask yourself if you have the capabilities and passion to stay and grow in your work at your current job, says Unnikrishnan. Capabilities are divided into emotional and technical. Emotional capabilities are about working with people. Technical skills are about being able to do the core of what you want to do. “It can’t just be about a job on LinkedIn that has your search terms in it,” said Unnikrishnan. “What you want to do is it start from a core of “what am I here to do on this planet.” When looking at a position, think about whether the job could be done better, faster and maybe even cease to exist at some point. “With every move, you are making some bets,” said the career coach. “You are going in wanting to believe it will work out, but put on a skeptical hat” before you take it.

Be like a panther

Third, Unnikrishnan says visualize yourself as a panther. It’s about watching and waiting, she said. Once you have realized what you’re passionate about and what your goals are, stalk the trends and gather information, she says. It’s impossible to know everything out there, but look at trends around you that pertain to your career, she says. Whether you are talking to people, reading the papers, walking down the street, it’s about recognizing trends. For example, if you can’t go to industry conferences, look up the agenda and look at the topics of discussion for trend ideas in your space, says Unnikrishnan. “But don’t expect it to happen in a moment. This is about 25 things happening over time, that will [lead to] your light bulb moment,” said Unnikrishnan. Once you start seeing trends that could affect your career, ask the question: Why is this relevant? Why could this be relevant? Says Unnikrishnan.

Start the job hunt

Once you have done all of this, then you can hunt, said Unnikrishnan. Pretend you have been offered the job and think about what a week in that position would look like, she said. Consider what the routine of your day will look like so when you go into an interview, you can ask the questions that you need to, said Unnikrishnan. Don’t just focus on achieving a bunch of goals, think about how it all will work together. Imagine what your life will be like and if you’ll like it. “If you like to do things fast, maybe a start-up is the right place for you,” she said. 
The last step is to “live it,” says Unnikrishnan. Network, meet up with people in the industry to gather more information, she says. And don’t just ask them to tell you about it, have them walk you through it so you get it, adds the career coach. Start living in the space before you start actually looking for a job in that space, said Unnikrishnan. For example, if you are interested in a chief innovation role, look up the top five chief innovators on LinkedIn and talk to them . You must build a relationship with them before you can ask them to spend the time with you, said Unnikrishnan. “You can really test and be ready in a much more meaningful way for your new role.”

Malcolm Gladwell on the key to success: don't be afraid to look like a fool

on Thursday, October 23, 2014
Note: This article appeared in on October 23, 2014

I had the chance to sit down with Malcolm Gladwell and a few others just before he went on to speak about David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants during the World Business Forum “Provocateurs” conference. It was easy to slip into a casual, free-wheeling chat, and we touched upon everything from success and socialization to his infamous 10,000-hour rule.

Below is an excerpt of the conversation, edited for clarity:

Q: A lot of your writing talks about how to succeed—in your mind, what is critical for success overall?

MG: Capabilities—if you want to be a basketball player you need to be tall. And of course, desire and passion…(frowns and smiles)… except if you’re a lawyer, where theres probably no overlap between desire and success. (chuckles)

Q: What makes you successful, in your mind?  

MG: Not sure if it makes me stand out. What I try to do—try to be—is unafraid of making a fool of myself. Often I will often say something that later I consider wrong. I don’t mind changing my mind. The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand that the only way of pursuing valuable things and saying valuable things is if you lose your fear of standing corrected. Especially as a writer. I’m not making fiscal policy for the United States where an error is catastrophic. I’m provoking people to think. An appropriate mindset to have if that is your job, is to be unafraid. It’s about trying an argument out in front of intelligent people. There’s a 40% chance I’ll be wrong, but that’s OK. That’s the mindset you need to have.

Q: Let’s talk about fear. What is the most powerful weapon against fear? 

MG: The most powerful weapon against fear is forgiveness. If you are part of a community or a context or a world that is comfortable with the idea that people are sometimes fearful, sometimes make terrible decisions, and sometimes don’t do what they are supposed to do—and you continue to support them—then it becomes a lot easier to overcome fear. The key to overcoming fears is your understanding of what happens after you have done or not done something—and if you know that what happens next is that you will continue to be supported, that makes it easier to do the right thing. I think of things not in terms of the individual but of what surrounds the individual.

Q: In David and Goliath, you explore the idea of the advantage of disadvantage. How can you create strategic disadvantage deliberately?

MG: Part of this is making people comfortable with their imperfections. I am constantly hearing about a person seen inside organizations as being disruptive, but is nonetheless highly valuable to the organization. My sense is, if you are inside the organization and you’re discomforted by this person, get over it. It should be fine. Not every relationship has to be smooth sailing. Part of what makes a lot of people good at what they do are their flaws, their compensations for their flaws. My favorite example was a person I used to work with, a great investigative reporter in the Washington Post—one of the greatest of his generation. He was also exceedingly difficult to work with. They drummed him out, but they didn’t realize that you can’t get this great investigative reporting without the obnoxious personality.
The people around the weirdos have to be patient. It’s all a matter of how that’s framed. To think about my example: had the editor stood up and said, “Look we need him. Come to me if things are really difficult, but he’s not going anywhere.” If that conversation took place, it makes it easier. In David and Goliath, I talk about [Dr. Emil J.] Freireich, this tempestuous, difficult, impossible man. He had a boss at the National Institutes of Health who made it possible for all this great work to be done battling leukemia—he knew his job was to harbor and protect obnoxious and brilliant people. He woke up in the morning knowing it was his job to protect the brilliant people from the people they drive crazy.

Q. And what happens in schools—how does this reflect on what happens there?

MG: When it comes to children, it gets more complicated. You’re trying to socialize them, and educate them. With adults, we’ve kind of given up socialization. I worry sometimes that we have gone too far in the direction of socialization. Skilled teachers and principals try to find the right balance. We promote socialization over independent mindedness. I am the millionth person in my generation to object to the way competition is handled in schools today. It’s a really healthy thing to have winners and losers. You learn more when you deal with the real consequences of a loss than if you pretend there is no loss.

Q: Tell us about the 10,000 hour rule.

MG: People have consistently misinterpreted it. It’s not about sports—it’s about cognitively complex disciplines... and running and basketball are not cognitively complex disciplines. It’s not an either/or situation—10,000 hours cannot substitute for talent. If you are doing something complicated, how much time do you have to spend—the minimum amount of time necessary to express your innate talent? Even the most talented surgeon in the world cannot do amazing brain surgery at 21—what the rule tells us is that it takes a long time. Once you understand how long it is, then you understand the idea of patience in organizations, and the importance of organizational support for talent development. Talent development is a hugely critical element of any successful organization.
The correct response to a world that is growing more complex is to delay specialization, not to advance it. People think, because it takes so long to be good at something and jobs are so complex, I need to specialize earlier. No. Start later. The fact that skill levels in sports is rising means you should start practicing one sport later, not earlier. Because the question of fit is more important than ever. You can’t tell if you’re good at something at five, you can at 12. Play seven different of sports between five and 12. Same is true of education and careers. Slow down a little—learn your larger set of skills and then you can hone in and specialize once you have that broad set of capabilities and know where your fit and passion lie.

When customization leaves the customer out of the frame

on Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A version of this post was published in Quartz Magazine on September 25th, 2014. Click here for the article.
This year, as our 11-year old twins prepared to go back to school, they convinced my husband and I that they deserved something special for their 5th grade and middle-school entrance test results. Each had set their heart on customized shoes. I had been curious about how these services had evolved in recent years, so I decided to set up an experiment of sorts.

The criteria we established were simple: speed, concept delivery, no spam. The unsaid factor, of course, was customer satisfaction.

We started with a general search for customized soccer cleats for my son and sneakers for my daughter. After some price and value research, we decided to go with Vans for the sneakers and Adidas for the soccer cleats. Among the soccer shoe providers, Nike and Adidas have done the most to offer the greatest level of customization. Vans stood out as the only one, apart from Nike, that seems to provide customized casual keds. Toms, a leading contender provides artist-designed shoes and monogrammed pairs, but don’t get to the level of customization we were looking for. Of course, there’s a lot of speculation around 3-D printable shoes—I looked at a couple of options like the MiMiniFactory and Dezeen shoes, but it wasn’t easy to find anything practical and that didn’t require a lot of work to get set up, printed and tested. But I suspect my next shoe will come hot off a press somewhere near me.

After we selected Vans and Adidas, came the family mix-and-match fun, after which we had a couple of impressive looking shoes designed. Both websites ( and did well as far ease of use goes. However, Adidas won when it came to the types of customization you can incorporate (the player’s name, a country flag, etc.) As we hit the order button, we were surprised at the expected time to delivery – 4 weeks for the MiAdidas, and 7 weeks for the Customized Vans. Not to put too fine a point on it, but given the difference in the types of shoes we’re talking about here – cleats seem to be a slightly more complex product than Vans keds – this seemed a bit off. I get a sense that there’s a huge opportunity to simplify and speed up the process at Vans!

The criteria we established for the experiment were simple: speed, concept delivery, no spam. The unsaid factor, of course, was customer delight and surprise.