The Uncommonly Candid Career Story of Andrew M. Cuomo's "Counsel to the Governor"

Posted moments ago, my friend and colleague Shauna C. Bryce, Esq., interviews her longtime friend, Alphonso David, Esq.—chief counsel and principal legal adviser to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—and tells his astonishing story.

Part of BryceLegal.com's How I Got My Legal Dream Job Series, "How to Become One of the Most Powerful Lawyers in New York State Government," reflects Shauna's unparalleled access and gives the world insights into the decisions behind one lawyer's rise to influence. It's an uncommonly candid story of quiet struggle and ultimate triumph.

If you love reading non-fiction, there are moments here that will take your breath away. Here's an excerpt:

Your Star-shaped Peg Isn't Meant to Fit in that Square-shaped Hole

As infants, we learn that star-shaped pegs fit only in the star-shaped holes.

So why do we backslide as adults and start thinking our star-shaped pegs should suddenly fit into square holes?

The analogy illustrates a challenge faced by many successful people.

I work with stealth job seekers. People who are ostensibly happy in their jobs, but open to change. Yet even sitting solidly in their leadership positions, they say things like:

  • A recruiter called and didn't like X about my background. 
  • My friend told me my résumé was missing Y.

To which I say, "You might be missing the point. Your background and future career interests don't have to fit a recruiter's spec just because s/he called you."

In fact, thinking back to the thousands of people I called as a recruiter, odds were exceptionally low that the background of my prospect would be a fit. I had a long list of possibilities, but it was my job to find the right person. Only a handful on my list of 300-500 names would even make the first cut. 

Even purple squirrels become purple squirrels when the right, oddly-precise opportunity comes along. 

A needle in a haystack has more guarantee of being found! Recruiting didn't earn the headhunter nickname for nothing.

And as for what's missing on your résumé, how on earth can your friend know which parts of your background matter with respect to where you want to go in your career? YOU might not even know the answer to that question, so how can even the dearest, most trusted friend advise you about what should and should not appear on your résumé?

Here are some simple ways to start thinking about a shift in your career:

  • Be honest about where you'd be willing to go in your career. 
  • Create a realistic list of things you require to make a move. While you're at, include your deal breakers. 
  • Get real about what's feasible, and if you find technical gaps between your experience to date and where you want to go, decide if it makes sense (time-wise, economically) to fill those gaps.
  • Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to meet the spec of every recruiter who comes along. Be grateful they came along in the first place, have a short and pleasant chat, and sit tight for the right opportunity when it surfaces.

Be your own personknow and be your brand. You'll attract the right opportunities. Opportunities that value the pieces of you and the skills that light you up. Opportunities that make you happy. 

The more I do this work, the more I realize how many people grow in terms of skill, expertise, and seniority, but never move beyond the "Pick me! Pick me!" mentality that we all adopt as we leave college and head into the real world. If you're 15-25 years into your career, you're being sought and paid for how your leadership will impact a company, not the other way around. 

Pithy blog posts and rant-filled articlesthis one included, perhapsdo not, alone, represent the Holy Grail for your future, so stop trying to fit your star-shaped peg into square-shaped holes. Instead, start the hard work, decision-making, and preparationhell, do a Job Description Analysisnecessary to architecting the right next step in your own career.   

Want to Live Long and Prosper? Ten Tips

screenshot from uscf.edu/news

screenshot from uscf.edu/news

This is a don't miss post from UCSF if you're interested in living long.

And happily!

On Monday, a dear friend and I spent five hours chatting at a Fremont Panera about our respective businesses 

It's an every-six-weeks-or-so habit we established nearly a decade agoalternating visits between San Francisco and Fremont, California.

She mentioned Dr. Ephraim Engleman, a 104-year-old rheumatologist, recently passed, who a few years ago recorded a video sharing his "secrets of longevity." I followed the link she sent and it's worthy of a gander if you hope to live long and prosper. And you appreciate centenarian wisdom and wry humor!

For those who don't care to watch the video, here's a distillation. My commentary is in italics.

  1. Select parents with the proper genes. (Where's my wincing emoji when I need it?)
  2. Choose the right spouse. Having children is optional.
  3. Enjoy your work, but don't retire voluntarily.
  4. Exercise is overrated, do a little but not too much. (Can't agree, but I haven't lived to 104 either! On second thought, maybe I fall into the "a little" camp....)
  5. Avoid diets, vitamins, organic foods, fish oils, and other so-called nutrients. Don't weigh yourself. (Guilty. Entirely. Again with the "not agreeing," but zero personal proof)
  6. Keep your mind active. Poker, checkers, music, crossword puzzles.
  7. Avoid travel by air. (Okay, he's definitely a comedian.)
  8. Do not fall.
  9. Avoid illnesses like heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and arthritis.
  10. Be happy, lucky, keep young, and keep breathing. 

For everyone else, the video is below. A stirring tribute to his humor and 104-year-earned wisdom.

Meanwhile, UCSF's post from September has delightful photos of Dr. Engleman's early years at Stanford and his wedding day, among others. 

I can't help thinking about Dr. Engleman would have big ol' chuckle at The Atlantic's mid-life slump article I highlighted in November.

Ah, life. 

 

Fact or Fiction? The Midlife U-curve Slump

Leave it to The Atlantic to have a contributor who thinks this deeply. And it's science?

If you're over 40 and you've ever thought, "Is this all there is?" This article is for you. I've emailed it to 30% of my clients, and it resonates with all of them.

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis, by Jonathan Rauch. Must read. Maybe even for young professionals before they've reached midlife. Good to know ahead of time!

 

Are You a Multipotentialite? TedX Challenges Us Again

A colleague and dear friend emailed Emilie Wapnick's recent TedX Talk to me yesterday.

At age 65, my friend is an executive résumé writer and career coach with a more-than-interesting professional history.

Indeed, she began her résumé writing practice after at age 50 after stumbling into contingency recruiting three years earlier. 

Prior to that she earned a PhD and an MBA in unrelated fields, ostensibly for the joy of it, and before that, she grew up studying the organ! We bonded over J.S. Bach, love him or hate him, as I studied the piano for many years myself.

Like so many who spend their 75 to 90ish years on the this planet smearing together the humanities and the sciences, this TedX talk resonated with my dear friend. 

It's worth the 15 minutes you'll spend watching it and challenging yourself. 

Are you a multipotentialite? If so, what the hell are you doing about it? If not, are you giving room to those who are?

The MBA: Overrated?

A July 2015 BusinessInsider.com article recycled through my Twitter feed last week, and I almost didn't catch it, but I'm glad I did. 

I work with MBAs all the time. Newly minted. Mid-career. Senior MBAs. They're all smart people, and pretty great to boot. But probably half struggle in the same ways the rest of us struggle, asking, "What's my value in the world?" and "What do I want to do next?" (It's not lost on me that this is partly because of the nature of my work. I will naturally meet people who are questioning.)

A big part of discovering an answer to those questions, though, involves stepping out from behind the numbers and being human, which is why "6 career moves that are worth more than an MBA" by BusinessInsider.com struck a chord with me. Really interesting, and seemingly random insights (all six of them) are all tied into a single article that actually makes a lot of sense. The "become a master storyteller" resonated with me, as you might imagine.

Above is a sneak peek. Click the photo to read the entire article.  

 

Humanities Students & Graduates: You're Needed in Silicon Valley

Now here's a not-to-miss data report from LinkedIn for the PhD and MA students with whom I've been working at the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). 

Turns out, the LinkedIn deep diving and keyword searching we discussed in San Diego might just pay off. And certainly Alice Ma's LinkedIn blog post, You Don't Need to Know How to Code to Make it in Silicon Valley, offers a glimpse into some of the job titles you'll want to consider. 

Important quote: "Liberal arts majors take on a wide range of roles." Of interest, fourth on the list is folks in project managers. When I reflect on the swath of project management professionals with whom I work up and down the west coast, a lot of them have degrees in the humanities. 

Article screenshot depicting Jared from the HBO series Silicon Valley from Alice Ma's recent LinkedIn blog post. 

Mistakes Are Part of the Human Experience

Oh, how I love the Internet. Way back in December of 2012, Basecamp.com co-founder Jason Fried posted A mistake is a moment in time on the project management app's Signal v. Noise blog. 

If you've ever blundered hard, and had a hard time forgiving yourself, Jason's article is a good reminder that mistakes aren't intentional. It's also an invitation to consider that mistakes might have an important place in the human experience. 

Here's an excerpt. Click the graphic to read Jason's short and insightful take on the sometimes painful matter. 


Facing a Search Committee Interview? Here's How to Prepare

The simplicity of this article about preparing for a search committee interview is deceptive. (And wonderful.) And I'm not saying it just because I used to work for The Alexander Group.

Jane Howze shares "How to Ace a Search Committee Interview" in Taglines Magazine.

Jane Howze shares "How to Ace a Search Committee Interview" in Taglines Magazine.

If you've never faced a search committee interview, but might do so in the next few years, take Jane's wisdom in Acing a Search Committee Interview to heart.

Learn it, practice it. You'll be glad you prepared.

Career Planning Usually Involves a Bit of Risk

Legal careers advisor Shauna Bryce yesterday posted to her LinkedIn page this interesting article by Shannon Schuyler, leader of corporate responsibility at PwC: "Your fear of risk is jeopardizing your career."

Schuyler reflects on flubbing a student government stump speech in college, while admitting that public speaking is today "one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of [her] job."

As evidenced by the article's photograph, Schuyler clearly soared beyond her initial public speaking fears. But she uses the point to make a great case for taking risks, saying: "Whether we win slowly or fail fast, we become better for the experience." 

Quick read and worthwhile reminder for passive and stealth job seekers. Taking calculated risks is part of the game.