Book Review: Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business and Life by Joe Sweeney

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you‘re going because you might not get there.  – Yogi Berra

It is an old story: you feel stuck in your life, and you know that you need to make a change but are unsure where to begin. In fact, you are not even sure you know exactly what you want. Sound familiar?  Joe Sweeney, author of the celebrated business book Networking Is a Contact Sport, addresses all of these issues in his latest book, Moving the Needle. Sweeney breaks the book into three parts: getting clear about what it is that you want, taking responsibility for the things that happen in your life, and taking measurable steps toward your aspirations. Using this framework, Sweeney acts as a coach, driving the reader toward success.

According to Sweeney, “If you can create a big enough why, the how will take care of itself.” A large portion of the book is dedicated to “getting clear.” In order to do this, Sweeney provides tools for everything from finding your purpose in life to mapping your ideal day, month, year and life. He promotes a series of self-reflection tools to get clear on what change we want and need in our lives. One of these tools, his “Life Decision Wheel” challenges you to write specific actions steps for various areas of your life. The spokes of the wheel include:

  • Career & Job
  • Financial
  • Relationships
  • Health and Fitness
  • Contribution to Community
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Recreation

Taking time for this activity will determine where to devote your energy and efforts.

Networking and interpersonal communication are clearly Sweeney’s strengths. His philosophy of “touch before technology” is highlighted in the “get going” section of the book. Moving the Needle is filled with ideas of how to build a personal support system to support your efforts and keep you accountable. While some of his techniques may seem old-fashioned in the age of digital marketing, it is hard to deny the personal touch, effectiveness and “wow factor” of his communication strategies. For example, Sweeney’s 5/10/15 is an especially effective tool for job seekers. The rule breaks down as follows:

  • Sweeney states that if you have at least 5 meetings and personal encounters per day, it will bring you closer to your goal. These could be job interviews, informational meetings or even speaking to recruiters at a job fair.
  • In addition to meetings, you should strive to send out 10 letters or emails each day. It may include resumes as well as thank you notes and emails to check in with members of your network.
  • Finally, it is optimal to make at least 15 phone calls per day. In the age of online job seeking, people often forget the importance of voice-to-voice contact. Following up job applications with a phone call and reaching out to people in your network are important parts of being a successful networker. According to Sweeney, the most effective thing to say at the end of a phone call is to ask whether there is anything that you can do for the other person.

Moving the Needle is compact and organized into succinct chapters filled with graphs, tools and examples. Joe Sweeney has built his reputation as a specialist in business with a passion for sports. The anecdotes and quotes that are featured in the book highlight wisdom from figureheads in both of these areas. However, Moving the Needle is not just a business book. Sweeney emphasizes the need to view your life holistically – toting the importance of family and health as a key component to overall success. If you are looking to make a change and would like an encouraging book which is easy to read, I highly suggest that you pick it up.

Additional Resources: Explore your strengths, skills, interests, values, and personality using the  “self-knowledge” tools  on the Career Services website.

Written by Senior Career Advisor Angie Lira

Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

It is a bit unorthodox for us to write book review about meditation.  But spring is in the air and we’re all ready to break out of our usual routines up here in Minnesota!  So here goes…

Dan Harris is an ABC newscaster who got his start under Peter Jennings and has had some very stressful reporting assignments including 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  He is a very smart, talented individual and newscasters are known for being very “just the facts,” data-driven people.  So I was intrigued to learn Dan Harris had written a book on the benefits of meditation.

The practice of meditation can still hold connotations of being “woo-woo,” as Dan puts it.  In fact, the reason he came up with the title “10% Happier” for his book is because he got tired of the quizzical looks people gave him when he started talking about meditation.  When he stated that he meditated because “it made him 10% happier,” he seemed to gain more credibility with his audience.

So how did Dan discover meditation?  Peter Jennings assigned him to cover the general topic of religion which led him to interview individuals like Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra who advocated living in the present – mindfulness – rather than worrying about the past or future.  Dan’s wife recommended he meet a respected psychiatrist named Mark Epstein who used mindfulness in his work with clients.  Gradually Dan started to meditate on a daily basis and found that he became less reactive in emotionally charged stressful situations.  His path eventually led to a meditation retreat which was very transformational for him.

In winding down his book, Harris gives instructions on how to start a mindfulness meditation practice.  He discusses how medical research now supports meditation as helpful for a number of major health issues such as high blood pressure. CEO’s, scientists and a number of celebrities now meditate to increase their levels of calm, happiness and focus.   A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article states General Mills is a pioneer in bringing “mindfulness,” or meditation, to the workplace.  Other large Minnesota companies including Target, the Mayo Clinic and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans have some sort of meditation offering for employees.

Additional Resources:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Here is his brief YouTube video on the health benefits of meditation:

For free guided mindfulness meditations, check this website:

We know our students lead very busy lives filled with school and career demands.  Meditation can be a great stress-reduction strategy so I hope you find this information helpful.

Written by Senior Director of Career Services Lisa Cook

Life Reimagined by Richard Leider and Alan Webber


Life Reimagined is a great read for those who are searching for new life possibilities, either in their work or personal lives. As we welcome in 2015 and consider goals and resolutions, this book’s roadmap may help.

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) recently started offering “Life Reimagined” workshops in the Twin Cities. Since we offer a “Midlife Job Search” webinar and many of our students are navigating career changes, Career Advisor Denise Pranke and I recently attended one of these workshops. It was very well-attended and interactive. The possibilities that attendees were considering covered a wide range, from empty nesters looking forward to selling their homes to pre-retirees looking to travel to career changers and those looking to add new volunteer roles or expand their present careers to new areas.

The most valuable takeaway of this book is its roadmap of six “practices” (Leider & Webber, 2013, p. 43) useful for moving forward in exploring different types of possibilities. The six practices are:
1) Reflect – conduct a self-assessment;
2) Connect – get advice from trusted friends and guides;
3) Explore – test different possibilities with curiosity and courage;
4) Choose –narrow your options by taking a deeper dive and reality check with a few options;
5) Repack – deciding what is essential for the road ahead – what to pack and what to keep – both the tangible and the intangible;
6) Act – take action towards making the possibilities real.

The map is pictured as a circle rather than a straight line so if you think this model would be helpful, pick the practice that best fits where you are in considering various possibilities. These six practices will help you ask questions and keep you on track through your journey of exploring various options.

This map syncs well with our 3 pronged “EPS” approach in the Career Services Center. We advise our students advancing their careers as follows:

“Try new Experiences; connect with new People; and tell your new Story.”

When our students gain new experiences where they stretch themselves and connect with new people – whether it’s volunteering or taking on a leadership role in their work or personal lives or presenting at a conference or joining Toastmasters , they start to view themselves differently, broaden their career identities, and tell new stories. These actions move them forward on their career paths far more effectively than other strategies.

What new possibilities will you reimagine for yourself in 2015? Would you share your thoughts on our Facebook page? We’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Wonderful and Healthy 2015 from the Career Services Center!

Written by Senior Director of Career Services Lisa Cook

Book Review: Drive by Daniel Pink

In his enlightening book, Drive, Daniel Pink insists that most organizations rely on an outdated approach based on “rewards and punishments” to manage employee productivity.  He explains why this 20th century strategy, which he labels “motivation 2.0,” no longer works for a 21st century workforce, which requires a new, fresh approach that he calls, appropriately, “motivation 3.0.”

Motivation 2.0 is based on the notion that people respond productively to extrinsic motivators, such bonuses and promotions.  While this worked well for routine and automated tasks most prevalent in the 20th century workplace, it does not work well for heuristic work, the non-routine tasks of the 21st century involving artistic, creative problem-solving skills that depend heavily on intrinsic motivation. The reality is that 70% of job growth comes from heuristic work. (Pink, 2009, p. 30)  The consequences of continuing to rely on extrinsic motivators could be potentially devastating to the future of American business.

Pink references the most recent scientific research on human motivation conducted over the last half century. He finds that this body of motivation literature reveals a huge disconnect between how people are motivated and how businesses are currently operating to motivate workers.

The good news, he explains, is that this new approach to intrinsic motivation can be learned.  Pink provides readers with a comprehensive toolkit that includes a list of books, names of business thought leaders, a discussion guide, a free online assessment, and an invitation to subscribe to Drive Times, a free quarterly e-mail newsletter, to stay updated on the topic.

The research reveals that we all need to update our mindset to a new third drive, “motivation 3.0,” which shows that human beings also have a drive to learn, create, and better the world beyond themselves.

The three elements of autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the essential requirements needed to foster what he calls “Type I,” or intrinsic behavior, in individuals.  Type 1, intrinsically motivated individuals have a greater sense of fulfillment, happiness, as well as physical and mental well-being.  He defines these three essential elements as follows:

  1. Autonomy: “Our innate need to direct our own lives” (p. 211);
  2. Mastery: The urge to make progress and “become better at something that matters” (p. 207); and
  3. Purpose: The desire to do “something that matters, do it well, and in the service of a cause larger than ourselves” (p. 146).

Pink makes this reading interesting by sprinkling the book with real case studies and examples of organizations going in the wrong direction, as well as exemplary organizations, such as Google and Zappos, that have already been implementing motivation 3.0 and are way ahead of the game.

In a society so focused on extrinsic, monetary and material rewards, Pink provides a refreshing new challenge to move forward in one’s personal and professional life. Pink’s lessons can also be applied to a career development context to help professionals gain insight as to what types of work and organizational environments would yield the highest levels of productivity, growth and overall satisfaction.

Whether you are a parent, an educator, a manager or an organizational leader wanting to inspire others around you, you have real opportunities to implement the recommendations and knowledge shared by Pink.  Try putting “motivation 3.0” into practice to inspire and foster creativity around you and to contribute to a new and improved 21st century workforce and society.

By Career Services Advisor Nicolle Skalski

Book Review – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain celebrates the power of introversion.  She estimates that introverts make up between 33% and 50% of Americans and proposes that where we fall on the Introvert-extrovert spectrum is “the single most important aspect of personality.”  It influences our choice of friends and partners, how we make conversation, how we resolve differences, what careers we choose, and whether we will succeed at them.   

Famous individuals who have made significant contributions to a wide variety of fields have been introverts: Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Gore, Warren Buffet, Gandhi, Van Gogh, Einstein, Chopin, George Orwell, Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, and even Dr. Seuss!

Cain views introversion from a cultural point of view.  Introverts may describe themselves as: reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, shy, sensitive, thoughtful, solitude-seeking and inner-directed.  Introverts generally prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying, and working on their own over brainstorming in teams.  Society generally seems to favor extroversion over introversion in many contexts.  In other words, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  From a work standpoint, many employers encourage teamwork in offices without walls, where “people skills” are highly valued. 

Cain considers the positive sides to both extroversion and introversion in the workplace.  Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly and are more comfortable with multi-tasking, risk-taking and conflict.   Introverts tend to think more slowly and deliberately.  They like to focus on one task at a time and may have very strong powers of concentration.  Introverts may be excellent leaders and negotiators because often they have strong abilities to listen carefully, think things through, remain calm in stressful situations, and ask good questions.

My main takeaway from this book was Cain’s proposal of a Free Trait Agreement.  We can make agreements with ourselves to adopt behaviors from our opposite personality type when we are pursuing an important goal or “core personal project.”  For example, an introvert like Al Gore can deliver an engaging speech to several hundred people about a climate change, a cause he feels strong about. 

Considering a Free Trait Agreement in the context of career advancement, it may be challenging for someone with strong introversion to attend large networking events.  Cain would suggest making an agreement to commit to a certain number of networking events per month with the view that by networking now and landing a job more quickly, one won’t have to work so hard at networking in the future. 

To determine your core personal project, Cain asks: 1) What did you love to do as a child and what specific aspect made you love that activity so much?  2) What do you gravitate to at work?  Is it the work itself or the purpose/cause you are serving?  3) What do you envy?  The things you envy are clues to what you probably most want.

In closing this review, I offer two suggestions.  1) Please understand that extroverts, introverts and ambiverts (folks in the middle between introversion and extroversion) vary widely in their behaviors.  Therefore, it is best to avoid making assumptions and “typecasting” individuals based on their personality preferences.  Cain advises readers to take what applies to them and use the rest of the information to improve their relationships with others.  2)  If you don’t know where you fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, you might consider taking the Keirsey Temperament Sorter or the assessment on pages 13-14 of Cain’s book.  Both extroverts and introverts have amazing talents and gifts to offer and knowing that potential makes this book worth reading.         


Written by Career Services Director Lisa Cook

Book Review of Mash-up: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier by Ian Sanders and David Sloly

This book contains stories of individuals who combined multiple skills to create a patchwork quilt-type career rather than limiting themselves to a single job title. The world of work used to be a single track up a ladder where we became experts at just one thing. Now our economy and our jobs are very uncertain, with new types of jobs being created at a rapid pace. To stay employed, we need to be open to change, willing to learn new skills, and watchful for opportunities that use combinations of our skills. This is the “mash-up” way of thinking.

Tim Brown, CEO of a global design and innovation firm, introduced the idea of “T shaped” people in 2005, which demonstrates mash-up thinking. T shaped people have a principal skill – the vertical leg of the T. Then they branch out to other skills as well, which is the horizontal leg of the T. T shaped people can use insights from different perspectives and look for broader solutions in solving problems since they venture outside their primary discipline.

Mash-up thinking involves development of multiple skills, so it’s important to go beyond a job title in describing yourself. The authors propose a “personal unifier” to tie your skills together with clarity. To find this, you look for the common denominator in your skills. For example, a career counselor may be a blogger, a speaker at a conference, and a webinar presenter. The common unifier may be to “communicate career management strategies.”

To expand on your unifier, it’s important to be able to tell the story of what you do for a living and make it interesting. There are three elements to a good story: 1) the impact – you use this to grab the attention of your listener, 2) communication – you must clearly state what you want your listener to know, and 3) persuasion – you must influence your listener to take advantage of the service or resource you’re offering. (Sanders & Sloly, p. 116) To help you craft your story, ask people close to you 3 questions: 1) If you were to introduce me to someone and make a good impression, what would you say? 2) Name one thing about me that stands out. 3) Why would you buy my service or product? (Sanders & Sloly, p. 118)

Reading this book will nudge you to ponder how acquiring new skills might expand your work and interests to new areas. The authors call this “adding strings to your bow.” To choose new strings, ponder your recent work and ask: 1) What have you wanted to do but have not tried? 2) Where is there untapped potential? 3) What else could you offer? (Sanders & Sloly, p. 158)

I hope this book helps you to think outside your “job title box” and explore new areas for your career development.

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services

Book Review: The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

Can we strengthen our charisma or is it something people like Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, Mother Theresa and Princess Diana were gifted with at birth?  According to Olivia Fox Cabane, it’s a myth that charisma is some innate quality we’re born with; charisma results from learning specific non-verbal behaviors.  The Charisma Myth is full of practical techniques and strategies to strengthen our personal appeal.

According to Cabane, charisma is critical in our careers and our personal lives.  Research shows that charismatic people are liked and trusted more and receive higher performance ratings.  They are viewed as more effective by their colleagues.

The three core elements for charisma are: 1) presence, 2) power, and 3) warmth.

Presence is focusing on the person we’re speaking to and tuning out all distractions, from background noise to our wandering thoughts to cell phones.  If we’re not fully engaged in listening to the other person, it will show up on our faces and will trigger a subconscious reaction in the other person.  We will be viewed as inauthentic, which is charisma Kryptonite.  So if we find our mind wandering when someone is talking to us, Cabane suggests directing our focus back to our breathing, the present moment, and then back to the person speaking.

Power is being able to affect the world around us through influence on or authority over others, money, expertise, intelligence, physical strength or social status.  “We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others’ reactions to this person, and, most of all, in the person’s body language”  (Cabane, page 18).  Warmth is goodwill towards others – being perceived as benevolent, altruistic, caring, or positively impacting the world.  Warmth is assessed almost entirely through body language and behavior.

With regards to warm and power, people tend to accept whatever we project.  Therefore, charisma begins in the mind.  Body language is very important to charisma.  Our body language reflects what we think and feel.  Therefore, charismatic behaviors start in our minds.

Cabane provides practical strategies for replacing negative thoughts with positive ones supporting charisma.  There are four different charisma styles: the Authority, Visionary, Focus and Kindness Charisma styles.  We can pick the one best suited for us, depending on our personality, goals and the situation.  Lastly, she provides practical techniques for cultivating charisma in specific situations including making a first impression, making a presentation, handling a crisis or just writing an email.

I was intrigued to read this book because it had 4.5 stars from 239 reviews on  I recommend Cabane’s practical strategies for cultivating a charismatic mindset to strengthen our relationships with others in our personal and professional lives.

Written by Career Services Director Lisa Cook