Maine is known for lobster. Memphis is known for barbecue. So why would you go to Maine looking for tasty ribs? That's a question business consultant and author Ken Tanner belatedly asked himself as he tucked into a burnt, tasteless slab of barbecue in Ogunquit, Maine, one summer evening.
Every region of the country has its unique signature foods. Likewise, each of us has a "sweet spot"-a signature skill or talent that can fuel your career and raise your paycheck.
In Never Order Barbecue in Maine, Ken shares entertaining and wise anecdotes from his own varied career paths-as well as insight from noted professionals who have been there, done that-to help you find your sweet spot and turn your job into a deeply satisfying, well-paying career. You'll discover ways to:
- Find and build upon your sweet spot
- Get promoted
- Develop career-enhancing relationships
- Turn downsizing into a career-building event
Why should you settle for a one-size-fits-all guide to the summit? Never Order Barbecue in Maine contains priceless, practical wisdom for your unique journey to a job that brings you maximum satisfaction.
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About the Author
Ken Tanner began his career scrubbing dishes in a Pizza Hut and eventually became the youngest manager in that chain's history. What followed was a twenty-year career in the hospitality industry. He served as regional vice president, director of training, and COO of companies such as Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, and Advantage. At 37 Ken founded an HR consulting firm focusing on recruiting. Ken uses his expertise to help companies build teamwork and retain employees. He and his family live in Marietta, GA.
Read an Excerpt
I was just out of high school when I received an invitation to attend a program in Chicago sponsored by the American Academy of Achievement. This organization held a yearly event in which it brought together one hundred "Young Leaders of Tomorrow" with thirty famous people. For a week I rubbed elbows with Neil Armstrong, Howard Baker, Michael DeBakey, and Sir Edmund Hillary (who responded to my question rather indignantly: "Why did I climb Mount Everest? Because, hell, boy, I like to climb mountains. You're thinking of the chap that climbed the Matterhorn.") And we listened to inspirational speeches from people like Lowell Thomas (who said everyone should go to jail at least once) and Dr. Jim Jenson, who had recently discovered the world's largest dinosaur. (His pearl: "No one would have paid any attention to me if I had discovered the world's smallest dinosaur.")
Most of the advice and thoughts I heard during this week were not as cleverly phrased, however, I harvested an abundance of plain-spoken wisdom derived from years of experiences. The president of General Motors-the employer of 700,000 people1-chatted about dealing with people on an individual basis. A now-paralyzed Olympic champion taught us how she now hurdled real obstacles. And, as detailed later in this book, a young executive provided surprising insight about how he used relationships to become president of a major corporation when he was barely out of his twenties. This week was the best educational experience of my life. Nothing compared to sitting at the feet of great men and women while they reminisced of their successes, failures, and dreams yet to be realized.
How different this seems when you survey the offering of problem-solving advice in business books and magazines, and from consultants and other so-called gurus. While there is some comfort in confident advice from MBAs, media stars, and gimmick-of-the-month programs, you often get the feeling that much of it is all frosting and no cake. Why? The latest theories and pontifications haven't been tested properly. Or those offering the advice are still wet behind the ears. Or a very successful person will assume that what brought him or her success will work for anyone else.
Whenever I am faced with a new problem, I tell myself, Someone has faced this before. All I need to do is find out how that individual dealt with it successfully and duplicate the solution. I can skip the time-consuming analysis and risky weighing of possible options that others struggled with as they searched for solutions. I can use their pain to avoid some of the trial-by-error and skip right to the successful solutions.
That's the idea of this book. We will examine career strategies from different angles. But each angle has one thing in common: it's based on the actual experiences of people who had some success in their careers-including me. These strategies are proven to work. You'll find chapters on building your career, developing relationships, avoiding career mishaps, coping with your job, and bouncing back from adversity. You'll learn how to market yourself, manage your boss, get promoted, and cope with stress. But all these chapters will be in service of one central idea: attaining a more satisfying career, whatever that means to you. (And we'll even help you sort out your thoughts there.)
Naturally, the book contains much of what I learned along the way. In fact, it contains just about all that I learned in the many jobs I've held over the past thirty years. Like the others in this book, I earned wisdom the hard way. My education in the school of hard knocks began in a Pizza Hut kitchen. It continued while eventually serving as regional operator, national training director, and vice president of a couple of international fast-food chains, interspersed with a two-year venture owning and operating a dinner theater and eventually jumping into the world of consulting. Even as a consultant I varied my expertise, first focusing on recruiting and now centering my practice on advising companies on better employee-retention practices. I've had the opportunity to look at careers and their development from below, from above, and from the sidelines. I've seen what does (and does not) work, I've studied the gurus, and I've laughed at the fads. And I've listened to a lot of smart people who shared incredible wisdom.
But let me emphasize that this is not Ken Tanner's Formula for Success Book. I have followed my own crooked path, stumbled into my own unique surprises, and tripped along my own journey into my personal definition of success. Both my journey and my destination probably vary dramatically from your experiences and what you are seeking. While this book features a lot of my opinions, anecdotes, clever uses of adverbs and adjectives, and, yes, advice, I ensure that you hear other views from men and women who have attained conventional definitions of success.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of writing this book has come from interviewing dozens of successful people and asking each this same question: "What do you know now that you wish you had known then?" The answers were often surprising. Some included solid practical advice. Some waxed philosophical. Some folks responded with their tongues solidly planted in their cheeks. But all these people honored us with their insight. Considering their achievements, their advice is well worth listening to.
You may notice conflicting advice in this book. As any great master will tell you, there are many routes to the top of the mountain. That's why you'll find alternatives to much of what I recommend-thanks to the many successful, generous people who offered nuggets of pure gold. And don't bother to try reconciling the different theories. Every person comes from a different starting point and has a different destination. Thus, your vehicle to the good life will be different from that of another reader's. Besides, the knowledge you need most will most likely reach out and grab you by the throat.
You will also notice that there is a lot of material not covered in this book. For instance, my discussion of résumés fails to teach you how to write a résumé. The discussion of interviewing does not include a listing of "great answers to interview questions." I did this because this ground has been covered ad nauseam. Just visit a bookstore and you will find the shelves covered with (often bad) books offering advice on résumés and interviewing. I chose not to replow this ground. Instead, I'll focus my comments on areas that have been overlooked or with which I disagree (and there are lots of these). As a result, very little of what's in this book is already on your bookshelf.
Comprehensive? Not possible. And you might find that to be a bit frustrating. Although I hope I have presented a heap of useful and productive advice, it is just not possible to address every career issue or to outline the one surefire path to glory. But within these pages you will find the major topics you need to explore in shaping your career and see some of the solutions that others have found to common issues. Use this for direction and reflection; save the details for your own unique journey-to the job or position in life that will provide the maximum amount of satisfaction.