Friday, September 13, 2013

Scarcity of smiles / Transferable skills / The day of atonement

Scarcity of smiles

For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed people watching.  I believe there is no better show in town than observing others - on the street, in restaurants, in stores, on subways and buses…basically everywhere.  In New York City you’re not ‘supposed to’ make eye contact with anyone on a subway car and it’s a curious phenomenon to watch people not watching each other.

But my commentary here is a sad one.  It’s about how few of the people I see actually smile these days.  Maybe it’s that everyone is in a hurry…or maybe, as my brother Jay and I were discussing, it’s a result of people just focusing on themselves…  “Whatever happened to people simply showing some consideration for each other?” Jay lamented. 

In my travels I have learned that there is seldom a more powerful communication tool than a smile.  When you are in a country where you don’t know the language and you need help finding the nearest - dare I say – Starbucks or McDonalds, it’s all about how you approach someone that makes the difference. ‘If you smile at me I will understand ‘cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language,’ wrote and sang David Crosby in the song Wooden Ships (Crosby, Stills & Nash).  It’s truly a beautiful concept and, in addition to a communication vehicle, a smile brings a wonderful inner feeling. 

A friend recently introduced me to an organization called Smile Train (that trains doctors to do cleft palate surgery on kids in need and more recently adults. “I’ve always felt that a smile can open doors and that these kids with cleft palates need our help,” says my friend with a million-dollar smile.  

There are many people who are not physically able to smile and yet desperately want to.  What a shame that so many who can smile don’t. 

See if you’re able to catch yourself not smiling; think about those that simply are not able to and find it within you to smile as you walk down the street, drive in traffic or wait in line at airport security.  Trust me on this one – smile, as often as you can – you’ll find it improves your day, and that your smile is contagious.

Transferable skills

Many years ago, a friend related some career advice her father gave her: “Decide what you’re good at; decide what you like to do and then go find a place to do it!”  Ah, if it were only that simple for everyone.  And, with the popularity of real estate, it’s never been more competitive for jobs at every level. Something that helped me early on was being introduced to the idea of transferable skills. This includes evaluating yourself in terms of your skill set and what you’re good at, but not defining yourself by just one job title.  

The career conversations I have these days, with both professionals (who may be unemployed or underemployed) and students (looking for internships and first jobs) have a similar tone:  some just want to find a job (understandably so) while others are searching for a place to do something they love, believe they will love in the future, or are simply good at. 

I work at helping people understand the concept of transferable skills when they are looking for new employment or a new career choice. It’s all about presenting oneself in the right way. Being able to see one’s own strengths and value in a different light will allow confidence to shine through.  People want to work with others who have that bright light to share and can bring value, often from a fresh perspective.

If people come to you looking for career advice, you may want to open their eyes to the concept of transferable skills.  They too may benefit from that holistic approach to a career.

The Day of Atonement

Tonight begins Yom Kippur, the Jewish ‘Day of Atonement.’  It’s the holiest day of the year for Jews, which features a 24-hour fast – from sundown tonight through sundown tomorrow.  As in most religions, there are different degrees of observance, depending on one’s belief system.   While not religious (and having been basically non-observant for a number of years) I have fond memories of going to a ‘synagogue’ set up at the Lost Battalion Hall on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park and, after the service ended, walking home with my Grandfather to the group of family waiting to sit down to ‘break fast’ with traditional Jewish delights. 

For years, while I didn’t attend religious services, I fasted – out of respect for my grandpa.  Then, detached from family, I began to neglect this one holiday that conceptually meant something to me – a day to reflect on the past year, atone for any ‘sins’ and start with a clean slate.  In researching the holiday I was reminded that while that’s not the exact definition, I’ve chosen to personalize the holiday to what is meaningful for me.  

Yom Kippur is an ideal time to remember what we did, forgive ourselves and move forward…it’s also a great opportunity to forgive others.  And so, tomorrow I am going to fast, go to Central Park and reflect on the past year. 

I will then ‘break my fast’ with a pumpernickel bagel with whitefish spread ready to approach the New Year with a fresh outlook.
Wishing you all a year of health, happiness, prosperity and peace.

On the Road...

Sept. 15 – 17:  NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers), Executive Officers Fall Meeting, New York, NY

Oct. 10 – 11:  Cornell Real Estate Annual Conference, New York, NY

Oct. 23 – 24:  PERE (Private Equity Real Estate) Summit:  New York 2013, New York, NY

Oct. 28 – 30:  PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) Annual Investor Real Estate Conference, Chicago, IL

Nov. 13 -15:  NCREIF (National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries), Fall Meeting, Miami Beach, FL

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