Detective Bob Shilling: A Story of Tragedy and Character

This week, I read a local news story about Detective Bob Shilling.  After a long and remarkable career with the Seattle Police Department, he was recently invited by Interpol, the most prestigious crime fighting organization in the world, to lead their Crimes Against Children Group.  Now he is preparing to move to France after Thanksgiving to begin this new chapter in his life.

The interesting part of this story is that when Detective Shilling first began his career in the police department, he declared that he didn’t want to work sex crimes.  While he never told anyone, his adamant opposition to working child abuse cases was because he had been sexually abused by his grandfather as a young child.  His own mother witnessed the abuse happening and turned and walked out of the room, leaving him defenseless and alone as a young child.

The abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes any of us can imagine.  A child subjected to sexual or physical abuse is clearly a powerless victim at the mercy of a predator.  Yet, for Detective Shilling the story does not end with the abuse.  Contrary to his stated wishes, his career did ultimately focus on bringing abusers to justice and making certain that victims knew the abuse was not their fault.  Today he is preparing to advocate for child victims internationally.

Reading about Detective Shilling  made me reflect on the nature of personal tragedy.  I was reminded of the many heroes, who have risen above trying circumstances, and then courageously face their fears to help others recover from similar hardships.  The stories of people living with disabilities, losing a job and becoming homeless, losing a child to drunk driving, losing a breast to cancer, victims of rape or incest, and even survivors of crimes against humanity, often become stories of transformation.  The survivors channel their pain and heartache into the very vehicle for serving others.

Although no rational being wants to experience tragedy or loss, being human means we will endure pain during our lifetime.  However, as Detective Shiller discovered, within the suffering lies the key to healing.  In the midst of our grief we are called to marshal personal strength and survive; and, as we move through the experience, the opportunity exists to discover a compelling compassion (or passion) for others along the way.  In a way, this is part of our social evolution as a culture.  As each person surviving a loss or hardship finds the wisdom and grace contained within the experience, we are able to help others to heal, too.  Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  It appears, for Detective Shilling, success will mean greater responsibility and helping even more children than before.

Byron, Linda, October 24, 2012, http://www.king5.com/news/local/Seattle-Detective-Bob-Shilling-Interpol-fight-global-sex-predators-175710391.html#

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Why Make Informational Interviews Part of the Job Hunt?

I am back in the job hunt after 24 years, and what I notice is that the experience is like entering the dreaded dating game after you suddenly find yourself single again.  The idea of forwarding my professional-looking resume and carefully worded cover letter to potential employers, who, if I’m lucky, will only give it a cursory glance, can feel downright depressing.  Just like dating, it feels like a desperate attempt to get someone to notice me.  How does one stand out in the crowd, if you’re not tall, dark and handsome, or a pretty, slender blond?

When I found I would soon be out of work, someone loaned me a small book titled, “Want a New Better Fantastic Job?” by Pam Gross and Peter Paskill (2001).  My friend suggested I read the section on informational interviews.  I’d heard of informational interviews before, but knew very little about it in practice.  When I read the section she referenced, the vision of me taking charge of the interview process to find a new career immediately felt liberating.

In contrast, the way most of us learned to conduct a job search by filling out an application and submitting a resume on line feels passive and anonymous.  We all know that employers are flooded with hundreds of resumes for every position they advertise.  Culling through all those applications to find the group of 3-5 best candidates boils down to checking education status and seeing whether the stated prior experience matches what the employer is looking for.  Today many organizations use computer systems to perform a key-word search on the applications they receive to make the initial cut.  The goal is to unearth that small, elite, group of people blessed with:

  • The appropriate college degree (Hmmm.  You say you have a Russian history degree?);
  • Unique job skills (paralegal who can read and write Mandarin); and,
  • A record of employment stability with a history of varied, yet somewhat dissimilar and progressively more responsible positions (I ask you, is all of that experience absolutely necessary?).

While HR recruiting efforts are certainly important to having an open and fair process; from the perspective of a new job hunter it feels like a massive wall between me (a well-adjusted, creative, smart, and service-oriented professional) and my potentially fantastic workplace.  As I learned more about conducting informational interviews, I knew I would have a better chance at being seriously considered for a position I wanted and have fun at the same time.

I understand that for many the idea of approaching someone and asking them to spend some of their valuable time with you may seem presumptuous, even arrogant.  However, I have three main reasons why I believe it is one of the best tools for finding a new job.

  1. I would much rather be the person asking the questions.  Next time you watch a TV show or movie, pay attention to who has the power in the conversation.  An ardent Closer fan, I’ve noticed that when Brenda Leigh Johnson begins interrogating her suspect everyone immediately recognizes who’s in charge.  Regardless of how big and bad the criminal sitting across from her may be, because she is asking the questions, Brenda has the power.

Informational interviews should never resemble harsh interrogations.  However, I certainly feel more at ease being the person driving the conversation.  I get to ask the questions, listen to their answers and take notes about anything I may want to research further.

  1. It’s impossible to know for sure if a potential employee will “fit in” with the organization just by reading a resume.  Employers want to hire someone who is intelligent, creative, adaptable, a system-thinker, disciplined, committed, dependable, and emotionally mature (and that’s not all…).  The only problem is that few of these character attributes are found on a resume.  It is only through personal interaction that one can observe the soft-skills of a potential employee.  Do they present themselves well?  Is the person well-groomed, attentive, polite and self-aware?  Can the person listen and respond intelligently?  The blessing of doing informational interviews is that the other person can observe and get to know you without you going through the stress of being in front of a hiring panel.

Success in nearly every situation requires “soft-skills,” and these behaviors can be learned.  If you don’t feel confident about your ability to smoothly interact with people, work to improve yourself.  The more you grow as a person, the greater your self-esteem and self-confidence.  The internet is filled with valuable information, and many great books and audio programs are available on the subject.  A book I really appreciated is, Emotional Intelligence:  Why it can matter more than IQ, (Goleman, D., 1995).  The book explains why having a high IQ and quality education is no guarantee for success.  Instead, employees who possess emotional maturity cost the company less to manage and usually raise productivity, too.  Another book I recommend is Social Intelligence (Albrecht, K., 2006).  Someone with strong social skills will find their careers moving forward with minimal effort.

  1. Many jobs are filled without ever being advertised.  Instead, someone knows someone else, who knows the perfect person for the job.  And voila, the position, that was never advertised in the first place, has been filled.  The more people who find out that you are looking for work, the better your chances to be the person someone else knows is perfect for the job.

The people you meet while doing informational interviews will likely become part of your expanding network—important professionals who can support and mentor you along your career path.  In nearly every instance, the people I’ve interviewed have asked that I let them know where I end up when I reach the end of my journey.  I believe the reason they make this request is because they are now a part of my future success.  Their desire to see me do well is far more encouraging than waiting for the Dear John automated email after submitting my resume in response to an ad on Monster.

10,000 Hours to Be…

What qualities does one need to be successful?  Do great entertainers, math geniuses, great writers or leader possess some extraordinary quality different from the rest of us mere mortals?  Are they born with something special, while the rest of us are doomed to live our lives in mediocrity?  How about the silver-spoon theory—is being born to rich, powerful, beautiful people the only way to be rich, powerful and beautiful yourself?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyzed what it is that leads the lucky few to reach the pinnacle of success.  Gladwell references two interesting studies, one conducted in the 1920s by Lewis Terman, of Stanford University, and another by K. Anders Ericsson, of Berlin’s Academy of Music, in the 1990s.

By following the lives of nearly 1,000 gifted children, Termin sought to prove that one’s above-average native intelligence quotient—IQ, would predispose one to becoming important later on in life.  However, while a higher IQ may give us greater innate abilities, the results of the study showed that IQ was no predictor of success.

The premise behind K. Anders Ericsson’s study, was to understand what it takes to become an outstanding musician.  We can call this, the Mozart legacy.  Here again, the theory is that child prodigies are born with talent to which most of us can never aspire.  It turns out that Ericsson and his colleagues were unable to find any naturally talented musicians.  Instead, they found the amount of time aspiring musicians invested in learning their craft and practicing their art was in direct proportion to their ability to demonstrate musical genius.  WOW, who would have guessed—those who worked the hardest had the greatest talent.  It turns out the number of hours necessary to be a world-class musician amounted to roughly 10,000 hours. 

This is the central theme of 10,000 Hours to Be Me.  I believe, investing 10,000 hours into something is more about the character attributes of commitment, perseverance, resilience, and focus.  The problem is that putting 10,000 hours into any one goal arguably means I must let go of so many other potentially, interesting distractions out there.  How often have I said to myself, I’m going to have free time this weekend, so I will do XXX?  Then when Monday comes around, I can hardly remember what I did with my time.  What I do know, is that I did nothing to move toward my dreams!

Most of the time, what I may be giving up is as important as doing housework, reading a novel, watching an episode of the Closer (OK, so I probably won’t give up Kyra Sedgwick), or some other activity that is more likely about avoidance than doing what matters most to me.  According to Stephen Covey, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1990).

Not easy!  So for 2012, my focus is to pay attention to what matters most in my life and see how many hours I am choosing to devote to those priorities.  As a friend of mine noted in her blog—work, family, and taking care of our physical needs are important and take up much of our day.  However, there is time beyond those activities that we can spend doing what we love.

I look forward to hearing the wisdom of others as I move along this journey.

References

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers:  The Story of Success.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

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