Protect your reputation in the sales community!
After being in the recruiting industry and having met many people through my career, I can sincerely attest that it is a small world, people talk and word travels fast. When that word is about you, you want it to be a positive one. You want people to respond to your name positively and hopefully send business and referrals your way. Having a poor reputation will surely ruin your chances of success. When it comes to building your reputation, the one rule of thumb is “Don’t burn any bridges”. In all situations, especially in business, be respectful of people and their time. But most importantly, be honest.
Let me share a story with you:
A candidate, that I will refer to as Johnny, called me to help him in his job search. After running a particular job by him, Johnny asked that I try to get him an interview. After submitting his resume, my client responded by saying that she thought his name sounded familiar but would like to meet with him. I scheduled him in to meet with my client and on the day of the interview, Johnny was a no-show. I promptly called Johnny and he made an excuse as to why he didn’t make it and wanted to reschedule. Not only does blowing off an interview soil the reputation of a candidate, but it also turns out that Johnny had met with my client for several interviews 8 months ago. They made him an offer and then Johnny went missing – he never called them back to accept or deny the offer. Therefore my client passed on his candidacy on the spot and red flagged his name for future consideration.
In this case, Johnny burnt the bridge between a potential job and also stained his reputation with me. Since this incident my client has moved on to a new company as their hiring manager. Therefore, what Johnny did not realize that because he has burned that bridge he not only shot himself in the foot with not one company, but two.
The moral of the story is be honest and do not play games. Treat everyone with the respect that you would want to be treated with. It’s a small world and karma exists.
Posted in Interview Advice, Job Search & Career, Resume Writing
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Cookie Cutter Interview Questions with Cashman, Part II
Scenarios – “Sell me that pen!”
I’m sure we’ve all been in one of those interviews where you’re having great conversation with the hiring manager. Things are going well, you have built some strong rapport, you are no longer talking about the role but instead are talking about how the Red Sox are looking going into the second half. You have him/her eating out of your hands and nothing is going to get in your way of closing this down and getting an offer. Then s/he says, “Now we are going to do a little role playing. I want you to take this pen and sell it to me.”
Before I go into how to approach this question let’s look at why they are asking you to do this. It’s uncomfortable, it’s silly, it’s awkward but when you think about it – so is sales. The reason so many hiring managers do some sort of role playing is because it allows the interviewer to see what you do when you are put into a situation where you have to think on your feet, execute and appear to be cool, calm, and collected through the whole thing.
I am not saying that role playing is a huge challenge but it is a bit off base when you are role playing with someone you just met. But, once you get past the silliness of it – you can really make it your own and that is what it is all about. Where people get lost in this situation is they hear, “Sell this to me,” and they break right into the presentation of the pen. It is not whether or not you can close the deal (although it helps in this case), but it’s about showing what your sales process is and how you can connect with the buyer.
Start by qualifying your prospect, “How do you satisfy your ink writing needs?” Hear them out, have them give you their pain points on why they should buy your pen. Once you have qualified them, then start presenting your solution, the pen. Based on the pain points they gave you, start telling them what your pen can do – bells and whistles as the pertain to the prospect.
Once you tell them about the pen, then you go for the close. “Are there outstanding questions that you may have about the pen that would prevent us from moving forward with the paper work?” The prospect may make up some concerns, like, “I really like my pencil,” or “I really like typing on the computer.” Whatever the concern might be, hear them out, answer them in the affirmative and put the concern to rest.
Are you seeing where I am going with this? Treat it like you would any other sales meeting – once you get past the weirdness of the role play and focus on the sale, you will be more comfortable. As long as you touch upon all the aspects of the sale – you will have successfully accomplished the role play. It is more about the structure of the conversation rather than the actual conversation itself.
So next time you are in an interview and you are asked to do a roll play, don’t fidget or stress out. Just simply go into the sales process – once you are through with the awkwardness of the role play, you get on to something really ridiculous, employment in sales.
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Conducting an entry level search
Recently, I have been assisting my youngest brother on launching his career search now that he is a college graduate and I have found the experience to be very interesting and eye opening. College courses can educate you on the business world and give you the tools to have a successful career, but one thing that those classes do not teach you is how to find a job. My brother attempted to launch his career search on his own and quickly found himself lost and running in circles. He went to my parents for advice, which was not the smartest move considering my parents haven’t looked for a new job in literally decades. My mother is a school teacher who has been in the same school system since Ronald Reagan’s first term. Before mid-term elections first term.
Needless to say my brother was lost. So I asked him what he was doing and he said he posted his resume on Monster and made a profile on LinkedIn. I quickly realized I had a serious challenge on my hands. For any career search, especially your very first job search, you tend to start with the conventional methods of searching, such as job boards. After several hours of applying for positions, you have the false sense that you’ve started to accomplish something. Unfortunately, submitting your resume to the big portal in the sky will get you no where.
So how exactly do you start? First, take a look at your resume. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the direction that you are trying to take in your career? If your resume is vague or is written to cast the widest net, you may feel that you’re maximizing your potential, but in reality you’re only hurting your search. Hiring managers want to see skills that are transferable. If you had a sales internship, put down your numbers and accomplishments. Start networking in LinkedIn by joining groups that are aligned with your background. What school did you graduate from? There is probably an alumni group that you can join. You may be able to network with recent graduates who can give you pointers.
Next, narrowly define the types of roles that you will consider. If you have a direction to want to take your career in, start thinking long term: what steps will get you to your goal? Concentrate on networking within those industries and look for job boards that specialize in the type of career you’re looking for. Consider talking to a recruiter that specializes in the industry you want. Go on every interview you’re offered. Get some practice under your belt and look at every interview as a networking opportunity.
Finally, while conducting your entry level job search, you may find yourself taking time out of your career search to find a job that will provide you with a quick paycheck. Be aware that your first priority is to find a career, not a job. Give yourself a limited amount of time to find a job that will give you a quick paycheck but continue a heavy search for your career. Job searches take time and in this economy it won’t be easy. You are an entry level candidate competing against candidates who have experience. You have to sell yourself as a valuable asset to any team and you may get several rejections. No matter what happens, keep your head up and continue to drive activity to find success. The right opportunity is out there for you, it’s your job to go get it. Good luck!
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Cookie Cutter Interview Questions with Cashman
We have all been in an interview and things are going reasonably well. You can’t get the best read on what the interviewer is thinking but you know that s/he does not completely hate you. Just when you’re feeling confident, they throw out that question that you have heard a thousand times before and you never know how to answer it the right way. You spew out a bunch of sentences that you hope will form an audible answer but it’s a crap shoot.
I am going to take up a few blogs and explore some of these questions, how to approach them, how to prepare for them and, more importantly, why the hell do they ask these questions in the first place .
“Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
It is one of those questions that a hiring manager will ask and wants a direct answer but what the answer is, does not matter as much as how you answer it. I recently wrote a blog about ‘the message’ that you are trying to deliver. My point in that blog is that it is not always about what you say, but how you say it. That is what this cookie cutter question is all about.
There are many different ways to successfully answer this question but only one way to blow it – not have an answer. If the first word out of your mouth is “err” or “ahh” – you’re all done. Just pack it up and walk out. If your answer is, “Jeeze, I never thought about it,” give them a fist bump and move on. Let’s be honest, no one has a crystal ball and knows where they will be in 5 years – but you have an idea of what you’d like to be in the future. That’s where your answer should start.
First, let’s talk about why they are asking this question. They simply want to find out if you have direction. That’s it. Do you know where you are going in life? Are you steering the ship or are you along for the ride? Employers are looking for drivers, not riders. Put yourself in their shoes – do you want someone who is going to sit around and wait to be told what to do OR do you want someone who will always be busy and taking initiative? They simply want to know if you are proactive or reactive.
Now, let’s figure out how to answer this, here is the secret: answer the question honestly. Tell them who you want to be and it does not have to be professionally. Remember, it’s not about what you say, it’s how you say it. If you are confident and you have a plan – they will accept it. The answer can be, “I want to be a good husband to my wife and father to my kids. I want to be in a home with a yard and continuing to advance myself professionally.” Simple and general and most importantly, honest. Here’s another, “I want to be a top producer in this company and I plan on doing that by following the training and looking to you (interviewer) as my mentor.” This is a little intense but it is very direct and ambitious. The interviewer will not question your dedication to advancement and will probably move onto HOW you plan to accomplish that.
So, the next time you are in an interview just remember that there is no cookie cutter answer to this cookie cutter question. However you decide to answer, you have to own it and make it your answer…it is your future after all. Take a few moments and write down a few things that you would like to accomplish in the next few years and how you plan to accomplish them. Make them simple and attainable goals and make sure that they are important to you. Do not do it because you want to be ready for an interview but do it because you want to set real goals. Without goals, you are just along for the ride and who knows where that will lead you?! It is more fun to steer the ship than it is to be strapped in the passenger seat.
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Will relocation advance your career?
It is forever the goal of every type of professional to grow and advance your career. In this economy, those desires are still present but the challenges of doing so are great. Professionals are now considering drastic ways to advance their careers such as relocation. However, before you pack your bags and uproot your existing life, consider the risks and the real implications of moving.
First, let’s establish the greatest reason to relocate: you relocate because you want to move to a specific geographic region for the environment, climate, family, etc.; you have no ties or plans to move back from where you are coming; you truly love the new destination and plan to establish a long lasting life and career there. If this is the motivation behind making a move then relocating is the right decision for you and your family. Pack up the U-Haul and enjoy the excitement and thrill of moving to a new state, city and town. Congratulations on your new venture and I wish you the best of luck.
However, for those of you considering relocation based on job opportunity, please consider some serious draw backs. I have experienced all of this not personally but through years of consultation with many great professionals.
When relocating for a new opportunity or a promotion with your existing company, the logistics of relocation are easy. Companies intentionally make it that way because once you leave the life you’re used to, you are trapped. Let use Boston as a location for example. If you are currently a professional residing in Boston and have a wonderful opportunity to advance your career but the advancement requires relocation, take into account some major factors: your family, extended family, friends, house, kid’s friends, classmates, etc. are in and around Boston. Now think about the opportunity for advancement and where it will lead you both professionally and geographically. Are you going to be moving to a place you like? If the answer is “no” and your main goal is to eventually land a better opportunity in Boston after a couple of years of experience you should strongly reconsider your relocation.
When you get the new promotion that requires you to move, there is typically a relocation package and emotionally it is all very exciting. Everything is in order to expand your career and your financial horizons. Your company helps sell your home, move your belongings and find a new house to purchase. All very exciting and once the wheels are moving you are gone. You say goodbye to your home and look forward to coming back in a few years with a promotion.
What unfortunately happens after the dust settles is not always what you may have dreamed of. A myriad of different unknowns pop up. You realize the job isn’t exactly what you thought it would be. Perhaps there is a personality conflict with your new boss or the division you moved to is struggling and you may loose your job. Also, if you have a family, you may discover that after uprooting them, your spouse and children are having a difficult time adapting to the new environment, the new school system or the general way of life. You may find that your support system was taken for granted or that building new relationships and finding dear friends takes many many years to establish. There are thousands of unknowns and many of these challenges way heavily on you and the family unit.
So what happens next? You tough it out and make it work. Even though the division you moved to had layoffs and no security, you make it through. Your two year plan to gain more experience is a success and you have advanced your career. You now have the experience you needed and can finally move back home to Boston to land the dream job you’ve been waiting for. You have a lengthy discussion with your family and it is unanimous. You are moving back home!
The problem is the next step in your career is not available. The position within your company that you are aiming for is currently filled by a competent executive and already has a future replacement being groomed for the role. So you start to search for a new opportunity. You find a handful of opportunities in Boston but get no calls back. There are no calls because all hiring managers will look at the candidates in their location first and then consider people who have to relocate. They do this because of the burden and challenges that comes with a move.
The good news is that your credentials are worth an interview with one of the companies. The hiring manager is doing interviews next Monday. You charge the flight on your credit card, take the day off, and fly to Boston. The interview is a success and the feedback is great. You make the cut. Second interviews will be held on the following Tuesday. You take the day off, charge the flight and again a huge success. You have now made the short list. The hiring authority asks you back the following Wednesday. You take the day off, charge the flight and make the shortlist to visit corporate the following Thursday. They are flying you and one other to corporate. This time the interviewing company pays for the flight. What a relief, but when you go to take another day off your boss gets suspicious. You are worried because now your current job could be in jeopardy. You have no choice but to move forward and start to think about what needs to get down to make this a success.
You start to set expectations with your spouse, you start thinking about putting the house on the market, hoping you make money on the sale and hoping it will not take too long to sell. You are mid way through the school year and need to figure out if you are going to take the kids out of school or keep them in school and move to Boston without your family. You start to think about buying a home in Boston and paying two mortgages until your current home sells and realize very quickly that moving back is going to take some serious sacrifice, some large financial concessions and many geographic challenges. All of which were not present when your company relocated you the first time. You decide it can be done, so you go on the final interview and things go very well. The hiring authority qualifies you and mentions that you will need to start in one and a half weeks. You agree on the start date, and to move without your family. You find out that a decision will be made within two days. Two days go by and you get the call. The company has decided to move forward with the other candidate that currently resides in Boston. You were the second runner up. You are thanked for going through the process and it is over.
To some degree you are thankful because you realize that you were not ready to make the move and you need time to get your ducks in a row. So you are faced with starting the process all over again. You think about the cost just to interview, the time off it will take to get a new job, selling your current house, finding a new house, the prospect of starting your new job in Boston without your family, etc. The list goes on and on. Finally you realize that if you are going to advance your career it is best to be where you are. That is when you realize that moving back is not an option. You and your family debate some really harsh realities and wonder if you will ever make it back.
Therefore, when considering relocation for an advancement in your career, look at all the angles. It may be an extremely exciting prospect at this point in time, but what are your ultimate goals? If you are setting your expectations that this role is temporary, I would reassess your thought process and consider your priorities. Remember: your career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t just think about the immediate situation, consider the journey ahead.
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Join one of the largest sales communities!
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How to articulate your story on your resume
Wouldn’t you agree that there is more about you than what people read on your resume? As a recruiter I hear from candidates, “If I can only get them in front of a prospective employer then I know I can get the job”. Unfortunately, if your resume is not an inclusive representation of who you are aside from being a fit for the role you are applying for, but as an individual, you may not even get the chance to get up to bat. However, when you do get that chance you must be ready to tell ‘your story’. When I refer to ‘your story’ , I’m looking for a well articulated and logical explanation of not only what college you graduated from and what companies you worked for but the important details that make you a unique candidate. What are the things in your background, not only professionally but personally, that people are interested in hearing about? The most challenging piece of this is that most job seekers do not know what those details are that complete their story.
If your GPA was 3.0 or better, it is worth putting on your resume. Be sure to include clubs, organizations, sports, and any study abroad experience. In addition, if you received any type of rewards or recognition while in college that is also very important to note. Most people do not indicate if they worked and self financed their education. Again, very important. All of this information begins to tell the reader who you were, not only as a student, but who you are as a person. It starts to paint a picture of your character.
Another key component of your story is being able to articulate why you went to each job and why you left. Was there a particular interest with a company or industry because of a personal experience or individual in your life that drew you towards it? If there was share it. How well did you perform in each of your jobs relative to expectations? An interview is not the time to be humble. Be proud of your accomplishments and share them with confidence. Don’t be afraid to share the human side of you during an interview. You want to get the interviewer to buy into you emotionally.
The interview is your time in the spotlight. It is your time to shine and show your prospective employer that you are the right person for the job. Think through your resume and identify the selling points about you and create ‘your story’ that will captivate your audience.
Posted in Job Search & Career, Resume Writing
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What’s your message?
I was recently picked to film a video for a project that Treeline is working on. The video was originally done by one of my colleagues but then we needed to re-record it due to technical reasons and he wasn’t available. Long story short, I had to record myself doing this pitch that was written by him.
I spent a few hours in a room all by myself, staring into a camera, saying a pitch over and over again and when I finally felt I was done, I showed it to my CEO. I thought that he’d view the video and ‘ok’ it and I could get back to the phone. Wishful thinking.
“You are waayyyy too salesy in this!!” he says. “Do it again and stop being so salesy – be yourself.” I am myself…I am not salesy…I’m Sean. Regardless, if the man wants me to do it again, I have no choice but to do it again. I spend a few more hours and change my tone, I try to be a little more candid in my approach and change the inflection in my voice.
I bring my CEO back in and with all the confidence in the world that I have given him what he wants, I show him the finished product. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Sean, but you come across as arrogant. I know that you are not arrogant but the guy on this screen is arrogant. Do it again and try not to be so cocky.”
So, I go back at it. I take all the color out of my voice. I pretend that I am reading stereo instructions and that my voice has only one tone. I sound like an automated voice mail service, “Please hold while the Nextel subscriber, you are trying to reach, is located…” I act like I just woke up with zero ‘umph’ – I am boring. At this point, I am doing everything he is asking, there is no way that I can be considered arrogant or salesy in this; this has to be a direct hit. I feel like I hit a home run and it only took me 8 hours.
I show my CEO for a third time. Six seconds into watching the new video he interrupts with, “I hate it. Take a break and we will have to see if you can take another stab at it tomorrow.” Let the record show that I did not volunteer nor did I want to do this video but the fact that I could not do it was not sitting well with me at all. I am a competitive person and I hate losing…this was a huge loss.
I went home and I racked my brain through the night. As I polished off a bowl of ice cream, it finally hit me – the problem was not HOW I was saying the message but it was WHAT the message was saying. I sat down and I re-wrote the script. The message was consistent from before but now it was my words.
I got into the office early the next day and filmed it again. By the time my CEO got back in I had a few takes done and ready for viewing. “That is so much better.” He said. “That is a genuine message and I believe in what you are saying.”
I won. I was relieved at the fact that I was not incapable of doing this and the only reason that I questioned myself is because I was only looking at the problem from one vantage point. When you are faced with a problem don’t waste your time and beat your head against the wall with one solution. Look for multiple potential solutions and see what works. It is not always how you are conveying the message, but the message itself…duh.
BTW, we decided not to use my footage at all and went with the video of my colleague – life lessons are everywhere…like remember to delete unusable footage. Someone got hold of mine – keep your eyes peeled on youtube for my outtakes. Live and learn.
Posted in Job Search & Career, Treeline
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The Field Ride: How to prepare
Today’s landscape for job seekers has been anything but a walk in the park. Typically, hiring companies have created standard interview processes which can range from 2 to 7 steps, including phone screens, several meetings with company executives and sometimes a “day in the life” or a field ride. A “day in the life” is fairly standard within an outside sales role, but this trend has recently been adopted for inside sales roles. These “shadow” days can range from a few hours to an entire day depending on the hiring company and are tools to asses your ability to listen, ask questions and catch on to their day to day routine. However, “shadow” days are not only for the employer, it’s also a great opportunity for you, as a candidate, to find out if it is the right job for you. The day in the life can be very informative so make sure you take advantage of it! It’s a great way to meet a representative that has first hand experience in the role as well as important insight as to what it’s like to work for the company. You will hear about the success stories and of course all the hardships that one has to go through to make a sale. This step in the interview process can either reinforce your desire to work for the company or send you running for the hills. As an executive recruiter, I have seen it all. With that said, let me share a few tips (and stories of what not to do!), but also keep you in check on why it is extremely important to have the same positive attitude as meeting the hiring manager.
A day in the life can be several hours out on the road shadowing or on the inside listening to phone calls. Often times you are the observing party and you are there to watch, listen and ask questions regarding what you witnessed. As a sales professional, this can be draining so make sure you get some sleep and eat an energy filled breakfast. You do not want to be the one who falls asleep on the ride back or zone out during a phone call.
You are going to be a representative of the company you are interviewing with for the duration of the shadow day, you must act like it and it all starts with your dress. Regardless as to whether the company’s dress policy is casual, put on your best suit and don’t forget to shine your shoes. Make sure you also do your homework. You may be observing for the day but ask if you can jump in on a few calls utilizing the research that you’ve done regarding the company and their product/service. This is your chance to show them that you can do this!
- YOU’RE A PASSENGER, NOT THE DRIVER.
The day in the life is an observation, so never get involved with any type of sale unless specifically asked to. Building rapport and formal introductions are always recommended, but if an employee is in any part of the sale your best move is to sit back and take mental notes for later questions about the call. Never, under any circumstances, interrupt the sale or attempt to involve yourself. Every call is a potential deal, therefore if you cause a rep to lose a deal by your involvement, you can guarantee the fact that you will not be asked back for another interview.
- ASK QUESTIONS AT APPROPRIATE TIMES.
As an observer, wait until you and the representative are in a private place to ask questions and give feedback regarding a sale. I once had a candidate make a inappropriate comment regarding an executive’s “personality” in the elevator after a sales call, only to have another executive from the same firm in the elevator with them. Long story short, it was not a great situation and needless to say the candidate did not get the job.
This will be your opportunity to ask any questions that you want. I would stay away from personal, but anything that pertains to the company, the position and the representative should be asked. This is valuable time and should not be wasted.
- CLOSE EVERY REP YOU SHADOW
It’s a MUST! They may not be the final decision maker but they will report back about their experience with you and your ability to do this job. Ask him/her if they have any questions or hesitation about you or your background and more importantly, ask them for their recommendation. Their part of the interview process is a key piece as to whether you’ll be moved forward or not.
A “day in the life” may seem like a significant commitment of your time but in the grand scheme of an interview process, it’s the pivotal point which will make or break your opportunity with the hiring company. Prepare yourself for every minute of that day and make sure you’re on top of your game. Take notes, make observations and get ready to take a backstage look at your potential career. Good luck!
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How To: Get pumped up for an interview!
One of the most common concerns/complaints that we hear from hiring managers after an interview is that the candidate did not seem to have enough energy. This can be interpreted several different ways but typically it means that the candidate either did not seem excited to be there, did not seem excited about the job, or their body language communicated their lack of engagement. However, upon asking the candidate how they felt the interview went, they often respond by saying that it went very well, they had solid answers and asked good questions during the interview. That’s why they are shocked when I tell them that their candidacy is being passed on due to “lack of energy.” Surprise is often the most common emotion but some candidates are offended due to the fact that they take pride in their personal energy. Regardless of how candidates view themselves, it’s imperative that the hiring manager feel your excitement and interest. In sales, people buy from people they like. People also hire people they like, so it’s your goal as a candidate to connect with the interviewer and have them feed off of your energy.
So how do you ensure the fact that you emit tons of energy on an interview? Get pumped up! I’m not telling you to jump across the desk at your interviewer and give them a “game time” speech about what you can bring to the team. I’m talking about being engaging during an interview and building a genuine connection with your interviewer. If you are excited when speaking about your background and what you can bring to the team, more often than not, the interviewer will also get excited and they’ll feed off your energy. So before walking into that conference room, get yourself in the zone. It’s like a pre-game ritual: do whatever you need to do to get your blood flowing and your mind on point. Whether it’s drinking a coffee chased by a Red Bull, dropping to the ground and doing 10 push ups, blasting loud music, repeating personal affirmations, or watching “Rudy” or some other feel good movie, do whatever it takes to get you pumped up. Treat every interview like the most important/biggest sale of your career. Prepare yourself to close!
The same goal applies for a phone interview. It can be a bit harder due to the fact that you are not sitting in front of your interviewer, but you still need to make sure that your energy and personality transcends the phone lines. First and foremost, make sure you’re in a quiet place with no distractions but feel free to stand up, walk around the room and talk with your hands if you need to. I’ve had candidates who have dressed in a suit for a phone interview or watched themselves in the mirror in order to get in the frame of mind they need to in order to win. Do what you need to do to feel the energy.
Every interview is an opportunity to change your future, do not take it lightly. Remember, you are in an interview to show them who you are and what you can do for their company. Do not expect them to get excited over your candidacy if you can’t get excited yourself. Put your best foot forward both mentally and professionally and ensure yourself the possibility of a second, third or final interview. So take sprints around your neighborhood, blast AC/DC or give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Do what you need to do to bust out of the gates with energy and excitement. This is your opportunity to gain, so go get ‘em, Tiger!
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