Career Conversations on Social Media

November 6th, 2017

Most of us know what not to post on our social media accounts.  More than 69% of employers have rejected some applicants on the basis of what they found. Even when not in job search mode, we can manage our professional reputation (aka Brand) by what we share.

Match your postings to your online goals for networking. (You do have those, right?) For some it is to get a new job. But for many it is to find collaborators, allies, new ideas or resources. Others can share insights and projects.

Here are a few things to share – provided it is not proprietary information (check your organization’s social media policy!)

If you are in job search mode:
  • ASK for
    • Connections to people who work at your target organizations.  Most new hires come from internal referrals. Once connected, ask for insights about working there and advice for a new hire.
    • Opinions and experiences around a topic or task that you care about. Share your own to provide a baseline for the conversation.
  • RESPOND to
    • Questions in your groups and forums. Its a great platform to share your knowledge.  Willingness to share speaks volumes to employers more than claiming the credential.
    • Connection requests with a cordial and sincere desire to collaborate.
If you are managing your professional brand
  • Share resources you’ve found helpful and ask for others’ experiences with them.
  • Ask for a resource to help you on your project. Remember to follow-up with appreciation and, more importantly, what happened when you used the resource.  We all want to know the story ends.
  • Tell a short story about an experience where you learned something or had an unexpected good result. Tell us about why you were involved, what problem/obstacle you faced, what steps you took and how it resolved. We like to hear your experiences with volunteer projects as well as work.
  • Follow experts and add your insights to their posts. We love to hear when you are inspired by something.

Take your Career Conversations online by engaging with others to get both a broader and deeper understanding of what can lead to your success!

Career Conversations without Ageism

October 9th, 2017

How frustrating it is to struggle with a conversation because we see things through our different lenses!

We make assumptions based on so many things, but for this blog I’ll focus on a person’s age. Age discrimination is still pervasive when it comes to hiring older workers. And for different reasons, many young workers also lose out on opportunities based on age-related assumptions.

Stereotypes remain infuriatingly durable that peg older workers as low-productivity employees who are stuck in their ways and younger workers with lack of work ethic. “One thing that always strikes me is social attitudes,” says David Neumark, economist and director of the Center for Economics & Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine. “People who would never make a racist or sexist joke will make an ageist joke without thinking about it. The social acceptability of that is remarkable.”

Experts in generational workforce issues help us understand how the experiences over time that shape our thinking result in assumptions and generalizations that become barriers in communication and productivity. Strauss and Howe, Claire Raines, and Hayden Shaw help us understand how to talk with each other respecting and leveraging our differences and commonalities.

photo by AHull

 

On a recent volunteer project, I got an email from a fellow volunteer saying he was not returning to our project because the leader ‘didn’t like me.’ I talked with him and heard how the leader (2 cohorts younger) had spoken harshly to him on several occasions. Upon exploring the situation with him and the leaders, she determined he was not up to the task because he was over 60 and wore hearing aids. I learned that he just didn’t know what was expected – assumptions and lack of clear instructions was at the root of the problem. A classic supervisory error. We lost a valuable volunteer and a dent to the organization’s reputation in the community.

Have you seen and heard a similar situation in your job? Do you see people ‘check out’ in frustration?

Dedicate some time to exploring your boss and colleagues frames of reference. Using the above resources, map out where there are similarities and common ground. Use these as a starting point for career conversations. You may be pleasantly surprised how willing we are to talk when approached out of curiosity rather than assumptions.

Career Conversation: Job Security through Expertise?

August 15th, 2017

Expert      Go-to Person      Experienced         Seniority

These are terms we earn when we’ve mastered a subject, process, task, etc. This mastery comes through formal education, trial and error, practice as well as time-in-task. When this knowledge is valued (someone pays you money) you have job security.  Until….

Tragedy! New equipment is brought in that doesn’t use your expertise; the new business strategy drops your business unit (expertise); another business is acquired which has others with your expertise; you have a life-change event or new management requires knowledge sharing.

This can be maddening to learn that all your hard-earned knowledge is no longer valued or is to be handed off to someone who hasn’t learned like you did. So what can you do about it?  What are your choices (and their consequences)?

To put a positive spin on it, sharing your experience is another way to enhance your credibility and value with your employer. It could even propel you from your current job into another one.

Try this: list your know-how on individual cards or sticky notes.  Use them as puzzle pieces and move them around to create different (even weird) combinations.

Beyond the usual example of becoming an instructor, you could find yourself managing a new project or program based on your expertise and resources. Use this as a opportunity to create a legacy.  Leverage both your knowledge of tasks and process to create something new that intrigues and juices you.

 

Career Conversation on Large Scale Change

July 5th, 2017

You are reading and hearing a lot about streamlining federal agencies with domino effect on private sector and non-profits. What does this mean to you?  You’ve been seeing job cuts and re-organizing.  Don’t panic! But do pay attention…

You likely have already experienced taking on additional roles and tasks that were previously covered by now-unfilled positions. Your manager is struggling to make sure all the required work is done and truly isn’t trying to ‘break’ you. Work with her to be clear on priorities and eliminate non-essential work to wisely manage your time.  You can shine by using your fresh eyes to ensure a task is done for all the right reasons and the most efficient way. Keep the conversation open as requirements change.

Knowing what is valued (measured) helps you plan and manage your work. We’re seeing increasing use of data analytics for trend assessments and insights about where and how to manage our own productivity and work satisfaction. The key is in gathering the data based on asking the right questions. Be sure to ask and understand what metrics are important for your work.

Befriend technology to reduce the repetitive tasks. Don’t fear it. Learn how to use it to free up your time for more creative and critical thinking activities. You’ll see less paper and/or legacy systems-supported procedures related to recruitment, on-boarding, training, performance reviews, etc. The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 is being applied to all types of reports – internal and external.

Performance feedback is shifting away from the annual formal one-way conversation to an on-going dialog, even using online portals with immediate accessibility. Let your boss know what is working well for you, how she is helping you, as well as resources or conversations that could enhance your job satisfaction. Let her know when things are getting to be too much and offer some realistic ideas. The first unwritten rule of all organizations is, “Don’t let the boss be surprised.”

What are your thoughts for managing large scale change on a day-to-day basis?

Before You Leap – Have a Career Conversation

June 1st, 2017

You’re doing great work, got a good performance review, but you want to be promoted and keep your career moving. Your boss says she needs you to do the job she hired you for. You have to “pay your dues.”  What does that mean?!?

So you’re stuck.  Should you look for a new job?’

Before you quit, try a different conversation with your boss.  Check your assumptions – and hers – about what you can do to stay challenged and move up.

We all use euphemisms as a short-hand communication. Both parties may not define the term the same way. Be specific about what you want to stay challenged and move up. Is it more money? Is it different type of work? More responsibility or authority? Different people? What will satisfy your itch? Don’t make your boss be a mind reader.

Avoid assuming what your boss means by “pay your dues.” Ask what specific things should you gain with more experience in this current role. Encourage your boss to be honest and not shy about delivering uncomfortable feedback. Be open to hearing feedback that may feel uncomfortable and ask for specific examples. (Communication skills often top the list.)

Your boss may need to get some return on her  investment in training you by having the you deliver consistent results for a couple of years before moving on to a bigger role – forcing the boss to have to train someone new all over again. What can you do to make this easier? Hint: Tap a colleague to know how to do your work when you are on leave.

Make an appointment with your boss to map out a plan to satisfy as many of both your needs as possible.  Many organizations offer an Individual Development Planning tool that can be helpful.

 

 

Career Conversations with Your New Boss

May 2nd, 2017

Whether you are new to organization or you’ve just landed with a new boss in a re-organization, a conversation with your new boss is an excellent time to assess your career trajectory. Using some of the questions in each of these 7 areas will help you chart your course. [selected wisdom from Michael Watkins,  The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter]

  1. The first area to nail down is around alignment.  Your job is to help your new boss.  Ask, “What are your goals?” and then listen carefully to learn what will be important to your boss. Listen for the types of things that will have her attention. Extract some of the tasks you do that will support her success. Verify how you support those goals. Is your view of what you are here to do the same as the boss?
  2. Get clear about what success looks like. “What metrics and deliverables are important for you?” “Over what time frame?” If important, “What kinds of approaches and methods do I need to use?”  Which leads right into the next area.
  3. “What are the resources are available to get done what you need to get done?” That can include staffing, funding, access to information and, the always important, line of authority. Identify resources to ramp up to learn about the organizations and getting things done.
  4. “What are the unwritten rules?” Every organization and boss has them.  Generally the number one rule is “no surprises.”  Does your new boss value initiative and results or need to approve every step? “How much latitude do I have to get things done?”
  5. “Who do I need to bring along with me?”  “Who are the influencers and stakeholders when changes are afoot?” It can also include how much of your boss’s time will you have to make the case for a change.
  6. Differences in communication style can derail the relationship with your boss. The onus is really on the person reporting to the leader to adjust their approach to match the leader.  Ask for preferences such as,  “Are you more face to face or do you prefer email?  “Phone call or text?” “Do you like more detail? Less detail?” “When can I wake you up in the middle of the night?” Clarity about that side of things can really help shape the early interactions.
  7. You’ll want to inquire about your own personal development. “What am I doing well? What am I not doing so well?” Check in early via informal feedback. Ask about specific things that you can adjust. Research shows that people taking new roles often don’t get feedback early enough, and get themselves into much more trouble than necessary. Bosses tend to be a little bit hands-off to see how people work things out. Having that personal development conversation, pushing to get some feedback, make sure you can make course corrections.

Got hindsight? What are the questions you wished you’d asked the last time you got a new boss?

 

Phased Retirement – Make Your Case

April 4th, 2017

Many companies and federal agencies offer a way to ease out of the work you love and into the next phase of your life formerly called retirement. A phased retirement strategy offers flexibility. As you approach your retirement age or time in service you can reduce your work hours or work in a different capacity after you take retirement. You can job share, telecommute or do consulting work, to name a few. (I’ve been job-sharing for 4 years).

There are so many reasons to do this and you may need to help others (your boss) what’s in it for them to make these adjustments.

  1. You have a wealth of knowledge about how to get things done.  This does not mean writing down everything you do. But you could mentor several people and show them the ropes.  Mentoring can be a very fulfilling thing.
  2. You are the expert. You know the best practices, what’s been innovative, and have developed customer relationships.  How can you leverage that in new ways? If your creativity is blocked, ask others from diverse perspectives to help you see different combinations ans outcomes.
  3. When there is a problem, you know how to fix it because you know not just how, but why things were built that way. You can provide deeper knowledge and better solutions, while helping others learn.
  4. List the tasks you can delegate in order to work fewer hours.
  5. Do the math to make your case.  Engage your friendly HR rep to determine the cost savings of your phased retirement and productivity losses tied to your retirement. Be sure to include the “market value” of your unique skills and knowledge. salary.com
  6.  Keeping older employees does not take away jobs from younger workers. “There’s no evidence to support that increased employment by older people is going to hurt younger people in any way,” said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research.
  7.  Economists say the macroeconomic view gives a clearer picture. Having older people active and productive actually benefits all age groups, and spurs the creation of more jobs. At the same time, experienced workers are able to mentor and train younger employees, and help them get on a faster track toward achievement and higher-level positions.

So, ease on down your road. No need to retire completely. Just make more time for the things you’ve always wanted to do while you continue to contribute your expertise.

 

Your Personal Career BoD

February 28th, 2017

Should I move to take the next step in my career? Is now the time for me to launch my own business? Why should I invest in a Ph.D?

A personal Board of Directors (BoD) can facilitate your career decisions. Many of us have our friends, relatives, former teachers, or mentors  that we go to for advice or to test ideas. This network is essential if you are feeling stuck or looking for your next move.

Why a BoD?

Tom Peters first coined the phrase, “You, Inc.” to illustrate the type of control we need to take for our own careers. When you adopt the mindset that you work for yourself, although full-time within one organization, your perspective shifts to greater collaboration and accountability. As an employee, your manager and organization are also partners in your career.

We need others’ expertise to help us explore and make informed decisions for both our career and life. Your BoD serves not only as counsel, but will broaden your perspective. They provide critical reality checks and they point you towards resources or in directions you wouldn’t find on your own. They help you formulate and realize your goals.

What do they do?

They tell you the truth. This means you create and nourish the relationships around trust: trust that you will listen to, work to understand and consider their advice, especially when you don’t agree. They can help you see blind spots of both strengths and skills. They will tell you how others may perceive you.

They share their own experience and professional advice. At times, they may pave the way or refer you for an opportunity.

Your BoD can guide you to resources and help with decisions around career opportunities, formal education or certifications and other major investments of time, effort and money. They will encourage, help problem-solve and hold you accountable for your career decisions.

Who do you need on your BoD?

You’ll want people who know your profession and aspirations. You’ll need professional expertise in the areas that support your aspirations. A BoD is  comprised of people from outside your employer to give you a bigger picture.

A corporate board includes expertise from finance, marketing, legal, tax and technology to name a few. Your BoD should include mentors with experience and expertise in all the areas of your life such as these. Many people include spiritual guidance as well. Your family/partner also play an obvious role and need to be included in your decisions.

What’s in it for them?

They share their expertise and experience with you because they want you to succeed. It is that simple. As a bonus, through you and others on your BoD, they expand their own network of professionals and friends. You can pay it forward by referring business or contacts to them, as appropriate.

How does this work?

Initially, convene your BoD with an invitation to share breakfast (you pay) to meet each other and set an initial agenda. Meet as a group one to three times a year as you need them for planning and discussion. (Don’t wait for emergencies!) Keep them informed as to your progress and questions with a quarterly e-check-in. Meet with individuals as needed.

Decide if you want to provide a stipend for your BoD members. Be clear if you want this to be pro-bono. Use the initial discussion to outline how you want to work together and expectations – yours and theirs.

Your Board wants to see you succeed and may be with you for many years. Some may rotate off.  Do stay in touch and be grateful for this valuable person in your life.

 

Building Your Network from Scratch

January 27th, 2017

If you think you don’t know anyone who can help with your job search, then you need to look at this from a different angle.  In most cases we don’t know that actual hiring person.  But you may know someone who does, or can connect you to them.

Sally Forth

rather than just asking “Are you (your organization) hiring?”  Reach out inquiring about how your interests and experience could be of value to them.  Target your organizations to learn about specific roles and projects.

Here are 3 basic steps to get going.

 

Job Search Tips When You Don’t Know Anyone

 

 

Courageous Career Conversation

October 11th, 2016

Having a tough time at work? Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios:cnyntree

  • You are having more disagreements with your boss and or team mates.
  • You aren’t getting the assignments or work that you want; You see others getting more opportunities.
  • You’ve ‘paid your dues’ and now just want to do your job.
  • Its a struggle to get your staff/team to do their jobs, much less “excellent work”

If so, its time for a courageous career conversation…first with yourself.

What are you expecting? Our frustrations are rooted in an unmet need. Are your expectations realistic? By whose standard?  For people over 40, the standards by which you measure yourself have likely changed. Tenure and stamina have been eclipsed by contributions and accomplishments. No one can coast on their past track record for very long. We have to be able to use that experience to provide value today. What are you contributing now?

Feel like you’re not moving up fast enough, not challenged? It may not be the most stimulating, but your first priority is to make sure you are doing your current work well to satisfy your team and boss’s mission. If you are feeling stuck, look for a different approach to a nagging problem. Try an approach that moves you outside your comfort zone. Check in with others (someone objective or skilled in getting unstuck, such as a coach) to get a different point of view of the problem.

Bored? Look around and offer/volunteer to work on something that has been on the back burner. It may mean you learn a new skill set or network with another part of the organization to improve your team’s work.

Want to be left alone to just do your job?  Its great to be the steady, dependable one. Just don’t get left in the dust because you didn’t pay attention to the trends and changes around you. We need to assess and sharpen our skills every month.

What are you bringing to the table today? Your experience and expertise are valuable, but only if you can connect with others’ experience and expertise. Don’t let your frustrations bleed and spoil valuable professional relationships. Find a safe place to vent. Look for opportunities to be a teacher or coach, rather than “right.”

No one cares more about your career than you. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference. Grab a dose of courage to check your assumptions against reality.