Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Career Conversation: Job Security through Expertise?

Tuesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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.

 

 

Phased Retirement – Make Your Case

Tuesday, 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.

 

Career Conversations – 7 Tips for Managers

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

By definition, in most organizations managers are expected to develop people as well as get ‘the work’ done.

I can hear all the reasons why this is not a priority for you. The most common reason is lack of time; the urgency of the work takes precedent over long-term productivity. Do managers with high turn-over attract suspicion? I cringe when I hear,”I finally have my employees working like a well-oiled machine; I don’t want to mess with that?” Why do your employees have to “learn it the hard way, like I did?”

Or maybe you just don’t know how.

Career Conversations happen as you share your insights, offer constructive suggestions, helping people think about next steps in the project or work. Career Conversations don’t have to have formal time booked on your calendar. Some of the best ones occur walking between meetings, in the kitchen or an informal phone check-in if your team works virtually.

What’s in it for you to develop  your staff?

The investment of time and genuine interest in developing others pays off in both tangible and intangible ways. Staff development criteria may be a part of evaluating the managers’ performance. Is there an expectation (or even incentives) to provide well-trained talent to other parts of your organization?

Many managers talk about the pride they feel in seeing employees grow and be successful.

Bottom line: If you don’t offer development opportunities, your staff will find someone who will. That’s not the kind of turnover you want.

Here’s what you can do:

Check your assumptions. Do you want to be known as someone who grows and develops the best talent in your organization or someone who circles the wagons and fights to maintain turf (staff). Don’t get complacent with your staff.  Expect and encourage turn-over due to better job fit, new opportunities, etc. Everyone, not just Millennials, are hungry for training, career advancement and opportunities for growth. Keep your eye open for new talent and be ready to replace those that move on in their careers.

Help them connect the dots. Nothing is more important than doing work that matters. Rekindle the emotional connection [pride] that employees have with your company. Hold “trend” discussions to align individual goals with reality of your workplace, your profession and industry environment. Tell the stories about the people that make your business tick,. Remind them of the purpose your department serves. How does your organization make money or get funding? What deals are in the works? How are the economics of the organization evolving? Keep your team educated about ongoing business developments to directly improve their engagement and performance. The more resources you can give employees on how your company functions, the more loyal they’re likely to be.

Be a champion.  Develop your reputation as someone who offers opportunities rather than holding people back. Stay alert to opportunities where someone on your team could contribute or learn, and be willing to loan them out. They’ll return with valuable knowledge and relationships that can support your team. And if they move on, they will thank you. If you haven’t already, offer cross-training within your team to fill gaps.

Provide daily development opportunities. Use a micro-learning approach with employees’ everyday work. For example: Make mundane tasks into a game. Encourage and show them how to discover answers on their own and praise them when they do. Start or end your weekly meetings with anything they’ve learned to improve the task, their approach to it, about the impact of their work, relationships with others or developing competencies that your organization values.

Develop each person individually. Too many employees get trained on things they don’t need, and fail to get the skills that will actually make them more productive. Assess each persons’ needs and provide targeted, relevant content, instead of one-size-fits-all training. People learn in different ways, so offer hands-on (discovery) as well as ‘read the manual’ options.

Use a coaching style to develop their thinking skills and become smarter. When they come to you with a problem, help them think through the logic to discover the best solutions. This will show them how to approach similar problems in the future, hopefully saving time for you.

Be available, but don’t hover. Set expectations and boundaries, provide resources then get out of the way.

PS – You can have your own career conversations with your peers and boss. Let me know what works for you!

5T Approach for Career Conversations

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

In my MAnneHullcarch blog, I gave you 9 tips for starting career conversations.  Some of the most important career enhancing conversations are about getting meaningful feedback – observations of the impact of what you’re doing both successfully and things that could be done better. Do others share the same opinion of you and your work with you? Do you come across to others as you intend?  A recent conversation with a client revealed that his intention of improving his team’s work was coming across as judgmental and critical. As much as that hurt to hear, he can now adjust his approach to reduce alienating team members.

You can get useful feedback by doing one simple thing: Ask for it. But if you just ask for generic feedback you’re sure to make eyes roll.  Try the 5T approach:

1) Tactical: Outline the areas you currently know you want or should improve based on your current work. You can use your job description to get started. Perhaps your boss has mentioned something. Many organizations and professions have competencies that provide a wealth of direction for these conversations.  Look to the people who are considered the leaders in your division, profession, organization. What is it about them that you and others respect? Repeat this list for the kind of work you want to do next. The result should be a list of specific knowledge or behavior that you want feedback to validate or improve.

2) Target: Consider people you trust and respect for their perspectives. Who observes your work or is the recipient of it and can give you specific tips on what’s working and what could be better? Ask the people who have a stake in your work how you could do it more economically, better, or faster. When asking for feedback from your boss, what aspects of your work are most important to her? Establish an informal agreement with colleagues, mentors or others with whom you work to provide ongoing specific feedback. But how?

3) Timing:  Immediately following an incident while its fresh in their mind, ask for a their take on how you came across, or what went well or what you could have done differently.  Use the time walking from the conference room to your office, or an IM after the teleconference. Grab a cup of coffee the morning after or chat on the train  delivering a project, completing a task….you get the picture.

4) Take it: Ask for 1-2 things you could learn, improve, start doing, or stop doing that would enhance your credibility or professional reputation. Then respect their perspective, especially if it is different from your own. That’s the point in asking for it.  Avoid justifying or excusing your actions to get them to change their mind.  Ask for specific ways to improve, resources and commit to using their feedback.

5) Thanks:  Express your gratitude for their candor. Many people are uneasy in being honest and your graciousness will be appreciated.

We build our careers by our good work and our relationships with others. You can enhance your chances of doing the work you really want to do, and make a difference by paying attention to doing your work well and being open to making adjustments along the way.

Friends – What are you expecting?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

I’ve been hearing a theme from people and reading the advice columns of how often we are disappointed with our friends. It sounpupsds like this: “I always do [fill in the blank] for her, but she never reciprocates.”  “I was there for him, but now he’s too busy to help me.” Whether its remembering birthdays, helping with projects, initiating meet-ups, mutual griping, or asking for help there are many ways we depend on our friends. We are drawn to them because of the things we share in common and we like being around them.  When we’re in sync, everything is fine. Having strong social relationships at work and in life is fundamental to our happiness.

Have you noticed that you are the one that always initiates a lunch? What does that say to you? Unless you ask, its easy to assume that s/he doesn’t care as much. Or it could mean s/her knows you’ll do it and has fallen into the habit of waiting to hear from you.  The concept of reciprocation just doesn’t occur to them. But you really don’t know, unless you ask.

When you break your foot, your close friend is now too busy to help you get around.  It’s not convenient for her to pick you up. Should you break off the friendship? Or does it just redefine the boundaries?

In “Vital Friends,” Tom Rath takes a look at the roles our friendships have in our lives illustrating that not everyone can be the same kind of friend. This applies to our friends at work, family and others. Initially, I recoiled at categorizing my friendships into eight roles they play in my life. Then, it began to make sense that I expected to get from them the same thing I gave to them. Not everyone can do that. And I was often disappointed. For example, I found myself getting frustrated with a friend who took all the “air” time we had together and considered ending the friendship. When she told me how much my listening meant to her, I realized the friendship was my gift to her. What I got was knowing that I mead a difference in her life. Now I know to set my expectation of how to both give and get the most from our friendship. Friendships are rarely an even trade.

Friends take care of friends…sometimes.  Some people are just more attuned to what is needed in certain situations – a break-up, an illness, any loss, or opportunities for career advancement or fun. When you discover a friend didn’t include you on a project, you may hear, “I didn’t know you’d be interested.” Some don’t want to deal with the not-so-pretty side of the friendship. Many people really just don’t know what to do or say. Still others cannot be inconvenienced or don’t see anything in for them in the situation, so they avoid it.

If you didn’t get the plum assignment, let them know how you are feeling and how you’ll move forward. Especially in times of loss, its very helpful to let others know specifically what would comfort you: Let them know if you’ll need motivation to get some exercise – come take me for a walk or go to a class/gym. Bring cookies, but also stay and tell me what’s going on outside my painful universe. Get my list and pick up groceries.

Our friends reciprocate, just not in the same way.  Recognize the person who will keep a secret, but not necessarily give you guidance. Don’t ask for help in finding a new job from someone who doesn’t have a broad network. Share ideas with people who can broaden your perspective, not just agree with you. Be specific with easy-to-do requests to help others be a better friend to you. And let it be OK for them to say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do that.’

Check your assumptions about what others “should” know. We didn’t all learn the same lessons of courtesy nor know what’s unique for your happiness.

Aligning my expectations with what others are capable of bringing to the friendship helps me go to the right person for the friend I need. It also helps me be a better friend to others.

Career Management in 10 minutes or less

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

You can forge the direction of your career with short, strategic conversations. We often only think about our careers once a year as a new year resolution or a performance review.  Yet we know that frequent feedback, sharing information and asking for help are the keys to growing and developing our careers. If you keep a mindset of service to others its easier to find career help. While you may be looking for opportunities, you also are constantly creating how others see and remember you. Here are 8 ways to start a conversation that takes 10 minutes or less:

1) Ask your boss what you can help with to support her this week.

2) Attend a meeting of interest to you. Share your interest in the topic with at least 3 people, including the speaker.

3) Notice when a colleague is struggling and offer a shortcut that would save them some time.

4) Ask your friends, parents, siblings, or cousins to explain what they do at work and why its important. Explain what you do in a way they can relate to.

5) Chat with your boss about what’s going well and what you’re looking forward to doing.

6) Ask  about others’ interests, what resource or information they need and if you can help get it.

7) Notice the thought leaders in your organization.  Ask them about current trends and talk about the impact for your organization.

8) Ask your boss what skills or knowledge you could develop that would be helpful to your team.

9) Start a conversation by sending an article or website to your boss or colleague and request to discuss it for 10 minutes.

Did you notice that none of these involve sending your resume? That document is always handy to have up-to-date in case this 10 minute conversation leads to a chance to work on a committee, task force, project, etc. Getting to know and being known by others develops your relationships and [drum roll,please] your network.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to start career conversations and I’d love to hear them!

8 Tips to Become a High Potential Employee

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

How do people get the best projects? How do they get the opportunities and promotions? How can you be a “high potential employee?” Many organizations identify people who have the potential, ability, and aspiration for successive leadership positions within the organization. Often, these people are given opportunities that focus their development as part of a succession plan.

Here’s what organizations look for:

  1. How do you handle unexpected changes?
  2. How do you deal with hurdles? Are you derailed or motivated to find an alternate solution?
  3. Do you take charge rather than sitting back and waiting for someone else to lead?
  4. Do others willingly accept your direction and decisions?
  5. Do you listen to and assist others?
  6. Do you consistently go above and beyond in your results?
  7. Do you understand your organization’s ‘business’ and your your division’s role to support its mission?
  8. Are you paying attention to the trends that impact your organization and your profession within it?

If you have all of this, you still may not reach your goals alone. Find an advocate who can help you identify areas for improvement and growth. They can advise you on how to attain the training required to close any gaps, and help to open doors for new opportunities. Look for someone in a  leadership role that embody the qualities you aspire to have. Watch and listen (don’t stalk) to how they handle themselves in a variety of situations. Let them know your goals and types of opportunities you’d like to tackle.

All of this comes down to not waiting to get noticed. You have to connect the dots and speak up for yourself in appropriate settings.

Your References – Care and Feeding

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

pupstextMany of us set a goal for new employment this time of year. Along with updating the resume, online profiles and reconnecting with people, make an appointment with yourself to consider your reference strategy.

My what? My references are my former employers, right? Not necessarily.  Yes, potential employers traditionally want past bosses, but they often check with others. Nearly all have already googled you and looked at social media sites. After all, would you list anyone that wouldn’t speak well of you? And you may not want your current boss to find out you are leaving through a reference call.

From the hiring person’s point of you, you can do the job, but they want to know, “Can you do the job with Us?”  The interview and reference check is all about “will you fit in” as well as “are you who you say you are.”

Choose your references based on the potential new job and employer.  Select people who know your work and contributions that are relevant for the potential job. This can include your previous bosses, but also people you interacted with to get things done. Include similar relationships in any of your volunteer work. Sometimes these are more relevant to the new job!  Let the potential employer know your relationship (not relatives) to the names you provide. Check to ensure your references will be available to take a call.  Do the legwork to provide current contact information.

Give them a heads-up – don’t let your reference be caught unprepared for a reference call. At minimum, remind him/her of a few of the great things you did while working together. Tell him/her the type of opportunity you ow want and why you want this particular job. Be sure she/he has a copy of your current resume to know what you’ve done since last working with them.  Let them know who will be calling, the time frame and anything about the job that will give them context for their comments.  Use this conversation to catch up with them and learn about their career progress and how you may be of assistance to them.

If you think a reference may not paint the rosiest picture of you, or you don’t want your current employer know you are looking, address this in the interview. Be honest but don’t bad-mouth or place blame. You can provide context and framing for what the reference-checker might hear. If you don’t, your potential employer may never tell you that the reference is why they rejected you. The time to speak up is before they place the call. Offer a performance appraisal or other people that they may contact to get the assurance they need.

Your references are precious along your career.  Maintain your professional relationship with them through networking and appropriate social media throughout the year.

Happy New Work!