Finding Career “Luck”

April 15th, 2016

“I only work my hours and don’t want to think about my job a minute longer.” No matter where you sit in your organization, we all need to maintain our work/life boundaries. Keeping priorities clear and negotiating requests is all part of it. I meet too many clients who are frustrated that their careers are stalled, but are unwilling to take ownership for them and do something about it.  You do know that you care the most about your career, right?

Where does managing your career fall in your priorities?  You cannot it leave it up to your boss to notice all your good work and create a career path for you.  The more I talk with boomers about their careers, I hear that “luck” was a factor in getting new opportunities. Yet, they had said “yes” to go to a meeting, or present, or join a group that enabled them to share their ideas and to help others get what they needed. You can work this into your normal work hours. But to really get things moving, you need to invest a bit more time so the right people know who you are and what you can do for them. Since most of us no longer spend our careers at one organization, you need to be an active member of your professional associations, events and groups where the people who can help you hang out.

Yesterday I had the honor of meeting Judy Robinett, one of the most well-connected people on the planet! She explains luck as overcoming your fears, assumptions and beliefs to get yourself in the place and time you need to meet the people who can help you.  This may start with a text or email, but nearly always requires some face-to-face conversations.

During your work day, what do you do to explore your next options? Who do you talk to and what do they know about what you’d really like to be doing? If you stick to your desk and small circle of colleagues you’re missing opportunities to meet the people who may be able to help you with your goals.

Career Conversations – 7 Tips for Managers

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!

Career Conversations: Exploration and Visibility

February 18th, 2016

In my last blog I wrote about creating a bridge to career conversations with your manager. Another bridge is for conversations with others in your organization or outside of your current profession.

A common reaction I hear is, “My boss will think that I”m being disloyal!”

In some organizations the silo walls between projects or functional areas are like a castle fortress. There are turfs and budgets to defend, as well as talent to keep. So you may need to tread carefully, but not silently. Let your manager know you are exploring to broaden your perspective to be more valuable to her. What you don’t want is for your manager to hear from someone else and think you are sneaking around behind her back. You will be having conversations that should enhance both your own and her value to the organization.

“How do I do that?”

There are lots of ways – create your strategy which may include:

  • Exploring how everything works and is related in your organization. Pay attention to which departments are key to your own department’s success. Take the initiative to ask for a short conversation to understand their perspectives.
  • Look at what’s working smoothly. Offer a sincere compliment and specific observation to start the conversation. Then ask about how this success has evolved.  From these conversations you can discern valuable  skills and abilities to develop.
  • Get a broader picture of your organization. Review an organization directory to identify key people. Attend open events/meetings to meet these people.
    1. Introduce yourself including where you work. In one sentence explain that you are interested in learning more about the organization.
    2. Ask for a brief description of their area and then how they see how your two departments or projects are interconnected.
    3. Ask what skills and talents are most helpful in their areas.
    4. Prepare to briefly explain how your role supports the project or organization. Share the skills and talents you most like to develop and use.
  • When attending an All Hands meeting, sit beside someone you don’t know and politely start a conversation to include as many of steps 1-4 as is appropriate.

These are just a few ways to jump start your thinking.  Most importantly, is to step out of your comfort zone and away from your computer. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Bridges to Career Conversations

January 5th, 2016

DSCN2151Career conversation can happen anytime and be about so much more than how to get a promotion. But I often hear people say they can’t initiate them without hitting a wall.

If your  manager doesn’t seem warm to the conversation…

  1. What’s your history with similar conversations? Is it always about more money or a promotion? Its good to let her know you want these, but  don’t wear it out.
  2.  Is your current work performance top notch?  If not, then the conversation needs to be about how to better use your skills, strengths or work processes so you can excel.
  3. What’s your timing? Pay attention to the issues and dynamics of the day.
  4. Would you be thought of disloyal?
  5. What is your goal of these conversations? You should have a plan, even if it is primarily exploration right now.

No matter what the barrier seems to be, you must consider what’s in it for her? Why would she want to help you to outgrow your current job?  Some organizations, but not enough, have staff development goals to meet. Generally your growth is not a high priority unless your organization tracks and measures talent development.  Your manager’s #1 priority is to get the work done, meeting/exceeding her own goals.

4 career conversation starters are:

  1. Am I doing everything you need me to do to meet your goals?
  2. How else can I help?
  3. What could I learn (software, process, procedure) that would help you focus on other things?
  4. Propose what you want to learn and outline how it could improve, streamline and achieve dept/organization goal.

In my next blog, I’ll explore starting career conversations with others, not your manager.

What are other barriers to your career conversations?

Translate Your Resume: Show How You Make a Difference

December 16th, 2015

To all my scientist, engineering and IT people – your resume needs translation! Your CV needs to showcase how your work makes a difference! No longer will just a list of technical qualifications be enough.

If you want to take your passion to the next level, do you know what that next level is?  Is it a technical, management or policy path? Each of these requires a resume that showcases you for that purpose, not just a list of your technical knowledge.

Talk with people in the role you aspire to fill. Find out what their daily grind is like. Ask what they like most about it. Ask what they wish they knew in hindsight as well as any advice.  You can then fill out your resume with your relevant experience for that role.

Link the work you do to the larger goal or mission of your organization.  Briefly answer, “Why was this important?” Tell the problem you were solving and, if necessary why that problem mattered.  Include who benefited from your work. Rather than listing your activities or duties, connect the dots for how your knowledge and work is valuable to the new employer’s projects and initiatives.

In the day-to-day grind, its easy to forget the bigger picture of our work. I was talking with an engineer that designed and built fuel systems.  He didn’t think it was very important. But he had redesigned and worked with a team that built a system for a satellite which now collects climate data that is used by hundreds of organizations around the world.

Every job is created for a reason. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I didn’t do [fill in your work]?”  Many of us are a lynch pin for projects and can lose sight of our contributions. Describe how what you did and the way you did it accomplished a project or task.

Remember that your resume may be read by three entities – a software system, a layperson to your field (Human Resources) and hiring manager. Use the vocabulary and acronyms that are common to your field, but not just to your current employer.

What may be every1or2deerday work for you, may seem like magic to others!

 

Coasting Through Your Career?

November 3rd, 2015

Do you have more days at work when you are bored than engaged?  Are you counting the days until the next big thing will be over?  What have you done to jump-start your career lately?

Check your career map. Oh, you don’t have one?  What happened to that plan you drafted, the professional development plan that is languishing in the system or an unopened folder? Have you accomplished or lost interest in your goals? Update them. You can’t move forward in your career without a bigger road map.

What type of project or work would you like to be doing a year from now? What’s happening in other departments and divisions of your organization. What jobs are opening up as people get promoted or re-assigned? Could they use your expertise while you’re broadening your knowledge? Look at volunteer opportunities that will challenge and help you develop communication and leadership skills. Add these to your professional development plan and then your resume and LinkedIn profile!

Ask yourself which new responsibilities you’d like to have. Do you have the technical skills? Look at similar job postings and the technical skills required for your current and the next role you want. If there’s a skill that keeps showing up but you don’t have it, you can add it to your professional development plan. Don’t stagnate in your career because of a critical skill gap with a new tool or technology. Let go of a piece of your “expertise” when its time to learn a new way or process.

No one cares more about your career than you. Be sure to feed and nurture it.

 

 

Getting Real in the Job Interview

October 1st, 2015

You’ve likely seen someone who was great in the interview, but turned out to be a jerk under day-to-day interactions. And the opposite also happens – the stress of the interview makes someone tongue-tied or goofy, when they would be a good asset to the team.

By the time you are asked to interview (F2F or video) the employer has already determined you have the qualifications for the job.  The interview to see if you are good “fit” with the organization and the team.

Work experience still trumps all other qualifications in the recruiting process. Personality and fit with the culture ranked ahead of such factors as leadership experience in a 2014 survey of more than 2,300 chief executive officers, human-resource managers and other executives in 18 countries. The study, by Universum, a consulting firm for employer branding, found nearly half of respondents rate personality profile as one of the most important hiring considerations and about 40% cite culture fit.

Picking the wrong personality is expensive for both employee and employer. The individual will be unhappy and ultimately unemployed, while the employer will have wasted thousands of dollars on recruiting and training.

Getting real in the interview does not mean you should wing it, nor should you recite a script. But you should be able to pull your thoughts together to both answer and ask questions to determine if this is a good fit you.

  • Practice what you want to say for the basic interview questions (search on “commonly asked interviewing questions”).
  • Know the examples you want to talk about. Make sure they are relevant to the organization’s needs.
  • If you don’t have a response to a question, say so, and ask to come back to it later in the conversation.
  • Ask a career coach or trusted colleague to do a mock interview with you and tell you how you comredshoese across.

Everyone knows you’re a bit nervous about the interview.  Remember, this is a business conversation. Focus on understanding their needs and how your experience can help them. Let your natural personality show them who you are.

Do You Deserve a Raise?

August 28th, 2015

Last October I posted Ask for a Raise the Right Way  with good tips and infographic.  dollar-sign

You absolutely must do your homework to effectively leverage your value to your employer.  Start with your accomplishments – the stand out things you did this year.  But go further. Update your inventory of the  knowledge and skills you use to accomplish your assignments. Then, add what you did that was different than others and made it successful, quicker, cheaper, sustainable. Add all quantifiable results. Do this for every task. Now, go back over the list and mark which skills or knowledge you’ve acquired in the last year.  Show in quantifiable detail how you’ve overcome extenuating circumstances to achieve measurable results. That is what you want to discuss for a raise – how you’ve increased your value to your employer.

Know your organization’s policy and process for giving raises. Yes, there are exceptions, but it helps to know the basics.

Have a reality check conversation with your mentor and two other knowledgeable people about the percentage increase you can ask for without being laughed at. What is your organization’s current business environment? What is this year’s average salary increase?

Have you noticed all of this is about the organization, not about your personal financial needs?

Discuss with your boss how your work contributes to the organization’s growth. Talk about how your work helps your boss attain her goals. Alignment is key. It helps you focus and work on the high priority things.

If your boss hasn’t already offered you the raise, ask for it.  Make no assumptions.  You don’t know if you don’t ask!

You just had a Career Conversation

August 2nd, 2015

Were you paying attention?

Not all career conversations are directly about you and getting ahead.  Getting personal feedback is great, but it is only one aspect of career conversations. Career Conversations come from many sources, not just bosses and mentors. They may be hiding in meetings and other conversations.

If you just had a hallway conversation about someone leaving or moving to another position, THAT was a Career Conversation. Note where they went and what gap that leaves. If the role is already back-filled, note what skills and expertise was selected. Another Career Conversation could be your follow-up with the perspn who moved.

Did you just leave a meeting about a persistent problem your department or a customer is facing? Add that to your journal of career impact information. Do you see a trend developing? Do you see a skill that you can offer (or that you need to acquire) to be part of the solution? And THAT was a Career Conversation, too.

We need many different sources and views to continuously manage our careers. In addition to the daily and on-going work we do, we need to pay attention to the business of the organization and the public served via budgets, customer needs, regulations and issues such as hacking, climate and demographics that effect how and where we work.

These make for fascinating and on-going Career Conversations. You can discover new tracks and ways to do what matters most.

Career Conversations, part 4 – Raise Your Hand

June 30th, 2015

handsOne of the most effective career conversation you can have is asking to do something for your boss.

When my boss was sharing some of the company’s plans for re-structuring, we could see that there was a big piece missing (aka “opportunity”) in managing the transition. Turf protection was high and we knew that getting support would be difficult. Often these discussions end with a shaking of the head and an “oh well” sense of defeat. My boss was already overloaded. Knowing it was a risky endeavor I asked, “Could I take a shot at it?”  Incredulously he asked, “Why?” I had nearly hit the top of my job level and thought this could be a way to break through. At worst, it could be a great story to share at future job interviews. And I truly had a deep desire to do it. With his support, I was able to quickly do the due diligence, build the business case, offer a solution to the President and Council and roll out a successful change management initiative.

Encourage your boss to delegate more of her projects or tasks. Ask to attend meetings in her place. Perhaps she will be willing to share you with other leaders in the organization for a few hours a week to work on a project or add your expertise.  These will help to develop your leadership capability, visibility and relationships. Remember the WWIFYB (What’s In It For Your Boss): It shows her ability to develop her staff, her teamwork and you can make her look good.

Does a planning meeting for another meeting sound dull? It is ripe with opportunity! Consider who will be attending the big meeting. If it is decision-makers and thought leaders, just being in the room is valuable.  Does a speaker need someone to advance the slides during the talk? Raise your hand. You’ll get a ring-side seat at the discussions, hear the questions and learn what’s is important and not important to these influencers.

If you don’t ask, others won’t know that you are interested.