Posts Tagged ‘Career’

Career Conversations: 7 Steps – Anger to Action

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Situation: Your co-worker is in very upset after a heated conversation with his boss.  He is very angry and calling the boss all sorts of names and using words like, “crazy,” stupid,” idiotic.”  What do you do?

a. Roll your eyes, agree and add another ‘name’ to the list.

b. Walk away. You’ve heard this too many times already.

c. Gasp! Ask, “What did the boss do to you?”

d. Listen and wonder, “Why would an otherwise reasonable person behave that way?”

Too often we get hooked into another person’s emotion and it derails us from truly being helpful.  It’s easier to jump to judgement when we hear about an injustice and  ‘pile on’ with more indignation.

Many people aren’t looking for a fix to their problem, but want a sympathetic ear to let off steam. Others are looking to rally allies.

So what’s the best thing you can do? Here are 7 steps:

  1. Give them your undivided attention.  Listen.
  2. Acknowledge the intensity of their angst.  Everyone is entitled to their feelings, whether or not you agree with the source or not. Our feelings are unique. You don’t know how they feel, so don’t say that you do.
  3. Summarize the issue and person’s response to be sure you understand their perspective.
  4. Ask, “What do you want to do?” Often times they just want to vent, or find ways to cast blame on others. They aren’t ready to look at themselves.
  5. Other times, they really do want another perspective.  See if they are ready to hear it by asking, “Would you like another perspective?”
  6. Help them explore the situation by considering other factors. In the scenario above, ask about the boss, “Why would an otherwise reasonable person behave that way?”  You’re not trying to psychoanalyze, just consider what else could have created the situation that went so badly with your colleague.  What else could have been happening to influence or stress the boss.  This re-focuses your colleague to analytical, rather than angry thinking.
  7. Finally, again ask, “What do you want to do?”  to help him channel the emotional energy into constructive actions.

We all get upset at times and its good to have a safe place to vent.  These 7 steps offer a framework for the next time you want to help your colleague (uhm, yourself?) when tempers flare.

Career Conversations – Feeling Stuck?

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Do you believe…  “My job is secure because [fill in the blank].”   “I’m stuck because I have no marketable skills.”  “My boss is looking out for me.” “I can ride a few more years before I retire.”

Whether you have two or twenty years of work experience, YOU are the person who cares most about your career and job security. You cannot afford to remain passive about it. All jobs change.  Here are 2 ways you can take full advantage of opportunities to strengthen your career security.

Pay attention to the trends in your profession, your industry as well as your organization.Your job title may be unique to your organization. But your profession is found in many organizations.  These organizations make up an industry.  For example, your job title is ‘resource analyst’ however your profession could be Accounting. Most organizations have an Accounting function.  Organizations that produce similar products or services are considered to be an industry – Health Care, Education, Housing, Agriculture and Food Services being  prime examples.

What are the issues of the day? How are things such as regulations, policies, funding, technology driving your work? Who are the key people and decision-makers?  Set your news alerts to get updates on your industry and primary organizations in your area.  You’ll get valuable information to share and make better decisions.

The 2nd step is to clearly and thoroughly inventory your skills, knowledge and personal characteristics. You have technical skills (things you know how to do for your job and profession), functional skills (basic reading, writing, mathematics, and computer skills) and transferable skills (your people, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, research and data analysis, project management and organization skills). The result will be an impressive combination that is uniquely yours.

Share this list with at least 3 people who know you well from work and your friends. Ask them to verify add or delete things from their perspective.  This can be very eye-opening to learn how they see you. Not only may they discover more of your skills, but they can make you more aware of valuable skills you take for granted. Both of these can lead to conversations about different work opportunities.  You’ll see areas of strength and, maybe a few obsolete or gaps of a skill or characteristic  you’d like to work on. One thing we’ll continue to hear is to update our skills to be ready for the next change in our career. What skills can you use in a different way or in a different context?  It may be like word games trying to form new words from a variety of letters. Combine skills and knowledge that don’t typically go together – have fun with it!

Career Conversations on Social Media

Monday, 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!

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.
  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

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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.


Career Conversation with My Team?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

You have a great team! Routine things work smoothly and challenges are handled. There are occasional blips to CUEbaseballteam2manage, but overall, its business as usual. Great!

This is not the time to coast.  Its the very best time to build your team’s bench strength.

How well do you know each person on your team? Do you know what their goals and aspirations are?  Do you know what is important to them both as a person and as a team member. Ask each of them, “Who and what do you want to become?”   Give them a heads up for this to be a topic on your next tag-up. Ask them what types of opportunities they’d like.

Provide your perspective on their specific career enhancing options. If your organization has outlined competencies, you can use those as a starting point.

Help them create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to serve as a roadmap for you and themselves.  Activities to enhance or gain new skills aren’t limited to formal training or academic programs. Short-term projects, job shadowing, mentors, cross-training, communities of practice are just a few zero-low budget opportunities. Remember to ask them to think about who they could talk with and what activities would be help to enhance their value to your team and the organization.

Check in 1:1 more than once a year. Life and work changes quickly.

At least quarterly, update your team on the State of the Organization from your perspective. Show them explicitly how their day-to-day, and project work, relates directly to the organization’s strategy and mission.  Help them connect the dots by describing the value of their skills and contributions to your customers/client.

Keep an ear open for people moving or new projects in other departments. Not only might you learn of an opportunity to trade a team member (short or long term), you might just find an opportunity for yourself!

Career Conversations with your team will earn you points for being the “best boss ever!”

Finding Career “Luck”

Friday, 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: Exploration and Visibility

Thursday, 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.