Archive for the ‘Career Management’ Category

Career Conversation-Why am I doing This?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question when the going got rough at work.

What were you thinking!?

Really. What were you thinking when you were excited about this job? Spend a few minutes recalling what is appealing to you.  List those things that are  still present.  Do you still have the opportunities to learn new things (even about how to handle challenges)?  Are you proud of what you’ve done so far? Has it made a difference for others by providing information, ensuring compliance, solving a problem, etc?

You’ll likely slide into ruminating about the things that are not so appealing or thwarting your efforts. Such as, having trouble getting buy-in on a no-brainer improvement? Waiting on decisions or information from others?  Consider how those challenges are part of making any kind of change. These challenges are part of everyone’s work.  Despite all the ‘Yes, but…,” is there something inside you that says, “this is what you were meant to do?”

Does the thought of quitting make you feel panicked or at peace?

Are you doing this for the recognition you hope to get as a result? If you are never recognized for this work, would you still be happy?

Yes, we are compelled to manage the rough spots because I need the paycheck. When I think about these questions, it helps me re-boot by remembering what I love about my work.  My answers help put into perspective the daily frustrations that interrupt the good things I’m contributing.  Perhaps they can help get you through this rough patch.

Career Conversations: 5 Questions for Staying Alive in Your Job

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Do you have days at work when time stands still? ‘Wondering if you should be doing something different?  Before you jump on the job boards, there are plenty of things to consider to energize yourself in your current work.

Consider the following 5 questions from Gallup:

  1. What do you know you can do well but haven’t done yet?
  2. What sorts of activities do you finish and think, “I can’t wait to do that again”? Or what are you doing — inside or outside work — when you’re truly enjoying yourself?
  3. What have you done well that you didn’t need someone to explain how to do?
  4. What have other people told you you’re great at doing?
  5. What activities are you doing when you are unaware of time passing?

I hope these got you thinking about the types of activities you enjoy.  The next step is the creative one:

  • How can you do more of the things you enjoy in your current work?  Really, think about it. Don’t assume it isn’t possible.
  • How can you use a favorite skill in a different way to contribute to your team?
  • What can you stop doing, start doing or change the way you do it to get better results?

This is an important career conversation to have with your boss.

If you are a manager or team lead, asking these questions with each person on your team, can:

  1. Help you identify what motivates them (and what doesn’t) for better work assignments.
  2. Build relationships within your own team and across other teams.
  3. Raise performance by tapping undisclosed preferred skills and interests.
  4. Energize and empower people to perform better by doing what they naturally do best every day.

Make time to have this career conversation this month.

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!

Career Conversations without Ageism

Monday, 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?

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.

 

 

Career Conversations with Your New Boss

Tuesday, 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?