Posts Tagged ‘resilience’

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!

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.

What’s Your Professional Development Strategy?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Fall treesThe most frequent responses I get to this question is #1 Strategy: keep getting a paycheck and hope to get promoted;#2 Strategy for Free Agents: Keep current contract(s) or get new clients.

I consider these non-strategies. Too many people approach learning something work-related as a task they have to do to keep their jobs or maintain a profession credential. They need an external incentive and are not motivated by curiosity or a desire to improve processes, services or products.

For those that enjoy keeping up with trends and new thinking for the sake of contributing to making their work better, they often:

  • Surf the net for bright shiny topics
  • Read blogs, take webinars that look interesting
  • Join professional associations, attend occasional gatherings
  • Actually participate in professional associations by not only attending, but also volunteering for projects or committees.


You COULD spend a few minutes to think about your long term work/career goals and what professional credentials or skills and competencies you need to keep up-to-date. Do you need to create or update your brand? Using this as a foundation, you can select and focus on those activities and opportunities that will give you the best bang for your buck.

“My profession doesn’t outline specific continuing education requirements. How do I do that?”  There are a couple of options:

Pay attention to the issues and trends that are driving business decisions for your organization and department. Cost-cutting will always be a factor, so look at how you and others could achieve organizational objectives faster, better, cheaper? New laws, regulations and technology changes tend to change the way things get done. What could you become the go-to person for? What interpersonal skills could you develop to improve your professional relationships in an increasingly diverse workforce? Check both the internal and external websites to see what your organization values. Many organizations have resources that outline career competencies and for creating your personal development plan to contribute to their highly competitive knowledge bank.

If you want to make a career change, map your steps to making that change and set up your support system to achieve it. Updating your resume will be a part of it, but first, you might have to do some research beyond surfing job boards. Identify required credentials or knowledge through job descriptions and taking with people in the roles. Use your social media to connect with others in that line of work for a reality check and advice and to stay on their radar when opportunities come up. Build your experience by volunteering.

Is time that you invest in yourself to enjoy a more rewarding career?

Adaptability & Flexibilty are Top Workplace Skills

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The international staffing agency Randstad issued a report in August detailing the results of their ongoing surveys that are part of the Randstad Engagement Index.

In this report, respondents show increased optimism and security in their jobs. Among the many data points I’m intrigued by the skills needed for continued success.  Respondents rated “flexibility” and “adaptability” as top skills needed to succeed in the workplace, followed by “knowledge of technology” and “teamwork” respectively.

How have you demonstrated “adaptability” in the past few weeks?  Consider your responses to proposed changes in your work.  Has there been a situation where you stepped up to help someone else in addition to your own work? Have you relinquished control over something? Perhaps you shared your knowledge or a cultivated resource to further a project. Being adaptable is not just about being compliant; it includes the  sincere desire to make or do things better. Often it means being in a very uncomfortable stage – consider adaptations in nature when plants and animals must adapt to changes in their environment or to keep from becoming a delectable food source.

If you are in job search mode, how have you adapted this new environment? Consider the work habits you’ve transferred to your job search. You have likely stretched outside your comfort zone to make new contacts and to learn new skills – social networking, preparing for interviews, writing and delivering accomplishments, job search strategies, etc.

What does “flexibility” look like?  Often its just the willingness to re-schedule time commitments. It is also the willing to consider and try a different solution that isn’t comfortable to you.  Could it be reserving “right” or ‘wrong” judgements to consider another viewpoint? Thank about the creative approaches you have taken…or could take.

I’d like to hear your examples of these.

Thankful For Work?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Work conversations often fall into two categories – people complain about their job or complain that they don’t have a job. I suppose we get more sympathy when we complain. I wonder why we don’t talk more about the things that go well for us. Not boasting, just being thankful.

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, my colleague, Annabelle Reitman offers some wisdom in her column on The Transition Network newsletter, Work: What Are You Thankful For?

She describes how we can go beyond just being thankful to have a job, to looking at the specific things about our work that we appreciate. Yes, the money is important. Most of us realize the relationships we’ve built are also important to us. What resources do you have that make your job easier? What is it about your work that energizes you?  How do these things, and others impact your overall life? Do they enable you to do other things?

If you are looking for work, you already have an inventory of the things you want from your next job.  Have you inventoried what this transition period currently offers that is helping you get through it? (A pop song lyric just popped into my head, “What doesn’t make you stronger…”). Recognize your ability to be creative and to persist in your search. What new talents and relationships have you developed through both your job search and any volunteer activities? Even a jobless period gives us things to be grateful for that we often miss when working full-time.

I don’t need a holiday to remind me what I’m thankful for.  Do you?


A Crystal Ball – Skills for Now and the Future

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

A research report from Apollo Research Institute gives us a crystal ball for looking towards 2020.  “Future Work Skills 2020”

I like the way this report takes the major global trends and matches them with the skills workers need to thrive now and going forward. Its very useful for  the many people needing to re-skill, re-career and generally upgrade their skills to get good jobs.   Its also useful for HR/OD professionals working on reducing the skills gaps in your organizations. It can add richness to your competencies buffet. More than technical skills, these are the abilities to think, analyze, empathize; the willingness to seek different perspectives, use logic meshed with creativity, and use a variety of means to communicate.

There are six categories from the report:

  • Transdisciplinarity: ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.
  • Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.
  • Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  • Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  • Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings.
  • Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcome

This is not only a great read, but full of food for thought.

Adapt Your Career Following Nature’s Lead

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I heard Dr. Rafe Sagarin (University of Arizona) speak last week at the CBODN conference focusing on Resiliency. His book, “Learning form the Octopus” is just released.

Do you know someone who readily adapts to changing circumstances without planning, predicting the future, or striving for perfection? Plants, animals and humans face the same problem, which is that risk in the world is inevitable and unpredictable. Whether we are dealing with a hurricane, a stock market crash, a war or job loss we can learn from the way nature deals with uncertainty. Here are just a few points from what he’s learned:

1) Focus on the immediate problem.  First, don’t get eaten or die. Then we can figure out the next step.  This means its ok to just get a job to pay the bills. But let’s not get stuck there.

2) Like an octopus, seek out information from many sources and decentralize to respond immediately. When the octopus ‘feels’ danger on one tentacle, that tentacle changes color or shape right then. It doesn’t send a text to the home office and wait for permission to do something to survive.  Career-wise we need to always stay attuned to trends that can affect our work and be ready to learn new skills.

3) Look at the problem from a wide variety of perspectives, especially the “crazy” ones that others tend to disregard. There are thousands of different types of beetles because they have adapted their appendages into claws, wings, hooks, or whatever they need to survive. Not every career-move is going to make sense to others; but it may be exactly what you need to do to learn and position yourself for your perfect work.

4) Use unlikely partnerships to serve the mutual need. Look at the instances where predators are serviced by their prey, such the wasp fish which clean the teach of their predator.  Too many people look at teammates as competitors for the next promotion.  Look at what others bring to the table that qualifies them for the promotion and see what you can learn from them. Use it to add your own value!

5) Learn from and build stories of success by providing the right incentives.  Beach-born turtles, or sea lions find their way to the sea despite tremendous odds. Issue fewer orders and offer challenges for people to develop what they need to succeed.  What is your innate, driving incentive in your career?  Is there a need or problem you want to address?  Making money to support our selves and families is a huge incentive, but not the only one.

If you can, go hear him speak. It will keep you thinking for weeks afterwards…maybe a lifetime.

While You’re Unemployed…

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Jacqueline Smith has compiled a great Top 10-things-you-need-to-do-while-youre-unemployed I wanted to share with you.

If you do nine out of 10 of these, you won’t need to work for someone else!


Learn to Learn

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

When I keep doing what I always do, why do I think it will have a different result?

This bit of insanity applies to  many aspects of our lives. But let’s look at just one. We do our jobs well and manage the constant winds of change. Like a sailing a boat we know how to stay upright and navigate the personalities and glitches of the day.  But we often don’t see the storm clouds on the horizon until it’s too late.   A common competency found in most public and private sector organizations involves being able to see what knowledge and skills will be needed to handle the future storms of opportunity.  If we don’t learn new skills (not only technology, but those related to your organization’s work and mission) then we’re not ready to step up to the new challenges.  I worked with several organizations that  are shifting from mechanical to digital arenas.  This means that the skill sets of  people working with machines and parts will need to include computer skills. Look at automobile maintenance that now requires a computer read-out.  Even our money is now being printed digitally now.

Don’t wait until your next performance assessment to have a conversation with your boss.  Tell her what types of interests or aspirations you have for moving up or around in your organization.  Ask her what she sees as the most valuable skills your organization needs. If your boss isn’t available to have this conversation, step back and take a look at the hot issues impacting your organization or profession. For example, if the demographics of your customer base changing, you could learn a second (or third) language. Take a course or seminar; get some training to contribute solving these issues.  Volunteer for committees or task forces to practice your skills and knowledge so you don’t lose what you just learned.  Technology has made a lot or resources available to us that we just have to tickle the keyboard to find. And many are free or low cost.  Your organization may have a training or tuition reimbursement budget you can tap.

Derrick Dortch talks to federal workers encouraging them to get some training in order to advance in their careers and offering some places to start.


Career Skills for Today – Mindreading

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Recently a GovLoop forum asked: “What one skill do you wish you had?”  The very first response was “Mind Reading.” In my July 14, 2010  blog, I wrote on the career skill Trend Spotting, or Foresight. So I just have to respond.

Indeed Mind Reading seems to be a Competency all by itself. Not to be confused with “second guessing,” I would define it in our work settings as finely tuned perception and communication skills to draw out the other person; to make explicit the expectations, desired outcomes and emotions. It may also include deadlines, resources available, along with consequences for errors. Other definitions call into play all five senses.  We all learn at an early age to read others expressions to know if they are happy, sad, angry, etc. We then modify our own behavior based on their mood.  Scientists at Stanford have new data on Mind Reading: Comparing  brain images to the “maps” from the first set of participants, the researchers were able to predict with 85% accuracy the correct mental state of the second set of study participants.

We all communicate through our own filters. These filters are built on our previous experiences, fundamental values, emotions and motives.  We often project our feelings and values on to others thus attributing a motive to them that is really our own motive. If they hold the same motive, we feel like we are “on the same page.”  If it isn’t, then we often walk away from the conversation with different outcomes!  The big mistake here is to assume we know the other person’s motive. So the ‘Mind Reading’ challenge is to first, become aware of the motive and second, to verify it by asking clarifying questions.

Accurately reading facial expressions and body language is a core component of Mind Reading. But Mind Reading taps our sixth sense, intuition.  Just as “The Mentalist” isn’t psychic, he’s  highly observant.  A good Mind Reader is attuned to both the present and past situations. In observing the current facts, she will draw upon her previous encounters with the person or a similar situation and see if there are connections.  Other connections may be drawn from putting the current facts into a larger context – even projecting into the future.  For example, you’ve used your Mind Reading abilities when you hear your colleague boss take a stand on an issue and you know it is based on her desire for early retirement.

We can enhance our capacity for accurate Mind Reading by becoming more self-aware of our own emotions and motives as we draw on our observations, our memories, our powers of reason, and our deep pools of emotion to  make educated guesses about what another person is thinking and feeling. By being more attentive to the subtle and overt expressions of others, we get outside of ourselves and are able to help others express what they may not be able to say.  Mind Reading requires knowing when to probe and when to leave well enough alone, an old-fashioned virtue: discretion.