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Strategies for Developing a Career Path that Works

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs

“The things to do are the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to be doing.” – Buckminster Fuller

Maybe your job is not what you thought it would be, or you want to ratchet up, or you are burnt out, or something else seems more interesting…or you just got fired.

Consider these strategies to find a job you can love, even if it’s the one you are in:

  1. Nothing is wrong with you if you have not yet discovered your “passion” or “mission.” It can be as simple as “helping myself while I help others.” You can do that in any job.
  2. Nothing is wrong with changing jobs if:
    • There is no opportunity for creativity or growth.
    • You can’t earn more where you are at.
    • You want to work closer to home.
    • You dislike your co-workers, boss, or customers.
    • There is illegal or unethical activity going on.
    • This isn’t the third time you quit in the last two years.  If that’s the case, maybe you are the problem.
  3. Nothing is wrong with changing careers if:
    • The “story” of your career does not match up with the “reality” of your career.
    • You have grown far in that career and look to learn something new.
    • There is the possibility of working in a career that allows you to earn more or work in alignment with your passion, mission, etc.
    • You are financially set and want to do non-profit type work.
  4. Get out of the “grey zone” of uncertainty. Give yourself space and time to define your ideal career situation. Think both vertically and horizontally. For example, I’d like to be a lawyer for an environmental non-profit or I’d to be a games programmer at Electronic Arts.
  5. Interview people with your ideal career. Invite them to a coffee or lunch, or even offer to pay for their time.  Ask what they want and don’t like about their job.  Discover their story of how they came to be in this position.  Ask what they think the future holds for their career.  Last, ask what advice they would have for you.  I wish I had been smart enough to do this when I was younger.  Keep asking until somebody says yes.  It is worth the effort.
  6. Meet with a recruiter. Again, offer to pay for their time.  Ask for an evaluation of your resume, and what they believe your opportunities are and possible compensation levels.  Steps 4, 5, and 6 are all about gaining clarity.  Get facts before you make a career decision.
    • P.S.  See if they can run your resume through a resume screener to make sure you are using the right buzzwords. An example you can use yourself is https://www.jobscan.co/
  7. Don’t fear seeking part-time, temp or consulting work. Get your foot in the door and show them how amazing you are.  Do that, and they will want you as an employee.
  8. Don’t quit your day job until you have agreed to a new job. Then leave your company gracefully.  Provide them with two week’s notice.  Don’t bomb them on Glassdoor.  Don’t do a YouTube dance video. There is no good reason to create enemies.  Just move on.
  9. Get creative! Showing your resume online is not enough anymore.
    • Use your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.
    • Use your alumni and school contacts.
    • Show up at industry association meetings.
    • See if your industry association has a hiring page, many do.
    • Knock on their door. This approach works best with smaller companies as you might get to meet the owner or president.
    • Network, but when you do, spend your time learning about them. See how you can help them.  That’s what gets people’s attention, not being needy.  Besides, needy is creepy.
    • Don’t forget the Yellow Pages.
  10. Know the companies that fit your career path. Many cities have a business publication that identifies the companies in your area. Then systematically figure out how you will approach them. Make your job! Send the owner an article you wrote or a blog post.  Mail it to them.  Offer to have a meeting to see how you can help them.  I have often got work by doing this.  “I’d like to meet with you for an hour to check your head and share what I know about ____.”
  11. Know yourself. Look for a career that fits you. Know your skills and motivators.  Take a few career assessments.  Take a few skill tests (see shl.com).  The better you know you, the more focus and confidence you will have.  One simple way to focus is to identify the five things you do best and circle the two things you enjoy doing best.  Find a job or career that focuses on those two things and you will find work nirvana.
  12. If you are out of a job, then make finding a job your whole priority. Make it a 5-day week, 40 hour-week job. Be relentless. Go all in!
  13. Keep learning. Lynda.com is a great resource for learning and free if you have LinkedIn premium (which you want if you are job hunting). Research companies, trends, challenges, etc.
  14. Create a week in the life for yourself. Three years from now, when you are doing work you love. What does a work week look like?  Spend a few hours noting this future with clarity and then bring that future into the present.  I have learned that you get what you ask for – just not when or how you would expect to get it.
  15. Be prepared. As the saying goes, success results from preparation meeting opportunity. Being prepared for an interview means researching the company website, news articles, LinkedIn profiles, Glassdoor reviews and more. Practice your interviewing skills with friends.  Interviewing is a sales job so know the questions you can be asked and how you would answer them.  Short and sweet answers are best. Also, be prepared with questions you may want to ask. Don’t ask questions you can find by researching Manta, Hoovers…or the company website. Consider questions such as:
    • Why is the position open? Did someone quit or get fired? Is it a new position?
    • How would you describe the company’s culture?
    • Where do you get your greatest satisfaction in working here?
    • What frustrates you working here?
    • What are the common attributes of your top performers?
    • What drives results for the company?
    • How does your performance appraisal system work?
    • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
    • In one year from today, how would you know if my hire was a success?
    • What training programs do you offer employees?
    • Do you publish career ladders for the position?
    • What percentage of managers are promoted versus recruited?
    • What is the most exciting thing happening at the company?
    • How often does the CEO meet with the management team?
    • What type of company social events do you have?
  16. Follow up, even if they don’t. Send a written thank you note and ask for the job.
  17. Last, don’t stress about the future even if you are in a financial squeeze. Cut expenses to the bone and focus on taking action in the present, the only real power you have.

Download the Career Strategies PDF

Resources:

https://www.livecareer.com/ -resume builder, job search, more.

http://jobboardreviews.com job board directory

http://www.jobhuntersbible.com  from Dick Bolles, author of What Color is My Parachute

https://www.shl.com/en/  a great place to test your skills

https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/- great advice on job hunting

https://www.careercloud.com– job hunting advice

https://www.job-hunt.org/– job hunting advice

https://www.forbes.com/video/4573540723001 video from Forbes on avoiding the resume black hole.

https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/06/now-you-can-privately-signal-to-recruiters-youre-open-to-new-job– as the URL suggests, how to use LinkedIn

https://www.donphin.com/tools/– last but not least, some tools I’ve created that can help

 

WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT!

“In spinning a robe of your own righteousness, before the sun goes down you will find it all unraveled.” – Curtis Hutson

You know you are right….and yet they ignore you, ridicule you, argue nonsense to you or even try to sabotage you.

Of course, they can’t be “right” too.

John was one of the top engineers on the project.  After doing a bunch of independent research, he came to the conclusion the team was going in the wrong direction.  He had been hinting at his concerns, but it seemed everyone was too overwhelmed with their tasks to listen.

Every Wednesday at 8 AM, the team had an all-hands meeting.  John would be prepared.  He would show them why the current approach was doomed for failure.  It was all he could think about, all night long. He was fitful and had a terrible night’s sleep.

The next morning, John was exhausted but ready to go.  He steeled himself when it came his time to report.  He let it all out.  He was nervous, and his energy was strong. He told the team if they didn’t listen to his concerns, they would regret it later.

John did not get the response he hoped for.  At first, there was dead silence.  Then the questions, disagreements and attacks began.  Many on the team felt as if they were under attack from John, and sought not to listen or understand John, but to defend themselves.

It was a disaster.  The team lead ended the meeting and told John he’d like to meet with him that afternoon.

After the meeting, John was anxious and confused. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t jump on board with his recommendations. Thoughts kept repeating in his head about how he was right.  They must be blind, fools or even worse, reckless.

So where did being “right” get John?

Where does the push to be “right” ever get any of us? On any stage?

As the saying goes, “Are you always the smartest person in the room?”

I know my energy can rise when there is even a potential for conflict… and I know I’m right.

When we are “right” and don’t instantly get our way, it feels unfair.  When something feels unfair, the drama begins.  We can go from feeling like a victim one minute and acting like a villain in the next.

So, what approach do you take when you know you are right, and resistance is sure to follow?  What insights should John’s team leader share with him in their meeting? Let me share a few insights I’ve learned from trial work, sales, and the study of emotions.

  1. Begin by asking yourself the questions that are sure to come your way.  What are the possible objections to your argument?  What fears or concerns of others will you have to overcome? A good salesperson considers possible objections that may be confronted in a sales meeting and practices responses to them.  Even better, take away their potential victimology by addressing their fears and concerns… before they do.
  2. Have a confidant give you honest feedback.  Invite them to cross-examine you. When I was a trial lawyer, we would sometimes pay for a “mock jury” to test out our arguments.  Maybe a mentor,  coach, or old professor can be a good sounding board for you.  Having that sounding board is one reason every executive should have a coach!
  3. Hone your presentation.  Practice, practice, practice. Never wing it.  If it is important, it is important enough to do it with excellence.  Tell a great story, beginning to end.  Identify how everyone benefits from your approach.
  4. R-e-l-a-x.  Go into the meeting, presentation, etc. like the Dalai Lama would, focusing on liking the people you will be with, before you are even with them.  They are dealing with as much, and sometimes more, than you are.  So chill out and be a good human, no matter how excited you are about being right.
  5. I try to keep in mind the quote from David Bohm that “the truth doesn’t emerge from an opinion; it emerges from a dialogue.”  So, don’t be a know it all. Invite feedback.  Engage in a dialogue. Ask what they agree with or not, and why.  Try to learn something from them. That’s good sales.  Then identify what you agree about and narrow down the disagreements. Listen. Without interruption.   Step into their shoes.  Feel where they are coming from.  Even if you face disagreement, you can do so as good people.  Reasonable people can agree to disagree.
  6. Consider how you can mitigate their concerns.  Perhaps adjust your approach.   Be creative. Be flexible, like Gumby.  He…or she… with the most options wins.
  7. If you hit a stalemate, consider a third party to facilitate finding a middle ground.  A mediation if you will. Or call a timeout and agree to reconvene after everyone has had time to sort things out.
  8. If after all of that you still find yourself stuck in what you believe is a disaster waiting to happen, then either let go or get out.  Fighting reality is a game for the insane…or soon to be insane.  You don’t want to “lose it” because you are right. When that happens, everyone loses.

I think most people would say they are more “right” about things than other people.  Odds are, across your life, you are probably little better than 50/50 at being “right.”

Now that’s reality!

Ten Things that All Employees Want

We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to motivate or engage employees when the solutions have been around forever. The gap is application, not knowledge. This is not rocket science as it’s probably similar to what you want for your career:

  1. A fair day’s pay.
  2. A steady job.
  3. At a good company.
  4. With good co-workers.
  5. A boss that cares about them.
  6. A decent work environment.
  7. An opportunity to move ahead.
  8. Feeling like their work makes a difference.
  9. Providing financial security (benefits, 401K, etc.) for me and my family.
  10. A decent break from work!

So…

  1. Do you know if you pay according to the market rate? The market defines a fair days pay. Once you pay that, money as a motivator falls sharply in the rankings.
  2. Is this a temporary need? Super high turnover? How do you make jobs like fast food, retail, call centers a “steady job”? Remember the formula and feel free to share it with your employees: Great work + great attitude + client need + steady cash flow = job security.
  3. Would employees define you as a good company? What do your surveys tell you? Or your Glassdoor ratings? What would it take to go from good to great?
  4. Are employees encouraged to play team? Do be supportive of each other? Do they seem to like hanging out with each other? Do they realize the place to compete is with the competition and not with each other?
  5. Are you a boss that shows you care? What is an example of an action you took recently to show somebody you care about them? And, no, writing the paycheck doesn’t count.
  6. What about the work environment? Is it visually appealing? Well ventilated and good lighting? See my Checklist for Great Office Design.
  7. Do employees know what they need to do to move up in their career? Do they have a plan for doing so? Here’s a good tool to start with http://www.careeronestop.org/competencymodel/careerpathway/cpwreviewsamplepaths.aspx
  8. Have you helped them discover how their works “makes a difference”? Once defined, then brand and reinforce it.
  9. You are not responsible for an employee’s finances…but it is wise to help employees better manage their finances. Many of my clients have brought in financial education whether from Dave Ramsey’s organization or otherwise. Financial peace supports productive behaviors.
  10. Last, make sure people take a break! Burnout only leads to resentment, lowered performance and family strife.

Like I said, not rocket science…but it is an enormous competitive advantage. Remember half of all companies do this better than the other half and the great ones do it better than 90% of their competition! What kind of company do you want to be?

There’s Always Something Else Going On

If there’s one thing I know about your employees it is this: there is always something else going on. The workplace it not some vacuum void of external influences. After you watch this video (and you want to watch this video) think about your employees walking around like this and put these thoughts above their head:

I can’t believe she is going to leave me.

I can’t believe he cheated on me.

I feel exhausted and depressed.

My family hates me.

I hate my parents.

I can’t believe I have cancer.

My mother just passed away.

My kid is in the hospital.

My kid just got diagnosed with ADD.

I’m going to lose my house.

I can’t believe lost all my money in that investment.

I don’t know if it’s worth living anymore.

These are the endless loop conversations that nobody else hears and it affects the ability to listen, concentrate, produce, engage, or feel good about work. Heck, I’ve been there in my life.

This is about them…it’s not about you. And there is nothing you can do as an outsider to their conversation to “control” it.

When you have empathy for people you connect at the heart level. Your caring for them is as a person, not as an employee. Within boundaries you ask how you can help. The best thing you can do is go for a walk with them and just listen… or give them something positive to work on…or a few days off to get straightened out.

When the time is right you can have a dialogue with them. This is not a conversation or sharing of opinions. It is deeper conversation that gets to the essence of the problem. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to be able to do it either.

Just the continued awareness that there is always something else going on will help to better empathize with employees…as well as yourself.

So let’s give everybody a break!

All the best, Don

 

PS want to bring check out the GreatHR Executive Program for yourself? Check it out: https://www.greathr.com/the-great-hr-executive-program/

Down Mexico Way…

So I was in this fun bar in Cabo and what did I see? Their motivational poster! What would happen if you hung this up at your company?