Tag Archives: career goals

Keep Up Or Fall Behind

Keep Up or Fall Behind

If You Want To Stay Employed

To stay marketable in today’s workforce, and to be considered for continued promotions, you HAVE to keep up.  Maybe back in the day that wasn’t as necessary–maybe you got to be an expert within your specialty and that was good enough.  No more.  People who make decisions about whether to hire, promote, or fire people take into consideration the prospect’s current-ness, attitude toward change and learning, and awareness of things outside his specific job.  The only way to come out in good stead in this evaluation is to keep up.  You have to keep up with technology, your company’s market, your company’s industry, trends, and language.  I know, I know–how can you do more than you’re doing?  You’re keeping up as much as you need to.  That may be true.  Or you may need to do more.  Let’s explore this a little.

Technology

There are several kinds of technology that you need to keep current with–how current depends on what your job is, where you are in your career, what market you work in and what your goals are.  There is BIG technology–what are the global trends in technology associated with technology companies and services.  Unless you work in the technology industry, just being generally aware of these is enough. There is also what I call SMALL technology (others may call it something else).  This is the systems and tools that you use in your job and that others (competitors, especially) use to do similar jobs.  Things like Salesforce.com or Oracle or Access or Visio or Telepresence or GoToWebinar.  You should take the opportunity to learn to use absolutely every tool that you can.  If you are lucky enough to work in an organization that uses a lot of technical tools—software, systems or hardware–you should take advantage of all the opportunities to at least become familiar with them.  If you can, you should become proficient at all the tools that others use to do the job that you do.  If you find yourself bounced out of your job, you want to be able to put as many of these on your resume that you can.  Learn them while you can.  Then there is what I call PERSONAL technology.  These are all the technical tools and toys that can make your life more productive and fun.  You should also keep up with these, so that you can keep your mind growing and so that you can be relevant in conversations you have with other people.  Yes, I said relevant.

If you find yourself disagreeing with me, think about why that is.  Is it that you think the technology is irrelevant?  If you think it is irrelevant, I would challenge you to research or discuss this view with others.  If you find that you’re right after you do that, I’ll get off your back. Do you disagree because you don’t really like the discomfort of learning these new things?  If you plan to stay in the workforce more than five more years, you’re going to have to learn and keep learning new technology.  It is better for you to jump in and do it willingly—it makes it look like you’re a positive early adapter—and therefore much valued by organizations. 

Market

It is important that you understand the market you work in, no matter what your job.  If you don’t, it is like walking through a thick forest that borders a high cliff in the dark.  You need to know (or at least have opinions about) what is coming.  You want to know that you are working in a buggy whip factory sometime before the auto industry perfects the assembly line.  If you keep your head down and do your job in your company without checking out your market on a regular basis, you’re likely to get caught without a seat when the music stops. 

Set up Google alerts on key components of your market, your competitors and your company.  How does your company stand against the rest of the companies in the market?  How do their products compare?  Their revenue?  Are other companies breaking out of the market?  Why?  How?  Is the market growing?  Shrinking?  What cataclysmic events can you imagine that would affect the market negatively?  What events could cause it to take off?  Is your company doing anything to prevent/accelerate either of these?

Industry

What is happening with the industry?  Think of the extraordinary changes that have happened in the music or the publishing or the telecom industries in the last 10 years.  Who would have imagined the confluence of these three, the new products, and even the amount of money that could be made?  What is happening in your industry?  What extraordinary change might be on the horizon?  Good or bad?  Is there another industry that might be coming your way like an unexpected tsunami?  Does your company’s strategy foresee anything like this?  Should it?  Again, if you haven’t thought about it, you are not likely to be positioned to take advantage of it when it happens.

Trends

The trends you should pay attention to lie someplace between twitter trends and global shifts.  What is going on?  What does it matter to you (personally) or your company?  You should regularly read important blogs (again, which ones depends on your interests, job, company, industry, age, and goals), news (papers, online, whatever works for you), books (you can listen if you prefer).  You should know what is happening in the important aspects of your life.  You should be well read and know what the major new ideas are in the fields  of business, science, health, technology and anything else that is important to you.  How deeply you understand these ideas depends on why you need to understand them—to be well read is one level, to be a thought leader is another. 

Language

Ironically, to be well respected, you have to speak the current language of your audience.  That means that in most organizations you need to know and speak the acronyms of the organization.  To speak to young(er) or old(er) people, you need to use their phrases that convey the message you want to get across. You need to know the technical terms, the terms of art, the phrases.  You can be extremely well educated and speak the language of your specialty, but if you’re not using your audiences’ language, they usually don’t give you the credit you deserve.  Learn the acronyms.  Learn the current expressions.  Learn the cultural terms. 

Who Has The Time?!?

You do.  You have to.  This is the difference between what is important and what is urgent.  For your continued marketability, you have to put the time and effort into keeping up.  Learning how to use Access when you’re out of a job and the job descriptions all require it is much harder than if you’re sitting in an organization that will support your learning it by providing you the software AND the training.  Take advantage.  For you and your organization it is a win/win.  And maybe you’ll never have to learn it when you’re out of a job—because you’re never out of a job.

 

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Get a Mentor. Use a Mentor.

Get a Mentor

I know you’ve heard it.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve heard it from me.  You need a mentor to help your career.  Easier said than done, right?

How Do I Get a Mentor?

Typical questions about mentors and mentoring are:

  • What is mentoring?
  • How do I find a good mentor for me?
  • How do I ask someone to be my mentor?
  • How does having a mentor work to help my career?
  • What if my mentor and I don’t get along?
  • What if my mentor won’t meet with me?
  • How do I end the mentor relationship?

What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring, first and foremost, is a LEARNING relationship.  The old-school model of mentoring was that the senior, experienced successful mentor took the junior, inexperienced mentee under his wing (yes, it was always a ‘he’).  Today’s mentoring is much more complex, but much more productive.  It is different depending on the people involved.  It could be a senior person helping a junior person succeed in an organization.  It could be an expert helping a novice speed up the process of learning.  It could be a junior person helping an executive understand social media.  The key parts to a mentor/mentee effort are LEARNING and RELATIONSHIP.  It is a collaboration, not a one-way relationship.  Both parties, but most importantly the mentee, take responsibility for the success of the relationship.  The mentee must have a plan, goals and the willingness to step up and reach out for the mentoring to be maximally successful.

How Do You Find A Mentor?

You start with what you need.  When you think about your career, what is it that you need?  Do you need to learn how to navigate the organization’s politics?  Do you need to learn how to be an effective executive?  Do you need Executive presence? Do you need to learn how to manage technical people?  Do you need to learn to manage your peers?  Think strategically?  Present your ideas better?  Whatever it is (and don’t focus on everything at once–pick the biggest/most important thing), think about who you know, or know of, who can do it well.  If there is more than one person who fits that description, who do you think has the best ‘chemistry’ with you.  Who do you most want to learn from?  Who might have more time? Who do you think might be the better teacher?  Based on these questions, pick someone who could mentor you in what you need.

How Do You Ask Someone To Be A Mentor?

Once you’ve identified someone, make a plan.  What do you want to learn from the person?  Over what time period?  What format would work best for you?  Informal–like over coffee?  Formally scheduled meetings?  Asking questions?  Your mentor talking and telling stories?  Once you’ve thought through these, what kind of proposal can you make to your mentor?  Something like:

I’ve admired how well you navigate this organization to get things done for your organization for a while now.  I was wondering if you’d be willing to mentor me on how to do that?  I was thinking maybe we could have coffee some morning and you could share with me some of the things you wish someone had told you?

Imagine if someone approached you this way.  It’s likely that you would be flattered.  If you had the time, it is likely that you would be willing to do this.  You’re not asking for a long term commitment in this situation.  You’re testing the waters.  If you have the first meeting (which, if it is more comfortable for you, you could formally schedule a meeting), and the chemistry seems good and the mentor seemed to enjoy it as much as you did, then you can ask for another meeting.  In the second meeting, you can ask the person about him/herself.

  • How did you get to where you are in the organization?
  • What have been your biggest career learnings?
  • What do you wish you had known that you know now?
  • Are there things you would have done differently?
  • Which jobs have taught you the most?  Which bosses?

If this conversation goes well, then it is time to suggest that the person be a mentor.  Ask if he is willing to be your mentor.  Tell him what kinds of things you’d like to learn from him.  Over what period of time?  How often would you like to meet with him?  (Be very reasonable here).  Show him that you will take responsibility for learning with him as your guide.  If he agrees, ask him how he wants you to be prepared before your conversations?  What kind of follow-up and follow-through does he want?  Get clear on your goals.

If you approach it in these stages, you get to feel out the relationship element of the mentoring–do you think it will work?  Push yourself to ask if the relationship works for you, because it will be worth it.  If s/he says no, don’t take it personally.  It is probably about time commitment or, just as likely, about the mentor feeling inadequate to the task.

How Does Having A Mentor Work?

The mentoring relationship is about learning–usually both the mentor and the mentee learn.  Sometimes the mentor is able to open doors for opportunities, but almost always the mentor opens minds.  The mentor helps the mentee see the world through different eyes (usually higher ranking eyes).  The mentor helps the mentee have a new perspective–thinking strategically instead of tactically, thinking like a sales person instead of an HR person, understanding how decisions get made at the top of the organization.  These new perspectives are JUST AS IMPORTANT as if the mentor helps the mentee land a new job.  It is these new perspectives that enable the mentee to succeed at the new job.

What If We Don’t Get Along?

Sometimes mentors and mentees don’t get along.  Having a couple of exchanges before you ask for a more formal mentoring relationship can sometimes help avoid this, but not always.  If you don’t get along with your mentor, ask yourself why.  Is it because she is speaking truth to you and you don’t like it?  If that is the reason, it is probably very worth hanging in there.  It is really hard to get people to tell you the truth–it is easier to learn to deal with it than to find someone else who will tell it.  Is it because the mentor reminds you of someone who you haven’t gotten along with in the past?  Your father?  Your older sister?  Your first boss?  Again, it’s really better to work through these issues than to find someone else–this is the kind of issue that will continue to bit you until you learn to deal with it.  Is it because the person is a bully or abusive?  If so, then it is best to end the relationship.  Don’t end it by stomping out.  Just thank the person for all the help s/he has provided (this is VERY important) and tell him/her to be sure to let you know if you can return the favor.  Then don’t schedule any more appointments.

What If My Mentor Won’t Meet With Me?

It is highly that anyone you want to mentor you is a very busy person.  When you have the conversation requesting that she become your mentor, you need to agree how often you will meet.  The more you can talk it out–what to do if one of you has to cancel, what to do if scheduling becomes a problem, what are the expectations, what to do if this becomes too burdensome–the less likely this is to be a problem.  After a number of cancels–this number should be different if it is a CEO v. a manager–then it is appropriate to ask whether it would be better to take a break till a time that is better.  Then go find someone else.  The biggest risk here, though, is that you will interpret normal scheduling problems as the mentor not wanting to do this.  It is likely that the mentor just has a busy schedule.  Don’t read too much into it.

How Do I End The Mentor Relationship?

It is best that you make some kind of arrangement for the end of the mentoring relationship (not the end of the relationship) in the initial agreement that establishes the relationship.    You can make it time specific or task specific–get through your next performance review, or do an Executive level presentation, but you do need to identify what the goal and timing of the mentoring relationship should be.

Many, many mentor relationships end and friendship remains.  That is ok, but be careful to make the shift in your mental model.  Be sure to thank your mentor in a meaningful way.    It’s great to keep notes as the mentoring proceeds and to write a summary of what you learned over time for your mentor.  It will help cement the learning in both your minds.  This could be one of the most important relationships of your working life.

A Good Book That Will Help

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Feedback, Success, Trust

Are You A Wannabe?

Are you an Executive wannabe?  An entrepreneur wannabe?  An artist wannabe? A marathoner wannabe? An author wannabe?  Do you put one of those on your New Year’s Resolutions list?  How about your career goals list?

What Is Stopping You?

Look at last week’s calendar.  Look at last month’s calendar.  Is your ‘wannabe’ goal anywhere on your calendar?  If not, why not?  How can you possibly accomplish your goal if you’re not spending any time on it?  Don’t tell me you don’t have time.  People who really want to do something have time.  Every successful accomplished person who has done what you want to do has EXACTLY the same amount of time that you do.  It comes down to six things:

  • Priority:  If this is your future, then you need to put it sufficiently up your priority list that you are spending time on it
  • Motivation:  Understand what motivates you and put that in your life.
  • Focus: You CANNOT do it all (at once).  Turn off the TV.  Stop surfing the Internet.  Stop texting.  Take yourself to some place quiet and isolated.
  • Determination:  Keep working toward your goal, no matter what gets in the way.
  • Create whatever support infrastructure you need.  If you need training, get it.  If you need a coach, get one.  If you need a place, find one.
  • Action:  I hate to be repetitive, but JUST DO IT

Winning

So, How Do You Do That?

  • Write it down.  Be very specific.  Not ‘Write a book’ but ‘Write a novel, get a book contract, and get it published by this time next year.
  • Once you’ve written the specific goal, work backwards.  In order to write a novel, get a book contract and get it published, what do you have to do?  In order to do those things, what do you have to do?  Ask what you have to do and detail it several times.
  • Once you have a fairly detailed list, decide what you are going to do tomorrow.  What are you going to do this week.  Look at your calendar and put these tasks on it.  Take something off your calendar to make room for it, if you have to.
  • What reward will you give yourself for which accomplishments.  It doesn’t have to be something big–just something that you will associate in your mind with accomplishing the task.
  • What are the big milestones in your plan?  How will you reward yourself for these big milestones?
  • Hold yourself accountable.  Tell someone–that makes it harder to escape the accountability.

Great books to help with this:

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Promoted! Now What?

success at work

Congratulations!  You just got promoted.  Or you just got reorganized into a new department.  Or you just got a new boss.  How do you make this a step in the right direction and keep from crashing and burning.  Ok, crashing and burning is unlikely–you did persuade someone that you deserved the promotion.  Getting stuck is a possibility.  Looking like you weren’t ready is a possibility.  Not making a great impression is definitely a possibility.  So, what do you do?

It’s a New Job

One of the most important things to do is to understand that this is a NEW job.  Treat it as if you just got to a new company.  Look at the experience through new eyes.  Who are the people?  What is the power structure?  What does the company need to be successful.  What does the department need to accomplish in the short term?  In the long term? What does the department need from you to be successful?  Go talk to people as if you’re meeting them for the first time.  What is important to them? What are their goals? How can you hit the ground running?  How can you quickly show that choosing you was the right choice?

There is a subtle difference for most of us when we change jobs within the company and when we change companies.  When we go to a new organization, we are completely aware that we don’t know everything.  We have our hyper-alert antenna out.  We are in the “conscious unconscious” state of learning.  We are aware of all the things that are different from our last experience (although we frequently miss things because of our ‘old company’ mindset).  When we change jobs within the same organization, we think we know how it is.  We know a lot of the people (although through the eyes of the last group we were in), we know the business (ditto), we know the problems, challenges, opportunities (ditto, ditto, ditto).  The problem is, the new job within the same organization is just as new as the other.  If you put yourself in the same hyper-alert state, you are much more likely to be highly successful.  You are much more likely to impress, because people will see you differently (than they had before) too.

First Impressions

Remember that although people may know you (some may even have been your peers before your promotion), you still have the opportunity to make a ‘new’ first impression.  If you are really trying to make a good impression, you’re likely to get attention again.  Make sure it’s the right impression.  Make sure you don’t come across as arrogant or smug (especially to your former peers).  Make sure you come across as smart and interested and capable and willing.  Make sure that people see results QUICKLY.  The best way to do all of this is to treat the promotion as if it were a new job at a new company.

Helpful Books

Congratulations!  And good luck.

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Get Your ‘Get Up and Go’

motivate yourself

I spent much of Sunday morning watching a few hundred people participate in their first triathlon.  It was sixty-something degrees and drizzling.  What would possess these people—all ages, shapes and sizes—to come out in the rain to inflict discomfort on themselves?  They swam a quarter of a mile in a lake, biked 12 miles on rain slick country roads and ran 3.1 miles over hilly trails.  At the beginning and end of each portion of this event, each person had a small cheering section, but for the most part, each participant swam/biked/ran alone, competing against the elements and motivated by him/herself.  How did each person motivate him/herself?  How can you motivate yourself to do whatever your goal is?

Well, the good news AND the bad news is that motivation is individual.  Every person is motivated differently.  Some people need praise to be motivated.  Some people need to feel like they’re contributing.  Some people need to be able to tick off the boxes of their goals to be motivated.  Some people like public recognition, some hate it.  Few people, believe it or not, are motivated solely by money.  In fact, money can be a demotivater–it’s not enough or it’s less than so and so got–you spend more time thinking about the negative than the positive of money rewards.  Anyway, the way you are motivated is unique to you.  You need to figure out how that is and then put it to work for you.  You need to NOT wait for someone else to motivate you.  Others can help (like the individual cheering sections at the triathlon), but you need to take the responsibility and develop the skill to motivate yourself.

There are two types of motivation:  external and internal motivation. External motivation is in play when you are thinking that you “should” or you “want” to do something.  You’ve got internal motivation when you “love” something or you “gotta do it.”

There is a motivational continuum between external motivation and internal motivation.

Motivate yourself

If you are all the way at the external motivation end of the continuum, then your motivation comes not only from outside yourself, but actually from other people—people who tell you what to do.  You’re not doing it for yourself, but rather for others.  If you are at the internal motivation end of the continuum, then you do it because you feel whole when you do it.  You do it despite all the excuses/distractions/opportunities not to do it.  You REALLY do it.

The question is, how do you push yourself toward the internal motivation end of the spectrum?  First you need to understand what motivates you.

  • Are you a planner?  A list person?
  • Do you need to be encouraged by others? Recognized by others?
  • Do you need to feel like you accomplished something? Made a difference?

Think about times when you were most motivated.  What made that happen?  Was it that someone was proud of you?  (External motivation)  Was it that you could look at what was happening and you were proud of yourself? (Internal motivation). Whatever it is that pushes you, figure out a way to put that in your life.  Create a situation that provides the reward(s) that work for you.  They don’t have to be big rewards.  Frequently people are just as motivated by any reward–that they care about–as a big reward.

The key is that you have to take charge of your own motivation.  You will see your performance rocket significantly.  Steve Chandler’s book. 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, will give you lots (100 to be precise) of ideas on how to motivate yourself.

Start experimenting.

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Career Accelerants

Win the Career Race

Do are you know people who are about your age, have about the same experience, and aren’t more talented/smart/capable than you, but who are more successful in their career than you?  Are you puzzled about what they have that you don’t?  What do they do/who do they know/how do they do it? Do you want to go faster, too?

There are some tools that can help you accelerate your career success.  I call them career accelerants.

Mindset.

How you think.  What you think.  When you think.  All make a huge difference in how fast and how well your career progresses.  Mind set includes:

  • Your Attitude–“I can.  I will.”
  • Being Positive
  • Constantly Learning
  • Being committed

Adaptability.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says that the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.  The second you get stuck with “this is the way it is” or “I’m not going to do this,” is the beginning of the end of your upward trajectory in that organization.  The way I think of it is, “If I had started at this organization today, I wouldn’t object to this. I would just do it.”  This can apply to systems, processes, organizations, etc.  It doesn’t occur to us to ‘resist’ when we’re new to an organization.  Try to adopt that way of looking at things.

Tools.

Use whatever tools you can to help you learn/understand/experience faster.  Some of the best tools are:

  • Books
  • Feedback
  • Goals/Measures
  • Training

Energy.

You need a high level of energy to speed up your career.  You are more in control of your energy level than you might think.  For high energy you need:

  • Good Health
  • Fitness
  • Mindset

Infrastructure.

Successful careers need an infrastructure too.  Set up your life so that it supports your career.  To do this, you need:

  • A Support System
  • De-clutter your life–get rid of the things that you ‘tolerate,’ but which weigh you down–anything from messy desks to people who suck you dry
  • Balance–whatever this means for you (not what others think).  Keep adjusting this, it is a work in progress.

You are in control of your career.  If it isn’t moving the way you want it to, look at this list and start experimenting with changing the way you’re doing things.

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You Have To Start To Succeed

Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.

I saw this quote yesterday and LOVED it.  I searched the Internet to try to find the author unsuccessfully, but discovered in the process that this quote has inspired a lot of blog posts.  Rightfully so.  It’s a lot like Nike’s “Just Do It.”  It makes sense, it inspires, and it is right.  If you start, do, work hard, you’ll get there.

Today is June 1.

This is a good day to review your New Year’s Resolutions again. If you don’t have New Year’s Resolutions, that’s ok.  Let’s talk about your goals.  Where do you stand on your goals?  For this year, for this decade, for this life?  Planning, hoping, dreaming of what you want isn’t enough.  It’s a great start, but it isn’t enough.  You have to START.  Just start.  What is the first step?  Write it down.  When will you do it?  How will you know it is done?

Are you committed to your success?  Or are you just hoping for it?  It won’t happen if you don’t DO SOMETHING toward accomplishing it.  Little steps can lead to big journeys.

JUST START.

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Work As We Know It Is Changing–Get Ready!

That Was Then

My maternal grandmother went to work when she was thirteen years old at a china factory that made dishes for hotels and restaurants and, eventually, naval ships.  She stayed in a rental room with her two-year-older sister during the week and went home on the weekends.  She got married when she was seventeen and continued to work at the factory sporadically.  She was very good at what she did.  She was a Master Painter and she supported her family of eight during the Depression by painting.  It never occurred to her that that factory wouldn’t always be there, but when she was forty-seven the plant went out of business, taking hundreds of jobs with it.

Carr China Grafton WV

China from Carr China

My paternal grandfather spent his entire professional life at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, most of it as engineer driving passenger trains.  He told my father not to go to work for the railroad, because it wasn’t going to last.  The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad went out of business three years after my grandfather retired–taking hundreds of jobs with it.

Baltimore & Ohio Passenger Train

B&O Passenger Train

My mother’s cousin was forced to retire from the steel mill when he was fifty years old.  He wrote about it in an article published in the Beaver County (Pa) Times, “Now time has changed again, old friend [the steel mill] and now times are not certainly in your favor.  I am reasonably certain that my sons will never know you as I have but you can be sure I will tell them your story and how finally you were befallen by so many uncontrollable factors, and how you, who meant so much to so many, now sit mostly idle as wind whistles through your empty buildings; your coke batteries, your blast furnaces and continuous caster are now cold, dark, and silent.”  And hundreds of jobs gone.

Steel Mill in Pennsylvania

Steel Mill in Aliqiuppa, Pa

You may have similar stories from your grandparents, parents and even from your own experience.  This is happening to us.  Companies and work as we know it are changing irrevocably.  It’s sad.  There is a lot to grieve.  There are things you can do about it, though, so when YOUR company and YOUR job change, you land on your feet.

This Is Now

I read a couple of things over the weekend that discuss something that I’m seeing in the workforce among my coaching  and organizational clients. It is the next way that work will be.  The longer you don’t believe it, the louder you rail against it, the longer it will be before you are ready for the next “way we work.”  The first thing I read was  The Rise of the Supertemp by Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller in Harvard Business Review.  They describe a phenomenon that many of us have seen.  Companies are going to contract workers.  According to a McKinsey  2011 study cited in the article, 58%  of US companies surveyed are planning to increase use of temporary employees AT ALL LEVELS.   Not only are they using project, technical and finance contract workers, they are starting to hire contract Executive talent–business development, marketing, lawyers, CFOs, and even CEOs.  BOTH companies and Executives need to adjust to this new reality.

Companies need to learn how to organize work so that these Supertemps can come in and make a difference. Mostly this means that work needs to be organized into project-type work.   Executives need to package and sell themselves for this work.  The most telling thing in the Harvard article, however, is that those who have done this work DO NOT want to return to the ‘old way.’  This is true of the people I know who have done this kind of work as well.  They really like it.

Think about how you make yourself a well qualified candidate for these positions.  There are some ideas for that in the second thing I read this weekend–The Finch Effect by Nacie Carson.  Carson suggests that like Darwin’s finches, today’s workers need to evolve to adapt to the current work environment.   She points out that unlike the time it takes other species to evolve, humans can evolve their behaviors to adapt as they choose.  Her suggested strategies for adapting to the new work environment:

  • Adopt a ‘gig’ mindset: piece together a combination of contracting, consulting, and free lance work that gives you a income equal to or more than your ‘full time’ job
  • Identify your value:  this is your professional brand–it communicates intangibles like values, personality and mission
  • Cultivate your skills: you (not your company) take responsibility for growing your skills
  • Nurture your social network: use appropriate sites for appropriate messages, rebrand as necessary, communicate your brand
  • Harness your entrepreneurial energy: look at your job and skills from a position of personal responsibility, initiative and personal direction

AND you can apply all of these to you ‘real’ job.  They will help you stay in it and succeed.  And they will help you be ready for the next ‘way we work.’

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There’s Networking, and Then There’s NETWORKING

Do It Before You Need It

I started this blog out of frustration.  I had just talked to my umpteenth client/friend/student/colleague who found him/herself out of a job with a stone cold network and a total freak out about what to do.  (See my first blog post–Get Ready to Lose Your Job)  Networking definitely helps when you need to find a job.  In fact, it is probably the best tool to have in your arsenal for finding a job.  These days, a powerful network can make the difference between finding a job in weeks or months and it taking more than a year.

Networking also helps with just about everything else you might need–getting promoted, finding business opportunities, selling products, building your reputation/brand, getting answers to tough questions, staying in touch, and even finding someone to date (I’ll leave this last one to other blog writers).  You can build your network purposefully, or you can build it serendipitously, but be sure to keep building it. Remember, though, networks are about RELATIONSHIPS, not about numbers or names or tools or connections.

Serendipity

Let’s talk first about building it serendipitously.  There are marvelous tools available now that make it easy and fun.  Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+ are the top tools right now, but there are many more–Plaxo, Twitter, MyLife, etc. Not being involved in a social network these days is like not having a resume or appropriate business attire.  To function in today’s business world–no matter your age or organizational position–you have to be saavy enough to be using social networks.  If you participate in these social networks–let’s say Facebook or Linkedin–and just reach out to people you know and accept invitations from people who reach out to you, you will build your network.  If you particpate in LinkedIn Groups discussions, answer questions and comment on people’s status, you will strengthen the connections/relationships.  If you share a little of who you are on Facebook and comment on friends’ posts, you will build the relationships.  It starts at one level and grows to other levels.  It has to be real.  Superficial interactions are obvious and quickly shunned.  If you do it gradually  over time, then it doesn’t take a lot of time and you have the beginnings of what you need when you need to look for a job or a promotion or business opportunities.

This serendipitous network building also has the benefit of creating a network of strong connections–you know all these people pretty well.  When you need something from these folks, you are more likely to be comfortable asking, and they are likely to respond.  Not much work/lots of potential benefit.  Why not?

Purposeful

The other way to build your network is purposefully.  This is what I recommend.  Take a look at your networks.

On Facebook using myfnetwork :

Visualize your facebook network using myfnetwork

On Linkedin using LinkedIn Maps

Visualize your network using LinkedIn Maps

What do you see?  If your networks are anything like mine (and they may not be–every network is unique), you will see people who are “hubs,” and you will see clusters.  For me, one of the interesting things about these two pictures is that some of the “hubs” of my Facebook network are on the edges of my “clusters” on LinkedIn.  This makes sense to me, because I see these as two different networks.  One is more friends and family and one is more professional.  There is strong overlap between the two, but there are lots of people on one and not the other.  The LinkedIn Maps feature allows you to label the colored clusters.  This provides you with the ability to see the relationships among the groups in your network.

Now, pull up.  Look again.  What do you see?  What is there?  What is missing?

What Do You Want From Your Network?

Do you want a job?  Do you want to make a career change?  Do you want a promotion?  Do you want to make sales?  Do you want business opportunities? Do you want venture capital money? Do you want to build your brand?

Now, based on what you want, look at your network again.  Can it get you what you want today?  What’s missing?  Professional connections in a particular field?  Venture capitalists? Senior executives at other companies?  Senior executives at your company? Are there people at all levels in organizations?  Are there people at all generations in companies?  What about geography?  Do you have a strong network in all the locations you need?

What Are You Going to Do About It?

First, let’s go old school.  On paper, or using mind mapping software, do a brain storm of who you know.  Start with the groups you belong to or are associated with.  Once you’ve listed the groups, start listing the people associated with the groups.  Who are the key players in those groups?  Who are the best connected?  Who have you talked to lately?  If you haven’t talked/connected with people, then reach out to them.  Do it via email, phone or one of the social networking sites.  Prioritize people according to the purpose of your network.

Map Your Network Worksheet

Address what is missing.  How can you reach out to people you need to be connected to in those areas that you need to grow?  Get introductions through your existing connections.  Use the helpful tools that LinkedIn provides.  Attend professional functions, follow thought leaders’ blogs and make comments.  Participate in Linkedin Groups discussions.

Create a plan on how you’re going to keep up with your network.  Do regular (but not obsessive) work to stay in touch with your existing network and to grow it.

Some Myths About Networking

  • It’s  about the numbers. IIt’s really about quality connections.
  • It’s about your connections’ job title.  Looking at the visualization of your network should show you that the ‘most’ connected people are not necessarily (and not even likely) the highest ranking.

Some Truths About Networking

  • It has to be real.
  • It takes time.
  • It’s about mutual win/win.
  • It works.

Some Books

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Networking, Recession Proof, Success

Selling Your Brand

Have You Thought About Your Brand?Sell Your Brand

Have you ever thought about how your boss thinks about you?  Not what he thinks, but how he thinks?  What about how the organization thinks about you? How about the top leadership in your organization? What about the folks in your professional organizations? Do you stand out in any way?  Do they think of a certain kind of expertise or talent?  Do they think of a certain kind of results?

When you think of McDonald’s you get a “picture” of what McDonald’s is.  Depending on your age and interests, that image might be different, but it pops into your mind.  The same is true of Coke, or Apple or Sears or Fanta.  You make decisions about those brands based on your values, interests, likes/dislikes, income and other demographics.  You want to be able to control (or at least strongly influence) how people think of you (your brand) when they think of you.  The more you influence your brand and the more aware you are of it, the more likely you are to be able to manage your career successfully.

How I Learned This Lesson–The Hard Way

I worked for many years in a large, rapidly growing organization.  There was a period of time when I was “stuck” in the same position for several years.  The men who had started in the organization with me were moving past me and I was standing still.  I was very confused by this. Rightly or wrongly, I rejected the idea that it was a gender thing.  I thought it was something about me.  I was VERY frustrated.  I was quite angry about it. (Although looking back on it, I’m not sure just how clear I was about what was causing my frustration.)

Our CEO had a leadership meeting and announced the formation of a trilogy of high performance projects.  He announced that the people selected to work on these projects would be those who were identified across the organization as the “best” in each of the areas.  I was thrilled.  I was the “best” at one of them.  (Ok, maybe I wasn’t really, but at the time, I was absolutely, completely, without a doubt sure of it.)  So . . . I waited for the invitation.  It didn’t come.  Someone else in my division got selected.  Someone who not only wasn’t as good at it as me, but who wasn’t even interested.  I went from being angry to being FURIOUS!  How could they announce that the ‘best’ would be selected and then not pick me!?!?!  I couldn’t let it go.  I asked my manager.  I asked the VP of HR.  They didn’t know.  I finally asked my VP.  His reaction was one of the best lessons I ever got–although not at all fun!

He was completely, genuinely surprised that I even thought I should have been selected.  It hadn’t occurred to him.  It was in this very painful way that I realized that he really didn’t know that I was the ‘best.’  The person he had selected was a charming, talented person who regularly delivered results.  He didn’t know anything about the subject matter at hand, but that didn’t really matter that much.  He was easy to get along with.  He was very competent (at other stuff).  He was charming.  He got results.  So he got picked.

I, on the other hand, was pretty much an unknown to the VP who had my career in his control.  He certainly didn’t think of me–at all.  This was completely eye opening.  And when I got over the shock of it, I got over being so mad, too.  I could see how and why he was oblivious to my strengths.  I was pretty much totally responsible for that.  I hadn’t made a point of selling my abilities to the ‘powers-that-be’ in the organization.  I hadn’t made sure that I was thought of as an expert in the organization.  Once I figured this out, I went about building my ‘brand’ in the organization.  And I got ‘unstuck’–promoted within less than a year.  And then I got promoted again.  And then again.

How do you build your brand?

  • Be an expert.  Build your expertise.  Within your organization, become THE expert on something.  Be the ‘go-to’ person for that subject.
  • Help other people.  Create mutually beneficial situations.  Create ‘organizational trade routes.’
  • Act like you’re dating. Remember back to the days when you were dating.  Somehow or other you always managed to be in the right place at the right time to ‘meet’ up with the person of interest.  You managed to ensure that s/he knew how great you were.  You managed to appear to be as smart as possible, as talented, as charming as possible.  Do that again–just in a different context–prove how ‘right’ you are for the organization.
  • Be brave.  Stand out.  Blending in will not do you any good long-term.  What’s different/better/a more perfect fit about you?  How can you get it communicated?
  • Make sure other people are ‘selling’ you.  The theory behind social media marketing is that buzz created among ‘friends’  is more credible than advertising by the company.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in meetings of managers who were deciding who got what job.  The candidates who were known of by more deciders were the ones who got the jobs.  EVEN IF THEY WEREN’T the most qualified on paper.  If you know of someone, you feel more comfortable choosing him than a total unknown.  Imagine how much better someone did who was known of (because they had effectively sold their brand) by all the deciders.
  • Get over any thoughts that ‘selling’ your brand is unseemly. This is your life, your livelihood, your career.  This is the way you do it.

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Executive Development, Networking, Recession Proof, Success