Posts Tagged ‘Blogs for the New Workplace’

In his excellent book ”Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” Marcus Buckingham introduced what he describes as 3 critical myths regarding strengths. Whether you agree with his premises or not, they are certainly worth considering.

Ready? Here they are:

1) As you grow, your personality changes. Individuals certainly make adjustments, have new experiences, mature, acquire new skills and knowledge, etc., but the core of the person stays pretty much the same. You should become intimate with what I like to call “Your Best Stuff,” because that’s where you will be the most accomplished and satisfied. This is why I chose the name “Gift of Self Career Services” to describe what I do. What you do should be who you are!bicep

2) You will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness. As a consultant, I used to tell people “It’s not a weakness, it’s an opportunity for development.” True, to some degree, but it’s still a weakness! Spending an inordinate amount of time working away to turn a weakness into an ability that is barely adequate cannot begin to match the contribution when one is using their strengths to contribute to the organization. This does not mean, by the way, that you get a pass on your weak areas, just that more time should be spent on growing “Your Best Stuff.”

3) A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team. If this means finding the areas in the task, project, assignment, etc. where each team member’s strengths can contribute the most, this is a true statement, If, however, it means that individuals who are less talented in certain areas should step into these tasks, both the team and the individuals suffer. A good team member will help the entire team to identify and assign duties to match the strengths of each member for the task before them. That’s when the true ROI (Return On Investment) can take place!

Interesting take on strengths and weaknesses, is it not?

SFail Hashtagince I’ve had the privilege of working with a plethora of job hunters over the past twenty plus years, I thought I’d share some insights on the downside of the search adventure: How to FAIL in your job search. I can almost guarantee that following any one of these rules exclusively will increase the likelihood of your catching all the episodes of  “The View” and “Judge Judy” as well as completing “to-do lists” for everyone on your block!

Are you ready? OK, here we go…

MISTAKE 1: STICK WITH A SINGLE JOB SEARCH METHOD

There are a lot of job search techniques out there and I’m frequently asked which one should be used. The answer? Use ALL OF THEM! If you restrict your search activity to any single method (including excellent ones like research interviewing or networking), you severely limit your opportunity for success. For example, the ads in the Sunday News are real jobs, not hallucinations. The Internet does list employment opportunities through sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Careerbuilder, and others. Some companies do have “NOW HIRING” signs on their front lawns. Talking to friends and relatives about your interests can help identify employment opportunities. Recruiters and agencies, used intelligently, can be helpful. Social Media applications (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are becoming exceptional search tools. Although I recommend that you invest most of your time in activities that tap into the “hidden market” through research, social media and networking, an effective job search campaign is probably one that uses all available methods to unearth opportunities.

MISTAKE 2: APPLY FOR EVERY POSITION THAT YOU FIND.

When you reduce job hunting to the lowest common denominator, it’s basically a numbers game, right? So it stands to reason that the more times you apply, the more chances you have for success. Logic then dictates that every time you see any job that you’re even remotely qualified for (e.g., I’m not a brain surgeon, but I have a brain), you should go for it. Well, not really. First of all, you’re likely to experience an even higher level of frustration when you’re not considered for most of these positions, chipping away at your already fragile self esteem. In addition, you’ll probably invest a significant amount of time with little or no results. Finally, sooner or later you’re likely to be labeled in the employer community as someone who would do “anything for a buck.” Would YOU hire someone like that? Neither will they!

MISTAKE 3: TELL EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME THAT YOU NEED WORK.

Similar to the above technique, this process will certainly gain you some visibility… as damaged goods! Although the vast majority of people will be willing to help, most of them will quickly tire of your contact as you continually bemoan your lack of a paycheck. OK, I know that’s not what you’re doing, but that’s what your approach will seem like to them! It won’t be long before the word is out for everyone to avoid you at all costs – crossing the street when they see you coming, getting caller ID, spam-blocking your e-mails, ignoring your LinkedIn connection request, turning you into a job search pariah. There is nothing wrong with staying in touch with others to assist you in your search, but you should be seeking information, advice and referrals, not pumping innocent bystanders for job leads.

MISTAKE 4: SPEND ALL OF YOUR TIME JOB HUNTING.

You’ve probably heard that “looking for a job is a full-time job.” I respectfully disagree. Looking for a job is NOT a full-time job; it’s much more that that! Looking for work is, for most of us, much harder than the most difficult job we’ll ever have. Be sure to schedule some downtime, fun activities and recovery time from the wear and tear of presenting yourself to potential employers. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up as a worn-out interviewee, barely able to sit up straight in a chair, not to mention being totally unable to sell your qualifications to the company. To quote a cartoon in my files, “My name is Bob and I need a job!” Be sure to schedule some relaxation and recreation with friends and family along with all of your search activities. You’ll be a better candidate for it.

MISTAKE 5: USE A RESUME THAT SAYS YOU DO IT ALL.

Since you don’t know exactly what a company may need to know about you, be sure to include every single job, experience, class, volunteer activity and project in your resume to make them aware of all of the marvelous ways you could contribute to their organization’s bottom line. This gives you the highest potential to connect your skills with the employer’s needs, right? Wrong! This will more likely turn your resume into an unread epic poem destined for the shredder or recycle bin. And if someone decides that he or she needs something to read before dozing off, it will show you to be an unfocused candidate who will happily take the first position offered (and just as likely to move on for something better as soon as the opportunity arises). Resumes need to be targeted, honest and focused to the needs of the industry, the market and the company.

I trust you get my point: the sooner you decide NOT to follow these rules, the sooner people will be able to send you “Congratulations!” on your new position!

 

“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing. “ – Robert E. Lee

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

“Make excellent mistakes.” – Dan Pink (via Johnny Bunko)

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage, Mythbuster

“Oops! I didn’t know THAT would happen!” Have you ever spoken those words after attempting something that “crashed and burned” before your eyes? I know I have.

Here’s another question: Did you learn anything from it? (Hint: The correct answer should always be “Yes.”) Some of our best lessons emerge from dismal failure. We all know the story of Edison who supposedly said of his lack of success along way to developing the incandescent light, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Every “failure” is an opportunity for significant insight, if we will only pay attention.

Please allow me to quote the sprite Diana from Dan Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (if you have not read this excellent little tome, you should, it takes only about 15 minutes!!): “the most successful people make spectacular mistakes – huge, honking screwups! …each time they make a mistake, they get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.”

So, get out there and make a mistake! You could LEARN something!

foam_fingerDeveloped by Frederick Taylor, who was shocked at the inefficiency of a metal products foundry where he worked (much to the dismay of his wealthy family), “One Best Way” became perhaps the first of thousands of management fads that have been foisted upon the working world. In a nutshell, Taylor studied each step a worker took to complete a task, seeking to arrange the work setting to get the most efficient use of time, equipment, energy and materials. He then determined the average production a worker could be expected to complete in a work day, creating opportunity for incentive-based “raises,” identification of superior employees, evaluating employee performance, etc.

Not surprisingly, this was not all that popular with the working class, although “Taylorism” came to be applied rather extensively with the advent of World War I. (Interestingly, it’s worth noting that Taylor and his cohorts did build some “fudge factor” measures into the data, realizing that it was impractical to think that workers could maintain optimum levels of production for an entire shift.)

I ran into an alternative view of Taylorism a few years ago while reading the excellent book Free Agent Nation by Dan Pink (my review of it is in Shelfari, by the way). Pink changed the term to “Tailorism,” work that is designed to provide the highest degree of personal satisfaction, meeting the needs and desires of the employee. For the self-employed (Dan Pink’s primary audience in the book), this is done by fashioning your own career, becoming a true “Free Agent.”

However, for those of us who employ, are employed, or seeking employment as “Free Agents,” I see an equally useful application. As I identify the key skills, values and abilities for myself and those around me, seeking to find ways to apply them to my work and life, I can become something of a “Free Agent” for an organization. My “One Best Way” becomes the way that maximizes my contributions to the organization by tapping into what I have termed in earlier blogs as my “Best Stuff,” benefiting both me and my company. This same process can and should be applied to virtually everyone in the organization, seeking to assist them in identifying, applying, and fostering their “Best Stuff” daily.

Now, THAT’s a “One Best Way!”

In his excellent tome “The Passion Plan,” Richard Chang writes of making decisions regarding your life and work from two sources: your Head or your Heart.

If your decisions move from your Head to your Heart (based solely on rational thought, logic, what “makes sense,” etc. and then considering your subjective side), you will ultimately experience Regret“I wonder what might have happened if I had done this or that…?” Or, according to Chang, if you stay with Head decisions, you’re likely experience Sadness, as you realize that you failed to consider your deeper needs and desires before taking action.

Heart decisions can have their pitfalls as well. As Chang notes, if you start from your Heart and stay with your Heart, you are likely to make Risky, totally impractical decisions, placing your future in danger as you never tempered your Heart ideas with logical considerations from your Head.

The best process, he suggests, is the Heart-Head journey. Identify and clarify your Passions, those deeply held beliefs and drives that make you the extraordinary person you are and then evaluate alternatives and drive your actions through your Head to seek out the best path(s) to achieve your Passions.

According to Chang, this Heart-Head process is the ultimate way to achieve what he calls “capital P Profit,” Profit that feeds the soul as well as the body! In the introduction to his book he quotes Benjamin Disraeli- “Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions.”

How about you? Do you know where your passions lie? If not, take action to discover them.

bonus - scrabbleMany individuals who would be entertaining retirement in a better economy are finding themselves staying in the workforce much longer. Sometimes this is the result of finances, and other times it is more a case of their not being ready to stop working. After all, daytime television seems to be a vast wasteland, and the “To Do” list can become the “It’s Done” list. This decision, of course, places them in the position of both competing with as well as potentially working for individuals who could be decades their junior! How can these “mature” candidates make the case for their contributions to their company?

Although the following characteristics are hardly exclusive to the “older worker,” here are some suggestions as to the key qualifications the mature candidate may offer:

Experience
“Experience is the teacher of all things,” a quote attributed to Julius Caesar, may not always be accurate, but those who have been around longer have certainly amassed more experience. Learning by doing will always be a key way to gather knowledge and expertise, and those whose life experiences span a greater time frame certainly have had this opportunity.

Expertise
Experience can beget expertise, as the more time we spend doing something, the better we get at it. Thus, the worker who has been at it longer is likely to have developed significant skills in their areas of experience. This could shorten the learning curve for them as a “new” hire.

Real-World Knowledge
As contrasted with theory and concepts, the individual who has been at work and life for a longer time frame has had the opportunity to connect what is being taught and written about with what really happens out there. As I have often said, “For almost everything I’ve learned in life, I can point to a scar.” Sometimes, literally! 🙂

Demonstrated Interpersonal Skills
“Playing well with others,” being a good team member, demonstrating facility in effective communication, etc., all have had the opportunity to be more developed in those who have been around longer.

Work Ethic
Although this is not universally the case, the “Protestant Work Ethic” is often well developed in those individuals from earlier generations, many of whom have spent extended time in the work force. Showing up on time, being responsible and dependable, exchanging a good day’s work for a fair day’s pay, etc., are often well developed in the mature employee.

Why They Are “Not” the Best Candidates: Mature Worker Concerns
As I am frequently working with individuals who would fall into this category, I will often suggest that the key reasons you may not be hired (or promoted) may include the following:

  • You want too much money.
  • You are not good at change.
  • Your technical skills are poor.
  • You may have impending health issues.

My counsel to these individuals is to demonstrate in their work, online presence, resume, interviewing and lifestyle that these reasons cannot be categorically applied to them as older candidates. With these issues addressed, they are able to present themselves as exceptional candidates based on all of the attributes noted above.

A Word on the Younger Candidate

To be fair, many younger workers can possess these qualities as well. The only item that may not be there for them is experience. But you can address that deficit by hiring them!

I am particularly enamored of this concept of mine, although I will confess that it HAUNTS ME AT TIMES! This does not reduce its value, however!

Life is full of decisions, and career development has more than its share of them. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

WithConfused man due respect to the sagacious Yogi, that won’t work! So how can you decide whether or not to move ahead in a particular direction, return a call, schedule an interview, take a promotion, mail out a resume, etc.? I suggest that you apply what I have termed my “WHY NOT?” Principle(tm): simply stated, if you cannot answer “No” to a question (e.g., Should I consider taking on this new project?), the next answer is always “Yes.” In other words, until you can make the case for “why not?” – why you should not investigate the opportunity – you should move ahead at least one more step. After all, no answer will come to you if you just sit there!

Let’s investigate some scenarios where you can apply my “Why Not? Principle(tm).”

1.   You’re called by a company for an interview. The position under consideration seems to be significantly below your qualifications, but they still want to see you. Do you go in to see them or not?

WHY NOT?

No good answer. You don’t have adequate information to make an informed, intelligent decision. Perhaps the position is better than it seems from the outside. The company may see your skills and identify a better fit for you in the organization (this really does happen!). This is not the only position that will ever open up in this organization, and you have the opportunity to make a positive contact with the company.

  • Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

2.   A longtime friend provides you with a lead to a job that does not interest you at all, nor does it allow you to use any of the skills and experience you want to bring to the job market. Do you follow up on the opportunity?

WHY NOT?

Following up on a situation that you have no interest in is a waste of the company’s time and yours, as well as being less than honest towards your friend. It would be much better to thank your friend for the advice and the intended opportunity, explaining why you would not be interested and helping your friend better understand your career targets and employment goals. Also, you could damage your relationship by not telling your friend the truth.

  • Be kind but honest. Thank them but help them to help you better.

3.   Your company is pressing you to interview for a position that you know has no relationship to your career goals or personal interests. You know you can do the job, but don’t really want to! Do you go for the interview or not? After all, isn’t every promotion a good move?!

WHY NOT?

Wasting their time is not a good way to invest yours. Some people might consider this a “no risk” opportunity to get some interview practice, but I see it as a disingenuous act, wasting the time of a company that obviously only wants to see  interested applicants. Here’s an additional concern: since you’re not under pressure, you may interview very confidently and end up receiving a promotion offer you didn’t want in the first place! THEN what do you do?

  • Politely turn down their kind offer, using this opportunity to help your organization better understand where your interests and best abilities to contribute lie.

4.   An acquaintance in the community wants to meet you for lunch to help you in your career development. This is someone you know to have no “clout” or real connections with any “heavy hitters.” Do you schedule or work up a believable excuse?

WHY NOT?

No good answer here, either. Everyone knows someone. You may think this person is not connected (and you may be right), but some of the best opportunities for serendipitous, extraordinary surprises can come from the most unlikely situations. It’s nice that this person wants to help. Give him or her the time and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: you don’t have to take all of the advice you get, just listen to it. The relationship you enhance may be much more valuable than any information you may get!

  • Have lunch with them and listen to what they have to say. There is no way of telling what opportunities could result.

Try employing my “Why Not Principle(tm).” It will press you into more action, reduce your second-guessing, create serendipitous possibilities and perhaps even help you to see more results.

“WHY NOT?”