Posts Tagged ‘career’

A cartoon I have in my files shows two forlorn individuals dressed in tattered business suits walking down the street. One turns to the other and opines,Reverse shiftI think it IS who you know . . . and I know YOU!”

Although networking is always a key topic in job search and career development, precious few of us really enjoy the process very much. We do, however, grudgingly admit that it must be done if we want to get anywhere in our work and life.

I have discussed at some length WHY networking is important and even provided some guidance on WHAT to do with that precious contact when you land it. Seeking information, advice and referral is the key to developing longer-term, mutually productive relationships that create “win-win” relationships rather than bold-faced influence peddling.

Let’s discuss HOW to make this magic happen. And, at the same time, to suggest a counter-intuitive technique to increase your opportunities, something I like to call “Reverse Networking.” What is this, you may ask? Before I answer that question, let’s talk a bit more about the WHY behind such a back-to-front technique.

Some time ago I read an extraordinary book, Working Identity by Dr. Herminia Ibarra. She cited a somewhat obscure reference to a 1973 research project by a then sociology graduate student, Mark Granovetter, who discovered that most of the jobs discovered by networkers (people seeking contact), came from individuals with whom they had very infrequent contact. Granovetter called this “the strength of weak ties.” The numbers are staggering: of people finding work through personal contact, 17% found jobs through people they knew well (strong ties), 55% found their new positions through individuals they did not know as well (weak ties) and 28% were successful through contacts that they barely knew or had not had contact with in years (weakest ties). This means that over 8 of 10 opportunities came from people that they would not typically consider! Granovetter also found that these people often found better positions for more money. The application for career and personal development is obvious!

Ibarra’s chapter titled “Shifting Connections” talks about this phenomenon as being critical in career change, although I would argue that it is equally useful in employment search and career development. If we continue to connect only with people who know us well, we get caught up in what Ibarra termed as “blinds” and “binds,” keeping us away from new experiences and opportunities.  If you continually run in the same circles, you will keep running into the same folks, the same ideas, with little opportunity for Serendipity, the surprising and exciting opportunities that seem to come out of seemingly inconsequential events. This is what Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, talks about when he says that “lucky” people not only maximize chance opportunities, they create them!

How does this relate to networking in general, and “Reverse Networking” specifically? We typically think of networking from the center out, starting with people we know well, are comfortable with, know of us and about us and network out in concentric circles to the outer fringes. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, by the way. However, I suggest adding Reverse Networking to your repertoire as well. The “reverse” theme implies just what it says – let’s start from the outside and work our way in!

Sounds good, eh? There is a potential glitch in the plan, however: To quote one my clients when faced with this concept, “If all of the good leads are in these ‘weak ties,’ how do you find these people?”

A great question! Well, I think I may have found them for you! Who has not seen you in a long time? Or, with whom have you lost touch from your deep, dark past? Your list could include: old neighbors, former coworkers, high school and college teachers, college roommates, distant relatives, former bosses, acquaintances from service groups, associations, hobby organizations, places of worship, etc. If you have not spoken to someone in some time and that person is likely to remember who you are, that’s a good place to start. The use of social networking applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be particularly helpful in finding out “whatever happened to…?”.

One more word of warning, however. If you aren’t well versed in the science of networking (that is, seeking Information-Advice-Referral, not working them exclusively for your personal advantage), DON’T CALL ANYONE! Be sure you know how to connect with people positively and effectively, establishing solid, active contacts for collaboration and shared insights. Otherwise, you will soon find your email in spam, you will be “unfriended” and your calls blocked (and rightfully so!).

Please allow me to add one more insight:  Remember that your “weaker ties” have “weaker ties” of their own!

Dizzying, isn’t it?

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Can we eliminate Hump Day?! OK, I will admit that this is probably an impossible task. Gallup research tells us that there is a certain percentage of any work force that will Camelremain “disengaged.” What a great word – DISENGAGED.

I still recall reading a license plate on the front of a vehicle in Western PA which opined, “I LOVE PAYDAYS, VACATIONS, WEEKENDS.” Some quick mental calculations told me that the driver must HATE most of their existence!

There are, of course, people out there who will never be happy unless they are miserable. While discussing this phenomenon in training with a company, one of the attendees raised his hand in the middle of the presentation to “give his two cents.” Anyone who has trained knows that the raised hand can go one of two ways – very badly or very well! Breathing a silent prayer, I acknowledged the gentleman’s presence and gave him the floor.

I am happy to report it went well, and this is why: he shared THE STORY OF SMITTY.

Smitty was a long term employee of the company. Smitty was also a pretty miserable person. Smitty wore a perpetual scowl, seemed to be trying to decide between staying on the job or having root canal without Novocain. His interaction with his co-workers was consistently negative. If queried as to what he liked about work, his response would probably be something like “Payday, lunch and leaving.” That’s assuming he answered at all.

Smitty’s job, by the way, was working in The Pit. I never found out exactly what that involved, but it clearly did not sound good.

One day, his supervisor decided to ask, “Hey, Smitty, do you like working in The Pit?”

“Nah,” said Smitty with his typical venom-laced voice, “I HATE it!”

Deciding to wade in deeper, his supervisor then asked, “Well, what would you LIKE to do?”

Smitty responded immediately, “I’d like to work in Banding” (Once again, I really did not know what this entailed, but clearly Smitty preferred it to The Pit).

The result of this exchange was that the supervisor was eventually able to transfer Smitty to Banding. When this happened, something AMAZING took place!

Smitty became human! He actually smiled on occasion, working more effectively with his co-workers and became much more productive.

Here is the Big Question: Whose fault was it that Smitty was so miserable for so long? The supervisor or Smitty?

And the Big Answer: BOTH!

To quote from two companion books by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans (Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em and Love It, Don’t Leave It), “ASK”, whether you are the employer or the employee!

Smitty should have thought to ask if there were any other positions that he felt he could enjoy/do better at (often these two factors work together), and the supervisor should have checked much sooner on Smitty’s interests and skills. To paraphrase another favorite author of mine, Marcus Buckingham (formerly of Gallup), “Companies should stop trying to make people what they aren’t and use them for what they are.”

By the way, so you do not consider me to be a starry-eyed idealist, I realize that EVERY position will require each of us to perform some tasks we would rather give up. I like to call this “The Grown-up Stuff.” I don’t want to do it, but I have to because they told me to! Welcome to Life.

However, by asking about and considering the employee’s key interests, satisfiers and skills we can come as close as possible to eliminating that favorite term for Wednesday touted by morning DJ’s – HUMP DAY!

I must take issue with the 80′s rock group Loverboy – Not “Everybody’s working for the weekend!”

An insurance ad I have been watching has a young lady bemoaning the accident that totaled her beloved car Brad. She and that car had been through so much in the 4 years she owned it…2 boyfriends, 3 JOBS!

Welcome to the new job market, Sports Fans! The Rules have clearly changed!

Let’s remind ourselves of the Old Rules:

  • Get training in a field where there is work.
  • Find a good job with a solid company in that field.
  • Do what you are told.
  • Take every promotion they offer you.
  • Stay until they present you with the “Gold Watch.”
  • Retire and then go do what you want!

WRONG! I would respectfully suggest the following “Rules” for the New Workplace that has taken over:

Be prepared for change at all times.

Only two things don’t change – God and change. As a company, stay flexible, forward thinking and open to adjustments for you, your industry and your personnel. As a worker, you need not fall in love with change, but you’d better learn how to handle it. Change happens.

Act as if you are self employed.

One of my favorite sites to follow is Careerealism (http://www.careerealism.com), which touts the tagline “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.” Well, it is. As a company, don’t assume that you will be ordering gold watches at a volume discount. Help your employees see themselves as integral parts of the solution. As an employee, take action at work as if your paycheck is directly related to your contribution (because, ultimately, it is!).

Never stop learning.

Employers should provide opportunities for employees to acquire new skills, knowledge and expertise that enhance them as individuals as well as enabling them to contribute at higher and higher levels. Employees should be seeking these opportunities continually, even if they must do it on their own. To borrow a title from another one of my blogs, your workers may be saying “Play Me or Trade Me!”

Continually add value to your work.

“What have you done for me lately?” sounds very ungrateful, but it’s a Fact Of Work these days. The best way to stop advancing in your job is to simply do what is expected of you. Employers, create opportunities for the employee to contribute more to the position. Employees, never be completely satisfied with your performance. Always seek to improve. I’ve coined a term to describe this mindset: “Professional Dissatisfaction.”

Take charge of your attitude.

When I’ve been called in to work with employees, it is never on how to use a spreadsheet or fill out a time card. It’s to teach them how to “play well with others!”  Employers should seek to enhance the communication and team building skills of staff through modeling the appropriate behavior as well as providing training and support in these areas. Employees should invest time and energy into enhancing their interpersonal skills.

Is it a New Workplace? You bet it is!

STOP USING THE OLD RULES.

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?

Chickadee-Handfeeding-BCBGNPWell, it’s finally happened.  Perhaps your hard work of pounding the pavement has yielded results.  Or, some kind soul has relented.  Or, you just “got lucky.”

At any rate, you now have a job offer. Being employed is a good thing, and this is not a bad position.  To be brutally honest, you could do worse… MUCH worse!  But, continuing to be honest, this is NOT the job of your dreams.  In better economic times, you would probably respond “Thanks, but no thanks” to their offer.

However, these are NOT better times and you’ve gotten used to eating regularly, having insurance and a roof over your head.  Although not ideal, this position can assist in these areas.  So, what do you do?  To quote Jack Nicholson from a recent movie, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Maybe the job of your dreams, or even a more attractive opportunity is just not coming.  In these challenging times, thinking about career development may be a pipe dream.  Be happy that someone wants you! After all, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” right?

Maybe, maybe not. Let’s take some time to think through this situation.  If you’re truly “sitting on” an offer right now, be smart enough to ask for some time to review it, talk to those you trust, etc., before you make a commitment.  If you have other job searches in process, be sure to advise any potential employer that you’ve just been offered a position but you are still interested in them.  Can they give you a sense of your chances?  This may encourage them to take action, or at least let you know where you stand.  I like to use language like, “Help me make the best decision here.  Do you see me as a serious candidate?  When will you make your hiring decision?” If they have no real answer, then it’s clearly time to move on.

Regarding the position “in the hand,” does it meet the criteria for what Barbara Sher calls a “Good Enough Job?” That’s a position that allows you, at least, to make ends meet, to keep your options open, perhaps to continue your search, to feed your better self with hobbies, other activities, etc.

I have three rules for such a position.

Rule One: Can you just go do it, without a lot of additional training or investment?

Rule Two: Will it allow you the time to work on activities that can create opportunities for a better position, or allow you to invest in building up skills, knowledge and experience to make you more marketable?

Rule Three may be the most important:  Can you enjoy it at all? Even if the job isn’t part of your long-term career goals, will the duties bring some level of satisfaction?  If not, you’re likely to find yourself bogged down physically, emotionally and spiritually, to the point that you better not interview for The Job of Your Dreams, because your performance as a candidate will place you in the Reject Pile.

Take the time to work through all of the pluses and minuses of the offer at hand.  Seek to negotiate for a better offer, if you can.  Seek to evaluate the offer in a comprehensive manner, talk to trusted individuals, then make your decision.

OK, let’s say you take the position.  What’s next?  Give them 110%? Eat, sleep and breathe the company slogan?  Get a tattoo of the corporate logo?  Commit your everlasting soul to the company mission statement? Oh, please!

Certainly, do a great job, learn all you can, forge positive working relationships. Demonstrate integrity, honesty and the good old Protestant Work Ethic.

And, one more thing:  KEEP LOOKING! Yes, you read that right.  Do the best job you can, but keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities.  This position may work out for you, but there are certainly no guarantees these days. To quote the credo of the excellent site http://www.careerrealism.com, “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.”

I once read that the web portal YAHOO is an acronym for “You Always Have Other Options.” I truly believe that these days we all need to keep our eyes and ears open, continue networking, looking for the “two in the bush” even when we do have the “bird in the hand.”  This is not to be disloyal to your new position (which I am SURE you would never do), but to keep your ear to the ground just in case.

Then, if things don’t work out with this situation, you have O.O. (Other Options).

Please allow me to start this “anti-resolution treatise” with a disclaimer: I have no problem with people who chooNew Year Resolutionsse the start of a new year to make life-enhancing commitments. The title of this blog is directed to my musings alone on the advantages and disadvantages of New Year’s Resolutions.

Early in my career I spent years working in fitness centers, both as a sales consultant and a trainer. The die-hard “gym rats” (not a term of derision, to my way of thinking) always dreaded the first couple of months of the New Year. Scores of “newbies” would descend on the equipment, monopolizing the machines while grunting and groaning, often in poor form with little chance of success, in search of that elusive, fit individual hiding deep within them. By the end of February, however, most of the smoke had cleared, and we were back to the “old faithful” regulars at the gym.

You can also observe this fanaticism for resolutions in the ads on TV and the blogs/posts/tweets/updates on the Internet. Lose weight, transform your business, embrace success, take charge, be all you can be, etc. And you are all but guaranteed success in any of your endeavors as, after all, it is the New Year! It’s all New! You can have a Fresh Start! It’s bound to work this time, right?!

Well, yes and no. Bless those dear souls who, with all the integrity and resolve they can muster, make these Resolutions. I read a tweet from someone just before the arrival of a New Year that noted they had just 2 days left to achieve the results they had committed to 363 days before! Well intentioned, yet not likely to be realized in the next 48 hours!

So, you may well ask, what’s my point?! (Go ahead, ask!) Simply this: To borrow a well-known phrase from Madison Avenue that originated in 1988, “Just Do It!” Start right away, whether in the shadow of the New Year’s fireworks, the excitement of spring blossoms, the oppressive heat of the dog days of summer, the panoply of fall colors or the grey skies in the dead of winter. To quote the title of one of my favorite books by Barbara Sher, “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now!”

And, once you’ve started, stay with it! I recently encountered a T-shirt emblazoned with this pithy phrase“Just Doing It.” Two steps forward and one step back (the way I typically advance) is still a net gain of one step. Remember that success is more often the result of “grit” than anything else. To quote another favorite author of mine, Dan Pink (in the persona of Johnny Bunko), “Persistence trumps talent!”

Make your resolutions, whenever and however you can and, once you have done so, get caught “JUST DOING IT!”

I owe this phrase (and the name of my organization) tImageo an excellent little book by Marsha Sinetar, To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love. In this helpful tome, the author applies the ubiquitous Hierarchy of Needs developed by Abraham Maslow in 1954 (Air, Water, Food, etc. up to Self-actualization) to career development. Her version of Maslow’s pyramid describes the apex as “vocational integration,” a rather abstract appellation to be sure, but she also describes it this way: “Work as Gift of Self.”

I must confess to some professional jealousy. I wish I had coined this rich statement. “Work as Gift of Self” means that, as you describe what are doing, you are not merely recounting a bullet list of tasks and responsibilities that are known as your Job Description. You are describing yourself, your God-given passions, interests, values and most cherished skills. I have added the phrase (OK, this one is mine) “What you do should be who you are” to enhance this brilliant concept.

Does this mean that everything we do must cause us to be deliriously happy, enraptured by our duties, fully consumed in the joy of the responsibilities before us? Oh, please, cut me a break! I have always said that every activity, even those that we cherish most, will often include some of what I have termed “Grown Up Stuff” – duties that are necessary even though we would drop them in a New York minute. But, if most of what you are doing can be categorized as “Grown Up Stuff,” I would respectfully suggest that you should be doing something else!

So as you approach your daily “To Do List”, are you “giving of yourself” or just crossing off items to get to the end of the work day? If your answer is behind Door #2, we should talk!


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