Make Your Career Resolutions Stick(y) This Time


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Planning to own your career in 2011?

Did you make a resolution to find a “better job,” “a place that appreciates you,” or “work that floats your boat?” What will it take for the resolution to stick…and for you to get out of your own way? If you recognize yourself even a little bit in one or more of these excuses, then take a stand against self-sabotage right now. Read on and I’ll tell you how.

Excuse #1. Seems like a lot of work, although I can float some resumes…

Good intentions come with a new year but our natural wiring makes good intentions fizzle fast. Take a look at “Resolutions Suck. Try Anarchy” by Johnny B. Truant; he provides a great explanation of why we are such lazy creatures, always looking for what’s comfortable. So while this is a lame excuse, intentionally working with our wiring gives us a fighting chance to get beyond it. Post a note where you have to see it several times each day in your work space. See it and keep the intention alive. Invest in yourself and put your money where your mouth is–aren’t you worth it? Hire a coach or someone to whom you will be accountable for taking action. This isn’t the time to decide to man-[or woman-] up.

Excuse #2. Maybe the devil I know is better than the one I don’t (after all, I should be grateful to even have a job)

Oh, please. You’ve been ranting about your boss, your lazy co-workers and your lack of career options for months on end. You hate doing the work of the other 2 people in your area who were let go. Your stomach starts to churn on Sunday evening when you review the next day’s schedule. How can this devil possibly be better? Because they already pay you to show up and warm the seat? Another lame excuse. You can do better. Re-read excuse # 1. Make that visual reminder (doesn’t have to be a post-it note, maybe it’s a memorable tchotchke that only you recognize) and get accountable to someone outside of yourself.

Excuse #3. I’m pretty close to retirement (or I have so much tenure), maybe I should just suck it up

And do what…retire at your desk? (Or have you already, and you’re afraid a new employer might take notice?) Are you willing to take the chance that your ennui won’t get you at the top of the next lay-off list? So you retire at the earliest possible time and then what? Sit on your porch and watch the world go by? Or be a greeter at the local mart? You’ll be the same age whether  you find work that energizes you or work that slowly petrifies you at your desk.

Note: whatever you do, do not decide that “becoming a consultant and working for myself” is your best bet because that’s harder work that you’ve likely done in years.

Excuse #4. I’ve done ONLY this all my working life

So you only have enough talent to do that one thing? You’re an old dog and you can’t learn new tricks? That’s a bunch of hooey. Brain scientists tell us that–whatever our age–we can grow new brain connections (i.e. learn new things) through focus and repetition. Fear is a really lame excuse and the core of most self-sabotage. How old do you need to be to get beyond that sucky emotion? See next item.

Excuse #5. I might fail and then what?

Whatever you decide “failure” is, it’s likely bigger and badder than the real thing. If you want to, you will. If you don’t want to, you won’t. Simple as that. Not taking action is akin to saying “I fail” and then going back to retire at your desk. Chicken. Find a partner or a coach to help you look inside and get your efficacy back. Our belief in ourselves is such a powerful part of moving ahead and we take it so much for granted that we don’t realize how it gets whittled away by daily events until one day we just don’t have any self-trust left. And, fear takes over.

One small action a day gets you moving forward, gets you around the fear and tackles your career resolution in a smart way. You avoid burn-out in mid-February and you have much to show for the first six weeks of your changed direction. (think: 5 days a week multiplied by one action a day multiplied by 6 weeks= 30 actions…visible progress!) Get an accountability partner and you’re creating a sustainable way to stay out of your own way.

Staying out of your own way…now that’s a sticky idea!

Recruiting Mentors: How To, Part 2


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So you’ve decided that you want a mentor and you have several people in your sights! You’ve approached one who has agreed to meet with you next week, so you’re home free: you’ve found a mentor!

Not so fast! You may have found a mentor, and she might be willing to take the lead, but why get lazy now? Your first meeting is your opportunity to show your (potential) mentor that you are serious about your development and you’ve already put some work into making the relationship a good one for both of you.

The most effective mentoring relationships have these things in common:

1. Goals–better yet, learning pieces

2. Structure & Expectations                                                            

3. Follow-up and Follow-through                                   

4. Skills awareness

Of course you have Goals, but have you written them? Have you thought beyond the broadest, most obvious outcomes? For example, “to become a confident speaker” is a great long-term goal, and many people may be willing to help you. But consider this: why did you select the particular person you approached? What–specifically–about her speaking made her your choice? What pieces of “a confident speaker” made you select this person at this time?

Is it the way she tells a story? Is it how her body language conveys “I know my stuff”? Is it the little humorous bits that keep the message light?  Get specific about what you want to learn, and your mentor will be able to hone in on “how-tos” that make the best use of your time together!

Structure and expectations means that you’ve given thought to the details of your mentoring arrangement so your mentor doesn’t have to! Think about how long it may take you to learn what you’re seeking; consider the kind of commitment you’re asking from your mentor; ask yourself if it’s a reasonable commitment for the mentor’s schedule. And, then consider the kind of meeting options that may make sense. Coffee? Lunch? Phone calls between meetings? Weekly email check-ins?

Follow-up and follow-through means taking the initiative to keep the relationship sound for both of you. Maybe you drop an email after a meeting to put your next steps in writing and to say “thanks”–even though you said it in person. You can send an outlook or meeting scheduling note so that your next meeting/coffee/telephone call gets on your mentor’s schedule. You might send a note the week prior to your scheduled meeting with a list of the agenda items you’d like to discuss–this serves as a scheduling reminder, too. If you see your mentor mentioned in a story on community leaders, you might drop her a note saying Congratulations! or (if it’s in print) clip the story and send to her–yes, via snail mail! All of these thoughtful items tend to the relationship and help avoid misunderstandings. Bottom line: stay in touch!

Skills awareness is a reminder to use and sharpen those skills most helpful in building a strong mentoring  relationship: listening, querying, attending and feedback–giving and receiving. Handle distractions before you meet; turn your cell phone off, or, if you are awaiting a critical call, tell your mentor before you begin. Ask questions that start with “what” or “how” since both provide opportunity for expanding learning. Talk about follow- through you’ve completed and request suggestions for improvement: “How might I approach this next time?” ” How could I do this differently?” Marshall Goldsmith, a leadership guru, calls this feed-forward rather than feed-back. When you use it often, it becomes a comfortable way to explore options without the worry associated with “feedback.”

Being a thoughtful protege–one willing to do her homework and make it easy for a mentor to say ‘yes’–is the best way to have lots of mentors as you go through your career. You can establish relationships that work for you both…where you can learn from each other.

Have a question or wondering about being or recruiting a mentor? Leave it in the comment area: if you’re wondering,  someone else is, too!

Recruiting Mentors: How to, Part 1


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]At a recent career development workshop for Young Professionals (YPs), I participated in a panel on mentoring. What a great group of knowledgeable and wise people, including Margaret Finley from Chase who moderated. Panelists included:

*Jason Jenkins, Big Brothers Big Sisters
*Eric Troy, Ohio Department of Education
*Marilyn Pritchett, Mentoring Center of Central Ohio
*Lindsay Andrews, SMPS Columbus
*Janine Hancock Jones, Governor’s Staff [same name, same spelling!]

I noted that a number of folks in the audience were looking for mentors yet others were looking for how and where to be a mentor. While some had experience with mentoring programs, most panelists spoke to the tremendous value of informal mentors. Since lifelong learning is a 21st century necessity, informal mentoring is of value to everyone and is an ongoing requirement for Career Owners!

Informal mentors provide lifelong learning opportunities when and where you need them; give you the freedom to approach people from a variety of sources; and [can] help you reduce the blind spots that sabotage and get in the way of progress.

So just in case you’ve wondered but didn’t quite know how to go about it, a few thoughts on finding those informal mentors:

1. Stop waiting to be picked…it’s OK to recruit the mentor you want!

2. Look outside of your (work) organization to professional associations, community groups, civic and alumni associations and other interest groups. Mentors don’t have to spring from work in order to mentor you on career or professional issues.

3. A mentoring relationship can be as short as a single conversation or one that lasts for years…it depends on what the people involved create.

4. Align what you’d like to learn with what you think your mentor can teach you. If you admire someone’s ability to speak in front of a group, then to approach him/her about becoming a more comfortable speaker is probably a good goal and fit. If you’ve watched someone align two opposite sides around an issue, then you have a potential mentor who can help you learn collaboration and conflict techniques.

5. Prepare to approach a mentor: the easier and more comfortable you make your initial conversation, the more likely the individual is to say ‘yes.’ Know what you’d like to learn and why. Know how that learning will improve you as a professional. Be ready to suggest some structure that will help a relationship thrive. For example, you might say:

I admire the way you were able to pull together the diverse perspectives of the people on this committee. I know that it would strengthen my value in my workplace if I had those skills. Would you be willing to meet for a short time and discuss the possibility of mentoring me on the skills needed and how I could develop them?

I would be glad to meet at a time and place convenient for you; I’d be delighted to buy you a cup of coffee or tea! I’ll plan to call you at your office to schedule a time that works for you.

So you’re asking for the opportunity to meet and discuss the possibility of mentoring…you’re not requesting a long-term commitment. You have also made it easy for the individual to say ‘yes’ by offering to align with their schedule and time. This really says you are thoughtful and not trying to impose unduly. You have identified something specific that you would like to learn, so you are sending the message that you can identify your own learning goals, and that you will not be dependent upon the mentor to do that for you!

While most people are flattered to be asked to be a mentor, your thoughtfulness in scheduling time makes it comfortable: you’re really thinking about WIIFT: What’s In It For Them!

How you approach the meeting itself is food for the next blog post. There, too, having done some planning to move through an agenda and take responsibility for your needs–at the same time being thoughtful of your mentor’s time commitment–is much more likely to be appreciated and get you ongoing mentoring.

So get going now–identify at least 3 or 4 people who might be your mentors and approach at least one with a specific request for a skill or information you’d like to learn. With your meeting scheduled, next week’s post on how to have that first meeting will be timely…I’ll tell you exactly how to approach it so that your mentor wants to establish an ongoing, professional relationship with you, and so you are both better for the experience!

Who’s missing the mark?


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Help me understand please!

I read an article in a recent International Business Times, U.S. edition, reporting that 3.2 million jobs are going begging because perfect candidates aren’t available within the 15 million unemployed. And, apparently, they aren’t available internally, either.

[Note: I am generalizing and lumping all employers together…I acknowledge that there are exceptions!]

As the author of a book that places career development responsibility squarely in the employee’s lap (Career Ownership: Creating ‘Job Security’ in Any Economy), I still find it stupefying that employers don’t consider growing that perfect candidate–whether from the inside or outside. American employers as a whole look at investment in their greatest assets as an expense to be trimmed or eliminated.

Organizations think nothing of property, building and equipment improvements to extend the value of those physical assets, yet they find it a waste of dollars to maintain or improve the value of the assets that count most in today’s economy: workers’ brains. And, this says nothing of the value of workers who bring their hearts as well, motivated to go over and above to ensure the success of the business.

How did organizations get to the place where an operating assumption is that assets must be “perfect” in order to be a “fit,” to be of value? Or that maintaining the value of capital assets is a dispensable expense? Yet, these assumptions seem to drive many organizations in today’s economy. It’s the same thinking that organizations use to terminate workers who finish a project and hire different workers for the next–even if training or another learning solution would bridge the gap quite nicely.

Why is it that:

>Employers require experience, yet ignore slope of a learning curve?

>They downsize a workforce to reach quarterly financial goals while shelling out big bucks for outplacement to assuage guilt and appear socially sensitive in “hard times”?

>So many employers consider improving and “re-purposing” human assets to be an unwarranted expense while ignoring the expense associated with turnover, lost productivity, low morale and disappearing customer loyalty?

If a position can go unfilled for months while a search for the perfect candidate occurs, how important can it be to fill it in the first place? Do the accolades managers receive for coming in “under budget” outweigh the costs (much more difficult to track) of filling a position with less-than-perfect? What numbers would organizations discover if they weighed the ROI between bringing an internal candidate up to speed and recruiting for the perfect fit? How is the lost productivity measured and tracked? The lower efficiency and missed opportunities? Customers who go with a more responsive competitor while the search drags on for a qualified candidate?

How about measuring the real costs of doing business?

Organizations purport that they must “make the numbers;” so it is time for organizations to take responsibility for tracking all the numbers—not just the ones that make a quick short-term impact. In any economy, sacrificing smart, solid longer term business practice in the interests of meeting outdated stability measures results in a false sense of security for the bankers and the stockholders, especially when it’s the assets that are sacrificed.

In the May issue of Fast Company, authors Dan Heath and Chip Heath make a compelling case for growing talent internally rather than recruiting from the outside. It’s high time business people review outdated activities that fall under the guise of “sound business practice” and upgrade those principles to align with the needs of the 2010 economy.

Why not weigh in?

What will it take for employers to put workers on the “asset” side of the ledger instead of the “expense” side? How can workers help this happen?

Hot air is for balloons


It’s pretty easy to say, “Well, of course, I own my career–no one else does.” But saying it doesn’t make it so. Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on what it really takes (actions, behaviors, words) to be the owner of your career and, by extension, the keeper of your ‘job security.” You’ll be able to assess your relationship with your career, determining what changes if any you choose to make in order to increase your satisfaction and security.

Let’s start with career itself. A career consists of two things: 1. work that is your contribution to the world and that you take pride in doing well; and 2. a “path” for that work that is flexible, multi-directional and constructed to best reflect your values and talents.

Take note: “job” is not mentioned nor is putting in hours. A career isn’t necessarily linear and it’s not something you fall into because a career today is constructed–intentionally. It’s flexible, including the timing, the business, the work itself.

Now let’s consider ownership. Owners care for their possessions in a more intentional way than renters ever would. When you own your home, you consider “location, location, location” before you buy; you make sure the amenities fit your needs; you allocate maintenance and decorating dollars; and (most often) you work with a professional who can maximize the house you get for your money. You make an investment intending to gain value over the years.

We own homes yet rent careers, moving from job to job and stringing them together to make a lifetime of activity. The location is often whoever is hiring; the maintenance is only when a weakness crops up; and the professional is considered only when all else fails.

Here’s a quick check to see if you really own your career:

    Your work matters to you, and you take pride in it.
    You use your talents and walk your values every day.
    You have a rotating one-year learning plan that you follow.
    You are paying for the learning yourself.
    Your career “path” is sketched out for 3 years, yet flexible if markets or your options change.
    You know the value you provide and you make it known.
    You know–always–the way to increase your value.
    You have a career coach who is a sounding board and supporter.
    You have at least 3 mentors from whom you learn.

If you really want to own your career, then pick one or two of the items above and put them in place. You’ll be able to do that more readily if you work with a coach who can guide you to developing a map that works for you. But the map only works when you do. Taking on the responsibility and being accountable for the follow-through is what really makes you a career owner.

Anything else is just hot air.

“Red-headed stepchildren” need not apply


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Short-sighted. Unconscionable. Foolish. Profligate. Asinine. Ignorant. And I’m just getting started.

How ludicrous is it that some Employers are deciding that the Unemployed are not good enough to hire? CNN Money this week posted an article that says this is becoming more common. While it’s apparently not illegal, I’d have to call it immoral or at the very least ignorant.

Do hiring managers really think that everyone of the almost 11% unemployed is in that position for performance reasons? How far removed from reality are they? Do these hiring managers really believe that organizations suddenly (and all in the same 12-18 month period) decided to retain employees based on performance rather than tenure, politics or laziness? (It takes some doing, after all, to collect the documentation to get rid of someone even in “at-will” states.)

How audacious that hiring managers (and the HR people who clamor to be their strategic partners) so inanely surmise that the talent to fill an opening could only be found in someone who is already employed.

Business just doesn’t “get it”

It’s been obvious for some time that many organizations don’t really “get” that their assets and capital for success in this economy reside in their people…and that the people own that capital. Unlike the last half of the 20th century where the assets were equipment and buildings and bricks that stayed put, when people today leave an employer, they take their brains and energy and talent with them. The buildings and equipment that remain are only the shelter and the tools to support the brains (and heart!) that create customer loyalty. It’s the talent within a business that defines excellence and competitiveness in a global marketplace. Our Economy of Choice is driven by the people who do the work, create new products and offerings and serve and retain loyal customers.

But, apparently, some Employers believe that only the Employed can make this cut. I expect this reduces the number of resumes to review. It also assumes [and we all know what ‘assume’ means] that anyone currently employed is a top performer…because of course organizations only keep top performers…no room for “B” or “C” employees these days.

And a top performer would want to work for you WHY, Mr. No-unemployed-need-apply-here Hiring Manager? Because you aren’t talented enough yourself to know that talent isn’t defined by employment? Because you aren’t influenced by labels? Because you aren’t smart enough to know why the U.S. has an unemployment rate of almost 11%? Because you’re blissfully unaware that downsizing, as in ‘across-the-board-cuts’ is the quickest way to impact the hallowed bottom line? Yes, you need some talent in your organization, Mr. Hiring Manager, but the talented won’t tolerate your prejudices and ignorance for long. You’re making your own bed and eventually you’ll lie in it.

Where are the Human Resources people who are Strategic Partners?

If ever there was a time to draw a line in the sand, HR folks, this is it. Strategically, to look only for new hires in the ranks of the Employed is right up there with selecting a physician who will tell you what you want to hear. S/he may not be the physician who can diagnose you, but you aren’t looking for the best–you’re looking for one who fits your parameters.

Where is your backbone, your courage to do the right thing…as well as the smart thing? Your job as a “strategic partner” with other organization leaders is to prevent those leaders from shooting themselves in the foot and to educate them about the concept of human capital. If you haven’t stepped up before, now is certainly a good time.

And, don’t use the excuse that “we need to weed out resumes somehow.” That’s a really lame and lazy excuse, and sounds like an “employee” reason not a “partner” reason. Partners do things to the advantage of the organization, even if it’s difficult and takes time. You should be doing the same.

Where are the Recruiters who know better?

I expect the first response from Recruiters is “that’s what my client(s) want…they won’t talk with anyone who is Unemployed.” To that I say Bunk!

Where’s your courage, your backbone to do the right thing? How could you go along with an Employer who ignorantly or even indifferently believes that hiring only Employed people is a good talent-attraction strategy? Seems awfully similar to someone who only wants to hire blonds but not brunettes. Or only people with advanced degrees when a college degree isn’t really even necessary for the position. Comes down to power, doesn’t it? “Because we can.”

It’s sad to think that we have all become so enamored with comfort and security that we are no longer willing to do the right thing. We aren’t willing to speak up and question or to provide another perspective because somebody might get mad. It’s no wonder that the employment market is in such shambles. It’s a “buyers market” precisely because employees have given up their perspectives in exchange for the illusion of safety. As long as we’re safe, we’ll do as we’re programmed.

And the kicker? We’re as safe as the Emperor who wore no clothes was covered: we’re only kidding ourselves.

Meet Kari. And how she became a Career Owner.


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Kari’s email began like so many others: she was discouraged and frustrated. She had been “a rising star” for many of her almost 20 years with the organization, but new leaders and a different culture dimmed that image. So what did she want from a coach? Kari wanted to know how to navigate the politics so she could “survive and thrive” in her highly volatile environment. She was looking for the answer to once again be that rising star.

When we met, Kari spit out years of pent-up frustration and confusion about her workplace. This manager liked her, this one didn’t, this VP said her work was excellent, that director thought she wasn’t keeping up. She was interviewing for positions in other areas but was always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Kari wanted to know what was wrong with her, what it would take to get her back on her game. She was looking for the right answers. I said, “Did you come here to be fixed?” and she said “yes.”

So we started there.

I asked her, “What would it take for you to step into who you are authentically, to use your skills and wisdom to discover you again?” With a few moments of thought, a small smile appeared and Kari said “You mean trust myself?” She got it.

Kari’s belief that there is a “right” answer that would fix her, that would make her “fit” into a changing and challenging work environment is the same thing some of you are thinking I’ll bet. If only you could find the right way, the right program, the right degree, the right mentor, the right answer then work would settle down and you would be OK. You’d be the confident, respected and stress-less person valued by managers and team members alike.

You can spend a lifetime looking for that and have no confidence or respect from your fellow workers, or you can take a look at what you bring, and define the “right” thing based on that. Who you already are, the experiences you already have make up the wisdom you bring to your work–if you listen to yourself, if you trust your own counsel.

With that little smile, Kari began the process of learning to trust herself again. Her weekly practices are helping with that. She is practicing these behaviors:

1. staying present; not spending energy worrying about the past or fretting about the future;

2. trusting her instincts; she pays attention to what her gut tells her;

3. examining beliefs that may hold her back, that may no longer serve her; she intentionally chooses to shift beliefs that don’t support her;

4. paying attention to the supportive feedback she receives and giving it at least as much credence as the negative;

5. stopping the voice inside that comes from the emotional brain, the one that likes comfort and sameness and safety and is mired in fear. Kari stops it with “That’s not true because…” to give the logical brain time to think.

Kari no longer expects external approval to drive her best work because she recognizes that she is responsible for her direction and her ability to be a strong contributor.

How about you? Have you learned to trust yourself?