If you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them…


Human beings really get in ruts. We love to do things that are comfortable, even when it’s to our disadvantage. Case in point: employment.

News is telling us that the economy is improving, although employment is called a lagging indicator meaning any uptick in employment will come along later, way later. In other words, hiring isn’t going to pick up any time soon. That means many people will continue to be out of work, for a lot longer than they ever expected. So their job searches will continue for a lot longer, too.running in circles

People will continue to do the same job search things they’ve always done and expect that–eventually–the outcome will be a job. One that lasts. One where they won’t have to go through job search hell ever again. And for some that may happen.

But for most, it won’t.

“Permanent” employment is a thing of the past, but human beliefs and behaviors haven’t changed to deal with it, let alone get ahead of it. Organizations perpetuate this with outdated human resourcesdancing practices that are the ‘way things have always been done’; and people continue to buy into this dance because it’s comfortable and they know how.

Organizations still look to fill “jobs” even though what they really have is “work” and “projects.” Work is always there–it’s permanent. Projects are temporary and everybody knows it. Jobs are (believed to be) permanent although most are only around until the global marketplace changes the competitive direction once again. And, that happens frequently. So a job filled today can be unnecessary in 12 months, and that results in lay-off, outplacement, and hiring in another, newly-competitive area.

And guess what? Because the jobs are different, the same person can’t move from one to the other! And, apparently, neither the organization or the person has thought to have the individual learn the new job’s skills and move from the unneeded job to the new one!

Remember the movieSo, what’s wrong with this picture? Everything!

1. the organization is wasting the skilled individual who is already on top of the learning curve, and adds the expense of outplacement or severance pay, as well as the expense of hiring and subsidizing the learning curve for someone who doesn’t know the company. Dumb.

2. the individual is stuck in a vicious cycle: looking for another job that matches the old one, along with thousands of others doing the same thing. No additional skills or competencies because the organization didn’t provide them. Dumber.

Who will blink first?

Will organizations figure out that there are more intelligent and effective ways (to say nothing of economical) to deal with a changing competitive marketplace than by throwing out the old and buying new? Will they figure out that people can be ‘recycled’ and learn the skills to flex from one area of work to another? Will they figure out that tossing out the brains that bring success to the business is condemning it to failure?

Or, will individuals–you!–figure out that you are more employable and more attractive to buyers when you become highly skilled and flexible with your (current and new) competencies? Will you figure out that only you create your own work security–because there is none in the employment market today? And will you figure out that you can take responsibility for your own improvement and development by carving a learning path that makes you highly adaptable to an organization’s needs?

My money’s on you.

When you own your career, you are the owner of your fate. You depend upon yourself to be flexible and skilled and adaptive to marketplace and customer needs. self-efficacyYou create your work opportunities to stay ahead of your organization’s decisions to change direction. You avoid the downsizing rolls, the job search chaos, the repetitive outplacement systems, the depression and desperation that come with a difficult employment market.

And what’s that worth?

An incredible peace of mind, confidence in your own efficacy, increased capacity to navigate an uncertain economy, and alignment with business reality!

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4 Baby Steps Toward Security


As I read two articles in Sunday’s paper with bleak news for job seekers, I found myself thinking once again about how fortunate I am to be in charge of my own career direction. I made the leap to self-employment a bit ahead of the curve (1997), and even with all its challenges, I never worry about someone else running my business. Or making decisions for me. Or going in to work on a Monday morning to be met with a pink slip. Or living in fear that one might be there next week.

What's your value?

Can you state your value?

Over the years I learned–often the hard way–that I needed to be very clear with statements of my value. My business is intangible and some still mislabel the content “soft skills.” [As though anything about relationships could be anything other than hard!] But value can always be measured, sometimes in the words of clients or sometimes in the visible results.

I learned that a paycheck doesn’t automatically appear every other Friday unless I focus on the Important rather than the Urgent. The discipline needed to put the big rocks in first came in a series of difficult lessons; and I’m not really sure I’m done learning!

I learned that marketing myself and my services never really stops; I can take a break, if I choose, but business follows only when potential clients hear my messages. And the clients are there; it’s just up to me to find them and be consistent in messaging.

I learned that I had a lot to learn and that I had to stay ahead or fall behind.

Navigating changes

Navigating changes

And in any business environment, customers always have choices. So staying ahead rather than “resting on laurels” always kept me intrigued with new approaches and new ideas. So I tried new ways of doing things that I might not have been certain of—learning from thought leaders’ and the success of others.

As I learned these lessons (and I’m not done yet!) I saw results that gave me confidence to move forward and try again, try something a bit different, and build on even small developments. I moved ahead a step at a time over the last dozen years. The small steps add up, and it’s important to just start.

Hungering for security?

Take these same 4 baby steps, especially if you’re in an organization and want to stay, or if you’re going after your next position. Each one will work to your advantage, and you can begin today.

1. What’s your value?

Define it, describe it, get clear on it and start talking about it. Letting others know your value isn’t bragging, it’s educating them about how you contribute. Strategic organizations keep people who contribute. Managers depend upon performers who contribute because they know you can be counted on. Learn how to talk about your value in the language of the listener, so there’s no question that you belong. Action item: take 20 minutes and write 5 statements of your value. If you get stuck, ask your coach or trusted peer. Put at least 2 of them in your conversations this week.

2. Work on Important first.

If you’re searching for a position, it’s easy to kid yourself into thinking that lots of activity is effective, especially if it entails sitting at a desk cranking out paper–just like you’re used to doing in the office. rocksThe Important stuff is usually the hard stuff; in this case, it’s maintaining your network contacts. If you have an office and want to keep it, then prioritize your tasks based upon the organization’s priorities. Save your emails for after 5 o’clock…if they’re that important, you’ll get a call. Action item: re-prioritize your work activities, putting the hardest ones on top. Stay focused on the Important tasks, even if you’re tempted by other people’s urgencies.

3. Be aware of your customer messages: make them count.

Even if you’re not in direct contact with external customers, you have internal ones. Every word you speak, every facial expression and gesture you make, every note you send is plainly marked with one of two messages: ‘I’m glad to be of service;’ or ‘I’m doing this because I’m supposed to.’ Every contact you have is important, so put a smile in your voice and become intent on serving your current, potential, new or returning customers. Action item: Select 3 ‘customers’ today who you can serve: perhaps another job seeker; a co-worker to whom you can offer assistance before s/he asks; or a member at your service club lunch who needs cheering or encouragement.

4. Keep on learning!

Whatever you’re doing, there’s something new to learn. And if you’re not doing what you love, there’s lots new to try! Take responsibility for your own learning, for staying or getting up to speed in your industry, profession or skill sets. Check out community college, continuing education offerings and professional association seminars; and identify mentors who can give you informal opportunities to learn. Define new competencies that can help you take on new and challenging responsibilities, then arrange to master them. Action item: Determine one new area you would like to learn about and find two people who have expertise. Ask at least one of them to be your mentor and get you started.

4 small baby steps!

4 small baby steps!


Your challenge: 4 baby steps

Wherever you are, whatever your work, you will be stronger and more secure in your being by taking these 4 steps and beginning today. Each is a small but significant one toward taking responsibility for your own career direction and stability. Whether you work for a larger organization or a smaller business or you’re looking for your best work fit, your future really is yours to ensure. “Cradle to grave” security begins with these smallest of steps.

Back-to-School


Those who have been required to memorize the world as it is will never create the world as it might be.

This quote by Judith Groch resonates strongly with me because the classrooms of my youth required memorization and lots of it: students at desks high school 50s history, geography, trig functions, English prepositions, Latin root words, etc. The Dominican sisters who taught at St. Mary’s made sure of that!

We did memorize the world as it was then: and the boundaries were pretty sound. The literal “word view” was stable, defined by wars, separated by oceans and social or economic milestones. Even with the mind-numbing memorization, I liked learning.

Back-to-school time brings up wonderful memories, mostly because of new school supplies, a new book bag, and new teachers. Even in college, there was something enticing about new notebooks and pens and beginning again: the start of a new opportunity. Learning things that adds to or makes sense of stuff already in my brain.

I may be fortunate in that “Learning” is one of my talents (or ‘themes’ according to Gallup author Tom Rath), and I’ve developed it into a strength. I use that strength in my current work and leverage it so that I am able to look at new situations as challenges and view “change”–so scary for many–as just another puzzle to tackle.

How do you look at learning?

It’s not just for kids!

While our kids are heading back to school, I’m wondering if you are heading back as well. You may have a high school diploma, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, an MBA or a PhD. Whatever education you have, much of it is out-of-date. Whether you graduated last year or 30 years ago, the world is changing quickly enough that whatever content you have is, literally, so last year.

The phrase “lifelong learning” is one we hear bandied about, and often when we hear it we think, “Oh, I have a degree;” “No more back-to-school for me…don’t have the time!” Or, “I can’t afford it.” But ernestinelearning is no longer contained: in a classroom, or during certain ages, or even within a degree program. The truth is that whatever your age, you must continue to learn to avoid becoming a throw-back that employers see as outdated and provincial, unwilling to keep up with business reality.


What will you choose to learn before year’s end?

The beauty of being adults is that we can choose how we’ll learn: it may be in a classroom or it may not! When you consider options, make sure you include these:

*continuing education: computer programs, communication programs, or specific skills through local colleges or community learning programs;
*degree programs: through universities across the world; e-learning programs are available through hundreds of colleges and may be 2 or 4 year programs, even MBA work;
*mentoring and workplace options: what can you learn by asking someone more experienced to teach you? Or by shadowing them for a few days or weeks; Or by volunteering for a project as an observer or extra pair of hands?
*design-your-own professional development program by working with a coach: career coaches can guide you in figuring out what new directions and/or learning will best help you stay relevant or move in your desired direction.

Now, take action.

Whatever direction you decide to investigate, start small. Define one person you can talk to, or one program you can investigate and write it on your to-do list for this week. Don’t put it off, or wait until you get around to it. Better yet, find an Accountability Partner who will support your investigation and ask that person to check-in with you in a week to see how you accomplished the first step. In fact, if you’ll drop me a note with your first task, I’ll hold you accountable for completing it within a week. This is how you’ll most easily move forward: take small steps and be accountable to someone for doing so.

While you’re at it, why not buy a few school supplies to have on hand while you figure out your learning direction? It may be more motivating than you think!

Career Owners in the Customer Space


I’ve had several recent encounters with customer service people and each of them made clear how their job ‘fit’ them: as a renter or an owner.

My first was with my personal trainer, Tami, who is always fully focused on each client. She has the ability to walk that fine line between making me sweat and making me whine. No complaints, always a positive thing…I don’t like the work, necessarily, but I do appreciate her awareness of where I am both physically and mentally. (She’s with Equivita, a terrific place by the way!) Tami owns her client focus and tailors it beautifully.

Customer service for captive customers!

Customer service for captive customers!

My second encounter was in the McDonald’s drive through. I know what I’m in for at most fast-food places, and I often find the “window” folks to be personable and engaging. This one was an exception— the employee never made eye contact. Normally I wouldn’t think much of it, especially when the transaction is bolstered by conversation, but this one wasn’t. She said 3 words to me: $3.86, and thank you. She wasn’t rushed and she wasn’t taking another order…she just looked away and didn’t respond to me at all. My sense was that the sooner I left, the sooner she could be anywhere else. Definitely renting the space behind the cash register.

And then, back in my office, I took a call from Staples—don’t know why because I was juggling 3 or 4 things—and 23 minutes later we were finally finished.

I spent that time with Victoria who not only did her “job,” but she raised the level of Staples’ credibility and customer know-how by about 120%! Her first order of business was to give me, as a Premier Customer, my choice of a 4th category in which to save 10% on all purchases…and, of course, an appreciation call is a fine thing. [In the interests of total disclosure, I expect that I’m a premier customer because my trips to Staples are like many people’s trips to ice cream shops—fun in the short haul, but we’re caught in the end! For me that ‘end’ is paying for the cart full of goodies that I couldn’t pass up.]

She gave me the name of the manager at my local store and told me about him. She gave me her name and contact number and repeated how important getting to know customers was to the Staples culture. She asked me about my company, CompassPoint Coaching. And, through the whole conversation, I never once felt that she wanted to be talking to the next customer on her list—and I expect she had a long one.

When I asked her how Staples does training and leadership development, she said a most interesting thing. She said that before training comes hiring—and that Staples wants to make sure they do the best hiring and get the right people on board. They look for quality and don’t hire a body to replace a body, or to fill a spot—it’s important to Staples that their employees connect with their customers to establish ongoing relationships.

And then, after hiring, they teach and reinforce their culture. She mentioned that she was reading about emotional intelligence and how important the emotional connection of employees is in order to develop the relationships that create the emotional connections with customers. She told me about her background, that she’s been with Staples for several years and that the culture is one focused on coaching employees to improved skills and competencies. I didn’t have to ask her if she liked her job—she was doing work she loved!

We talked about using social media for hiring, research, and other great things, and that while computers are said to take away the personal connection, intentionally-used social sites actually allow for an often more-personal connection…kind of a counter intuitive thing.

While we were talking she went to my websites, and asked about how I found my clients and if the economy was having any effect on that. We discussed coaching results and the coaching environment of Staples. She never once sounded forced, bored, phony or like she was “just doing her job.” It was probably the most “fun” I’ve ever had with a cold customer call from a supplier. I’m still not sure why I answered the phone when the caller ID registered Staples, but I’m glad I did. What great observations I’ve had on the scope of customer service and how refreshing to know that I do business with several—Equivita and Staples—that do it right!

Within 15 minutes of finishing my call with Victoria I had an email follow-up from her with the details of the “business” part of our conversation, and a second email with an invitation from her to connect on Linked In! A few days later she helped me navigate my research into a new pc.

How refreshing to work with someone who believes that customers are indeed a critical part of the business model and treats them as such. Career owners see the long term, and recognize its importance. In this quantum physics (v. Neutonian) world, that long-time connection creates a very comfortable place to return.