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?

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Getting your Career Sea Legs


Getting your sea legs on any boat entails practice, patience and belief—that you will eventually be able to move with the boat and not get tossed overboard. While ‘sea legs’ refers to being on a moving vessel in the water, it transfers to getting used to any new situation.

(c) 2008 sea legs an boat feet by matty!

Sea legs are not tough to get when you’re riding on a boat down a lazy river that’s being piloted by an experienced captain. Both the river and the expertise of the pilot make the journey a calm one. And this is how careers used to be.

In the relative calm of the 20th’s century’s Industrial economy, when competitors were domestic and business growth was defined by long term goals, career paths were defined by politics, experience level and dues paid. Someone else in the organization—usually a manager in conjunction with the leaders—defined where and when you took another career step: it was a planned, defined journey that was easy to ride.

20th Century Careers

That’s how careers were.

Having a career path and getting continual learning upgrades in today’s world entails riding river rapids, rather than cruising on a river boat. Today’s Service and Information economy has little certainty and even less calm.

21st Century Careers

Businesses competitors criss-cross the globe, and the traditional ways of being competitive no longer work. The only way to win in today’s competitive market is for organizations to get all brains on deck: to have employees constantly focused on innovative ideas that delight customers and keep them coming back. The chaotic environment of constant innovation and change creates whitewater rapids in place of the customary calm sea, and riding rapids requires a whole new skill set and mindset, at least for those workers who want to come through the trip intact.

The skill set and mindset of riding rapids

People who raft rivers seem to be so much more adventurous than many of us: thrill seekers who enjoy testing their strength, endurance, reflex time and ability to think on their feet (so to speak). While rafters may in fact test all of these things, the biggest difference is that they welcome the responsibility of taking an active part in the journey. They learn and take the right equipment, skills and mindset. With these things, folks who ride rapids get their sea legs through practice and experience and the wisdom of a great guide.

They are along for much more than the ride. They are along to learn, to participate and to actively take part in the adventure: to get their sea legs and be on the team that guides the raft to its successful end. Dead weight has no place in a whitewater raft, and the same is true for today’s organizations.

The skill set and mindset of whitewater careers

Career success in today’s organizations requires the same things: learning, active partnering in the mission and direction, teamwork, and a mindset that is open to possibilities v. set on a single path.
When your path is the whitewater route, then you must have the knowledge, skills, and mindset to navigate it successfully. Without these, your career route will be disappointing, scary and wet!

1. Learning is the basis of today’s career skills. You must know yourself and your organization inside out: your missions, your strengths and your needs. You must learn how to respond to unexpected turns, to dance as the music changes, and to develop resilience to the stress of the uncertain. You must learn to look several steps ahead and to define possibilities and workable responses to them. What you don’t use today is useful for another time.

2. Active partnering makes you an indispensable member of the team and shows your commitment to the work of the organization, its customers and your team members. Razor-thin margins require that all investments get maximum return, and workers are a business investment. If you’re not partnering, you’re riding on the work of someone else’s paddle, and you’ll soon be dumped from the raft. Active partnering takes initiative, energy, commitment to the cause and skill at strengthening relationships…the currency of today’s economy.

3. Teamwork requires competency in function and content as well as for inspiring and challenging others. Some days you may be a strong paddler but on others you may need to take over as guide…your communication and process skills must be sharpened and ready to do both as the river shifts.

4. A mindset open to possibilities requires you to recognize that the control you have is only as strong as the opportunities you’re open to meet. Business reality requires that your work views are more kaleidoscopic than picture window. Staying stuck in how things have been or what’s in your job description makes you deadwood, unable to shift or solve or allow for any of the challenges and changes that stir-up chaos in today’s workplaces. An open mindset ensures that you can respond to crags, river turns and unexpected boulders and not just the gentle sway of a lazy river.

Getting your career sea legs is a challenge that you may or may not be ready for, but today’s organizations won’t see your value without them. They don’t have the time or resources to pull you out of the river. They have commitments to those workers who are willing to take responsibility for paddling their own canoes and not being a risk to other travelers.

So, how are your career sea legs?

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!

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.

Corporate Titanics


I’m getting it all off my chest today–about organizations leading their lemmings, oops employees, down a path and not recognizing and not caring because they (the organizations) believe they’re too big to fail. If you don’t want to hear it, stop reading now.

My business is helping people to navigate their careers: set their direction and sail toward it while aligning with their organization’s mission. I meet folks all the time who are capsized by the organizations they are in, who are deceived (intentionally or by omission) and whose companies are led by Captains Titanic, industrial age business tycoons who forget that they’re sailing the ship, not the iceberg. So some of my work includes connecting people to business reality, and all of it allows them to shift beliefs and behaviors in order to take responsibility for their career direction. So, I’m all for people taking responsibility for themselves…that hasn’t changed.

A sinking ship

A sinking ship

But you, CaptainsTitanic, you know who you are. [Just in case: C-level, VP and Directors, managers and supervisors, and project leads, this means you.) So, read on.

The way organizations (yours, too, probably) deal with work and job boxes and bodies–directly and indirectly–is nothing short of outlandish. You have jobs, stuffed in boxes along with the people who do them, and when things change (as they do daily and weekly) the boxes and the people have to change, too. When the square pegs no longer fit the round holes, they’re gone. Yet, those very people are your assets in this economy. Rather than change your thinking, you swap out the expensive assets for cheap ones, you cut resources yet expect customer service to stay the same. It’s kind of like the Titanic sailing with not enough lifeboats for all the passengers: people really believed that the ship couldn’t sink. (Exceptions include Cisco, Deloitte & others of course, but are terribly few and far between.)

Your organization does a huge disservice to employees every day by:

1. lying to them;
2. giving them a false sense of security; and
3. abusing them emotionally and mentally.

Lying. Direct or by omission.
How many organizations have you heard spout “our employees are our most important product!” even while the business direction treats those employees as expendable expenses? I’d call that lying.

How many organizations tell their employees, either via executive ‘town halls’ or through email, that while the economy is bad, we’re doing OK and we won’t be laying off employees? How many tell their employees that the economy is hurting us, but we’ll do everything in our power to avoid lay-offs? And then turn around and announce several rounds of layoffs that “can’t be avoided”? I’d call this lying. Few organizations do everything they can to avoid layoffs because that’s the simplest, easiest, most direct way to cut the expense line in the financials. Other options that many organizations don’t even consider (did yours?) include job sharing; shortening hours; voluntary unpaid leave; eliminating raises; asking for employee participation in solutions. Wall Street (why do we still even care??) loves to see fast financial improvements for the sake of the shareholders and the stock price, rewarding short-term and short-sighted decisions at the expense of the long-term viability of the organization. But the options all take too long.

grown in the dark

grown in the dark

Lies of omission are a little different: leaders say little or nothing before or after layoffs, so everyone’s left wondering ‘am I next?’; they don’t educate employees to the reality of today’s business economy–they don’t tell people what’s at stake, how competitors are ‘eating our lunch,’ how the industry is changing and requiring new skills, etc.; they don’t tell employees about how customers are changing and requiring new products, services and care. [Years ago, a cartoon drawing was circulated around offices about employees being treated like mushrooms… I’d say it’s still relevant.] By expecting people to change by osmosis or to become more productive because ‘everybody knows how bad things are,” you’re like Captain Titanic wearing the darkest of glasses.

That false sense of security.

When you give someone a paycheck every 2 weeks whether they do their best or not, just for showing up, you’re reinforcing their sense of security. I know it’s how things are done, but to reinforce security that’s no longer there is harmful. It prevents people from being responsible and sends the message that their security comes not from hustle (the person) but rather from showing up (the daddy). [Read my April 15 post, Who’s Your Daddy? for more on this.] If you want improved productivity, then do it right: pay for performance, have everyone participate in 360 feedback, require learning and skills upgrades, foster employee engagement and get crystal clear about expectations.

When you require performance reviews for every employee once a year and expect that every manager knows how to do this well, you’re reinforcing false security. First of all, managers who don’t like to do this or don’t know how put this off as long as possible and give it as little thought as possible. If you provide no training on effective feedback, then the manager thinks his/her approach is OK. Any one who gets a review expects to be told what their weaknesses are and what they need to do to improve. If their manager doesn’t tell them, then their expectation is that ‘my work is fine, I don’t need any training or improvement.’ This thinking reinforces sitting back and waiting to be told what to do with no concern for new learning. And frankly, in this economy, that’s the last thing you need your workers to be thinking.

Emotional and mental abuse.
I’m calling your (outsizing, downsizing, rightsizing) treatment of employees “abuse” because of the devastation you inflict, probably without even knowing it. And you hide behind “it’s a business decision.” It may be fast and convenient for you, but this is one business decision that’s bad…it’s not financially sound. The costs outweigh whatever financial gains you think you make.

Fifty and sixty-year old men and women tear up when talking about being let go and thrown into a job hunt in this economy and within a society that dismisses experience in favor of ‘cutting edge’ and values ‘inexpensive’ above all else. When you don’t communicate with your employees, when you give them false feelings of security, when you first cut budgets that maintain and improve employee skills and education, and when your response to a financial challenge is to cut heads, you are treating your workers like machines that can be idled and started up again when things turn around. We left that economy a long time ago.

You might even provide outplacement services of a few weeks or months for employees, in an effort to assuage your guilt. Leading them to think (and believing yourself) that a good resume and a place to meet with a counselor is going to provide the support needed to land again is 1) short-sighted; 2) ignorant; and 3) cruel. The first time a worker submits a resume for that “perfect fit” and doesn’t get a call because the HR person had to sort through 400 resumes, you have contributed to the results of abuse: lack of confidence, low sense of self-worth, ineffectiveness when it’s needed most; and a steep learning curve to learn how the market really works. Mentally and emotionally, when people are tossed into the market place they automatically revert to the job-search skills and the beliefs they’ve always held. Both are outdated and extract a considerable price from even the strongest person.

I will always say personal responsibility is critical to security and success, and particularly today in an unsettled, highly-competitive economy that is global in scope. But it’s time that organizations pick up their responsibilities and shift the messages they continue to feed employees, through intention or ignorance. The sooner organizations begin to support their employees in learning how to stay on top of the information and service economy, the sooner those employees will ‘pay it back’ in action, initiative and engagement with customers.

Could it be so bad if all stakeholders win?