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!

Intentions, not habits, make parades


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Spent part of the morning at the Upper Arlington (UA) Fourth of July parade: it’s an annual staple and the biggest non-commercial parade in the U.S. (or at least it used to be) My daughter and I have walked 3 blocks to the parade route every year for 21 years, and sat on the same corner: Northwest Boulevard and Barrington Road.

UA Golden Bear

Some things surrounding this event are so familiar: timbits from Tim Horton’s before we go; chairs on the same street corners, set out at least 2 days before; little American flags distributed by Boy Scouts before the parade; the tattered-looking fife and drummers leading the parade; everyone standing as the American flags pass by; veterans of every war since WWII riding in vehicles driven by younger vets; class reunion groups on flatbed trucks; neighborhood floats; the huge UA “golden bear” pulled and turned by Civic Association members; and bands, bicycles, Shriner’s cars, and an OSU Alumni TBDBITL. Such makes the Fourth a celebration at home. It’s comfortable, easy and–for my family–what makes the day an event. It’s become our habit to attend.

Habits are familiar; are they intentional?

While the Fourth comes around each year, the floats, bands and other entries take a special effort and don’t come around without considerable effort. Someone–likely many–make the decision and special effort each year to be part of the parade. My point is that it’s a conscious decision. The “date” is the familiar, the automatic; the “parade” and the resulting celebration is the intentional.

So much of life and especially work is like that–work weeks come around one day at a time–and we go, habitually and timely but with little or no intention. We put in the time, do what we must and then leave–only to do the same tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were more celebration–every day?


To whose drummer do you march?

So which part of your (work) day belongs to the drummer in you? When do you do those things that tap your talents, that make you proud of the work you do? How do you ensure that at least some of every day you intentionally use your talents? That you contribute your best that day because you’re using the strengths you’ve developed and honed? This takes intention.

Or, are you marching to a drummer with a beat you don’t recognize? So you can pay the bills at the expense of your pride, satisfaction and efficacy? This takes habit.

Satisfy both

Contrary to much popular belief, you don’t need to give up one for the other. You can earn a living while doing work you love–that is, work that uses your talents–when you approach it intentionally.

The intentional part takes some work, too. It won’t happen when you wait around for your manager to recognize the great job you’re doing and promote you out of the department. It won’t happen when you wait for someone to give you a career path. It won’t happen by staying low so no one will notice you during times of “expense control.”

It does happen when you stay alert to changes in your organization’s strategies. It happens when you volunteer for projects where you can learn new things. It happens when you approach an experienced colleague who can show you some new ropes. It happens when you try something different with a customer that works better than the old way. It happens when you become responsible for being intentional.

So when will you choose to lead the parade?

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.

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?

Transition


Thanks to today’s Guest Blogger, Ray Taylor, whose take on transition is fresh and timely. Look for his suggestions to go after new opportunities while you’re in transition or just because…you’ll see the value!

Ray Taylor


In earlier times being out of work was referred to as being layed off, downsized, unemployed or even the dreaded, fired. Since there are so many of us who have lost jobs, we seek more palatable terms that allow us to explain our current state of unemployment. The latest words we use to convey our career status is “in transition.”

Webster’s dictionary defines transition as “a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another”. Many (including the owner of this blog) have written that the whole concept of employment is changing – permanently. On that basis this term, transition, makes sense.

With that in mind, if you are one of those describing your current situation as “in transition”, consider what you are doing during this time. If you are focused on replacing the job you had with one very nearly the same as the one you lost, that might work for you but, it’s not transition.

Now, I’m not trying to pick on you for not complying with Webster’s definition. What I am asking you to do is realize that the demand for many positions is not coming back to pre-2008 levels – ever. That means the competition will be stiffer, the compensation will be lower and the time to land will be longer. Are you prepared for that?

Let me ask you another question. Did you really love that old job? I mean “wake up in the morning and can’t wait to get after it” love? Right, I didn’t think so.

Kevin Cashman starts his book Leadership from the Inside Out with a story about choice. He asks you to imagine being stranded in a snowstorm and missing that important meeting that you are rushing to. Do you rant about it and let it raise your blood pressure? Or do you realize that one of the things you often say you’d love to have, is just a few hours alone to think? Do you let this event derail you or, do you choose to see it as a wish that has just been granted? You choose.

You can also choose to live the definition of transition during this challenging time. Instead of the old school job search, engage in transition. Reinvent yourself. Learn.

In It’s What Inside that Counts, Janine discussed ideas to help us connect with our internal motivations. The three ideas revolved around seeking autonomy, mastery and purpose. Think of these three concepts during your transition.

Autonomy: Rather than submitting hundreds of resumes blindly and hoping for a call, look around. What problems could you solve for a friend starting a business? She might love to have the professionalism you offer, but never thought she could afford your price tag. So, help her. Help her first and then let the financials work themselves out (they will, trust me).

Volunteer for charitable organizations or non-profits that are struggling. If you can make a difference people will notice. People you have helped will be looking for ways to help you. You won’t be going in, with hat in hand, asking for referrals. You will have an ally who has seen you in action and would be glad to recommend you.

Don’t even think of telling me you don’t have time. If you want to do the traditional job search, it’s going to take you 6 – 9 months to find a job you don’t really like. Consider this activity your part-time job and, more importantly, part of your journey to fulfillment.

Mastery:
For the new role you would really love, you might need to master some new skills. Let’s say your friend with the startup can afford to pay you half what you are used to. But, you will learn some new skills. Add the cost of tuition at a business school to your pay and you might find you didn’t take a pay cut at all.

Join groups and pay attention to the events they host. Many are low or no-cost events. Offer to help with the planning. Being a planner is like a backstage pass. You may be able to meet a knowledgeable and influential keynote speaker in the field you are pursuing. How much would that be worth?

Eleanor RooseveltPurpose: Having a purpose is uniquely human. Finding it isn’t a journey you have to make alone. Your coaches might be right in front of you. Instead of asking people how they can help you find a job, ask them if they know their purpose. When you find the ones who know their purpose, find out how they learned what it was.

Find out who you are and what you are here to do. Learn what skills you need to master to fulfill your purpose.

Taking ownership doesn’t mean going solo. Seeking guidance can be an important step to transition. Not transition as a euphemism for joblessness, transition as Webster defines it.

About: Ray Taylor is an accomplished sales and customer service leader focused on innovation. Ray also serves on the executive committee of Ohio University’s Sales Centre. Write to him at raytaylor@choice32.com.

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.