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!

Labor Day Musings


A macro concept that underpins a lot of my thinking is “work,” most specifically how our definitions of work are drastically changed, yet apparently unrecognized by both the work ‘giver’ and the ‘doer.’

job boxes

job boxes

Employers (the ‘giver’) continue to look at work as segmented pieces or ‘job boxes’ that can be put together into an integrated whole by someone looking down from on high. While organizations continue to define “jobs,” what they really need is flexible project workers who use their brains to readily move from one work area to another.

Employees (the ‘doer’) continue to look at work as jobs defined by a description with a defined beginning and end. While workers continue to say, “It’s not my job,” what they really need is work that they recognize as a contribution and that engages their mind and spirit.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I see the employer-employee relationship as–at the very least, dysfunctional, and maybe–at the most–irreparably broken. It is, in many (maybe most) organizations, a lose-lose relationship.

Employers continue to consider employees as commodities, and employees continue to see employers as economic lifelines. Employers see employees as interchangeable and as expenses… a ludicrous view in an economy driven by knowledge and service. Employees continue to see employers as their lifeline with only high-risk options for economic security. There is no joy, enjoyment or even much satisfaction in most work and workplaces.

intrinsic value

intrinsic value

What’s ignored by both parties is work’s intrinsic value: the value that drives the engagement and contribution of the worker. Without this, the enterprise “success” suffers–however that success is defined.

In the agrarian economy, work’s intrinsic value is continuity and contribution to the earth: tending to the growing cycles that foster abundance and replenish life stores.

In the trade / craft economy, work’s intrinsic value is using one’s talents and skill, contributing to the bigger needs of the community.

In the industrial economy, work’s intrinsic value is contributing the “piece” that makes the “whole,” and knowing the end result is better for the contribution. [Really? What happens when you can’t see your contribution because the “whole” changes so often?]

contributions

contributions

In the knowledge/service economy, work’s intrinsic value is knowing that one’s contribution makes a difference…through a creative approach, a new product that better cements customer loyalty, or a superior level of service that outshines the competition. In today’s organizations, there’s lots of talk about these things but the approvals and the second guessing and the need for control and the short-term focus on the next quarter’s financials prevent most workers from having any sense of their work’s value.

In today’s world of global competition and global economics, this lack of contribution is destroying the only assets that can compete in these arenas. As Earl Pitts used to say, “Wake up, America!”

Here’s my question for you: what does it take to move Givers and Doers toward a truly realistic expression of “work” in the 21st century? To let up on the antiquated management and control practices that may have worked in the assembly line environment but that truly smother and destroy workers today? To give up on the antiquated because-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way and it’s-our-policy-service mentality that reduces productivity to ruinous levels?

How will you make a difference?

How will you make a difference?

And here’s a personal question for you: What will you do, when you return to work after this holiday, to show the intrinsic value in your work contributions? Just one thing? How will you make a difference?

So how about adding to these Labor Day musings? What will it take to redefine “work” so it works for both employers and employees? Please leave a comment to further this conversation, and maybe by Labor Day 2010, we’ll see a shift that re-energizes “Labor Day!”

Paying the Piper


The May 11 print issue of Business Week has a must-read article for anyone who is in the job market, worried about job security, or generally recognizes that our employment market isn’t quite as effective as we think. The author notes that in the midst of the high-unemployment across the country, there are about 3 million job openings that aren’t being filled.

Why? The short answer is that job-seekers don’t match the jobs. The jobs require skills sets different than those held by people looking for work. We’ve known for years that a number of industries are shrinking (e.g. manufacturing) and other industries are growing (e.g. health care). Even with this information, employers in shrinking industries did little retraining of their workforces and employees in these same shrinking industries thought little about becoming trained for another line of work. That gets us to today: jobs going begging for people to fill them, while workers by the millions are collecting unemployment. It’s time to pay the piper.

Here’s the Big Question: Who is responsible for retraining and retooling? The organization or the worker? Rather than facing reality and stepping into the responsibility, each points the finger at the other while saying loudly, “we have no money to retrain.” This leads to more of the same, while the market imbalance only increases. We are so quick to place blame and so slow to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

work_retraining

Let’s look at both perspectives.

Employers
Fact: some industries cannot hire enough qualified people, e.g. health care, education, professional services and government.
Their options: continue understaffed, shut down parts of the business, inflate hiring packages, or hire under-qualified people and train them.

The last option of the four makes a lot of sense…and maybe that’s why it’s not often selected. For whatever reason, employers expect that their employees will come with 110% of position requirements… fully trained with short or non-existent learning curves. Given the current pool of unemployed workers, this expectation is beyond a mismatch…it’s a fantasy. Most employers will take one (maybe all) of the first three options before they even consider training people. Why? Because ‘we’ve always hired this way.’ Or, it’s too expensive. Yet, these same employers don’t calculate the true costs of the first three options. So, employers’ expectations aren’t aligned with their business needs.

Workers
Fact: many people searching for work have outdated, irrelevant skills yet they continue to search for jobs that use those skills. Of course, the jobs aren’t there.
Their options: blame the economy and continue to feel worthless, expect additional unemployment benefits from the stimulus money, wish that things were the same as they were twenty years ago, or retrain for another industry or work function.

Again, the last option of the four makes the most sense…yet it’s often not pursued for lack of money (and a guaranteed return) or for lack of confidence. Probably because of Industrial economy paternalism, employees see training as what employers do, and so their expectations get in the way of a common sense solution to the employment market blues.

So, who must take accountability to create a match between employer needs and worker skills? Both.

It does the economy little good to have employers unable to compete globally; it does society little good to have great numbers of unemployed; it does families little good to live in depression and exist on welfare; it does workers little good to lose pride of contribution and self-efficacy.

If you’re an employer who doesn’t believe you can afford to train or retrain–think again, because you can’t afford not to. Can you afford to lose customers while you continue to search for the ideal employee? Can you afford to cut back on services while you search?

If you’re a worker who doesn’t believe you can afford to update your skills or retrain for another industry, think again…you can’t afford not to either. You must do one or more of these things:

1. Visit your local community college, and talk to a counselor; investigate their retraining programs for growth industries. Ask about loans and grant monies to pay for the training because it’s out there. It’s time to stop making excuses for why you can’t find work.

2. Get on the internet and find out what industries are growing and figure out your best path to invest in yourself and your (and your family’s) future. Visit The Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine what interests you, the education and training requirements for positions in that industry and how you can get that training. Another sound source of occupational information is O*Net; visit the site and investigate opportunities for a new direction.

3. Talk to a career coach or counselor to help you define a path. There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost services within any community if you look around. Check out faith-based and social service organizations; these are good sources of and good referrals for community career services.

Whether you’re an employer looking for skilled workers or a worker looking for stable employment, take another look at how you’re doing things. If you’re coming up short, making little headway in the employment marketplace and you want to dance, you have to pay the piper. Now’s the time.