As the year winds down and before you’re caught up in a flurry of social activities, set aside some time to take stock of 2017 and what you want to accomplish next year. The more proactive you are with your career goals, the more likely they will come to fruition. It’s worth a small investment of your time during this busy time of year.
This time every year, I write about maximizing your networking opportunities. It’s one of the most social times of year, so you’ve got multiple opportunities to network. And, yes, I know most people groan when I speak of networking. Few people enjoy walking into a room of strangers with the goal of making some key connections. But there is an easier, more organic way to network.
Networking is more about talking to people you already know. Sure, it’s great to make new connections, but you already have more people in your network than you realize. Let’s talk about how you maximize your existing connections during this uber-social time of year.
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE: Yes, this might be an obvious one, but with technology the way it is, it’s all too easy to ‘be social’ and sit at home behind the computer. The more people you naturally encounter, the more opportunities you have to get the word out that you are looking for a new job, or to advance your career. So, get out of the house and go SEE people.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY: It’s important to have your 30 second elevator pitch ready to go. Write it down and practice saying it until it becomes natural. You may ask, “What should be in my pitch?” Start with a descriptive sentence about your profession and experience. Follow that with specifics about your unique value proposition. End with your personal attributes that you are known for. That’s it. No more, no less. Just a brief overview. If they are interested, they’ll ask for more.
KNOW WHAT YOUR GOAL IS: If you don’t know what job you’re looking for, people can’t help you. It simply isn’t enough to ask “If you hear of anything I might be good at, please let me know.” If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how can you expect someone else to know? The more you can tell people about what you’re looking for, the easier it will be for them to help. “I’m looking for a senior accounting position in tech.” is a lot easier to help with than “I’m looking for a new job in accounting.” Sure, they know it’s accounting, but entry level or CFO? If you don’t know what career you should shoot for, hire a career coach. They will help you explore your skills, experience, and education to define an appropriate target (or two).
HAVE GREAT QUESTIONS TO ASK: Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Have a few questions prepared to start conversations. If you’re at a house party, simply ask “How do you know [the host]? Or if you’re at a public function of some sort, “Have you been to this event in the past?” See, they are very easy. The trick is to have them planned out in advance.
LISTEN: Listening is a skill we simply don’t maintain throughout our lives. While someone is answering the question we asked, we’re already thinking of the next question to ask. Or we’re waiting for them to stop talking so we can talk. STOP. BREATHE. LISTEN. You’ve asked someone a question. Be curious. Listen to their answer! Then ask a follow up question to their answer. If you asked them, “Where did you go for vacation this year?” Don’t just wait for them to stop so you can say where you went. Ask a follow up question. “Was it your first trip there?” or “Why did you pick that as your vacation spot?” See, it’s easy. People feel valued when they are listened to. If you value them, they will likely like you more, and therefore be more willing to help you in your search.
BE SINCERE: People can see right through someone who is just out for themselves. Sure, you are trying to push your own agenda, but remember everyone has value and the biggest part of networking is building relationships. And we all know, relationships are a two-way street. So, be sincere. Be truly interested in other people. Don’t make it all about you.
GO EASY: Don’t be too pushy or talk too much about your job search/strategy. After all, it’s a social event. Follow their lead. If they don’t ask follow up questions, leave the topic and move on to something else. If they are interested, they’ll ask you questions. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Forcing the issue in a social setting will only turn people off. You don’t know what kind of day they had. Maybe they want to forget about work for a while.
IT’S A MARATHON: Don’t expect anything to happen immediately. It’s not a sprint. Relationships take time. Invest in any new or existing relationships and you will see results in time. Sure, you may be desperate for a job to start bringing in income, but you can’t force it.
JUST DO IT: The best way to get good at anything is to practice. So just get out there and start. It may not be perfect the first time, but keep at it. Eventually, you will get the hang of it and have dozens of people helping you find that new opportunity.
More great resources for networking:
Managers have worked to achieve a certain level of success. Most often, that success comes about as a result of what they know and contribute to their organization. So, it’s natural, particularly for the new manager, to share that knowledge base with those who work with and for them. In many cases, this is a good thing. However, there is an immense benefit of not telling, but rather, asking questions and listening.
How many times in your career have your gone to your manager for help? You’re faced with something and you’re not sure how to proceed. Here are two different scenarios that can follow.
SCENARIO 1: Employee goes to manager. Employee asks manager question. Manager answers question. Employee goes away to execute said answer. The employee has learned two things: their manager always has the answer and the answer provided worked.
SCENARIO 2: Employee goes to manager. Employee asks manager question. Manager asks employee for their ideas about a solution. Employee thinks and offers a possible solution. Manager says, “Great, now go give it a try.” Employee leaves and tests their theory. One of two outcomes will ensue. Either the solution is successful or it is not. In both cases, however, the employee has learned and grown. They’ve learned to exercise judgement. They’ve learned it’s ok to take a risk, make a mistake and learn from that. They’ve also gained confidence. Another benefit of this scenario is that the employee will eventually come to the manager less often in search of an answer, leaving the manager more time to do her job.
The lesson here? Ask questions then LISTEN. As a manager, one of your key responsibilities is to develop those who report to you. In one of my former companies, the saying was “Hire people smarter than you so they can take your place, freeing you up to move up in the company.” A little self-serving? Sure, but think how that benefits your company.
I witnessed the benefit of this approach a few years ago when I was facilitating a workshop in a leadership development program. The key principle of this workshop was asking questions and listening. Several months later, one of the students in the class reached out to let me know she had received an award for best manager in her State’s region. She attributed much of that success to the workshop where she had learned to ask questions of her subordinates, listen and let them make their own decisions. As a result of this new approach, her subordinates learned, they were happier in their work, and she was free to do the work she needed to do.
So managers, when someone comes to you for an answer, simply ask them what they think. Listen. Then suggest they give it a try. It won’t always be perfect, but they will learn and in the long run, everyone benefits. They will grow, you will have a stronger, more capable team, and the company will reap the rewards.
It’s true. The holiday season is a time to focus on fun and festivities. It’s easy to let other things go. Things like finding that new job, or moving up in your current job. And it’s good to pull back a little, let yourself have some fun, and take things easy for a little bit. It’s good for the soul, enhances your personal relationships, and builds memories for the future.
It’s also just a month away from January, when so many people make resolutions or set goals for the New Year. While I’ve never been one to make New Year resolutions, I do set goals. And I think it’s important to do so. Having been a project manager in the past, goals require strategies and an action plan with milestones to ensure I’m making progress, staying on track, and make adjustments as needed.
So, let’s talk about how to have fun, but make sure you’re not caught off guard come January. Remember, January is the start of the fiscal year for most businesses. It’s the busiest hiring season of the year and it’s when many companies establish budgets. Hoping to get a promotion this year? Start now to earn it. Want a new job? There’s no better time to get started.
WANT THAT PROMOTION? It takes work and planning to earn a promotion. Do your aspirations align with those of your manager, or the company as a whole? Sit yourself down and identify what you want to achieve in the year. Then meet with your manager to review those ideas and discuss how you two can work together to keep you on track to achieving that goal. I’m a strong believer in Individual Development Plans. They lay out what you can do to continue enhancing your value to the company while working towards a promotion. They keep both you and your manager focused on the goal. And, most importantly in my mind, they provide you a record of what you’ve accomplished so that when review time comes, you’ve got a well laid out and documented trail of what you’ve accomplished. There is no better way to earn that promotion than to show and measure your value!
WANT THAT NEW JOB? Perhaps your New Year resolution this year is to change jobs. It’s becoming more and more common for people to change jobs frequently. There are many reasons for this, from gaining experience to earning more money. Regardless of the reason, it’s no longer viewed as a negative. If you’re ready to make a change in 2018, set yourself a goal. Determine the date that you want to secure that new job. Then get started! Update that resume. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is projecting the message and image you want recruiters to see. Changing focus on your career? Make sure that is reflected in both your resume and LinkedIn. Get out and network! 85% of jobs are still secured through networking and the ‘hidden job market’. And finally, how are those interview skills? Everything about the job search has changed over the past 5 – 10 years. Are you ready? And in case you’re wondering, yes, you should approach your job search in the order presented here. The very worst thing you can do is to start networking before your resume and LinkedIn profiles are updated. Like the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Make sure your first impression is the one you want.
So, while you’re kicking back just a little and enjoying the holidays, take a moment now and again to think about the future and put together a plan that will ensure you achieve your goal.
Happy holidays everyone!
Remember when you started your last job search campaign regretting that you'd let your resume and network get stale?
Now that you've landed that new job, don't let things slip. Here are a few reminders of things you should continue doing even when you're happily employed somewhere.
1. RESUME: Keep that resume current. As you have accomplishment stories, add them to your resume.
2. NEW COURSES AND CERTIFICATIONS: Make sure you add these to the resume.
3. LINKEDIN: Have you updated your profile with your new job? Are you staying active? Remember, just 5 minutes a couple times a week will keep your profile ranking up.
4. NETWORK: Are you staying engaged with your network? Don't let those connections you built during your job search go stale. Remember to go to your notifications section of LinkedIn and congratulate people for anniversaries, new jobs and birthdays.
Invest a little time on a regular basis. If/when the time comes to look for a new job, you'll be prepared and won't have to play catch up.
After months of applying, interviewing and chasing after that new job, you’ve received an offer! Congratulations! It is the end result of all your hard work. But wait! Is accepting this offer the right thing? Yes, it’s tempting, especially if you’re not working and this is the first offer to come along. But let’s take a closer look at some reasons you may want to decline.
Is the job you applied for the same job you interview for? This one sounds crazy, right? Well, it happens more often than you think. Just because you’ve gotten through the door and interviewed, doesn’t mean you have to stay in the running. Make sure the job you think they are offering is, indeed, the job you will get. Last year, a client accepted what she thought was a fabulous career opportunity only to discover the job was far beneath her abilities and a step backward in her career.
Did the job offer match the expectations they set? Is the offer they presented the same as they inferred during the interview process? More times than I like to acknowledge, I’ve seen a client offered less than the verbal salary range proffered during the interview process. What does this tell you? Did they lower your value in their eyes? Was it a bait and switch? Or perhaps the recruiter just spoke out of turn. Whatever the case, take a close look. Do you want to work for a company that doesn’t walk their talk?
Company Culture. I coach my clients heavily on developing a short list of ideal companies to pursue during the job search. Company culture plays a HUGE role in this. If you’re going to spend 40, 50 or 60 hours a week somewhere, don’t you want to make sure it’s a good fit? Throughout the interview process, be observant. How do people speak to one another? Do people appear happy? Stressed? Complacent? Do they stick to appointment times? Are they consistent in their messaging? If things don’t appear to be what they claim, run, don’t walk from that job offer. After all, they should be putting their best foot forward during the interview process. If they don’t, that’s a warning sign.
What does the total offer package look like? This is a tricky one, and one that many clients overlook. It’s easy to get enamored by a big paycheck. But wait! What is the cost of healthcare? What does that healthcare plan include? What’s your commute look like? Parking expenses? How much vacation and/or sick time do you accrue? One time, a client was offered a bigger paycheck, but by the time he factored in commute time and expense and increased insurance costs, he was actually making less than his old job. Before you ever start interviewing, sit down and write out what you need. Understand your bottom line. If you have a family, are they included in the healthcare plan and how much will that cost? If you’re used to 4 weeks of vacation and the new job only offers 2, can you live with that? Understand all the implications of the offer before accepting.
So yes, it’s tempting to accept any job offer so you can return to work. But wait. If you start a new job, you’ll likely feel compelled to stick with it for a while. What if you stop looking and miss out on a really great job that aligns with your career goals and values? It’s ok to say no. Starting, and getting stuck in the wrong job, will hurt you in the long run. Know what you expect from an employer, pay attention to the small details, and make the right choice. Sometimes that right choice is to decline the offer and continue your search.
Admit it. You are tired. You are frustrated. You are overworked, lacking free time, feeling underappreciated, your boss is less than a stellar leader, and a multitude of other common afflictions of the American workplace. I remember a colleague who refused to leave an absolutely horrendous job simply because he didn’t want to give up his 6 weeks accumulated vacation. To this day, I believe it’s more important to love the job you spend 40+ hours a week at than any amount of benefits. You spend more time at work than any other single pastime, even your family!
I’ve been that employee. Unhappy, uncertain about my future, knowing that I should move on, but uncertain or unwilling to make a change. That is, until I wised up. I reached a point where I wanted to love my work, to look forward to getting up and going to work every day. I’ve become accustomed to taking risks that I believed would bring me to a happier worklife, which in no small way, greatly enhanced my personal life. Here’s how:
That’s right. Like everything in life, settling is not the answer. You DESERVE to be happy at work, to be in a place where you thrive and are appreciated. Settling is undervaluing yourself. As Sheryl Sandberg says “Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better”. Take stock of your value, know your worth, understand your passion and GO FOR IT!
STOP BEING WHO YOU THINK OTHERS THINK YOU SHOULD BE
Another quote that I love comes from Brené Brown, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are”. Too many of us follow a path that our parents encouraged, or were taught to be loyal, to stick with it. Well, that just doesn’t hold true anymore. Your only obligation in life is to be true to yourself. You are a unique being. Nobody else has the unique combination of skills, traits and knowledge that you have. Follow YOUR heart, not anybody else’s.
DON’T BE AFRAID
I remember feeling stuck in a job that I knew wasn’t a good fit for me. The longer I stayed, the less confident I felt. The less confident I felt, the more I believed nobody would want to hire me. That just led me to stay in this job, continuing to feel less and less valuable, to believe in myself less and less until the day came that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’d reached a point where I either needed to leave, or I’d likely be asked to do so. The fear of being fired was stronger than my fear of failure on the job. I learned a valuable lesson here. Yes, it was painful, but I realized that pursuing the wrong job, or the wrong career, will only take me to a place where I not only won’t be happy, but I won’t be successful. Leaving that job, moving to another that was more suited for me was one of the best moves of my career.
YES, IT WILL TAKE TIME AND EFFORT
I won’t mince words here. I hate this excuse! Yes, it will take time before and after work, and probably on weekends. Yes, you’ll need to find ways to ‘sneak’ out of the office for clandestine interviews. But let’s face it, if you just stay where you are, you’re not going to end up where you want to be. And these days, jobs don’t come and jump in your lap. An average job application takes 2 hours per job. I used to get up an hour early every day to spend an hour on my job search. And it was worth it! I ended up with an extraordinary job that I loved!
I WON’T BE ABLE TO MAKE AS MUCH MONEY
Another excuse I have trouble accepting. Honestly? You’d rather live day in and day out in a miserable job, unhappy, drained, and frustrated than find a job that may pay a little less, but make you happy? I’ve lived this one too. I took a $15k drop in salary once. Sure, I had to tighten my purse strings and cut back some on my expenses. But you know what? I was HAPPY! And beyond that, because it was a better working environment, I learned and grew. I was given opportunities to take classes and go to conferences. All things my previous ‘well paying’ employer would not allow. Stop looking a just the salary. And really? Do you NEED the fancy car, the huge wardrobe, all those dinners out? Being happy is so much more valuable. And maybe, just maybe, you're wrong and there ARE jobs out there that will pay the same or more. Most people these days find the fastest way to improve their salary is to get a new job.
I’m sure you’ve heard a dozen more reasons people stay in bad jobs. What’s your least favorite?
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Success. Work-Life Balance. Two terms that are bandied about and widely discussed. Are they mutually exclusive? Is it possible to be ‘successful’ and achieve work-life balance? It’s a real problem for far too much of the working population. And many will tell you it’s not possible in today’s 50 - 70 hour a week work environment, but I beg to differ.
Let’s begin by defining each of these terms, and they are not easy terms to define because they are highly personal, meaning different things to different people.
SUCCESS: What does success mean to you? There are the trappings of corporate success. A six-figure salary. The corner office. A big title. Then there are the more intrinsic measures of success. Happiness. A life full of meaning. A simple life full of family and community. Maya Angelou defined success as “liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it". This definition resonates with me. ‘
WORK-LIFE BALANCE: This is another definition fraught with interpretation. There are people who indeed ARE their job. Their identity is WHAT they do. And, they are happy. Most definitions I found in researching this blog, referred only to the amount of time you spent working. They all focused on ‘work’. I prefer going back to the origin of the term ‘work-life balance’ from the mid 1801s, when Paul Krassner provided his definition of happiness as “to have as little separation as possible between your work and your play”.
There was a time in my life where I recognized my life had become my career, leaving little room for anything else. Yes, I had recognition. Yes, I had financial rewards. But I had little else, and I do not define myself by my work, so I wasn’t happy. I was exhausted, emotionally drained, empty. I made the choice to leave my job in tech and pursue work in non-profit. While I took a reduction in salary, I still made a comfortable enough income, and was able to pursue personal pursuits and live a life that was fuller. To me, this meant a more ‘successful’ life, a life that allowed me to be happy. I will admit, it’s a struggle to maintain a balanced life. As an entrepreneur, I do find myself at times, working far too many hours. But, I constantly work to keep it in check. ‘Play time” and my personal life nurture a very important side of me, one that keeps me happy, content and energized to continue doing my work.
In my coaching work, I run into people all the time who are either seeking a new job to find that balanced life, or work with me to seek ways to balance their personal pursuits with the job they have. In the end, I believe Krassner had it right. The less your work is separated from who you are, the happier you will be at work. And very likely, you’ll perform your work better, and most likely with more ease, allowing you to put in fewer hours so you can attend to your personal life. This is at the core of my work. I truly believe far too many people have not found that work that ‘is’ them, that work that comes so naturally that it doesn’t feel like work. I used to be an accountant. It was PAINFUL! I was a top student and performed well, but the nature of the work completely stripped my soul. As a result, I was miserable, underperforming and scared. Only when I discovered my true calling, educating and coaching, did my work become, and I hesitate to use the word, easy. Easy because what I do now is who I am. I can’t separate helping people find happiness from the person I am. As a result, I love my work and most days, it barely feels like work. As a result, I don’t end my day mentally and physically exhausted, unable to get off the couch. No, I am energized most days and eager to engage in personal pursuits. This is what I wish for everyone.
So, no magic bullets here. It takes effort, reflection and time to discover the answer that works for you. It may be the 60 hour work week. For many, that is their happiness. But life is short and you spend more time each day at work than doing anything else, so if you’re not happy, if your life is out of sorts, do the work to make a change and discover the life that you are meant to live….happily. And that is success!
After all your hard work, applying for job after job and networking like crazy, you’ve landed that great career opportunity! Take a moment and savor this time. You’re about to enter the honeymoon phase. You know that time. It starts when you accept the offer and typically runs for 3 -6 months. During that time, you’re in heaven: learning a new job, learning a new culture and coworkers, getting comfortable with what’s expected of you. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. You arrive home each night happy and tired from everything being so new. Enjoy this time! It’s sweet. But for many, it passes far too quickly. Sometimes, and all too quickly, some of the same things that drove you from your old job crop up, or the new environment isn’t quite what you’d hoped it would be. Worse yet, the culture isn’t how it was represented to you. So, what do you do?
After 20 years of being an employee myself, and now as a career coach, I see many different scenarios play out. The following are the three most common, and I spend much of my time coaching clients who have successfully landed a new job, but recognize there is continuing work they need to do.
Andrea's passion is to see you achieve your dreams. Whether you are a corporate leader seeking leadership development for your employees or an individual seeking life and career changes, she will coach you to success.