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Archive for the ‘Careers’ Category

“In the Future, You Will Know Everything You Wish to Know”

In ! Jen, Careers, Development, Learn on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm

This is a Good article about information, and it has a heady title: “In the Future, You Will Know Everything You Wish to Know.”

Increasingly, those in the industrialized world who lament not knowing how to do X are going to be perceived as passive, whiny or unresourceful. The value and validity of resources on the interwebs will, of course, always be in question. That unknown factor and the need for critical skepticism will only grow.

But all the same, if we want to know something badly enough, we’ll be able to find it. And so it goes with development.

I recently met with someone outside work who had asked her manager for assistance on who to network with: she wanted to learn more about business development. The manager didn’t know. So the search stopped there. Firstly, great that the woman asked for help. But chances are, if the search stopped there, she’d self-selected herself out of who-knows-what opportunities.

With the luxury of so much information readily available, not to mention extensive people networks, comes empowerment. S’long, excuses!

Working With A Boss You Don’t Trust

In ! Jen, Careers, Change, Employee Tips, General Work on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 3:33 am

A friend recently asked for advice on working with her manager whom she doesn’t trust. I immediately started sharing ways she could try to reestablish trust and she cut me off. Things were too far-gone, she said. She had been there, done that. Now she just needed survival advice: how could she work day-to-day with this manager she didn’t trust—someone who would never, ever, win her trust? Polling a few friends who specialize in this area, we came up with 16 ways:

  1. Start planning your exit strategy. If you feel the trust damage is irreparable, you cannot continue to work for this manager. You must start planning your graceful exit. This will: a) navigate routes for you to get out of there, and b) increase your confidence and spirits in no insignificant way. This one current job is not the alpha and omega. Most importantly, your confidence will improve when you start envisioning a better situation.
  2. Depersonalize this. To the extent that you have made a good faith effort to make this work, as you bide your time looking for another job, take your boss’s behavior less personally. It’s not you, it’s him. You’re likely not the first, and sadly, you’re likely not the last to have this experience with him.
  3. Don’t gossip. Don’t engage in any gossip about your boss. Don’t engage in any gossip with the boss. If the boss initiates—or if anyone initiates gossip about your boss, change the subject or walk away. Don’t acknowledge, agree, or disagree on whatever the deets are—just get away.
  4. Document expectations. After meetings and after key events, follow up with an email to your boss that recaps your conversation. “As we discussed earlier this afternoon, I’ll be providing you with the following deliverables by the end of the week.” This is a good practice in general, but when you’re concerned about not getting credit, or getting slammed for doing something wrong, you need to protect yourself by ensuring you understand what’s expected of you, and leaving a little paper trail to which you can refer back.
  5. Ask regularly: am I meeting your expectations? Ask this on a specific activity, project, and in general. Doing this has at least two significant advantages. First, it invites feedback that may be valuable—feedback that may or may not have been shared without your first soliciting it. Secondly, it pieces together a fuller picture of your performance. Presumably, you’ll address negative feedback straightaway, so you’ll be on a positive feedback path
  6. Focus on behaviors. Ask for examples. Get as specific as possible. Don’t focus on internal motivations or intentions. What you see and deliver is what counts right now.
  7. Get stakeholder feedback. Collect kudos from people you work with, internal customers and clients, and ensure your manager is aware of your good performance from others’ perspectives. Do this with understated elegance, however. If you slather it on, it’ll have the extreme opposite effect of being attractive information. You want to give your manager a well-informed, multiperspective picture of the value you bring to the organization.
  8. Underpromise, overdeliver. Turn it on to 11 and really shine in your performance. Don’t be a clockroach and don’t have your performance just “get by.”
  9. Don’t act like a victim. This situation is not your identity. God forbid your manager is one of those people who gets a sadistic thrill out of inflicting grief on others. But don’t hand over your power by showing your resentment or fear.
  10. Derive what you’re getting out of this. Get outside your head and try to be clinical about what you’re experiencing. It may not feel like it now, but think of your boss and working with him as being a good story you’ll tell in a future interview. The story of how you remained the consummate professional and did your best work while working with a challenging manager.
  11. Invest in your development. When your boss says “you need to work on XcompetencyX,” don’t argue the point. Find a powerful seminar that addresses that perceived deficiency, one that is known for parallel power networking. In my hometown of Chicago, we have the Executives Club and Economic Club among others, which have a solid reputation—and intimidating power player member and event attendee lists. Get there and…
  12. Network your heart out! It doesn’t matter what level or what position you are. Be prepared with at least five intelligent & relevant things to share and you can make yourself memorable. Always have business cards or personal networking cards on your person.
  13. Remember your priorities. Keep pics of your family and friends in your office/cube to remind you of what’s really important. Start a gratitude journal: simply writing what you are grateful for on a daily basis. Contribute in other ways by volunteering in your community and giving back. This job experience does not define you unless you let it.
  14. Disconnect trust and respect. You don’t have to trust your manager. You don’t have to respect your manager as a person. But you do have to respect his position, level and authority. At least until you’re out from under his management. Compartmentalize these two things and you’ll find it easier to deal with him.
  15. Report legitimate harassment. If your manager’s engaging in legitimate harassment, you must tell someone. Keep in mind, there is no legal protection from asshole behavior. However, if it is conduct of a sexually harassing nature, or legitimately harassing nature, consult with HR or the Policy Hotline, or someone internally in a position of power you trust. Approach your concern in as objective a manner as possible—your credibility is on the line, too. And keep in mind there were scads of people before you who have brought forward concerns of questionable merit. Stick to the observable facts, be prepared, and stay emotionally neutral. Hysterics, histrionic flailing and melodrama will erode your content credibility. (Sorry, just being honest.) Just give your employer a chance to correct the problem. At minimum, ask for suggestions on what you can do to help your situation. Everyone likes someone willing to take action himself.
  16. Don’t perpetuate the madness. Take from Shakespeare’s line in Romeo & Juliet: “he was as civil as an orange.” Strive to be always civil and professional. Take solace in knowing that everyone ultimately gets their comeuppance. In your next job, release the baggage of the former….get your wings stronger and fly!

We Are All Self Employed

In ! Kristy, Branding, Careers, Development, Employee Tips, Leaders, Learn, Listen on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:09 am
This quote floated by me recently and stuck with me. I’ve been re-quoting it to people, but I’ve completely forgotten who said it to me originally. (If it was you, please take credit!) While moodling over the concept for this post, I googled the phrase and found that it’s the title of a book by Cliff Hakim, who coined this phrase back in 1994. I’m going to read the book to see how Cliff defines this phrase, but in the meantime here’s how I’ve been thinking about this concept of self-employment and what it means in 2009.
 
Loyalty is dead
The era of lifetime employment has been over for years, but our thinking about careers and jobs still reflects this outdated mindset. We still worry about being seen as a job-hopper, and we still hang on for as long as we can in a terrible job because we’re waiting to be vested in the retirement plan. Here’s a hard question to ponder: Your organization does not have YOU as its top priority; why would you have the organization as YOUR top priority?  Fitness center and holiday luncheon aside, your organization would lay you off if it made financial sense, and many of us have now experienced the effects of that decision first-hand.
 
I’m not proposing that we all slack off and surf Monster at work. Integrity demands that we earn our paycheck and give our employer our best efforts. I’m also not saying that we should treat the organization as The Man who is out to get us at every turn. It’s great to work for a thriving company that values its employees and treats them well, and it’s great to feel that you are having a “great run,” as a good colleague of mine puts it.  I will go Zen for a moment and remind you that the bad times don’t last forever… and neither do the good times.
 
Being self-employed means proactively shaping the environment at your current employer, and not being afraid to move on if you’re not getting what you need.
 
Branding is Imperative
“And what do YOU do?” The quintessential cocktail party question reveals a great deal about a person’s professional self-concept.  Inevitably, a certain percentage of partygoers will respond to this question with the statement, “I work for Company X” — especially if Company X has a well-known, respected, sexy brand. 
 
A primary identification with an employer can work against you in two ways. First, when managing your career within the organization, it doesn’t differentiate you. Everyone around you can use the exact same line. You’ve got to be able to clearly articulate how you add value in order to market yourself for current and future opportunities. Second, when managing your career over the course of your working life, it limits your thinking about your career to a list of employers and positions.
 
Branding, on the other hand, is about what you decided to be when you grew up. It’s about your personal niche, your calling, your strengths, and how what you do brings measurable, differentiated value to your customers. Being self-employed involves growing your brand. It means being engaged in a constant process of evolving your unique skillset and applying it to a variety of customers, one of whom happens to be your current employer.
   
What this means for you as a professional
If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, take some time to figure that out. If you don’t want to decide that right now, at least decide what you want to give back to the world in the next 3-5 years. Create a statement of professional value that helps others understand what it is you bring to the table. 
 
Mine is in process, and it’s way too conceptual, but here it is in draft form: I am passionate about blowing up outdated notions about working and leading, and creating new ways to get good work done by good people. My next step is to take Judy Murdoch’s advice and articulate what this means in very practical, concrete terms. I welcome your feedback and I’ll post revisions as they happen.
 
What this means for you if you manage people or lead a function or business 
Become OK with being your employees’ current customer. Odds are they won’t retire from your company and they’ll have a long and satisfying career with several employers. So relax a little and do everything you can to help them have a “great run” at your company for as long as it’s mutually beneficial. Don’t throw the Loyalty Card if they decide to move on; instead, add them to your professional network and create a new post-employment relationship where you can support each others’ long-term success.
 
Branding resources & articles
Brett L. Simmons has created a set of videos that I’m currently working my way through
 
How about you?  Have you articulated your brand?  How has your professional identity changed over the past 1o years? 
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