Category Archives: Career
When I worked in HR (in a previous lifetime), I had an employee come to me extremely agitated. He had reached his boiling point – for three years, he had secretly felt zero respect for his manager. And he simply could not tolerate another day of taking direction from her. He decided that he needed to tell her how he felt. As he sat in my office telling me what he was going to say to her the next morning in this big “Come to Jesus” meeting, I let him vent a while before I interrupted him.
“So… What result are you after?” I asked. “When you tell her that you haven’t respected her for the last three years, that you cringe every time you get a directive from her, that you disagree with her strategic plan for the department, what exactly are you expecting?”
My question stopped him. I could see him really thinking… and I knew he was just having an emotional reaction. In my head, I was thinking, “If the result he wants is to end his career tomorrow, he’s got a solid plan”.
Since then, I’ve asked this question a lot. And it applies to a lot of situations. When a friend can’t decide between two options, I ask what result they are after. That usually helps the person get clarity on which option is best. When a situation is messy and needs some kind of resolution, asking what result you are after helps identify exactly how to proceed.
That employee REALLY wanted to tell his boss off. But the result he truly wanted? Well, it wasn’t to get fired or “managed out”. What he really wanted was to report to someone else. Anyone else. When I explained that this little fantasy wasn’t possible at that time, he opted to resign the next day. When I got him to be honest about what he REALLY wanted, what result he was REALLY after, his plan changed.
Every situation is about making a choice. What guides that choice? The result you want.
I once had a manager who just couldn’t say no. Whatever people requested of our team, she gave an enthusiastic “Sure!” without any regard to current workload or business demands. She was an order taker, not a manager.
In my most overwhelmed, burned out moments, having collapsed under unrealistic promises made on my behalf without consulting with me first, I had an epiphany along with that bottle of wine I was downing.
I didn’t want her to say “no” to these requests. I wholly agreed with 99% of them and felt that every single one was a legitimate need. What I needed was for her to negotiate the yes.
This is something I do all the time in managing my work. When a request is made of my time or skills, I inevitably say yes. But it doesn’t stop there. I may work with the requester to modify what actually gets delivered, in what timing, or how it gets delivered. 90% of the time, the requester is reasonable and works with me for that mutual win/win.
You may request an emergency apple pie for tomorrow, but if I can get you all the ingredients, a recipe on how to make it yourself and a baker to call with any questions this afternoon, you’re probably going to be agreeable to that solution if I explain that I am baking 20 custom pies for the CEO all day. (Let’s blame this weird scenario on writing this at 4 am – you get the point).
I find that when people make a request, they usually have a few delusions about it. They are delusional about how urgent it TRULY is. They are oblivious to what is actually involved in making the request happen. They have weird fantasies about how it should be magically done. They may be unaware of what is contingent on making it successful/viable. Most importantly, people tend to ask for way more than they actually need to get the result they want.
It’s my job to evaluate the request, determine the best approach/solution and make that recommendation. It’s my job to take command of the request and employ my subject matter expertise. Looking to feel more empowered in your job or life? This is exactly how to do it.
Sometimes “no” simply isn’t an option. And that’s perfectly fine. But negotiating the yes is worth embracing so we are truly in command of our own lives – our precious time, energy and attention.
Many candidates make the mistake of treating their resume as solely a summary of their professional background. Your resume is much more than what you bring to the table. Your resume represents a demonstration of your skills, abilities and business acumen.
Do you realize that your resume is the first work product you provide to a potential employer? This is why employers are turned off when they see typos, poorly constructed sentences and inconsistent formatting. Most professions require you to have strong communication skills. Therefore, it is critical that your resume demonstrates your ability to present important information clearly, concisely, and professionally.
Don’t have an eye for aesthetics or the wordsmith mastery of a professional writer? Seek the help of a resume expert or take the time to study professionally written resumes.
Take a hard look at your resume and ask yourself whether it truly represents the quality of the work you will do for a new company. Is it customized for the position you are applying for? If so, it shows you are going above and beyond – which is exactly what an employer wants to see in your very first work product.
Your resume is an indicator of how savvy you really are in technology. If you don’t know Word very well, it will be obvious by your resume. Your resume shows the employer how strong your basic computer skills are. Employers expect candidates to have solid skills in basic programs like Word. If you need to develop skills in this area, check out www.lynda.com for tutorials in a wide variety of software programs.
If your career involves design, communication or presentation, your resume will show your level of talent in those areas. Does your resume look good? Read easily? Is it well written? Remember, this is the first sample of your work that the employer is seeing.
If your resume has long sentences, big blocks of dense text, small margins and excessive use of italics, they won’t have much faith in your ability to communicate effectively and professionally.
Your resume is an executive summary. Craft your resume with the assumption that a senior executive (or a recruiter with 30 seconds) will be reading it. Don’t write your resume as a series of past job descriptions. Avoid the temptation to show the entire scope of what you’ve done over your career.
Employers aren’t impressed by the scope of what you’ve done; they are impressed by the relevance of what you’ve done. Eliminate fluff, obvious details, and anything totally unrelated to the needs of the company or position. Don’t tell the whole story; keep the details relevant (and save something to discuss in the interview).
Too much detail and fluff distracts the reader from catching your key selling points. A few missing details may be exactly what is needed to prompt a phone call to learn more about you – which is exactly the result you want.
Many people wonder why nothing happens after they send out a slew of resumes. Take a moment and assess your resume against these considerations. The resume says quite a bit about you as a candidate, so make sure it demonstrates what you truly bring to the table.
Over the last few years, I did a fair amount of contract/freelance work to segue into a new field, which I did successfully.
The first thing I discovered with contract work was that I had to prove myself every single day. I had to go above and beyond, literally, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Why? Because at the time I was doing this, the economy was in a terrible state. A lot of people were fighting for the work I was miraculously getting; people who did it cheaper, better, faster. I was in a coveted spot on many occasions – and I had to protect that.
At the start of each contract job, I committed to doing the best work of my life for that project. I decided to go above and beyond every day. How many regular employees actually do that? They don’t. Why would they? Nothing bad happens if they don’t perform one day. Most managers don’t even notice.
But those days add up. And at some point, those managers DO notice.
For me, anything less than my best meant future work could be offered to someone else. They could cut me any time, for any reason. I also wanted to be the first person they contacted for new projects. My strategy worked. I found myself in a few situations where I had the privilege of turning work down.
I’m in a “regular” job now, but this is still how I define my work ethic today. I seek to prove myself every single day. It’s my professional reputation in my field and inside my company. And I love the work I do and the quality of what I produce.
I challenge you to ask yourself – honestly – what has defined and influenced your work ethic?
Are you truly doing the best work of your life? Would your company choose to re-hire you every day?
If you don’t like the answer – take this as a nudge… Even if you hate your job, work feels awesome when you do it phenomenally well. You might hate the experience, but you can empower yourself to change HOW you experience it.
A good example of people who mastered doing the “best work of their lives”. 🙂
Yesterday my neighbor had a water leak. When the plumbers knocked on my door to see if there was any damage to my place, I clearly didn’t look thrilled as I greeted them. Despite the pouty welcome, they formally introduced themselves, explained the situation and asked if they may come in to check things out.
What struck me first was how professionally they introduced themselves. If I hadn’t seen the plumbing truck behind them and their kneepads, I would have thought they were real estate agents hitting me up for my dinky condo (which shockingly, does occur).
Not only were they very thorough in their inspection, but when I asked questions they explained things to me beautifully, in ways that this girl (who goes totally deaf upon any discussion of home improvement matters) can actually understand.
Before they left, I asked them about a sulfur smell I had noticed from one of my sinks. They came back inside, looked at it, told me exactly what was wrong, and fixed it for me. It took all of five minutes.
They didn’t have to do this for me.
I am sure they have already forgotten about me. But when they left my house, I smiled, because they have no idea who I am.
I am the girlfriend of an executive of a Property Management REIT. The girlfriend of a executive who could give them millions of dollars worth of business and who has the power to make that decision.
They impressed me. So much that I felt inspired to ask my boyfriend to consider them for future business based on my brief – and yet highly impressive – experience with them.
Those ten minutes could turn into $10 million dollars worth of business over the years.
They had no idea who I am. And yet, they treated me the same way contractors do when they DO know who I am. (Like a tiny princess with a dragon that could kill you).
It reminded me of the power of treating others well, of going above and beyond in all we do. The power of carrying oneself with class, receiving others with kindness and compassion, treating everyone as someone who can have life changing impact on you.
You may never know who that person is and here’s why: People won’t unveil who they are unless they see the best in you first.
Relentlessly impressing others opens doors. It may be your stellar attitude, your impeccable service, your well-crafted talent, the sharp way you dress – or the way you treat everyone like they are the most important person in the world when they walk in the room.
You can turn 10 minutes into $10 million dollars. Do the little things that count.
First, a definition: “Netsuckers” are people who consume others by voraciously extracting everything they possibly can from them without giving anything in return.
Interestingly enough, Netsuckers usually know a lot of people. They’ve managed to corner almost all of them at some point in time. They probably have a good sized network, lots of connections and friends (online at least).
But who is really in that network? People who politely agreed to connect online (it is hard to say no to that, isn’t it?).
Will those connections refer business, job opportunities, send links, reference Mr. Netsucker’s blog and RT his tweets? Will they want to introduce others to the Netsucker?
The ugly truth is that the Netsucker usually has a big, empty network. What good is a huge network of people who find you annoying or who barely remember who you are? Isn’t that a bit counterproductive? Ever go to a meeting and have someone whisper, “Avoid that guy. He’ll talk your ear off.”? Or have someone ask you how you know Bob Popsticker, and you barely even recognize the name much less how you met?
Many people are chasing huge networks right now. Instead of creating a huge network of people who don’t really know you (or who find you annoying), put your attention toward creating a network of people who will champion for you, vouch for you, promote you, etc. That is where the real power from having a network comes from.
If the people in your network aren’t doing those things for you (and vice versa!) they might as well not even be in your network. In fact, if they don’t or won’t speak highly of you, you want them OUT of your network.
When someone says, “So you know Susie?”, you do not want them shifting their eyes and hesitating awkwardly. Or worse, they respond with, “Yeah, I know her. She calls me every two months asking if we’re hiring. I saw her portfolio and I wasn’t impressed.”
These conversations happen all the time. If I vouch for someone who I know does shoddy work, I am going to look and feel like a moron – especially if the person I’m speaking to is a friend or someone I really respect. I end up sacrificing the trust of the relationship I want to maintain.
An empty network, no matter how big, will not serve you – or your connections – nearly as well as a small, powerful one where the individuals are actively championing and proudly promoting each other. Word of mouth or a personal recommendation is the best doorway you can get or give to another.
Don’t sacrifice a small, powerful network for a huge, empty one.
Ask yourself this – where are you putting all your energy? Are you building an empty network or a powerful one?
Is it time to do your annual performance review? Planning on going to your manager to ask for a promotion? Just got laid off and need to start sending resumes out?
If you keep a victory file at work, all of these things will be much easier for you.
Keep a file at work where you keep track of everything you do in your job that counts as an accomplishment, result, win, compliment or success. I keep stuff in two places: a file folder in my desk and a folder in my email account for all the electronic stuff.
Keep everything from an email saying, “You’re awesome!” to work you have designed or developed. Keep reports showing your numbers/stats, copies of presentations you make and emails you send out that showcase your talents (i.e., presenting a business case, or handling a difficult situation). I once kept a binder of every single job aide and tool I created for managers and employees. It was like a portfolio of my work, expertise and knowledge. Basically, keep a copy or record of anything that shows that you have 1) done your job, or 2) done your job extremely well.
When it comes time for your review, take out these files and literally just pull the information you want to include. If you want to ask for a promotion or a raise, you have a file full of evidence that supports your case. If you get laid off or fired unexpectedly, you have all your job history right there and can easily build your resume by taking items in your file and crafting them into bullet points.
And if you happen to having a rough day, flip through your victory file to help put things in perspective. It’ll probably cheer you up a little, remind you of some great things that you had forgotten that you had done, and will pump up your confidence. At the very least, it will remind you that someone out there thinks you are awesome.