Many times we rely on intentions that don’t get us anywhere. There is something in many of us that makes us think we can skip goal setting and just get straight to execution when we want to accomplish something big. Too often our intentions are greater than our actions. Our ideas stay in our head or become the focus of some heavy conversations, but not much more happens. Three years later we may find ourselves still thinking or talking about the same ideas without any evidence of an attempt to make them tangible.
Sometimes it might be fear holding us back, or sometimes just plain laziness. Whatever the reason for not sitting down and plotting out our actions, the result is the same: nothing happens. I’m not sure that analyzing the cause takes us much closer to taking action, but analyzing the results should.
A common response to many tough projects is to try to save time by diving in the middle of it without thinking through steps or timelines. This may produce more than not taking any action at all, but it can also lead to wasted time and disappointment. Have you ever received a package of “easy-to-assemble” furniture? Did you start off by putting pieces together, only to find out that they don’t fit right? Did you then go back and read the instructions, only to learn you had put the pieces together backwards? Imagine how much easier it would have been and how much time would have been saved if you had just followed the directions.
A really big goal can be overwhelming. So much so, you may end up doing absolutely nothing. If you take your big goal and establish a very realistic time frame for accomplishing it, the first burden is now off your shoulders. The next step is to determine exactly what each action step is, from start to finish. This part of the process may seem tedious, but it is really the most critical. By listing each and every thing that has to be done, the reality of each step is visible and also much more doable. You can plan timelines much more accurately and track your progress to make sure your target dates for hitting key milestones are closer to reality.
A really big goal can be overwhelming
Goal setting is not really a complicated process. Making a change of any type includes a specific goal, and the process is roughly the same: take stock of where you are and compare that to your goal, assess your own behaviors, influencers and resources, determine where you want to be and set a goal. Then write the recipe (action steps) for getting there.
Let’s use weight loss as an example because the concept is simpler for many people to grasp than trying to imagine an as-of-yet undefined goal to make a career change. Needing to lose 50 pounds can be completely overwhelming when you focus on the total loss required. Losing one pound a week is a much easier objective to see and imagine, and a plan to accomplish that is much more doable. The process required to accomplish the weekly one-pound weight loss is far more sustainable than trying to imagine which new diet you can rely on to lose 50 pounds quickly. The following simple example illustrates how much easier things can be when they are thought out in advance and when simple step-by-step actions are defined.
- Record and examine your current status. Evaluating exactly what you are doing and where you are is a fundamental point for getting started. On one hand, tracking exactly what you eat each day for two weeks will tell you what you are currently doing. On the other, you will need to record your current physical activities each week (or lack thereof). It’s important to analyze your habits and record the actual number of calories you take in and the number of calories you burn to show you what you are currently doing to sustain your current weight.
- Evaluate potential changes. On your own or with a doctor or nutritionist, you can examine what can change; e.g., trading a handful of potato chips for a couple of carrot sticks to decrease calories. At the same time, on your own or with a personal trainer, you can examine your activities and determine what you can add to increase your calories burned. Making minor changes and plotting out exactly what you expect to do as an activity each week is much more likely to make the process doable and successful. Making small changes over a period of time helps you build new habits.
- Develop your plan. Outline what foods you will start incorporating into your diet. Schedule your activities. Set yourself up to succeed by making sure your activities are added to your calendar so you can be aware of how they fit with your work schedule and family time.
- Get started. The time to begin is when you can see exactly what you need to do, one day at a time. Record your results and recognize when your choices work and don’t work.
Instead of delaying your weight loss because it seems overwhelming or setting an unrealistic goal of achieving a 50-pound weight loss in three weeks, get started with a plan that allows you to sustain small changes that you develop into habits. Instead of eating only alfalfa sprouts and water and working out every day for four hours to lose 50 pounds in three weeks, you will have designed an actionable plan with a more realistic timeline that will allow you to lose 50 pounds over the course of a year. The change will be gradual and much easier than committing to something extreme. Your weight is much more likely to remain where you want it.
Whether you want to change your health or your career, enlisting the help of a professional is going to make the process smoother, and you will have support when your plan seems too hard to carry out. In order to make a career change, the same process has to be followed: record and examine your status, evaluate potential changes, develop a plan for making a desired change and get started. Looking at job postings expecting to find the perfect job to save you from your current plight is no different than expecting to find a magic pill to lose 50 pounds.
Everyone has dreams. Have you wished for an increase in pay or a better workplace? Dreamed of travelling to foreign lands? Aching to buy a house or build a treehouse? Without thoughtful consideration about what it will take, it’s unlikely that your dreams will come true, short of stumbling across a genie in a magic bottle … a pretty unlikely scenario.
It’s probably safe to say that people who establish goals and action plans for achieving their dreams are far more likely to realize them than those who don’t. So why then do so many people believe that all they really need is a lucky break? With some effort and longer-term planning, there is more within your own power to help you get where you want to go than you may think. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and trackable) goals can provide the structure you need to move forward.
Ask yourself: “what’s stopping me?”
Give your dream an examination. Ask yourself: “what’s stopping me?” Consider every detail of what it would take from inception through to realization. Using a treehouse as an example, think of exactly what it would take from start to finish.
Be specific about each and every aspect. If you haven’t picked the tree, then include what the tree needs to look like and where it needs to be located. Imagine what it will look like as you climb in it and what you will do in it. Find photos that will help you visualize exactly what you want to see. Getting clarity about what you want before you take action is critical.
List every single detail that is required, such as researching ideas, locating materials, drawing construction plans and the actual construction itself. When you have included every single step in your list, it’s time to create a schedule for completing each phase. Then pull out the calendar and put your money where your mouth is. Commit to the days and times you will complete each and every task. Unless you are clear about when and how each task will get done, you are only dreaming that things will happen as you hope they will.
You may be wondering how building a treehouse relates to capturing a better job or starting a business. It’s pretty simple. Although the outcome may be different, the process is the same. From your first thought or idea to your end result, each step can be listed and planned out, with benchmarks set for completing each.
Your desired outcomes are more likely to be achieved if you establish goals and set timelines for achieving them. Identifying the kind of work or work environments that make you happy, determining what is financially possible and developing a strategy for obtaining what you want are all key components in changing career paths.
If you need help visualizing a specific outcome, seeing the broader picture beyond your current circumstances or understanding the market, then it may be time for you to call in a professional to help you. Just as an architect or designer can help with your dream house, a career coach can help you visualize a new role and develop a career plan. If you have previously made random runs at new positions and not gotten the results you want, it should be getting clearer. Throwing spaghetti at the wall rarely works.
The fearlessness expressed by a very young person with limited life experience can be viewed as innocence. It’s very different from an adult’s fearlessness or refusal to face reality if their viewpoint is based on arrogance. When an adult refuses to look around them and consider taking action based on market conditions, their ability to compete and their unmet commitments, it is probably safe to say that arrogance is driving them to make bad choices. Big egos and dreams of what used to be can dim the prospects of even the brightest stars.
Big egos and dreams of what used to be can dim the prospects of even the brightest stars.
It’s still a surprise to me when people who have been unemployed for months – maybe years – are still so concerned about titles that they’ll pass over opportunities to get back on their feet. Even when spending their last nickel, there is hesitancy to proceed with a lifeline (job) because of the consideration given to a title and a salary that are less than what they were accustomed to, no matter how long ago that might have been. OK, I understand that pride sometimes keeps people from doing work they consider as “beneath” them, but when their financial situation is grave, shouldn’t just plain common sense tell you that having a paycheck and saving your home or maintaining your family’s health insurance should be a priority? It’s times like this that a 5th grader’s unclouded perspective might simply lead us to “It’s a job and you need money. Why wouldn’t you go for it?” An answer lies somewhere in between.
Waiting for a high-powered role with a huge income to miraculously appear after years of unemployment may cause repercussions that cannot be remedied. Some people have spent years hiding behind the title of “consultant,” pretending they are still performing work at the level they were 10 years ago. This approach can end up backfiring if you are unable to provide examples of the projects you have been working on. Credibility can be lost and bridges burned that otherwise could have led to some work that could possibly mitigate the financial issues.
Easing back into work in a lesser position after an extended absence allows you to get accustomed to the rigors of a schedule and shake the rust off. As an example, recently, when a client was preparing for an interview for a lower-level role than he had been accustomed to, he told me he hadn’t ever interviewed for something “beneath” him. Given the need to have structure, manageable work and an income, I suggested reframing the situation by viewing this as an opportunity to interview for something that required less than 100% of what he had to offer. Giving less (even with less pay) can fulfill some basic needs, like having a steady income and working regular hours close to home. If the job requires only 50% of your brain and 75% of your time, you can maximize your energy and time to focus on something more interesting outside of the job. And, if the role is the gateway to something bigger down the road, there’s no need to shoot yourself in the foot by overspeaking the role or referencing it as something that is “beneath” you.
Being the exact fit for the needs of the role allows you to get back on the horse because a door has been opened. If there is opportunity to grow, then you’ve positioned yourself to prove just how much you can contribute and set yourself up for a reason to negotiate more money later. Too much too soon can miss the mark because there may not be a budget for more now and they have not been able to experience your value.
Someone’s somewhat skewed view of their current circumstances doesn’t deter me from working with them to help them move forward. It’s my job to help them view things differently, develop a strategy and create a plan to achieve their goals. Any employer will want to see evidence of what a candidate has been doing. Without it, a candidate is probably not going to land back in the driver’s seat in a role similar to what they left 10 years earlier. I’m not saying it could never happen, but from my 20 years of experience, for most people who take an extended hiatus without working on projects related to what they used to do (paid or as a volunteer), it’s highly unlikely they’ll be considered for the same role/level that they left behind years before.
The real prize role may not happen immediately, but we can certainly develop a plan for getting back on top within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes it is hard to see beyond our own self-image. The role that feels like an insult to our ego may just be the right opportunity to begin getting back on track.
If you are thinking this is a dumb question, you may want to think again. Unless you are aware of the circumstances that led to your layoff or termination and are also very clear about your current market value, you’ll be unable to craft a strategy for moving forward. Although statistics may show there are more jobs available this year, what you actually do and how you do it will play a significant part in determining whether you will be selected for one of the more attractive jobs that are currently available. It takes more than an alluring resume or a newly acquired certification to compete in prime markets.
The first step in developing your strategy for becoming re-employed is to understand your former and potential employers’ perspectives.
Being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and working on the areas that have created challenges in the past will help you prepare for the pursuit of your next role or next project. No matter what you know how to do, a new employer (or customer) will still expect you to share examples of how you have applied your knowledge and will want to see evidence of the results you produced.
If you are ready to get to the root of the issues you may be avoiding and start to take a turn in a better direction, the following steps will help you get a handle on your search for work.
Set clear goals. Without a clear vision of what you want, it is impossible to develop a path for getting there. It also makes it very tough to know when/how to adjust, change gears or reprioritize. That doesn’t mean an employer needs to know that you plan on starting your own business; you simply need to deliver what they need while you are gaining the specific experience needed to be successful in running your own operation. When you are clear about what is required on both counts (your employer’s goals and your personal and professional goals), you have a much higher probability of delivering. You will also have more reason to stay in touch with what is actually going on around you. If you are spending too much time daydreaming about what you wish you could be doing, you’ll miss the opportunity to pick up necessary skills and run the risk of dropping the ball. Any way you look at it, dropping the ball has consequences. If you fall off track from what your employer wants, you can lose your job. If you lose your job and don’t have a clear idea of where you were headed when it happened, it will be extremely difficult to develop and present a convincing case to the next employer.
Evaluate past performance and influencers. Sure, every day is a new day. But pretending there has been no past is pretty naïve. You may have heard the old customer service adage that states: “you need to make 10 deposits into the “good deed” account to make up for a customer’s one bad experience.” This is true for employers as well. Unless you spend the time figuring out how to make up for a callous statement, missed deadline, lost account or publishing error, the memory of a mistake will be harbored indefinitely. It shouldn’t be a surprise when headcounts are dropping and you end up on the list if you have not made amends and then some. If you have adversary relationships with people and haven’t fixed things, their opinions can be louder than your transgression was. Know and own your actions that may influence your job/career security. Be prepared to face the consequences of a lapse in judgment or a mistake and be equally prepared to describe what you learned from it. Be willing to move forward with the understanding that you may have to make allowances for a scenario that negatively impacted your brand.
Find out what the companies/customers really need. Relying on what an HR department describes in a job posting or what your job description states is dangerous. Relying on superficial statements and not digging into the core of a company’s business purpose for your role or, for that matter, ignoring what a customer really needs can lead to less than desirable outcomes. The research you do into what had been needed in the past and what is thought to be needed now can be applied to what is really needed. Taking anything entirely at face value can lead to discrepancies. Ferreting out more precisely what a role entails puts you in a much stronger position to deliver value and makes you less likely to be caught off guard when any outside influences create the need for a sudden change. Use your network to help you stay aware of how valuable you are in your own company and how competitive you are in the marketplace.
Prepare examples of your results. Don’t be caught with your pants down when it is time for a performance evaluation or budget reviews. Be prepared to be specific about your accomplishments with a supervisor or potential customers. Either way, being prepared to describe your VALUE may be the points that save you from being thrown to the curb. Even though you may not be actively looking for something new, preparing statements that illustrate examples of your cleverness and ability to produce desired results, using the STAR process (Situation, Tasks/Actions and Results), will also prepare you for your next interview or discussion with a new boss if there is a change in management or the company is sold. Overall, the important message here is to know why things are happening to you and around you so that you can do the best job of picking yourself up by the bootstraps and moving on.
Even though times are tough, asking for a job because you are desperate is not a good look. Employers need convincing evidence for investing time and money in you. This requires knowledge of the company and considerable preparation before you speak with them. The old days of winging your way through an interview are long gone. But first, you need to know why you want the job you are pursuing and how it fits into your life plan.
You may be unemployed and in dire need of an income, but that’s not compelling enough for the employer to choose you. The first step is to articulate your value to the employer in a way that allows them to believe they are making a good decision in hiring you. It doesn’t necessarily mean you divulge your long-term goals. It simply means you need to be clear about your value to them (now) and why this role and their company is a perfect fit. (Again, that is, right NOW!)
This isn’t to say you have to accept the job and expect to stay forever. But not just ANY job will do. If you do have something else in mind, it is critical to gain internal clarity about how you can get there from here. Thinking through this scenario requires some long-term planning and also some flexibility to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. Waiting around until your dream job appears is probably what led you to the desperate state you are in right now. It’s not necessary to know every detail going in, any more than it is necessary to throw out your dream. It is critical for you to understand how and why the job you are interviewing for plays into the scheme of things.
If you are clear about the connection between your short-term goals and your long-term goals, you can begin to prepare answers to typically asked interview questions that do not overshoot the position at hand. It’s been my observation that all too many times a candidate “oversells” themselves by responding to interview questions as if the context of the immediate role is the same as the one they think they want down the road or the higher-level one they have just left. If your answers sound “too big” or suggest that you really see yourself in a different role or different place, you won’t be considered further for the role in front of you. A typical response from the employer is “we are selecting someone else because we think you will get bored in this role” or “we think you are overqualified.” Now, if they received your resume and summoned you for an interview, they weren’t opposed to considering you then, so it stands to reason that something you said in the interview changed their mind.
The key is in understanding and embracing why you might need to begin at a lower level to move in the direction of your goals. The more you own your plan, the more convincing you will be to the employer. When you state how much you want to work for them and want to serve in this role, it will be true — at that moment. An employer can’t guarantee a lifetime job or even long-term employment, so why should you? You can offer them the benefit of work well done and two weeks’ notice when it is time to leave. The reality is that they’ll get at least a year out of you, which may be more than the person who really doesn’t have a plan and ends up chasing a higher dollar without thinking two months into a job.
Another misstep provoked by someone being unclear about their goals is accepting a role just because of the money. It isn’t unusual for someone to grab the first paying gig that comes along, without much more thought than getting their bills paid. The problem with that thinking is that as soon as you get to work and get settled into a routine, you may realize you absolutely hate the work or that it has nothing to do with where you want to end up. Without planning ahead to see how a particular experience connects with what you would want to do, you could end up abruptly quitting or being terminated and be further away from what you want to do than you were before you started.
Taking a passive approach and waiting until opportunities “show up” can lead you off track or just plain leave you empty handed altogether. Overall, it behooves you to take a good hard look at what you want and what is most important in your life, and then craft a plan to get there.
It seems I spend considerable time helping people look for something in between “all” or “nothing” and “right” or “wrong.” Black and white is clear, and that clarity might make it easier to choose sides on many issues. But when it comes to work, there are more gray areas to be considered than there are actual absolutes.
There is gray in almost any scenario involving people. Jumping to conclusions can cause someone to overlook the good in any situation. It’s not uncommon for people to use sarcasm or language considered inappropriate by some when conveying a message. If something is said that sounds different from what you want to hear, a question can easily prompt a discussion to get to the heart of the person’s true intent to make sure you understand them. Although the listener’s first response could be “I don’t like the sound of that,” it doesn’t mean the message itself is bad, wrong or without value. While the onus may be on the sender to consider their choice of words, the listener may also be at a disadvantage if they don’t take a few minutes to think past their initial reaction and consider the intent of the message. Likewise, if assumptions are immediately made based on a first impression without considering all that might be going on around a specific scenario, who really wins?
Now don’t think for a minute that I don’t make assessments or judgments. Due to my work as a coach and a consultant, there are many times I have to make quick decisions based on someone’s comments or behaviors. It also means I have to find ways of checking my assumptions or waiting to see if the issues I am responding to reappear or are consistent. In the meantime, I avoid making any absolute decisions until I have the opportunity to hear new information that might change my initial reaction to someone’s behavior or story. It means looking for clues to help me connect with someone, rather than looking for reasons not to. Yes, it is sometimes hard. Yet, if I reacted only to what was comfortable or familiar, I might have only a slight percentage of the clients I have.
The analogy here is that work, work circumstances and workplaces all have a variety of things that can be considered from a different perspective than our immediate reaction. By allowing ourselves to get caught up in the “all or nothing” thinking that maintains that everything should be comfortable, easy or like me, we might miss out on some pretty exciting opportunities to grow or learn. We might also miss out on short-term opportunities that, if managed well, could help us catapult beyond the immediate discomfort to a position of more interest or to a group that we like more.
So exactly how do we stop ourselves from bolting or shutting down? If you are currently unsatisfied with your work, customers or workplace, the following are some tips for seeing past your immediate frustration.
Stop following SOPs. You know what they say about “crazy”— doing the same thing, the same way, expecting different results. If your job search has fallen flat, or if people are driving you crazy, then change your expectations. Try different approaches. Ask more questions. Find new ways of hearing and new ways of processing data.
Pay attention. Listen and read beyond the words. Look for the real point in communication. What are people’s facial expressions telling you when you are talking? When you read a job description, do you know if it is truly the reflection of the actual position or just the wishes of the hiring manager? Is the abrupt/sad/angry-sounding email you just received from a customer or your boss open to interpretation? Is there something going on in the background that might help you better understand their intent? Can you ask?
Adjust. Instead of shutting down, believing you can’t or assuming you have lost, try another approach. Reframe your initial response to one that someone with less invested might be able to produce. Ask for input from an objective party when dealing with especially difficult news or situations. Look for what can be learned or gained if you are able to stay in the “gray,” rather than close a door.
Look for a win-win. Sometimes shutting a door or saying no is a necessity. Sometimes a situation just requires a new perspective. If you really care about the overall outcome of any “all or nothing” scenario, then look for more areas in the “gray.” Use “what if?” questions to get to the heart of outcomes that might be more meaningful to you and others.
Be open to change. If your circumstances are uncomfortable, untenable or just plain boring, then logic would tell us that something needs to change. Hanging on to what is known because it is comfortable will only maintain your status quo and make the situation worse. Change can be exciting in and of itself. Thinking there is something new waiting for you that you had not even imagined can be energizing. Anticipating change can be scary or exciting — it’s up to you to choose your perspective. Beginning by envisioning a change that will make you happier beyond your wildest dreams will help you get off the fence. Acknowledging even the slightest change can be motivation to make another.
If you have been stuck in the same way of thinking and are unable to achieve the outcomes you have desired, take another look at the ways you may have used “absolutes” to foil your results. There might be many more options to investigate that could lead you further along the path to your goals than you had previously considered.
Tags: changing your expectations., effective communication, finding Plan A, goal setting, goals, happiness, listening, negotiating, negotiations, overcoming conflict, problem solving, work satisfaction, work/life balance
People who have been working continuously through this most recent recession have been impacted by it in some way, even if it is not obvious. Many of us have experienced earlier recessions (although they weren’t always officially called that) and learned firsthand how to make ends meet during tough times. If not directly, some of you may have parents or grandparents who have described how they weathered tough times in their lives. Through personal experience or through someone else’s, we can see there is no magic pill. There are skills that can be learned to survive adversity or financial downturn. Using planning, perseverance, willpower and grit, we have found a way to succeed.
The economy is improving and the employment market is following, as is customary following a recession. Having an optimistic attitude about the future is helpful and must go hand in hand with an understanding that the employment market will recover far more slowly as businesses get their bearings. As you are considering making a change in your work or workplace, consider what you actually have control over, and put your mind to accomplishing it.
A handful of small projects can build a portfolio of successes that set you up for bigger and better projects.
To begin with, taking stock of what your real position is will help you get grounded. For example, if your expenses exceed your income, then there is a practical reason to consider the consequences of your actions. Consciously deciding NOT to spend money on anything unnecessary allows you to have more options than when you are tied to overhead you can’t afford. Going forward, creating an action plan with accountability features built in will keep you focused on what you are actually doing and what you could be doing. No mention of a magic pill in this recipe.
As you establish goals and set your sights on an improved circumstance, it is important to remember that nothing is perfect. Even the best laid plans can be set askew when changes in the economy occur or when you face stiff competition. The point to be made is that once you develop a plan and make yourself accountable for completing it, you must still be aware of when it is necessary to change course.
The improved economy makes things brighter but doesn’t provide a sure shot at anything. Many of the people who remained employed (perhaps underemployed) over the past five years are now in a position to move forward. Those entering the market expecting to make a leap into their “dream jobs” may be unpleasantly surprised by how steep the competition is. That’s not a reason to give up but more of a reason to persevere. It’s time to get in the game and position yourself. This may require deeper planning and some grit to work your way into the position you desire.
Looking forward, map out a path that is most likely to lead to success. Start with small steps. Set objectives that are connected to your long-term goals; e.g, identify roles that you are most competitive for now that are attached to your long-term goals. Or, if you are a consultant/business owner, identify business targets that may be small but easily attainable. A handful of small projects can build a portfolio of successes that set you up for bigger and better projects.
Whatever your challenges, build a track record of smaller successes that will give you confidence when facing the really tough challenges. Getting your arms wrapped around manageable challenges helps you establish habits that will support you in any endeavor. And weathering a small mistake can be a learning experience that doesn’t crush you. It can teach you what to do next time and provide you with ammunition for persevering. Practice behaviors that move you forward. Develop the willpower to avoid the old, negative habits that used to drag you down.
Willpower is a skill that can be learned. Grit and perseverance can also be learned. You can do it!
If you have felt powerless over your work, career or life in general, it might be time for you to look long and hard at your goals and how you approach them. Creating your own personal and professional goals, and establishing a process for accomplishing them, protects you from going completely into a ditch when you hit an icy patch in the road. Having a framework that requires only tweaking rather than rebuilding from scratch when things change will set the stage for you to recover quickly should the bottom fall out of your situation.
It is certainly possible that an employer can influence your path when a company changes course, and market conditions or customers’ needs (or lack thereof) can also cause an abrupt change in direction for the business owner who takes their eyes off the ball. Nevertheless, although challenging, you can learn to refuse to allow outside influences to keep you from attaining your goals or living your best life. Bumps in the road occur, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless.
It’s important to take the bull by the horns and commit to what you want. Setbacks may prevent you from achieving your goals in the time frame you had originally anticipated, but they don’t need to cause you to give up on those goals entirely. Blaming the economy, your employer or your customers won’t get you anywhere. Taking stock of what you need to do and establishing realistic timelines for accomplishing the necessary tasks to move forward will put the control back in your hands.
Here are some basic guidelines for ensuring you can stay on track:
Write out your goals. This is information you need to see every day. “Keeping it in your head” is a surefire recipe for forgetting what is important when temporary setbacks distract you.
Commit. Assign realistic timelines for accomplishing each goal.
Be realistic. Examine the timelines you have set and review all of your other commitments required on or by the same dates. Don’t cut off more than you can chew.
Break them down. Break the larger goals into achievable objectives. Establish timelines for each of the objectives you need to meet that will ensure you are on track to achieving your goals.
Write everything down. Think through each objective completely and identify every task associated with accomplishing it. Don’t assume anything. Unless you identify exactly what needs to get done and when, you run the risk of missing critical components that will move you forward.
Review your schedule in advance. Be aware of your commitments. Don’t pile on tasks that aren’t likely to get done because of prior commitments.
Be flexible. A critical piece to ensuring you will accomplish your goals is being able to adjust to the real- life events that pop up and can derail you. Move timelines. Rearrange activities. Don’t drop everything and turn your quest into a losing proposition by attempting to hang on to a plan that can’t work.
Own your reactions. Put your catcher’s mitt on and field the curve balls that get thrown your way. Avoid choosing “victim” status when external influences cause you to change your plans. Rethink your priorities and adjust your timelines.
Be accountable for your progress. Make sure you are getting all of your tasks accomplished in the prescribed time frames to allow you to move forward with the next objective. Identify a method for monitoring your progress that will keep you motivated to do what you need to do. Avoid making excuses for not getting things done and learn to reassign tasks that are not completed for days/times when they can be accomplished. For example, you might want to draw up a contract with yourself or enlist an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire. Or do both and share your contract with your accountability partner.
Every year people make resolutions that are distant memories by the end of February. Don’t fall into the same old pattern. Make a commitment for what you want in your life and make sure you are following through with the actions required to get you there. You have the biggest stake in accomplishing your goals. Shouldn’t you be the one to be accountable for that?
During a tough job market, it is not uncommon to find two extreme versions of propaganda. On one hand, we might read about the absence of any jobs, and on the other hand, we might find academic institutions promising paths to riches by obtaining a degree or the latest certification in underwater basket weaving. Each scenario gives job seekers something to hang on to: hopelessness or a vision. Neither extreme is accurate; the problem lies in that each statement is believable and may be taken at face value, with very little questioning about the relevance of the statement to any particular person’s circumstance. There are several other factors to be taken into account.
Relying on certifications as a measurement of value
As an example, an MBA degree might be an attractive addition to someone’s calling card, but if the person truly doesn’t have an understanding of the business needs of the employers they are pursuing, the assumption that the MBA adds value tends to be off target. A dressed-up resume may allow some people to talk their way into a role that superficially looks like a match, but they can easily end up being in over their head.
So, what happens when people are not realistic about their capabilities or performance? After a running start, the candidate may find themselves unemployed again when their true applicable knowledge and skill level are recognized by the employer. When it turns out someone is not performing as anticipated or desired, some employers take an easy way out. The underlying issue isn’t necessarily visible because the employer may be reluctant to go through the process of documenting performance or coaching. In some cases, it is much easier to group someone into a “layoff” scenario, simply to avoid the work involved in removing them through performance coaching and documentation.
In my experience, the number of times I encounter a situation where the person has a greater perception of their capabilities than a position warrants and subsequently loses their job occurs about as frequently as I hear someone complain they have been unemployed for an extended period because there are no jobs. The similarity in these situations is that each represents an unrealistic expectation about the marketplace for particular skills or the availability of dream jobs that match desired criteria.
It’s important to recognize the difference between a “challenge” and “in over your head.” It may mean one thing to the candidate and yet another to an employer who has clearly defined expectations of the outcomes they desire. It gets even more complicated when the employer has not clearly defined his expectations and the candidate has no real understanding of the role and is left to intuit their way through. To ensure the highest probability of success, it is critical for candidates to understand the business goals of the organization and where their role contributes to the organization’s mission and objectives. On the flip side, for an employer to ensure their resources are being used to the fullest, it is extremely critical to set clearly defined expectations.
Many candidates using a passive search process will miss out on learning what is needed before they enter into a situation. Job descriptions may describe functions but not necessarily goals. In order to fully grasp what they are getting into, candidates need to conduct extensive research and talk to insiders to get a real-life perspective of the overall market, a particular industry, or a particular organization. With this preparation, they are much more likely to gauge the value or return on investment (ROI) of certifications or extended education. Through strong relationships and an internal connection who is willing to speak to the overall skills someone brings to the party, it is more likely a person will be able to apply a newly acquired degree or certification without an exact match to stated job requirements. Employers who encourage employee referrals are much more likely to open the doors to people who share the organization’s vision and are a fit with the culture when candidates have existing relationships with top producers who have demonstrated as much.
On the flip side, hiring managers who rely only on the identification of key words, certifications and degrees as a measure of value may be unpleasantly surprised by poor performance later. It is critical to develop sound questions to be able to assess someone’s ability to do the job, and to do the job the way the employer wants the job done. It’s amazing how many times people are still hired on assumptions.
Another hurdle for a candidate to face is when an industry, organization, or a hiring manager’s expectations change due to changing business needs. This situation arises when the candidate is seeking employment, or it can happen after they are hired. Either way, if someone is unable to quickly change priorities to address business needs and immediate opportunities, they will be left on the sidelines. Regardless of how hot the job market is, or how hot the newest certification program or designation is, if a candidate is not flexing with the underlying business need, will be left behind.
In a slow job market, it is even more critical to recognize that what you want right now may not be attainable immediately or as planned. It might require a different strategy or short-term concessions and, most importantly, the flexibility to do what it takes to get on track. Building in the time to develop connections and hands-on experience may allow for a greater ROI from new certifications/degrees in the long run. It is also critical to stay on top of changing needs to make sure what you offer is still considered of value as you move forward.
You may have found the past year has been riddled with indecision and apprehension regarding many important issues: the economy, jobs, politics, healthcare, and government spending, to name a few. The list could go on forever. This past year left many people feeling somewhat out of control. In response to everything that was up in the air in December, you may have made a concerted effort to create goals for the New Year that only you can control the progress on. Before we get fully underway in the New Year, it’s a good idea to identify last year’s personally painful points and set up remedies for this year. The following are some questions to ask yourself. Did you:
- Start out with good intentions but found out your resolutions fizzled by March?
- Make promises but didn’t keep them?
- Find yourself with unmet goals?
- Remain at the same dumb job?
- Make excuses throughout the year for why things didn’t change?
- Feel powerless to change your circumstances?
If you experienced any of the issues listed above last year, then decide now to face things differently this year. It’s up to you to choose how you will respond to obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goals. Here are ten tips for improving your outcomes this year:
- Make a commitment. This year, make yourself accountable. Break your goals into objectives, set due dates and develop action plans to accomplish your goals.
- Flex to demand. When circumstances change, reevaluate. Don’t continue with the same old plan if it is no longer applicable. If an urgent opportunity arises that allows you to reach a goal sooner, adjust your schedule and make the time to address it. Don’t let something pass you by because you were functioning under the same old SOPs (standard operating procedures).
- Avoid complacency. Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable. Just as old, broken in shoes can end up leading to foot, back or knee pain, staying in the same state of mind or circumstances can lead to more severe repercussions. A career can be stalled, a reputation damaged and skills decline. Make sure every day is committed to moving forward and out of the same old rut, no matter how comfortable it has become.
- Keep up the momentum. Have a plan for each day, week and month. That doesn’t mean sticking with something come hell or high water. Have a plan so you know where to direct your efforts and monitor it weekly to make sure it is still relevant. Keep looking forward. Find a progress buddy to help you remain accountable.
- Stay healthy. Don’t wait until something happens before you pay attention to your body. Engage in healthful activities and eating habits. Take precautions to avoid illnesses that occur from lack of attention. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods and make sure you have some sort of plan for exercise that you will sustain.
- Don’t take no for an answer. If you have been turned away, rebuffed or passed over, then think of another approach. You can’t change another person’s actions, but you can change your own. Analyze what happened and try something new. Don’t let someone else decide what you can or cannot accomplish.
- Get comfortable with change. Change impacts everyone, every day, everywhere. You can’t hide from it or avoid it. If things aren’t going the way you want, don’t make excuses. Change your strategy, change your thinking or change your reaction.
- Pay attention. You don’t have to believe everything you read, but reading nothing only causes you to be unaware. Insulating yourself from the reality others are facing can cause a disconnect when meeting new people or pursuing new opportunities. Be aware of current events, industry changes, area growth/decline and popular issues. The more aware you are of what is going on around you, the more you can participate in general conversations.
- Engage. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, people lover or people hater, people and conversations will be contributing factors to what you do and where you go. Learn about others’ needs and wants by asking questions and showing interest. Amazing results may follow when someone believes you actually care about them.
- Get over yourself. If you have hung on to a perception of yourself that no longer works, examine why. You might laugh when you hear celebrities refer to others as being “relevant” (or not), but honestly, have you looked in the mirror? Our own unrealistic perceptions of ourselves can prevent us from achieving our goals as much as having a positive, honest, realistic perception can help us achieve them. Which would you choose?
If these tips motivated you to change even one thing going into the New Year, please let us know!
Tags: career, career goal, Career management, career plan, career planning, goal planning, goal setting, goals, job hunt, job hunting, job search, managing priorities, managing time, reach career goals, time management