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 Don’t continue with the same old plan if it is no longer applicable.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
Leading up to each New Year, it is common for people to establish a long wish list and/or a list of resolutions. The problem is that neither is typically tied to a plan of action and rarely is either list completed by the year’s end. Funny thing is, year after year, people repeat the same behavior and end up with the same results.
This year, make sure your wishes come true and your resolutions become habits, by starting out with a plan for success. Consciously think through what you want and what it will take for you to get there. This year, take control of what you can do to make things happen the way you envision. The following are some steps for getting started.
Create goals vs. resolutions or wish lists. The difference between making a resolution and establishing a goal is setting time lines and creating accountability. You are the one with the most invested in whether or not you achieve your goals, so it only makes sense to develop your own timelines for accomplishing them. When looking at personal goals, no one else is going to do it for you. (And if someone else is creating your personal goals for you, there may be some co-dependency issues that need to be addressed.) If you have professional goals that are mandated by your employer, don’t stop with those. Incorporate your own ideas of what you want to accomplish in the plan. Once you have a good idea of what it is you want to accomplish, then go ahead and make a commitment to each on a specific date in your calendar. If you want to lose weight, identify how much and by when. During the planning stage and setting objectives you will further break this down into measurable and achievable goals
Eliminate fear. Change is scary. If you are experiencing trepidation about doing something new, know that you are not alone. Everyone is uncomfortable with change to some degree. The key to overcoming it is facing the obstacles now, not later. Typically fear is a greater barrier than the actual perceived barrier turns out to be. Get past it by breaking down your concern item by item. List why you are scared, or why you think you may fail. Then address each point one at a time. It is likely you will find out that most of what you thought was true is mostly in your head. The concerns that are only thoughts need to be tested by taking action or researching through others who may have relevant experience (see “don’t make assumptions” below). If you want to change careers or add a new line of business, write out a list of everything running around in your head that is telling you that you can’t. One way or the other, you will be able to shorten the list if you simply get started.
Don’t make assumptions. Make a list of all you want and need. Methodically go through the list to make sure you are completely aware of what is necessary to proceed in the direction you desire. Make sure you have the required time and resources to invest and plan time to investigate options. Ask others who have had experience in the area you are focusing (e.g., new business, new career path, weight loss). Someone will have information and experience to share. You simply need to ask. The results of a thorough investigation of what you want will allow you to more accurately identify realistic timelines that will lead to success.
Plan ahead instead and avoid passively reacting. Taking a fatalistic view of circumstances you want to change isn’t going to get you anywhere. Creating a plan to deal with potential obstacles will allow you to more effectively approach bumps in the road. Passively reacting to resistance from others, obstacles or challenges isn’t going to get you what you want. Health, family or financial issues are all part of life and may surface at any time. Think through what could or might happen and develop strategies to overcome situations that are not ideal. Plan for adversity; don’t wait until it is too late to take corrective action or make changes to your plan.
Be realistic. Make sure whatever behavioral changes that are needed to accomplish your goal are easily integrated into your life on a daily basis. Setting unrealistic expectations will only set you up for failure. If you want to lose weight, make it obtainable without starving yourself or creating such aggressive goals you are likely to fail. Taking on one change at a time is much more likely to lead to success. Introducing one behavioral change at a time and doing it every day for 30 days is much more likely to make it hard wired action. If you want to lose weight, then being aware of what you take in and the activity you are presently engaged in (calories in, calories out) is the first step. Cutting back on one particularly unhealthy or high calorie food while adding ten minute walks each day are both much easier to handle and gear up from than reducing your calorie intake to 500 a day and running laps. One behavior is easy to do every day. The other is much less likely to be sustainable.
Set objectives/milestones to track your progress. Break the big stuff into smaller bites and track your progress. Set realistic due dates that take into account everything else you are juggling in your life. Don’t allow yourself to spin out of control because you ended up in a ditch on one aspect of your plan. Stay on track by developing new objectives or realistic time lines for what you need to accomplish when new elements get thrown into your life.
Set up contingencies. Think through what could or might happen and develop strategies to overcome situations that are not ideal. Don’t become a victim to circumstances because you haven’t prepared. Think through what you want and develop alternatives to your initial goal just in case things change. As you research your goals you may learn things that will cause you to change your plan. Don’t be afraid to adjust things as you go. If you have an idea for a new career, allow time for a test period. If it isn’t successful right off the bat, you may want to extend your timelines or adjust the amount of resources invested. Making adjustments to your plan is much easier if you think it through ahead of time, and can be addressed much like risk management is prior to the implementation of new projects for a company.
Be flexible. Stuff happens. Life throws us some curveballs sometimes. It is important to make sure your plans will adjust easily to anything that could develop without notice. Goals don’t have to be all or nothing. It’s possible an illness or a family related issue interrupts your momentum. An event doesn’t have to cause you to stop everything; it just may require you to change your plan a little. Adjusting to changed circumstances to achieve part of what you want and extending timelines to accomplish the rest, will bring you much closer to the desired result than throwing up your hands and declaring defeat. Be open to new information and new ideas. Adjust your goals and your plan according to what is working so that you are always clear about what you are doing and why.
Avoid procrastination. The longer you wait to get started thinking through your goals, the more likely another year will go by without having achieved them. Are you daydreaming right now? Wishing for something new? Get started now! Prepare a plan of attack and get in motion by January 1 so you can look forward to a great New Year!
What will you do differently to make things stick this year?
Jack, be nimble,
Jack, be quick,
Jack, jump over
Jack jumped high
Jack jumped low
Jack jumped over
and burned his toe.
Although there are probably not many candlesticks to be jumped over in today’s market, most of us are faced with “mini-fires” every day. Although there are specific disciplines that follow trained approaches to working in Lean or Agile environments, the average worker or small business owner still needs to be able to show evidence of their ability to respond quickly and effectively to changes or unforeseen events.
In a day and age where the ability to think quickly and react gracefully is critical to the success of workers, businesses, and nonprofits, it is important not to get distracted by the wrong perception of what is in the way of success.
Although we tend to assume it, youth does not ensure responsiveness. Nor does it ensure speed. There are many mature workers that can outthink and outrun younger workers when called upon to respond to a critical change. The value of their experience in similar past situations with a variety of prospective allows them the ability to think quickly and decisively. It is unfortunate that the perception that age is a problem can undermine the value gained through having had more experience in reacting to crisis and change. In contrast, the enthusiasm younger employees or entrepreneurs bring to the market place can’t be beat. The absence of excess baggage or paralyzing past failures, the willingness to think out of the box and openness to try new things are also huge advantages when trying to problem-solve in limited time.
Regardless of your role as a worker, business owner, manager or leader, the ability to stay ahead of the curve when dealing with change is an asset that cannot be replaced. Young or old, don’t allow others to make assumptions about what you can or cannot contribute. Responsiveness is a behavior that is easily made visible in everyday communications or encounters with coworkers, customers and supervisors. It is also a behavior that is very noticeable when absent. Think about the message you send others when you are slow to respond to requests, quick to complain or blame, or look to others to take the initiative to offer solutions. These are all easily changed behaviors without concerning yourself with how your age is being considered. Move on to changing what you can to keep yourself or your services fresh and marketable:
- Respond quickly to email or phone requests.
- Follow up to remind and encourage others of deadlines or needed actions.
- Be open to new ideas and new approaches.
- Plan ahead for meetings and conversations.
- Anticipate potential obstacles and be prepared with solutions.
- Follow up immediately with anyone that you have committed to.
- Stop procrastinating.
- Look for solutions and stop complaining!
Some days, I just shake my head when I watch how people approach their job searches or career planning. After 15 years, I would say I have developed a pretty solid recipe for getting people where they want to go in regard to employment. No matter how many times the process is described by yet another successful candidate (now new employee), someone always thinks there is a short cut and wants to put their own spin on it. It made me think of an analogy that might make it a little clearer:
So, there is a bank in the middle of town, where at the end of the day, a back window was mistakenly left unlocked. No one noticed until three bank robbers wandered by and discovered it. To their amazement, in addition to the window being unlocked, the gates at the front of a long hallway leading to the vault were also wide open, and no external security lights were lit.
Now, one of them just happened to have had a connection inside the branch, and had been able to secure the 57-digit combination to the bank vault a month earlier. Although he had scouted the bank every night for three weeks, this was the first time he had brought his buddies, and the very first time he had come across an unsecured opening. He was really excited because this was the moment he had been waiting for.
It was just before dawn, so they know they need to move quickly. One false move and they could be delayed, which means they should have a greater chance of being seen and getting caught. They discussed what they should do to get inside and how they could best get to the vault in the dark without drawing attention to them. The plan to get to the window and down the hall was anticipated to take 20 minutes. They determined they would only have two minutes to open the vault and three to get back out of the building.
The first robber knew that with a steady hand, and a small pocket flashlight, he could use the combination and get into the vault. The 2nd robber didn’t think they had time to enter all 57 numbers, so he suggested trying a shorter series of numbers to save time. The third robber was pretty confident that with one hit, a sledgehammer would open the vault and they could get out much faster. Their dilemma: should they use the combination or try a shorter sequence of numbers to see if it will open faster? Or should they just use the sledgehammer?
Now, the choice may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t much different from the scenarios I see when time after time, candidates apply for higher level roles only because of a title and promise of more money, or job seekers resort to passive searches. To clarify, a passive search is when someone trolls for job postings and throws their hat in the ring. They may even use the same overstated, nonspecific resume for every “interesting” position they see, thinking “more is better”. Or, maybe they end up reviewing many job board sites and even tailor their resumes a little each time, thinking that will make all the difference this time. After all, researching and networking to learn what companies actually need takes time, doesn’t it?
Regardless of the quality of the resume and cover letter sent, a passive search is one that instantly puts someone in competition with literally hundreds (if not thousands) of candidates. It makes the odds closer to one in a zillion that they are the “fit” the employer is looking for, or the culture is what the candidate is looking for. Even though the resume may get them into a conversation, and once there, they are still at a disadvantage over someone who knows about the company from the inside. A passive search won’t reveal the insight needed to know what to say in an interview. And these days, candidates just aren’t going to be successful if they try to bluff their way through.
All in all, blindly applying for roles that have no more clarity than the badly worded job description found on a job board makes it pretty tough to know what you are up against, what is really needed or what will be necessary to say to be competitive. The desire to shorten the process by doing less, or waiting for that one “perfect” opening to show up, makes it less and less likely someone will close in on the position of their dreams.
If you have been reading my blogs, then you know by now that the methodology I promote is to investigate prior to applying, through networking. By digging up leads and reaching out for conversations with people that already work for an organization, or in a specific department, a candidate is much more likely to get some traction. They are also much more likely to have time to develop stories that use past examples of their work to illustrate similarities with the company/department/role they have researched and have targeted.
No need for sledgehammers. The winning combination is: using information to illuminate the way + being ready to pursue a need (even before it is announced) + tailoring your resume for the specific need + investing in careful preparation for the interview. It’s not the fast way- but it is a proven way to get where you want to go.
Networking is typically the best way to learn about new opportunities, whether it is work related or otherwise. But random efforts produce random results. If you are not getting the results you had hoped for by attending events or “hanging out” with friends, then perhaps your preparation for those meetings needs a little work.
Being open and available to meet new contacts is a large part of what it takes to become aware of new opportunities, although your encounters may be unplanned or unexpected. In order to capitalize on every situation that might spring up, it is important to map out a plan, be clear about your expectations in advance and prepare questions that will actually produce helpful and appropriate information. The following steps are likely to result in more fruitful exchanges.
Have a clear goal. If you are going into conversation or meetings with people with the idea that they will “hit on” a solution for you or read your mind, you are probably not coming away with much. Setting clear goals, then identifying the objectives needed to achieve those goals, will provide you with much clearer information to help you determine what you actually need to know or learn from someone.
Prepare in advance for new connections. When using Linkedin or other social networking sites with intent beyond connecting to as many people as possible, you will be much more likely to produce favorable results. Having hundreds of new connections won’t make things happen for you unless you are clear about what you need and what you can offer. Being prepared with a specific request for information or expressing a sincere interest in meeting someone is much more likely to get a favorable response when asking for an introduction to a new contact.
Know what you don’t know. While that sounds like a contradiction, it isn’t really. If you set out to identify a solution without thinking through what it might require, then you will be all over the map. You could pot shot potential options and end up missing the mark entirely. Develop targets first (companies, customers or projects) and identify what you would need to know to be able to have a successful exchange with anyone connected with your target. By knowing what you need to learn, you are in a better position to solicit helpful inside information that can contribute to the development of a strategy to proceed on track.
Strategize. Developing a strategy and working through a carefully thought out plan typically produces a better outcome than wishing and hoping. Sure, miracles can happen. Great timing can look like a miracle. But if you haven’t had your miracle happen yet, then maybe it is time to develop a plan. Information is power, and the more you know about your target, the more you will know about how to position yourself to get where you want to be. Just ‘knowing’ someone or ‘being acquainted with’ someone isn’t enough to turn into a hot lead. Be clear about what your contacts need to know about you. Be clear about what you need to know about your contacts so your communications are appropriate and relevant.
Set the stage. Introduce yourself with a prepared statement that gives people enough information to act on your behalf without putting them to sleep. Memorize it. Know what you need to convey, in words that communicate what you would want someone to remember. Too much info will result in them forgetting most of what you said. Funny, cute and clever may get someone’s attention, but unless they have more time to learn the rest, they won’t know what they need to remember to be able to help you.
Prepare thoughtful questions. Take the time to prepare thoughtful questions of the people you encounter. Practice them enough to ensure they are on the tip of your tongue, so that you are not blurting out “do you know of any openings” or “can you refer a customer to me” before the person even knows anything about you.
Follow up. Meeting new people, but dropping the ball by failing to follow up, can end up wasting everyone’s time and energy. Make sure you take the time to follow up after every meeting or conversation in a professional and timely way, even if it was a casual or social event. Leaving a lasting impression through genuine interest and responsiveness is a good way to develop productive relationships.
Please share what you have done to prepare for networking events that has worked out well.
By the time this blog is read, the Washington State “snow days” of January 2012 may be long behind us. Still, the concepts can be applied when you encounter airport closures, canceled conferences/meetings/concerts or when someone gets cold feet and pulls out of a wedding. The intent of this is not to suggest you micromanage your time to the degree of being inflexible, but to help you gain control over your time and make better choices when unplanned events create havoc.
The notion came to me when I was forced to reschedule presentations, workshops and meetings over the course of four days due to our city being almost paralyzed by snow and ice this week. (Ok, I’ll have to insert this bit of info: Seattleites are light weights. We rarely have snow or sub freezing temperatures, have lots of hills and pretty much can’t drive safely under extreme conditions. The result is that many people become housebound and services often come to a screeching halt).
As I was playing chess with my events and coordinating with the several groups of people involved regarding the rescheduling, I discovered some very interesting dynamics. None bad, just interesting. Many of the people I tried to reach by email did not respond at all. Now, it was possible their power could be out, so I decided to try calling. As it turns out, since many people’s employers were not requiring them to come in, they took the day off (literally) and were not checking email at all. Their having a day off from work turned into being “off” from everything for them.
Taking time off from everything can be a reasonable choice, if your goal is to achieve work/life balance. I am all for that. An interesting coincidence I found however was that many of the people who had taken time off from everything, were also folks that have regularly complained about never having time to network or pursue their career goals. They had been given “free” days; days without commitments and no expectations. Yet several chose to use the time to “disconnect” and “disengage” rather than “connect” and “engage” in activities that could have easily moved them closer to their goals. For others, the time was a great opportunity to connect with people electronically. I was pleased to learn that just as many people I reached were taking advantage of the free time to catch up. The contrast prompted me to consider the dynamics of each approach.
It struck me that many people get so caught up in feeling “out of control” they completely throw in the towel when free time is offered and don’t consider the choices they have. Unfortunately, without “contingency plans” for free time, it’s much easier to fall back on old habits or simply take a vacation. (If a vacation is needed, excellent!) But if the drudgery of a painful workplace or an unfulfilling career is still waiting to be faced when someone returns to a normal schedule, then it’s probably reasonable to say the unexpected “vacation” could have been better used.
You might be thinking: “If I don’t know when these events happen, how can I plan for them?” My answer is: It isn’t as important to know exactly when something will happen as it is to develop a plan for how you will react when it does. It’s kind of like earthquake preparedness. If we wait for catastrophic events to occur to move us to action, we will operate as victims, not as owners of our situations. If we prepare in advance by thinking out potential courses of action, we simply give ourselves more choices and have more power in moving ourselves in the direction we want to go.
Here are some ways to make your unexpected free time serve you better:
- Clearly define your goals.
- Set time frames for accomplishing your goals to build your accountability.
- Break all of your goals into measurable objectives.
- List all of the tasks required to achieve your objectives and goals.
- Be prepared to tackle your list of tasks ahead of schedule when free time is an option.
If getting your office cleaned out is a goal, then taking free time to tackle one small area at a time could help you build momentum. If losing weight is a goal, then using unexpected free time to exercise could help you lose more weight, sooner. (Shoveling snow is a great calorie burner!)
If finding a new employer, changing careers or building a business is included in your goals, then networking will be an important key to your success. Being prepared with a list of whom you need to contact and scripts for what you need to ask/say will allow you to jump on free time and make it work for you. (Look for more information on networking to achieve your goals in other posts).
These gifts of minutes, hours and days are exactly what could make the difference between moving forward and staying stuck where you are. The choice is yours.
What did you do on your last snow day?
Most people in today’s working world are feeling the pressures of having too much to do and too little time to do it. The stress of trying to do more with less is beginning to take its toll on my productivity and of most of the people I know. The illnesses, mistakes and even accidents resulting from lack of sleep and extreme stress cost us more than what we are attempting to gain by doing too much. The realization that both time and energy are finite has prompted me to take a deeper look. This year, the buck stops here.
Over the past several years I have been on track with goals of improving my health and quality of life. It wasn’t one big thing; it was all the small adjustments to absolutely everything I do that has freed up minutes each day. That extra time has allowed me to dedicate time for activities that keep me physically fit and well (i.e., working out, sleeping and eating properly), which altogether have contributed to an improved quality of life. But it is still not enough.
Each day I become increasingly aware of the nagging feeling of moving too fast and missing something. I have missed friend’s birthdays, their children’s weddings and an elderly neighbor’s moving away party and remained unaware of some challenges close friends were facing, to name a few things I wish I had been present for. There have been far too many important occasions or life events that can’t be replicated. It’s time to take a closer look at where my time goes.
Going into the New Year, I have planned more changes that will impact my business and my daily life with the goal of improving my overall quality of life in several areas. To get started, my approach was to create a list of all of my activities and all of the people I am involved with on a daily or weekly basis. I then identified those activities that left me feeling tired or unproductive. Next, I started to identify the relationships (not done with this yet) that resulted in interactions that either left me feeling drained or cost me time with no pay back. The activities were easy enough to cease. The people side is a little tougher.
In order to make some serious changes, it takes some hard thinking (I am not done with this yet, either) and then creating a plan for changing or ending some relationships. With the first go around, I came away with a very full list of activities that still energize me, and coincidently, a long list of people whose involvement in my life consistently is a positive or productive experience. Seeing what I want to keep in my life makes it somewhat easier to remove what I don’t want.
The tough part will be putting in place new behavior that over time, will make more room for all that I want in my life. As I have learned through taking steps to improve my health, it will take small, consistent behavior changes over a period of time to reach some bigger goals for my quality of life. And, as in years past, rather than wait for the New Year to start making changes, I began the moment the thought crossed my mind.
Going forward, I will review each day to determine what could have been left out or added to improve my quality of life. Yesterday I came up with three changes and have immediately taken action on all of them. That’s a good start.
What do you want to find time and energy for in this coming year?
Unemployment is the product of a recession, not the cause of it. Unemployment numbers will continue to climb long after the official start of a recession, and typically will take considerable time to correct after the official end of a recession. The very simple and short explanation is that this recession dropped further down than past recessions, and consequently, the correction will take longer. I am not pretending to be an economist or an analyst, but I think these statistics are pretty widely known and accepted.
A deeper issue to examine after the end of a recession is what happens to employment numbers when people who have accepted roles that were less than their former roles (underemployed as opposed to unemployed) make no attempt to plan their way back through their own efforts, and assume the change in the economy will ultimately fix everything. The assumption is that life will get back to “normal” (whatever that is) by magic after the declaration of the end of a recession. The job they took as a barista to “get by” will no longer be necessary and the “good” jobs will open up again.
There is an inherent problem when people won’t take jobs that pay less than what they receive on unemployment without considering the skills they could gain or the contacts they could make to position themselves for the future. They often wait for their dream job to mysteriously appear, and when it doesn’t, they then may accept any job out of shear desperation. Without a plan for how they will get back to where they need to be, the cycle is likely to be repeated. My prediction is that many will find a way to leave these lower level jobs once they earn enough hours to claim unemployment benefits again, assuming it will be easy to find something better. I also predict that unemployment numbers will continue to stay high because the change in the market has been more than just the dip in the economy (production).
The way of doing business has changed in the same span of time the market has fallen. We may be gaining jobs, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to “less competition”, as one might believe. People who assume they will “get back to normal” may be completely out of touch with the new skills required to do their old jobs, or similar jobs, making them less competitive than they are now. The newly trained may also find themselves at the back of the line if they are not currently interning or actively planning their move back into the workplace through networking and research.
In the past many months, as I see money invested in retraining, I am not seeing a decline in competition for the “good” jobs. It appears to me that the number of people missing the experience and practical skills needed to be competitive for the good jobs is staying the same as it was in the middle of the recession. In contrast, those people who took jobs more closely related to their experience, or jobs in lower positions, but in line with what they aspire to do with the intent of growing, are already positioned to get fully back on their feet. People with new skills in a new industry or job function, without prior experience, will often be viewed as having an “entry level” skill set. They may also be faced with the contradiction of appearing “over qualified” due the person’s apparent age and number of years of employment. Unless a dedicated plan is put in place to connect a person to their target roles/companies during the time they are retraining, it is very likely they will be in the same position as they were prior to the retraining.
For those of you who are still struggling to get on track, here are some tips for getting started:
1. Research - Find out what industries are growing, what companies are hiring, and what skills are needed. Investigate work options that may allow you to enter your field in a lower/different position than what your goal is. Learn who you need to know to get a foot in the door in your target organizations and how you can meet them. Identify the contacts you have that can be of assistance in making introductions. Note: this needs to be happening long before you actually discover a position you want to apply for.
2. Assess your status - Learn how far off you are from being competitive in your chosen field or role. Identify what you already have (skills, experience, connections) and what you need to have to be competitive, and chose the path that will most likely lead you to employment in your field. If you are currently working in an unrelated job, identify what you can take away from the experience to add to your value in your chosen field.
3. Plan a course of action - If you are unemployed or underemployed and there is no value to be gained by staying where you are, then it is time to take action to get on the right path. Develop a plan with measurable goals, objectives and timelines for getting you where you want to be. Be realistic about the amount of time it will take to accomplish each objective, and set realistic time frames for larger goals.
4. Develop your network- See #1. Your network needs to be developed before you spot specific positions you are interested in pursuing. By showing genuine interest in advance, developing relationships and forming trusting bonds before you need them, you are much more likely to be referred and highly considered for roles that might be a stretch if you remain an unknown.
5. Don’t give up- Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. Progression towards a “Plan A” job may not be fast or easily visible. It takes persistence, patience and flexibility. I can assure you that if you stay focused, dedicate the necessary time to work your plan and adjust your goals as needed to respond to market changes, you can find meaningful and satisfying work in spite of a slow economy.
If you are currently under employed and moving towards your target role, please briefly share your thoughts about why you have chosen the path you are on or your strategy for getting where you want to be.
Although this is a re-post from a couple of years back, I think it is a still good reminder for taking effective steps to get started on the right foot in the New Year:
Many people start off the New Year with good intentions for fulfilling resolutions, but their interest and enthusiasm often wanes away by the end of February. This year, make a difference in your life. Review your habits and past behaviors that have previously not produced the results you desire. Be honest with yourself. Examine your circumstances carefully to determine what part you have played in the outcomes you have experienced. Don’t rely on your employer, market conditions, or your family obligations to dictate what happens to you (or doesn’t) this year. Make a commitment to reach your goals by outlining specific actions to accomplish them.
It seems the elements I observe that contribute more frequently than not to a stalled job search or poor results are associated with three elements: lack of commitment, failure to plan and unwillingness to change. The following questions might help you to determine if you are setting yourself up for success, or more of the same this year.
- Are you truly committed to making a change this year?
- Have you written down your goals? Are they specific? Are they measurable?
- How many times in the past have you held off planning a course of action to “wait and see” the results of someone/something else’s actions before you make a decision to do something? Why? What would happen if you simply made a decision to take action, make a commitment, and in the worst-case scenario, had to change your plans later?
- Are you able/willing to stay focused? If you are not what are the barriers? What can you do about them?
- Are you willing to work long hours, weekends and holidays for a limited time to accomplish what you desire?
- Do you know what you need to get done each day?
- How far ahead do you plan your schedule? Are you looking ahead at least 90 days?
- How many hours per day have you worked on your employment (or other) goals in the past?
- How much time do you plan to dedicate to working on your employment (or other) goals every day, every week, every month for the next year?
- How many times have you allowed distractions to prevent you from completing what you have set out to do because you don’t have a plan?
Change Your Behavior – Develop New Habits
- Have you continued to do the same things over and over expecting to get different results? (uh, oh. You know what that means!)
- On a scale of one to ten, with ten being excruciatingly uncomfortable, how uncomfortable are you with your present circumstances?
- Are you willing to sustain that degree of discomfort for 30 days? 60 days?
- Have you made a conscious decision to consistently establish and practice new behavior on a daily basis? In the past, have you stuck with it for more than 30 days?
What is the biggest change you will make this year?
Although this blog has been previously published, I think the message is always helpful at the beginning of a new year.
Too often, people establish career goals the same way they make New Year’s resolutions. The problem with resolutions is that they fade away, are forgotten, and are only a distant memory by February. To actualize your desire for a change, exchange your resolution for a COMMITMENT to action.
Why a commitment and not just a wish?
Achievement of a goal doesn’t happen overnight. Job seekers are confronted with many issues beyond their control—economic conditions, competition, HR, and internal politics for a start. These issues can be very daunting and discouraging. The fact is you can’t reach your goal until you choose to face these challenges head on, with a plan of attack. Making the COMMITMENT to do so is within your control. Your goal becomes more than a “wish”.
Take charge – stay committed!
Don’t rely on your employer, market conditions, or your family obligations to dictate what happens to you (or doesn’t). Make a decision about what you need to do, commit to it, then adjust as events occur. Commitment to your goal and acting on it is more likely to produce the results you want than sitting idly as you wait for things to change.
Make a commitment to reach your goals by first being committed to the process, no matter what.
- Keep yourself in check for things you can control. Recognize that you can make a choice each and every time something comes up that presents itself as a challenge.
- Write out your goals. Make them specific and measurable.
- Proceed through your outline of specific actions that lead to your specific goals.
What kind of resolutions are you planning for the New Year that could more effectively be treated as a goal?