Friday, November 5, 2010

My New Posts are on the Harvard Business Review Site!

Just to let you know,  I have two recent blogs on the Harvard Business Review site. The first one is: Forget Mentors: Employ a Personal Board of Directors   

The second one is: Leave Your Job the Classy Way.  

I hope you enjoy both of them.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Lawyers!

Waylon Jennings was wrong about the career prospects for cowboys. (Hear him sing it.) It's lawyers who are in career trouble.

Law schools have been churning out lawyers in huge numbers long after there has been any need for them. Openings for lawyers have dropped like a stone in this recession. Lawyers have been laid off from both businesses and law firms. But law schools are still recruiting like mad, saying that having a law degree will help you in business or that it will train your mind, or that it is a great general professional degree to have. NOT!

Major law firms haven't helped their profession, either. They no longer provide close mentoring for associates or place them carefully in a specialty that is the right fit for them. They are more reluctant to make people partner than they used to be. And they are much quicker to lay people off, no matter what their level.

If you are looking for an advanced degree beyond your BA, but don't know what you want to do, DON'T GO TO LAW SCHOOL. Only go to law school if you really, really want to be a lawyer in a law firm or a public interest lawyer and plan on graduating the top quarter of your class.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Is the job market improving?"

That's a question I hear over and over. The answer is, generally, yes. Our individual clients are getting interviews, even in the depth of summer. Some corporate clients are thinking of hiring again. But, as I said in my very first blog, there isn't ONE job market; there are many job markets.

So, before the fall hiring season begins, it's important to take a look at what job market you are in now and whether or not it is doing well. You might even be able to repackage yourself in an area that is doing well. Or, get some training that would allow you to move into a better job market.

Even when the recession is over, some jobs will never come back in the same number as before. For example, there will be far fewer second and third level managers, particularly operations managers. If you are a manager, can you market yourself as an expert or specialist in something? You'd be in a bigger job market.

Another example, there will be far fewer secretaries when the recession is over. If you are a secretary, can you repackage yourself as an executive secretary? Or, as a coordinator? Coordinators are usually first level professional jobs, and require a specialty area and a batchelor's degree. If you are a secretary to a marketing executive, you might be able to market yourself as both an executive secretary and as a marketing coordinator. Right now, an executive secretary makes more money, but a marketing coordinator will probably have more of a career.

Finally, people without a BA are getting killed on the marketplace, particularly if they just reply to ads on the internet. this will continue after the recession is over. Unless you have a great personal network that will take care of you no matter what, or unless you are retiring within five years, take the time to get that degree! You have at least five more weeks of summer to research how to do it!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Expectations

Most people know that summer is a tough time to look for a job. Organizations that are usually good networking opportunities shut down for the summer. People who are intending to leave a job in the fall to go back to school or something, choose to take their vacation on their current employer. Recruiters tend not to list new jobs in the summer because they don't think as many people are looking for new jobs in the summer and because it is hard to arrange for interviews. Vacations do interrupt interviewing. 

Summer is a GREAT time, however, for making a career plan. You have a little extra time and a little less pressure, so you can think critically about where you are and where you want to be. It's also a good time to get back in touch with people who might be able to help you. They have a little more time in the summer, too.

Most of the year we are so busy, we never stop and think things through. Am I happy with what I am doing? Is there another contribution I should be making?  Summer is perfect for that kind of question.

And have fun!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Associated Press Found Me!

Chip Cutter, a reporter for the Associated Press interviewed me a little over a week ago about "how to get what you want and need at work." He'd heard about my book, ASK. He then wrote a great article for the AP wire.

Somehow, even though I am an inveterate New York Times reader I missed it when it was published in the April 26th Times. But you can find it lots of places. Here's the link to the same article in the Richmond Times. It's also on CNBC and a few other web sites.

 In a week that included: huge floods, a gigantic oil spill, concerns about Greece going bankrupt, a foiled car bomb in Times Square, and the volcano aftermath, it was easy to miss.

There is a moral to this story. Somehow, in spite of all that's going on in the world, it pays to focus on your own career now and then!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

" I want to be the best at my new job. How do I get there?"

She was a graduating senior when she asked me that question. When you think about it, that's a much easier question to ask at the beginning of your career than it is later on. At the beginning, you feel free to ask people for help in learning what you need to know because you are not "supposed" to know everything. You are much more likely to ask for feedback, and act on it, than you are later on.

When you have been working for a while, or when you become a manager, it's much more difficult to "know what you don't know" because you feel that you are "supposed" to have all the answers. And, the more successful your career has been, the more likely you are to believe that you know what you need to know. After all, why would they have promoted me, if I'm not one of the best?

This attitude can destroy your career if you join a new firm at the mid or senior level. Yes, they wanted someone with your superior skills and experience, but there are hundreds and hundreds of new hires at the senior level who fail, in spite of superior skills and experience. One of my clients put it best. "It's a matter of a balance between listening and acting. If you come in and act as if you already know everything there is to know, and never listen to what we have to say, you will fail. And if you come in and just listen and listen and never take action, you'll also fail."

Just go back to that attitude you had when you first got a job. "I want to be the best at my new job. How do I get there?  Then, you will naturally seek the feedback you need to be a success.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Angry and Scared"

"That's how our people feel," a high tech executive told me this week. After almost two years of reorganizations, layoffs, and changes in corporate direction, that's pretty typical of a lot of places people work today.

An angry and scared workforce won't make your company competitive in the recovering economy. And if you yourself are angry and scared, your career will stagnate.

Both individuals and organizations need to be more proactiive and look for the oportunities. Focusing on careers is the most effective way companies have to reconnect with their employees. On-site career coaching for individuals can go a long way toward retaining and remotivating them. So can career development processes or career ladders.

If you are an individual who is angry and scared, it's time to take charge of your career. That doesn't automatically mean putting yourself on the job market. How about looking for opportunities where you are now - opportunities to take on more responsibility, gain new skills, or work in a new department? If you make those changes now, you will be more valuable if later you decide to look for a new employer.

A client this week hadn't gotten a raise in five years. How did he decide to make sure he got a raise? He came up with a profitable new business idea, wrote a business plan, and took it to his employer. If his employer doesn't go for it, he has a line on a competitor who will.

That's looking for the opportunities. That's taking charge of your career.