Sunday, November 22, 2009

Career Success Tip #4: Don't Stop Learning!

There is an unfortunate temptation if you have been in the same company and the same job for a while to stop pushing yourself to learn something new. Your job may not require it. Your boss may not want to pay for it. All your colleagues think you are great. Your reviews are great. So why spend your own money on professional development?

Because no job is secure, and no company is secure, as this recession has shown us, again. Because learning something new will energize you and boost your confidence. If you are in marketing and you don't know how to use the social media, your career is limited. If you are in human resources and you don't know the latest about FMLA, you are behind the times. If you are in finance and you don't know the latest in FASBs, you may actually seem out of date. Just the way you seem out of date if you are still wearing what you wore in your college days.

If you don't update your wardrobe and your technical skills in your chosen field, you will be left behind. So, join that professional organization you think is so great, whether or not your company pays for it. Take that course or class you think will really help you. Spend your own money, if you must. Invest in your career. It is always worth it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Career Success Tip #3: Earn Colleagues

Since your managers change a lot, as I said last week, who really knows if you do good work or not? Two kinds of people: your customers and your colleagues. One of our clients was asked in an interview last week, "What would your colleagues say are your greatest strengths? Your greatest weaknesses?" While that's a nasty question to ask in an interview, the emphasis on colleagues is a good one.

Good work colleagues are invaluable. They can help you learn a new job or new skill. They can help you solve problems or manage your manager. They can help out when you are stuck or cheer you up  when you have lost your motivation. Now that mentoring rarely occurs any more, a group of colleagues can be a wonderful substitute. Even Kathy Kram of Boston University, the guru of mentoring, agrees.

In school and in college, rewards come to the most competitive academically. It may look like that in corporate America, especially in a career like sales, but over the long term, it's your colleagues that help you advance or find a new job or deal with a difficult manager. Earn their respect. Share what you know. Help out when someone is overwhelmed. Volunteer to lend a hand - and don't ask for credit.

If you develop a reputation for being a great colleague, you will never have to worry about not having a network to use when you are out of work!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Career Success Tip #2 - Manage Your Manager

Your manager can have a huge influence on your career. But everybody's ideal of a mentoring manager who develops you and gives you great opportunities to grow is pretty hard to find in a recession. One reason is that manager jobs are now more vulnerable to layoffs than the jobs of the people working for them. Clients of ours have had two or three managers in the last year, as their companies have reorganized and reorganized. People  who haven't the time to get to know you and are afraid for their own jobs don't make good mentors.  But managers who don't know you can still have a  huge negative impact on your career, just by giving you a mediocre reference.

Too many people working now are angry at and disappointed in their managers. If you are one of them, think again. In the course of your career, you will have many managers, good ones and bad ones. Screamers and micromanagers. Visionary leaders and collaborative entrepreneurs. If you want to be successful in your career, you have to learn how to manage all kinds of managers.

Before you growl that you don't know how, think of your manager as a very important customer for your work. You've probably already had to deal with upset customers, customers who didn't understand what you were doing, customers who were frightened or demanding, and many others.  If you are so young that you haven't had a lot of customer experience, you've certainly had to manage a wide variety of teachers or professors. You've got the skills, really you do. Just think customer (or teacher.)

Instead of hiding when she is angry, wait for her to calm down and try again. Instead of going nuts when he micromanages you, think about what you could do to establish his trust. You might even try saying something like, "You can be sure that I will complete this on time." Experiment. Get good at managing different kinds of bosses, and your career will be golden.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Career Success Tip #1: Exploit Your Current Job!

Most people look ahead to their next job, not at their current job. Don't do it! You'll miss some great opportunities. During a recession like this one, if you have a job, it may be easier to look for opportunities in your current job than it would be to look for a new job. Recessions don't last forever! What will you be prepared to do when this on is over?

If you consider a series of jobs the same thing as a career, you are making a big mistake. Your career actually depends upon the growth of your skills and abilities. Some people think that only happens when you change jobs. Not so. One of my long-term friends in Organizational Development had the same job title for fifteen years. But it wasn't really the same job, because her company grew and changed, and the programs she developed grew and changed with it. What she was able to do - not her job title - is what mattered. From that "job", she did was to exploit every opportunity to expand her skills.

You can do that, too. OK, if you can't move up in terms of a job, how can you move up in terms of your skills? What can you learn? What can you volunteer to lead? What course can you take, either using tuition reimbursement or your own money? Who can you learn from? Take charge of your career. Exploit the opportunities of your current job, until there are more job opportunities out there.