change

CWC #10

Have you completed any classroom, online or on-the-job training in the past 12 months?

Ch-ch-ch-chaaanges. Everything changes.  Faster than ever it seems. Systems. Structures. Methods. Processes. Technology.  If you aren’t keeping up, you’re falling behind.  It’s that simple.  Are you going to sit back and wait for your employer to require you to take classes, learn new skills, gain new certifications?  What if they never do?  Who loses in that equation? You do. When you find that your skills aren’t competitive in the job market, you’ll be playing catch-up.  You could be at a disadvantage when seeking new opportunity, even within your own company.

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CWC #9

What new work experiences have you had in the last 12 months?

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I do identify aspirations.  This year, one of them was to be uncomfortable as often as possible. Seems weird, I know. Except that being uncomfortable almost always means doing something new.  And when I do something new, I learn.  I grow. I add to my toolkit.

If you can’t remember the last time you experienced something new in your work, you have stagnated.  It’s time to raise your hand, take on that project, ask for that new stretch assignment.  What can you do that’s new?

Celebrate the season and a new year

Wow, can it be two months since my last post?  Apparently so.  Considering the interesting twists in my own career this Fall perhaps it is to be expected.  The most well defined change for me was being asked to join the adjunct faculty at Rollins College, and teach a class in the Masters of Human Resources program from which I graduated over a decade ago.  I absolutely loved it!  Of course, I knew I would.  It is something that has been ‘on my path’ my entire life.

I am now enjoying a little downtime and of course, celebrating the holidays.  I hope you are too.  Everyone needs downtime, to recharge, redefine or both.  And finding time to be grateful for our family, our faith, or whatever we appreciate in this life is a non-negotiable as we like to say in the corporate world.  Happy holidays to you!

From Entrepreneur to Corporate Life

A number of people recently have sought my advice on their intended transition into the corporate world.  They are entrepreneurs who, for a variety of reasons, have decided that now is the right time to leave that path. Some are in businesses that have slowed down or have become too difficult for other reasons.  Some are in business school, which they entered intentionally to use as a lever for finding a role in corporate America.

Entreprenuers have amazing skills and a lot they can bring to the table within a larger corporate setting.  However, their self-employment history can also be of concern to recruiters and hiring managers.  Why?  Well, here’s a look inside their heads:

Does this gal really want an internal role?

The number one concern is the motivation for applying to a corporate role.  Does the applicant truly want to be a part of, not in charge of, the business?  Or, are they just doing this because times are tough right now, and as soon as the market defrosts, or they simply get the itch, they’ll jump ship?

Can this guy really take orders or will he buck the system?

This is closely related to the question above.  They wonder, Can this person fit within our system?  The larger the organization, typically the more processes and policies in place and the less likely one individual is to influence them.  Ever heard the phrase My way or the highway?  If we’re being brutally honest with each other, we must admit this is often the way it works in large organizations.  In very large companies it’s common to not even have contact with the person who chose the highway.  People who ask too many questions or do things their own way are considered difficult.   Understandably, managers don’t want to hire someone, only to have to fire them later because they don’t “fit”.

Is she really as good as she says she is?

Recruiters and hiring managers may wonder if all the achievements listed on the entrepreneur’s resume are 100% accurate.  They generally don’t have any way to verify the information.  An issue related to this one is salary or overall compensation.

These are just a few issues, but they’re big ones.  If you are moving from entrepreneurship to corporate life, you need to figure out how to counterbalance these concerns. How?

1.   Be ready to talk about why you want a corporate role, not why you don’t want to own your own business anymore.  If you just tried the entrepreneurial thing for a while, it’s okay to say “it wasn’t for me” but if you owned your own business for a long time or are a serial entrepreneur, that won’t cut it.  If you were in a corporate role before and enjoyed it, say so.   Do you enjoy structure?  Being part of a larger team?  Be prepared with a message that will make them comfortable that you understand what you would be getting yourself into and that you truly want it.

2.  Make sure that when you talk about your experience or achievements, you illustrate how you’ve successfully worked with or within larger structures.  That you can follow the rules.  For example, were you a vendor to a large company with strict purchasing guidelines and a rigid RFP process?  Were you a franchise owner who had to work within very closely defined operating standards?

3.  You aren’t obligated to open up all your financial records to any potential employer (unless you’re going into politics, the FBI or something like that), but the more specific details you can share in an interview the better.  Quantify your achievements.  Sometimes non-financial details illustrate this better than dollar figures, i.e. “I won the contract renewal with Large Co., Inc., three times due to our excellent customer service and product quality”.

4.  Of course, always be prepared to highlight what you bring to the table that non-entrepreneur types may not.  For instance, a profitability mindset.  A broader understanding of the business.  A humbleness that comes from knowing how hard it really is to herd cats.

People make this transition successfully all the time, though it is certainly more challenging now due to the competition in the market.  If this is your plan, do your homework now so you can make it easy for a potential employer to say yes.

Change is good

Yes, I’ve changed the appearance of this blog.  Once again.  What can I say?   I like change.   At least, change that I’ve initiated. 

Sound familiar?  Yes, over the past few years many of us have been through change that was not in our plan.   Our paradigm was shifted for us.  Our cheese was moved.  A natural response can be to hunker down and resist any further change.  However, this does not carry us forward. 

Rather, we can use the energy released by the initial change and channel it into further changes – changes we steer into taking us down the path we wish to go.  The vaccuum created by the loss of one thing is an opportunity for something else to rush in and fill it.  We can influence that process.  We do not have to be victims, sitting idly by. Instead we can take a moment, think about what we are really striving for and then take specific, productive action to fill the gaps. 

Change can give us a fresh perspective and help us to actually think differently.  The next time you want to think differently, change something – your environment, your schedule, your actions.   That’s what I did.  And I hope you like it!

Try something new

I’m trying out a new theme for my blog.  Most likely, you won’t notice.  It’s not radically different from the original theme.  But I like it.  So, I changed it.  Just because I can. 

Sometimes it’s good to do this.  It’s like re-arranging your furniture.  It knocks the dust off.   Provides a new perspective.  Sometimes we need to do that in our career too.  Keeps it fresh.  Keeps us growing.  I did it in my own, and have never regretted it.  

The timing of this post was unintentional, but I guess this is a good time of year for trying something new.  I’m already thinking about some more meaty changes as well for next year.  What new thing will you try in the new year?

From hobby to career

Many people are considering a major career change these days. Some by necessity, others driven by factors such as wanting a “retirement” career, wanting to balance child or parent care, or just a desperate wanting to get out of a career that is sucking the life out of them. Fearful souls will ask them “Why would you do this now? Look at the economy! Look at the job market!”

If you have a hobby that you would like to potentially make a career, do not let these nervous nellies dissuade you. Now, that does not mean leap before you look! There are many factors you must consider objectively to determine whether you are ready. But let me tell you about a woman I know — we’ll call her “Sue”:

Sue had worked for many years in a technical field, in a large corporation. Overall, she enjoyed her work. But she also enjoyed creative projects – primarily sewing and jewelry making. She did it for fun, but she worked hard at learning, constantly growing her skills because she enjoyed it so much. She sewed for friends and family and even did a few projects for pay over the years and recently began selling her jewelry at craft shows.  She really wanted to pursue her passion, and find a job using her creative skills but because she didn’t have any “real” experience in it, she thought no one would hire her. What she did have is creative skill and knowledge, people skills, passion, a steady work history and strong work ethic. After focusing on these key selling points, we re-packaged her resume and verbal messages. She began realizing it was possible. She got energized and began presenting herself to target companies. Four days later, she called me to say she had already received interview opportunities!  

Would she start at the top? Could she walk in at the same salary she had before? No.  But she had arranged things in her life so that she was able to take this step back to do what she loved. These may not be the “right” opportunities ultimately; that will depend on many factors.  But it proved to her that the experience she gained in her hobby is worth something in the employment market. 

If you are considering making a career of your hobby, you have to ask yourself a number of questions including:

  • whether your skills in this area are sufficient (sometimes we love doing something but we’re not very good at it)
  • if you have a financial situation or can adjust it so that you can take a step back in pay in the short term (or longer, depending on where you are coming from and going to)
  • if this is really something you want to do as a career (or will it lose it’s luster when it is no longer a ‘choice’?)

If the answers to these questions are “Yes”, go ahead and at least explore.  It seems ironic, but now can be a good time to change careers even though there is a glut of “talent” in the market.  Yes, some companies are looking for only people with deep experience in the particular field or industry, but many companies are frustrated with the same, tired talent they’ve been seeing – with great experience but no passion.  And that is regardless of age.  They don’t want a bored 25 year old any more than they do a bored 52 year old. 

I talk with hiring managers in companies regularly who understand there are a lot  of people looking for new directions, who have some related skills and knowledge if not the formal experience,  who are open and flexible.   They are interested in these people if they have the most important factor – an authentic interest that they can articulate and which is backed up by their actions.  More than ever, companies are not just looking for a body.  They are  looking for someone who will make a difference.

Career wellness checkup complete!

We did it! We made it to the end of our career wellness checkup (via Twitter). That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: now we actually have to do something with it. Because, of course, it doesn’t make much of a difference if we don’t…

Just like in my team development sessions, I love the intellectual exercise of conducting assessments and reviewing the results with the team, seeing the “aha” moments. In the right setting, I could talk about the theoretical all day. But in these team sessions, the underlying assumption is that something will actually change as a result. (Can you imagine??) And since change is a verb in this context, that means we actually have to do something. I get rabid about making sure we schedule ample time in my sessions to identify stop/start/continue items and leave with commitments. And, happily, I’ve seen the results that follow from folks making good on these commitments.

Alas, since we are not sitting in a room together, and I am not controlling your schedule, I must leave it to you to review your own answers to the checkup questions over the last several weeks, and identify your own action items. My primary guidance is this: Don’t try to do it all. Pick just a few items – maybe three, tops. Perhaps you recognized a theme to the areas you need to work on. My questions generally revolve around a few themes – knowledge and skills, organizational savvy, network and career direction/vision. If you have recognized that one of these areas needs more work than the others (say…you’ve recognized your skills are not up to date and you haven’t kept up with the latest knowledge in your industry or field), consider building a few action items around that area. Here are a few examples:

-Need / *Action item

– to increase knowledge within industry / * find relevant blogs and subscribe to their free auto email updates

– to increase broader business knowledge / * download free podcasts through iTunesU from top universities

– to learn a new skill / * find someone with that skill and ask to observe them

– to build my internal network outside my team / * connect with other employees through LinkedIn; comment on their status updates or posted discussions

– to build my network outside my company / * attend networking event or ask a well networked friend to invite you to their next networking lunch

– to build a better relationship with my leader’s leader / * volunteer for a special project which will give you exposure to him or her

These are just a few examples. Some actions could require a serious time investment, but many won’t. Think small. Be creative. But whatever you do, don’t wait. I’ll be doing this myself and will update you in a future blog.

Resilience

Resilience is a factor I had not built into my career wellness checkup, but after attending a seminar yesterday, I’m convinced I need to add it. Dr. Marnie Shanbhag, a licensed psychologist in the Orlando area, spoke about resilience – the characteristics and the effects of having it (or not). If there is any skill we cannot do without in this day and age, it’s resilience. Our work changes in innumerable ways both big and small on what seems like a daily basis. We live in a sea of uncertainty. This does not mean we must cling to our lifeboat, desperate for the winds to die down. We can do more than survive – we can thrive. But we can’t do it without resilience.

The good news is, it can be developed like a muscle. To build resilience, Dr. Marnie says we can do a number of things. A few are:

1. Accept change as part of living
2. Avoid seeing crisis as insurmountable
3. Compartmentalize
4. Do something small to keep moving toward your goal
5. Begin to understand your thinking (observe when strong emotions are triggered, look for themes in why you are upset, identify the underlying belief or fear)
6. Challenge your thinking

I learned that lack of resilience is marked by an outsized emotional reaction to a situation, generally followed by ineffective action (or no action). Even in those moments we can build our resilience muscle by using calming techniques such as deep breathing or mental distraction techniques such as mathematics or naming games, and then challenging our thinking. Good exercises for challenging our thinking: “a more accurate way of seeing this is…” and “that’s not true because…”

As our careers change ever more rapidly and we must play a more active role in steering them, resilience will become a crucial skill. Practice building yours today.