Formula for a pleasant trip home...
1. Drink at least one adult beverage per day, beginning as early in the day as possible. After procuring sufficiently healthy and organic provisions at Whole Foods, I said "wait I need wine and champagne!" My husband cocked his head to the size in confusion at the checkout and then replied, "Oh. I forgot, we're in Ohio now."
2. Stay at a hotel. Fortunately my husband is a consultant and amasses hotel points easily. Being able to come and go and have a mini gym onsite was more important than I initially realized.
3. Do not (if at all possible) travel home when relatives are hosting a large event. This year we visited the week before Christmas in order to use miles, but serendipitously realized that it is better to forgo the gift exchange and herds of extended family for a few peaceful days with the immediate family.
Formula for satisfaction on the job
Fortunately, it only took one year in my current job (recently hit my one year anniversary) to put my finger on some criteria that could lead to vocational happiness. This may not be the same for you as if is for me, but I thought I'd share my own personal bulleted list anyway.
- Carve out time each week for things you like to do and things you are good at.,i.e., using your motivated skills. It seems so simple, but it is so easy to get bogged down with tasks that need to be accomplished yet are mentally taxing (i.e., burnout skills). My strongest motivated skill is unquestionably coaching, but more simply put - helping others. When I feel like I'm making a difference in someone's work or life, I am on cloud nine. Poring over spreadsheets and reports de-energizes me, so I try to minimize the time I spend there and do it at home with my music and sweatpants on!
- Ask for help before you need a life preserver. I learned that others view me as a relatively confident individual and that confidence often translates to competence in their minds. In a new job we often have to "fake it until we make it," which makes it imperative to actively seek out the support and coaching we need. I have to strike a balance between acting the part and disclosing my strengths and growth areas, but after a few small wins I feel more comfortable sharing my skill gaps with others. Fortunately helping others to minimize those gaps is a key function of my role, so at least in the words of Kouzes and Pozner in Leadership Challenge, I am "Modeling the Way."
- Know your next step. Keep reading...
I'd like to focus a little more on number three, which is perhaps the most nebulous of my three key learnings: why it is important to have an exit strategy. My organization recently reduced its workforce during which a number of individuals approached me to solicit advice on their networking and personal branding efforts. Fortunately, many of these folks had done an excellent job maintaining their network across the organization and were able to tap into some warm leads with the hope of finding something internally. Others had already been networking outside the organization to identify other corporate positions or consulting opportunities. In fact, in the best cases, these individuals had already developed business plans and identified potential partners so that they were well positioned to just execute upon their departure. However, and not surprisingly, I was also solicited for help by another group - those who had already departed and asked "can you help me find a job" or "can you share your network with me so I can find a job?" I could write multiple blog entries on the aforementioned "help me get a job" population, but my point in offering this anecdotal information is to stress the importance of having an exit strategy.
Many of you have this week off from work. While your mind is clear, set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time with some blank paper and your writing/coloring utensils of choice. Think about what you would do professionally or from an avocational standpoint if you didn't need the money. Let your mind wander and get the ideas on paper. Now, get out a new piece of paper and transfer the items from the previous list that would allow you to earn an income. Get a highlighter or a different color pen/marker/crayon. Circle the ones you would consider doing if your job disappeared sometime in the next year. Prioritize the top three items on the list. Now, write down 3-5 action steps (sequentially or non-sequentially) that you could take to make those three ideas a reality. Don't worry about the roadblocks right now (e.g., funds, technology skills, contacts, etc.) . Just write down the action steps. Put it away for 48 hours so that you can let it sink in. Then, revisit the list with a trusted friend or family member who can help you fine tune and narrow the list down to 1-2 ideas you could pursue. By New Years Day you could already have your exit strategy mapped out so that if/when it's time to move, you are ready. Whether you are ready to say "peace out" to your job or you are blissfully happy, having a plan for what's next if freeing and can provide you with a serious confidence boost!
What does your bulleted list look like?
HAPPY HOLIDAYS READERS!!!
We went over the causeway and through the levee to see my brother in the suburbs of New Orleans this Thanksgiving. While in flight to the Big Easy, I read an article on the November issue of Harvard Business Review, which spoke to me. “A Campaign Strategy for Your Career” draws a connection between running a political campaign and managing your long-term career. While many of us get green around the gills when we think of office politics, according to author, Dorie Clark, if we “take the time to build authentic relationships, improve [our] work skills, and provide real value to others, it’s possible to succeed at office politics with integrity.”
In my last entry, I wrote about the importance of having a networking list or map. This Power Map tool can help you bring it to life, and like any other tool I encounter in the career coaching space, I decided to experiment on my family.
My brother, a pipeline engineer, elaborated on his interest in a Business Development (BD) role in his organization. I put my career coach and talent development manager hat on and inquired about the extent to which he is connected to individuals who are in BD roles, but perhaps more importantly, those who had transitioned from roles like his to those to which he aspires. The goals of which include leveraging those BD folks to identify critical technical/business skill gaps, educational hurdles, behavioral challenges to overcome, and relationships to develop. Fortunately, as we walked on the levee along Lake Pontchartrain (simultaneously cautiously watching for alligators), he spouted off the names of about five people he had developed relationships who could be spokes on his power map. All of these individuals are based in Houston, which adds a layer of regional complexity to keeping his name in consideration when opportunities arise. Fortunately, my brother shared that an eventual BD role is a part of his development plan (thus making it more visible to HR and future managers), but we spoke about the challenges associated with the fact that most of the members of his developmental network (i.e, Trusted individuals you seek out for advice and to explore professional options) reside in Houston and not all of them are aware of his future plans.
Regardless of where the folks on your Power Map are located, it is important to have some routines in place for how often you will check in with them. For instance, I suggested that my brother connect with each of these individuals in person whenever he visits the corporate mother ship in Houston, but also that he schedule calls with them once a quarter to check in. We talked about how he can share information or resources that his network might find valuable in between their more formal interactions to keep him top of mind, but also to let his contacts know how their advice was incorporated into his development (i.e., rewarding the network). I encouraged my brother to think about returning to Houston to ride in the 150 mile bike race his company sponsors (not only because my family could always use more exercise), but because he could do something he loves while reconnecting with old colleagues in the process.
So, what about this Power Map? Well, thanks to an exceedingly long face time conversation with our parents, we didn’t have time to draw it in detail. However, before we parted for the New Orleans airport, my brother had a list of about 15 people who could comprise the Power Map and a discussion about how to make this hub/spoke structure work for him. Check out this description from HBR:
You’ll want to populate it with your own characters (i.e., the people who are or should in your network). If you aren’t sure who these people are, this is an excellent conversation to have with a mentor inside your organization. It’s not necessary to have such cute caricatures. The point is to get the names on there and start brainstorming about how to get better connected to them. It’s not just about doing good work and getting noticed. You have to get yourself noticed by the right people while winning them over in the process (we’ll save that for another entry, or check out this cheesy video I made in my MBA presentation class for the Accounting students I was coaching at the time).
Regardless of your political leanings, Clark claims that “you can model the behavior of the best politicians: Set clear goals, reach out to supporters, build and exercise influence, and then execute relentlessly to achieve your ambitions. In short, you can devise a campaign plan for your career.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Break out some crayons and then make that power map a reality!
I recently traveled to Ohio for my mom’s 60th birthday. Returning home always prompts thoughts and conversation about my family members’ career aspirations. Everyone’s plans were fair game for on the spot career coaching this time around, including two close friends of mine from college who were part of the journey. When thinking about this topic, I recalled the final scene in the movie Pretty Woman. Check out this clip. If you don’t want to break out the Kleenex, just fast forward to time code 1:40.
Although I was in suburban Cincinnati, not Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, all of my family members seemed to have some sort of dream. My petrol-engineering brother, nicknamed the “Petroleum Prince” by my east coast cousins, expressed a desire to move into a business-focused role. Given that I often work with high potential engineers transitioning into sales, marketing, or business development, I was all ears (maybe more mouth than ears if I am to be entirely honest with myself – but old family habits die hard, even in spite of professional training). My operations-focused brother quickly catapulted himself into a quality director role responsible for numerous manufacturing sites for his organization worldwide, on track for roles of increasing responsibility. He remained confidently casual about it, the consummate fraternity president, as my husband often refers to him.
My sisters-in-law are the smart ones though – already paving the way vocationally to be parents while simultaneously pursuing their passions. One of my sisters-in-law is moving into an account management role with a food distribution company, also focused on menu planning, her true passion and entrée into being an eventual working stay at home mom someday (planning meals for busy families in their area). My other sister-in-law has managed to carve out an ideal niche for herself, pursuing her passion of coaching basketball as the varsity coach at a local high school and managing four other coaches in the district. Between this role and the summer camps she coordinates and coaches for, she still gets to spend quality time with our super cute niece, pursue what she loves, and hone her management skills in the process.
This entry is not meant to be about balancing parenthood with a career. My point in bragging on my inherited family members is to illustrate the concept of “beginning with the end in mind” to quote the recently departed Stephen Covey with regard to his second of seven habits. My sisters-in-law know where they want to be in the long-term, or at least the foreseeable long-term. Perhaps more importantly, they are taking steps to get there.'
Seeing them in person reminded me to continue putting stakes in the ground to help me get closer to my own long-term career goal, becoming a sought after executive coach and adjunct faculty member at a university. I’m making progress with an executive coaching certification under my belt and a day job that involves developing leaders and high potentials. Fortunately, I’ve been recognized as an engaging training facilitator at work and a solid speaker by some of my former professors, with whom I am staying in touch. I am building up an arsenal of pragmatic content and cases that can first be deployed in a 3-hour leadership seminar and at some point a several credit hour course. I feel fortunate that helping others identify and pursue their career aspirations as a part of my job reminds me to focus on my own. What can you do to focus on yours once, once a month, or once a quarter?
To quote the late Covey again, “the best way to predict your future is to create it.” What will you create?