1: Choosing a Career in Today’s Economy
- It is not uncommon to find yourself graduating or leaving the military, or even be several years into working, and not know what you want to do. In today’s world, most professionals will have an opportunity to have several careers over thirty, forty, or even fifty years. Don’t panic. Just get started!
- Content is the most important thing to focus on when you are looking for employment, either early in your career or mid-career. It is the foundation of your job and career plan. Take the time to define it for yourself.
- There are three questions that you must ask yourself to position yourself for a job that you want: 1) What kind of content do I want in my job? 2) What kind of jobs have this content? 3) What skills, experiences, or education do I need in order to be attractive for a job with this content?
- When you go on interviews, know what the buyer is buying, and then sell your understanding of that, as well as your skills and experience, and why you are the best candidate for the job.
- If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should seek to get experience and education in the area you’re interested in by working for someone else first. Make sure that you have a strong plan and adequate financial and personnel resources before you start your business.
2: Making Yourself Attractive for That Career Opportunity
- People automatically assume that in order to change jobs or careers they need additional education. That is not always the case.
- Many of us have skills and experiences that are applicable to a myriad of opportunities. To successfully master an interview, you have to recognize the skills you already have and craft a story that showcases your strengths and connects your skills and experiences to what the interviewer is looking for.
- Your Can Do determines if you have the intelligence, credentials, and experience to do the job. Your Will Do is about understanding what motivates you, your tenacity, and your willingness to persevere and to be resourceful. Your Fit is about understanding whether or not you will “fit in” with the culture of the company.
- Telling and selling your story is one of the most important components to successfully interviewing for any position. Prepare well for the “Tell me about yourself” question; it’s your opportunity to show that you have done your research about the company and assure the interviewer that you can handle the job.
- Many job descriptions will ask for candidates with previous experience in a similar position, but in most cases that experience is a preferred qualification, not mandatory.
3: Positioning Yourself for Success
- Taking a job to get a foot in the door may not lead you on a trajectory to a higher-profile or line role. Understand an organization’s history with regard to promotions and job changes to avoid frustration when you try to make a move.
- Rotational programs give you an opportunity to explore the company. Never view these assignments as only a chance to get experience in that area. Do such an outstanding job at each one that each group is interested in hiring you.
- How and where you join an organization influences your rate of compensation and can influence your future earning power. It’s up to you to know the market rate for your position.
- Don’t just take any job. Even if it’s not your dream, make sure it positions you well for what you really want to do.
- The level of responsibility that you will have in a prospective role is important, but it is equally, if not more, important to evaluate your job opportunities by the kind of experience and expertise that you are likely to have when you finish in the role.
- Make sure you acquire and develop strategic skills (basic selling, analytical, organizational, management, and presentation) and technical skills that are applicable and valued in many different jobs and industries very early on in your career.
- Just because your functional job doesn’t afford you the opportunity to learn or practice a skill you wish to learn, such as making presentations, doesn’t mean you can’t hone the skill elsewhere. Look for opportunities within the company to serve on teams or with employee groups to get experience. If you can’t find opportunities where you work, consider using your volunteer activities, or other places where you give of your time, or even with your friends to learn and/or practice. Or commit time to try learning on your own by reading books or taking courses online or elsewhere.
4: Managing Your Career
- The three keys to successfully managing your career are: your career agenda, performance currency, and using that currency wisely. Performance currency is that goodwill, good reputation, and good capital you create by executing your job well and creating stellar deliverables on discrete assignments.
- It is important to start building performance currency as soon as you join a company or department. Putting points on the board immediately will go a long way to helping you establish yourself in a new environment.
- You must define success in a way that you can deliver and that will allow you to create performance currency by delivering a visible, identifiable achievement.
- Influencing your environment creates greater performance currency. There are three keys to successfully influencing your environment: categorizing your idea as evolutionary or revolutionary; identifying and properly communicating to the players; and knowing how, where, what, and when to communicate your idea.
- There are four types of players in any environment: the sponsor, the supporter, the “say no to everything” person, and the saboteur. You need to know the best way to deal with each type.
- Making mistakes is common in any workplace. What is important is how you recover.
5: Starting to Build Relationships
- Relationship currency is very different from performance currency. Relationships are a medium of exchange you can use to further your professional agenda; acquire more responsibility, more senior roles, and greater assignments; and have your voice heard.
- Begin to build relationships as soon as you join an organization. Create a broad network of those senior to you, junior to you, and peers.
- You create relationship currency by making the time and effort to connect with people over business and personal topics. Be deliberate about connecting with people: put it as an action item on your calendar if necessary.
- True relationship currency will motivate people to act on your behalf.
- Women must be sure to focus on relationship currency as much as, if not more than, performance currency
6: Effective Communication and Reading the Signs
- Ineffective communication skills can be a major impediment to moving ahead and maximizing your success. There are different ways to communicate to your boss, your peers, and people who are junior to you.
- Do not be too emotional in your communication at work, stay professional.
- Much of the feedback that you receive can be nonverbal. Many professionals miss the messages being communicated to them, both the positive and negative, and therefore miss opportunities to advance, to correct an action, or even to leave a company before it is too late. It is up to you to watch for the signals and ask the questions necessary to have a clear picture of how you are perceived and whether your performance is up to par.
- Know the common signals and ask questions about what they mean, and adjust your performance as necessary to keep your career moving forward.
- You can’t fix it if you don’t know that it’s broken. Whether or not you think it is valid, never be argumentative or aggressive toward someone offering you constructive criticism. Be open to what people have to communicate: it will help you continue to grow.
7: Positioning Your Profile for Success in the Professional Environment
- Be self-aware. Know your profile and what it says about you. Are you the “good soldier,” the “yes man,” the “arguer,” the “safe pair of hands,” or the “chief”?
- Your profile affects how and if people think of you when new positions, assignments, or opportunities to lead arise.
- No matter what your profile is, you can be a leader in your environment.
- Great leaders understand the importance of leverage, efficiency, and action; and are decisive, diversity focused, engaged, and responsible.
8: Knowing When It’s Time to Make a Change
- The decision to change jobs, companies, or careers is among the most important you will ever make in your career.
- There are always risks involved with making a change. Identify and inventory the risks and be sure you are being adequately compensated.
- It is worth making a change if you are offered an opportunity with a steeper career trajectory and forward opportunity.
- If you are offered a new opportunity and you are responsible for creating change in an organization, you must: a) articulate a clear vision for the change; b) understand and assess the players; c) communicate the “why,” “when,” and “how”; d) identify and define the milestones; and e) celebrate your team’s accomplishments.
- Whether it’s due to layoffs, restructuring of product lines, or poor performance, know when it’s time to go. Avoid changing jobs because of another person; look for solutions instead.
9: Managing Through Change
- Change is an inevitable part of any career, and although it can be stressful it can work to your advantage. Take a positive attitude and decide how to approach it based on what skills and experience you have to offer, along with your interests and career plan.
- If your boss changes, determine the reasons why, and look appraisingly at the new person. Do what you can to support your new leader with a “can do,” “ready for change” attitude.
- A sponsor is the most important relationship in your career; ideally, you should have more than one. If they leave the company, engage them in helping you find a new one.
- Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed if you lose your job. Use it as an opportunity to craft and sell your story about your skills and experience and why you make the best candidate for a new job.