What to say in your performance review

What to say in your performance review

In an interview in August 2018, Donald Trump was asked, “What grade do you give yourself so far?”

He replied “I give myself an A+. I don’t think any president has ever done what I’ve done…”

Very few of us approach a performance appraisal with the self-confidence of Donald Trump! In fact, an imminent review can leave many feeling anxious about what to say and how to ask for what we want. And that’s fair enough.

In my article How to Speak Up for Yourself at Work, I talked about your perceived power base. If you feel your power base is lower than your boss or company (which for most of us, it is), you will hesitate to speak up because you fear the consequences.

But, the good news is our perceived power base isn’t fixed and there are steps you can take to feel confident and prepared for your next review.

Ask about the business

In any relationship, asking questions about the other party is a great way to break the ice. It’s also a good way to feel more powerful in the discussion because you’re making a meaningful contribution. By asking pertinent questions about, how the business has performed in the last year, what are the business goals for the coming year,  what your manager wants/needs to achieve in the next year and how you can help you demonstrate your business nous, openness and willingness to have a mature two-way conversation.

I’ve included a list of questions to consider in the Checklist of Things to Prepare for Your Review.

Talk about your achievements

A good place to start is to take out your job description and list your achievements since your last review against each of your responsibilities. It’s important recognise your self-assessment represents the view of only one person…you!  To balance your self-assessment, see if you can source data, reports or feedback from colleagues or customers to add evidence and balance to your appraisal.

Once you have gathered this material, summarise it neatly in a short report, which you can give to your manager and HR at your review.

Be upfront about your strengths & weaknesses

Everyone has strengths and areas they can improve. You should absolutely sell yourself in your review.  As Australians, many of us find self-promotion culturally uncomfortable. It’s considered un-Australian to boast. So, it’s about striking the right balance to stay authentic but not downplay your achievements. If you only talk about your strengths and refuse to acknowledge any failings, you risk being perceived as arrogant. But downplaying yourself isn’t to your advantage either. As the actor, Brooke Shields warns, you risk undermining your potential for promotion, pay rises and other wins.

“I spent my life trying to be humble. And it has a boomerang effect if you’re not careful, because being humble is also dimming your light. Don’t undermine yourself,” said Ms Shields.

This is where being prepared can help you say the right thing in your performance review.

I recommend you conduct a self-audit (you’ll find this in my performance review checklist). Write down your strengths and areas for improvement so you know what you’re going to say. Think through how to answer any questions you might find awkward so you’re not on the back foot in the meeting.

For example, you might say “I recognise I have sound technical skills but I need to improve my leadership skills. I know the business needs leaders with my background to achieve its growth plans, and I would like to be a part of that team. Is the company willing to support me with leadership training so I can upskill?”

If you approach difficult conversations using this kind of language, you create a win – win scenario for both parties and demonstrate self-awareness. The business wins because it builds its leadership capability and retains talented technicians and you win because you create a pathway for promotion and gain credibility for your emotional intelligence.

Set clear goals that work for you and the business

Setting goals is a great way to clarify expectations between you and your employer.

I recommend you use the SMARTA approach to setting goals:

  • Specific – name your goals. So rather than say “I want to earn more money” say “I want to earn $100,000 per year”.
  • Measurable – if you don’t measure your goals, how will you know if you’ve achieved them? Quantitative goals, like salary, are easier to measure. If your goals are qualitative, like developing your leadership skills, set some criteria for how you and your employer will assess that.
  • Achievable – really think about your circumstances. For example, if you’re going for a promotion, you might need to work longer hours so think about how that fits with your circumstances, particularly if you have a family.
  • Realistic – goals have to be realistic. There’s no point setting the goal to be CEO next year if you’re the intern! Your career is a marathon so think about the next logical step to move forward.
  • Time-bound – setting a deadline is a great way to stay focused and motivated. By placing a time limit to your goal you give yourself something to aim for and report back on at your next review.
  • Aligned – this is the emotional intelligence aspect again. Aligning your goals with the goals of the business will help both parties get ahead, which means you’re more likely get what you want.

Ask for what you want

One way of getting what you want is to ask for it. As a coach, I hear many people complain they didn’t receive a promotion, pay rise or some other employment benefit but when I ask “well, did you ask” the answer is often no! You may be one of many employees but even if it’s just you and the boss, don’t expect your employer to be a mind reader. It is your responsibility to manage your own career.

If you find it difficult to ask for what you want, think about how to ask.

Money

When the business gives you a pay rise, costs go up. So, to help sell the idea of a pay rise to your manager, think about how to demonstrate that you’ve helped generate wins for your employer. Or, pitch your ideas for the next financial year on how you can help the business generate more income or be more efficient. Profitable businesses are in everyone’s best interest, it means they can pay their bills on time and there is money to invest in growth and development.

Another angle to consider with regards to a pay rise is risk. If you ask for a flat salary increase, the business carries all the risk. That is, they will have to pay you the extra money, regardless of how well you perform. However, if you ask for a pay rise in the form of a bonus, both parties share the risk. That can make a pay rise more palatable for your employer.

A word of caution about bonuses, be very clear about what your goals are and how they will be measured so that you and your employer know exactly what you have to do to earn your bonus, when and how it will be paid.

It’s also worth seeing if you are doing significantly more than what’s on your job description. But, I urge you to use this approach cautiously. Being petty about small additional tasks won’t earn you credibility. If you’re going to ask for more money based on broader responsibilities, make sure your claim is substantial.

Finally, source some salary benchmark data for your industry and measure your role against the average. Are you being paid within the salary band or are you below the benchmark? This information can be found on many websites including SEEK and LinkedIn.  If you can’t find this information, speak to a recruiter in your industry as they will know what people with your skills and experience are being paid.

Flexibility

While every employee appreciates money, not everyone wants to do more work to earn more pay. Rather, some people opt for flexibility so they can carve out time in their week for family, volunteering or other interests. Employers recognise that offering flexible work is a good way to retain and motivate talented staff. However, just like the money discussion, flexible work arrangements have to deliver good results for the employee and the employer.

Use my performance review template prepare your case on how the business can offer you flexible work without jeopardizing productivity. For example, some people offer to work 40 hours over four days instead of five, so they can have a long weekend.

Training

Being a life-long learner is a great way to stay motivated and keep your skills up-to-date for a long and prosperous career. Training is also a relatively easy ask at your performance review. Once you have discussed your strengths and limitations and your goals with your manager, it will help you identify where there are gaps in your skills. If your employer is serious about getting the most out of you, they should be willing to invest in your training.

But again, you are responsible for managing your own career. So don’t go into your performance review with a blank page. Research the courses you would like to do, find out how much they cost, what the learning outcomes are and have a succinct summary ready to show your employer at your review. You make it so much easier for them to say ‘yes’ when they can see your commitment to ongoing learning.

Promotion

Your review is a perfect time to ask for a promotion. But again, you’ll need to prepare your business case in advance.

Before your official performance review, it’s a good idea to invite your manager for coffee to sound out the idea. Ask your manager what the business wants to achieve in the next 12-24 months, ask if they think you’re doing a good job and sound out what your opportunities might be for a promotion. Doing this pre-review step gives you valuable information, so you are confident going into your official review.

Next, do your self-assessment. Before you step up, it’s a good idea to demonstrate your mastery of your existing role. Have the facts and figures ready to show your employer how well you’ve done your current job, and that you’re ready to take on more challenges. Plus, factor in any feedback your manager gave you at your pre-review coffee.

Then, be ready to ask for the role you want, and to justify why you’re the best person for the job. This means having a genuine conversation about your strengths and what skills you’ll need to develop to step up to the next level. If you really want to blow your employer’s hair back, think about drafting a short plan outlining what you would do in the first 100 days of your new role to generate quick wins for the business.

Your performance review is a great opportunity to discuss your accomplishments and share information with your employer. But, it can be hard to know what to say and how to say it to in a way that makes you feel confident and builds credibility with your employer. I encourage you to take the next step and download a checklist of things to prepare for your review.

Your Performance Review Checklist

Once you’re done that, book a career conversation with me, bring along your check list and we’ll discuss how to confidently manage your next performance review.

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Why having the right vibe will accelerate your career

Why having the right vibe will accelerate your career

I had coffee recently with a client who missed out on a promotion. It was the second leadership opportunity he’d applied for but didn’t get. The feedback from HR was he had the right qualifications and experience but didn’t present strongly enough for a leadership role. Put plainly, they didn’t like his vibe. This blog explains why having the right vibe will accelerate your career.

What is your ‘vibe’?

There’s a classic line in the Australian movie ‘The Castle’ where Darryl Kerrigan’s lawyer, Dennis Denuto, is arguing in court why Darryl’s house shouldn’t be compulsorily acquired by the government. His defense is “It’s the constitution. It’s Mabo. It’s justice. It’s law. It’s the vibe and ah, no that’s it. It’s the vibe. I rest my case.”

While the writers of The Castle where making fun of ‘the vibe’, it is a real thing.

Human beings are social animals. We use verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate with each other. The ability to communicate empathetically is known as emotional intelligence. People with strong emotional intelligence are often considered to have good people skills, that is, they pick up other’s ‘vibes’.

According to psychiatrist Dr Bernard Beitman, we sense a type of energy related to people’s thoughts and emotions.

“Our bodies may have receptors to pick up on this energy,” said Dr Beitman.

As adults, we learn how to select our words and behaviour with more discretion than children. But how many of us invest time reflecting on our own non-verbal communication and emotional intelligence? Have you ever seen your face in the mirror when you’re feeling angry? Although it’s your face, you probably don’t recognise it.

So, what is your vibe?

It’s how you communicate both verbally and non-verbally. It’s how you present yourself to the world (deliberately or unintentionally) and your ability to listen and interpret others empathetically.

Why is your vibe important in your career?

How you communicate and relate to others in the workplace is vitally important to your career. It matters at the start of your career but it really comes into focus as you progress into senior roles.

According to FastCompany, one of the skills that often derails executives is a lack of emotional intelligence. The Carnegie Institute of Technology conducted research that showed that 85 percent of our financial success was due to skills in “human engineering”, personality, and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. They found that only 15% was due to technical ability. Put plainly, people skills are the crucial skills for success.

When you are a leader, you hold more power than others in your organisation. All eyes are on you. You set the tone – rude or empathetic, self-aware or devil may care. The vibe you put out to the organisation is picked up by others, and you will become known for it.

As you move up the corporate ladder, it is easy for your vibe to morph. You earn more money, have more perks and gain more recognition. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important, like how you and your decisions impact on others. Power is a corrupting force so it’s easy to lose perspective on what vibes you’re giving off and how your communication impacts on others. In the Greek classics, it was known as hubris, and it’s how many leaders go off the rails.  Have you ever heard people say, “that person has changed since their promotion” or “they used to be so nice (before their promotion)”?  That’s hubris in action.

Stepping into the Arena

In her book Daring Greatly, author Dr Brene Brown talks about the importance of being vulnerable. Dr Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”.

Stepping up in your career puts you in a position of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Dr Brown calls this ‘stepping into the arena’.   Ask anyone what their over-riding feelings were in the first weeks of a promotion and many – myself included – would say “terror”.  This stems from “stepping in the arena” where there are no guarantees you will succeed. It’s risky and with that comes a mixed bag of emotions – pride if you succeed or fear and shame if you fail.

The ability to ‘lean in’ to your vulnerability, to accept the price for stepping up is risk and emotional exposure, will impact on your vibe. That is, your team, your boss and senior leaders will sense if you’ve got walls up and that you are not being true to yourself.

Dr Brown says some people ‘engineer smallness’ into their working lives as a way to avoid uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. There are many ways people engineer smallness into their lives such as:

  • Not trying – if you don’t apply for the promotion, there’s no risk, uncertainty or emotional exposure
  • Going for it half-heartedly. This is self-sabotage – you say to yourself that you want the opportunity but you’re not willing to accept and lean into the discomfort of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, so you behave in a way, conscientiously or sub-conscientiously, that makes sure you don’t get the job.

Of course, it’s natural to want to avoid risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure. That’s hard stuff especially at work, an environment where not everyone is your friend or trustworthy.   But if you want to move forward with your career, it’s something you have to embrace. There are significant payoffs for allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity,” said Dr Brown.

These positive feelings help you build an attractive vibe that keeps you connected and communicating positively with others and, importantly others with you.

How to Work on your Leadership Vibe

It’s a myth that leaders are born. Just because someone is an extrovert doesn’t mean they make an emotionally intelligent leader. In fact, sometimes, the opposite is true.

Be Self-Aware

Once my client recovered from the disappointment on missing out on the promotions, we sat down and had a chat about his vibe. This included a review of his communication (verbal and non-verbal).  I won’t lie, for my client this was hard stuff! But to his credit, he recognised his vibe “stunk”.  He realised he was giving off a negative vibe which he also found out later was a vibe the panel had picked up, commented upon and had used against him in deciding who got the job.

What we discovered was he was uncomfortable with uncertainty and emotional exposure, so his behavior came across as defensive (crossed arms, not listening to others, quick to retort, frowning more than smiling). This led us to talk about how to cultivate a growth mindset.

Develop a Growth Mindset

I was talking with a relative in her 80s about life and I asked her “at 80, do you feel that you’ve reached your destination in life?” and she said “no, you never get there”.  I have to say that gave me pause to think!

Her point? We’re all on a journey. It might sound like a cheeseball line from a reality TV show but it’s actually very helpful if you think “I’m not there YET but I’m working towards it”.

You may not have all the leadership skills and qualities YET but, you can work on them. And by the way, no one has every leadership quality in abundance. No one has perfect communication skills, no one lives without fear of failure. But what good leaders do have is an understanding of their strengths and limitations and a mindset that allows them to accept failure (their own and others) is a possibility but also a learning experience.

Build Your Emotional Intelligence

If you give off a positive “vibe” then you can build strong relationships, you can work happily and productively with others AND others will want to work with you.

There are five elements to emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness – understanding how your communication and behavior impacts on others
  2. Self- regulation – keeping check of your emotions and understanding how they influence your behavior and vibe
  3. Motivation – the drive to move forward, even in the face of adversity
  4. Empathy – understanding how others feel and behave and responding in a considerate way
  5. Social skills – the ability to maintain productive relationships with colleagues

With practice, you can cultivate your soft skills in each of these areas. There are online courses, you can work with a psychologist or a career coach can help you build your emotional intelligence skillset.

Your vibe will accelerate or be a handbrake for your career. If you want to step into the arena and take a leadership role, you need to have a good understanding of your verbal and non-verbal communication and cultivate your emotional intelligence. But this is all hard stuff to do on your own. I can help you understand your leadership strengths and limitations and help you build your leadership skills. Book a career conversation with me today.

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Career hacks I wish I knew in my 40s

Career hacks I wish I knew in my 40s

By the time you reach your 40s, chances are you have a couple of decades of work experience under your belt. This is a good thing! Having been around the block a few times, you’ve learned about yourself, you have a picture of your likes, dislikes and strengths in the workplace, an understanding of what it takes to navigate the work environment and developed expertise in your field. Sure, you may have a few more wrinkles and grey hair (or less hair) but you’ve gained wisdom.

So, what’s next? This is the challenge many professionals in their 40s face. Having worked hard to acquire knowledge, skills and a professional reputation, how do you continue to learn, grow and enjoy your working life?

The Saggy Middle

You can hit a saggy mid-point in your career in your 40s. Perhaps you don’t feel the same drive and ambition you felt in your 20s? Or maybe you’ve asked yourself “is this what I really want to do for the rest of my life?”

For most of us, retirement at 40 isn’t an option. We have financial responsibilities, which means we have to work to keep the money coming in. But that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to feeling bored, frustrated, trapped or just going through the motions so you can pay the bills.

Be a Life-long Learner

One way to find your career mojo is to become a life-long learner.

I often hear my clients say “my job is boring” or “I’m losing my brain cells doing the same work over and over”. And guess what? It’s true! According to psychiatrist, Dr Daniel. G. Amen, you’re brain trims away unused brain power.

“Our brains are designed to prune away unused synaptic connections, our cognitive skills tend to dip after we graduate from college or retire from work. To stay sharp as a whip, continue to challenge your brain on a daily basis,” said Dr Amen.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a great way to stimulate your brain, spark your energy and stay relevant.

Maturity gives you the wisdom of experience and the ability to think and react in a considered way. However, grey hair can leave the younger employees thinking you’re a dinosaur. You don’t want to be the office fuddy-duddy who doesn’t know how to use the latest technology. There are many courses you can take online which are not expensive and you can do in your own time. Also talk to your employer about a professional development program (hint: tell them how it will help their business). It’s important to keep your knowledge and skills current so you’re not left behind, especially if there are redundancies in your organisation.

Move Up the Ladder

Career-wise, your 40s are a good time to focus on promotions, especially if you’re clear about what makes your skills unique and valuable. Having accumulated 20 years of experience, you’re in a good position to become a leader in your organisation or a thought leader in your field.

But, there is a difference between a good operator and a good leader.

If you want to step up, then consider some leadership training. It’s a common, but untrue myth that leaders are born not made which deters people from pursuing leadership roles.  It’s rubbish, you can learn leadership, don’t let your inner critic hold you back! Another myth is you have to be an extrovert to be a successful leader. What do Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Michael Jordon, Elon Musk, Zuckerberg and Barack Obama have in common?  They are all highly successful introverts.

As a career coach, I can help you understand your leadership strengths, traits, skills and the capabilities and qualifications you need to acquire to become a successful leader. I can also provide support as you step out of your comfort zone and reach up to the next level.

Clean out your wardrobe

If you can still fit into the work clothes you wore in your 20s & 30s, congratulations for staying in good shape! But that doesn’t mean you should still wear the clothes you bought 20 years ago! It may seem like a superficial thing but the way you dress does influence the way you feel about yourself and how others perceive you, which is part of your personal brand.  Dressing well and appropriately for your age has many benefits: it makes you feel confident, people notice you, it helps you connect and it helps your credibility.  I remember a mentor of mine once telling me “it is important to dress like your audience. It helps them relate and connect with you.”

If your work wardrobe is looking tired, retire those old garments. You don’t have to buy lots of expensive clothes, just a few quality pieces that spark your confidence when you wear them. Sometimes, as you age, your body changes shape, and you don’t always know what looks good on you anymore. A personal stylist can help you sort through your wardrobe, get rid of the clothes that don’t suit you and shop for a sensible wardrobe that will do the job. A small investment in a fashion make-over can really help you find your mojo.

Do a Career Stock Take

If the thought of a promotion doesn’t stoke the fire in your belly, then maybe it’s time to change direction.

Late in 2018, I wrote an article Is it Time for An End-of-Year Career Stocktake? A career stock take isn’t just an end-of-year activity, it’s equally helpful if you feel stuck in a career rut. In the article, I suggested you consider:

  • Where am I now (including your careers assets & liabilities)?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • How am I going to get there?

The important thing is if you’re feeling low, do something about it. Feeling unhappy is okay in the short-term but if you continue in this mindset, it will affect your work performance, well-being and potentially your relationships with the ones you love.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, talk to a career coach, who will help you create an achievable plan for a career that plays to your strengths and gives you purpose.

Take the Pressure Down

If you’re in your 40s then you’re old enough to remember John Farnham’s ‘80s classic “Take the Pressure Down”. It was the tune that relaunched his music career and made him relevant to a new generation of music lovers. It’s easy to laugh at “Farnsy” but his song has a message for all of us: if you’re feeling overwhelmed, then you need to take the pressure down!

Your 40s can be a demanding time in your personal life. At this stage, you may have caring responsibilities for children and aging parents, which means you can feel pressure from the generation below and the one above. It’s also a decade when both physical and mental health issues can arise. Perhaps you give all your time to work and family and don’t make time to exercise to release the pressure valve and stay physically and mentally fit?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the pressures of work, family and health, it’s time to re-assess.  Do you have to do it all now, have it all now? What changes can you make in your career and life to take the pressure down? Your career is a marathon, not a sprint, so you need to pace yourself accordingly so you can last the distance. You’re at the mid-way point, with another 20-30 years to go. What adjustments do you need to make so you stay mentally and physically well until the end of your career (and more importantly, well enough to enjoy your retirement!)?

If you can’t see clear to make a re-assessment yourself, then speak to a career coach. We can help you make a sensible plan, so you can lighten your load.

Creating a Legacy

If you work full-time, you invest more than 2000 hours a year of your life at work. A friend of mine has a great quote on her fridge. It reads:

“You don’t buy things with money. You buy them with hours of your life”

For many, this really hits home in their 40s. Other than paying off the mortgage, they start to wonder ‘what is the point of my career?’.

Of course, working for money is important. It allows you to provide for you and your family but it doesn’t always give you a sense of purpose.

If this is you, I have some suggestions on how you can find meaning in your work, beyond earning money.

Give back to your profession

If you have been fortunate to learn from others in your profession, your 40s are a great time to pay it forward. Here are some ways I think you can give back and connect with your sense of purpose.

Be a Mentor

Being a mentor offers no financial benefits but the intrinsic rewards of helping others can be very satisfying. Remember how daunting it felt when you started your career? As a mature worker, you have the knowledge and skills to help someone else navigate their career and achieve success. This is very satisfying (I know, I’ve made a career out of it).

Publish and share your knowledge

By your 40s, you’ve learned a lot and a great way to help others is to publish what you’ve learned. In some professions, there are formal ways to do this, such as journals. But if that’s not your thing, the digital age provides many ways you can self-publish including:

  • Publishing articles or short videos on LinkedIn
  • Creating your own blog (there are many low-cost platforms to do this)
  • Writing your own newsletter

When you publish not only will you will be helping others but you’ll also help yourself to:

  • Learn new skills (writing, social media, publishing)
  • Build your professional brand by sharing your expertise
  • Create and share a legacy

Volunteer

Another wise friend of mine always says “when you help someone else, you help yourself”.

As a professional, chances are you have skills, which you can use to help others, particularly people who can’t afford to pay for someone like you. Helping someone else less fortunate than you is a great way to remind yourself that your work is valuable, and to feel satisfied knowing you have the power to make a difference.  Also, some progressive workplaces will even give you small amounts of paid time off work to volunteer. This means volunteering doesn’t cut into your family time.

There are other great spin-offs from volunteering. For example, you can widen your professional network by meeting other volunteers, learn new skills and knowledge as you do work outside your normal sphere and create a professional legacy. Who doesn’t want to be known and remembered as a someone who helped others?

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like a marathon, reaching of the mid-point of your career in your 40s can leave you asking ‘can I keep going like this?’  If you’ve lost your career mojo or need help moving forward,  I offer a free 45-minute career conversation to discuss how to move your career forward and re-connect your sense of purpose. Book an appointment with me today.

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Career hacks I wish I knew in my 30s

Career hacks I wish I knew in my 30s

By the time your reach your 30s, chances are, your career will be in full-swing (unless you’re still studying or have returned to study). It can be a very exciting time. With a bit of experience under your belt, leadership opportunities and promotions can open up.  It’s also often a very busy time.  At this age, many people purchase a house and start a family, which presents a new set of responsibilities and time restrictions you didn’t have to consider in your twenties.

Here are some career hacks I wish I knew in my 30s (rather than learning the hard way!).

Race to the top

Your thirties are a time when your career can really accelerate. It’s flattering to be offered promotions with big ticket job titles like “Manager”, “Associate”, “Head of ….”, “Partner” or “Director”.  I mean this is what we all aspire to, right?

But before you say ‘yes’, pause and ask yourself, “is this what I really want?”.  I have coached many clients who have been unhappy in their job but still accepted a promotion thinking this would make them happy!  It doesn’t, think about it, let’s say you hate being an accountant and you’re offered a partnership in an accounting firm, will being a bigger, better paid and more responsible accountant make you happy?

Comedian, Lily Tomlin, famously once said: “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”  Similarly, author, Liz Ryan, worked for many years with Fortune 500 companies as a HR senior vice-president. In her article, Ten Things I Wish I Would Have Known In My Thirties she reflects on the race to the top.

“I didn’t realise that many of the people in senior-level management roles have no idea why they are alive or what their mission on this planet might be,” said Ms Ryan.

Having said that, promotions can be a wonderful thing…more money, greater autonomy and bigger challenges.  Just be sure you take a promotion because you enjoy the work, not because your ego enjoys the flattery. The key is to making sure you know why you are pursuing the promotion and how it will sustain you and your family, and that means considering more than just money.

In her TEDX Talk, Redefining Sustainability: CHANGE STARTS WITH YOU

Cortney McDermott advocates an approach she calls IDEA. It is an acronym, which stands for:

  • Inventory – know your starting place
  • Destination – know where you are going
  • Explicit focus – be aware and engaged with what you’re doing at each moment
  • Action – take action with knowledge and vision

When you’re offered a promotion, pause and reflect on your IDEA for each opportunity. It’s also a good idea to speak with a career coach, someone who understands you, your strengths and career aspirations and will act as a sounding board while you work through the pros and cons.

More responsibility, less risk taking

Buying a house (or moving to a better house with higher rent) and starting a family are both wonderful life milestones that bring joy and satisfaction. But these milestones also bring more responsibilities, which can leave you feeling less at liberty to take career risks.

Juggling young kids with work often leads to a “just get through the day” mentality. This kind of short-term thinking is completely understandable. When you’re overworked and sleep deprived, why create more challenges for yourself?

Having a plan can help you get through this phase. If you’re thinking about buying a house or starting a family, do a stock take on your career first. Consider:

  • Where am I now? How long will this job sustain me?
  • Do I need a change? If so, when is a good time to do this? (Hint: probably not before you apply for a mortgage, banks are risk averse and look for job security before they give you a loan.)
  • What do I need to do to make a change? This could be as simple as applying for new jobs or more complicated, like studying a new field.

If you’re reached your limits with your current role, think about when is the best time to move on before you sign up for the mortgage or have a baby.  Indeed, there are plenty of examples of people moving to lessor paying, less challenging but more secure jobs with better family leave and benefits for the child rearing part of their careers.

Finding the balance

Work/life balance. It’s been labelled the greatest myth of our times. Work demands your time and attention and so does your family. Who wins? Often, it’s not you!

In my family, I was the parent who took on flexible work when our daughter was little so my wife could pursue her law career.  During that time, I earned less money but I gained more non-financial rewards through the extra bonding time with our daughter.  In other families, both parents might work full-time and use paid childcare to help with the children. There are many ways to make it work. Again, the key is to be clear about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are going to make it work not just financially but also emotionally.

In her article On my 60th birthday, this is what I wish I knew 30 years ago, journalist, Jenna Price, suggest your career goes for a long time (most likely into your 70s) so you don’t have to do it all now.

“In my mid-30s, with three kids under six, I thought my professional career was over. I’d moved sideways into a job with less money and more flexibility and thought, that’s it. The mummy track. But I realise now our working lives are so long, so much longer than our parents’ were, that the track wanders everywhere and you run along too,” said Ms Price.

Price suggests you don’t have to do it all right now. It’s okay to take a sideways step in your career if it helps you strike the right balance between work and home life. The government keeps lifting the retirement age so chances are you’ve got a long career road ahead of you.

Don’t neglect your network

Another hazard of the “just get through the day” mentality is neglecting your professional network.

After you’ve worked all day, spent time with the kids and shared a meal with your partner, it’s hard to find the time and energy to connect with business associates. However, it’s likely your network are the people who will help you find your next role, provide referrals and generally grease the wheels of your career.

This is particularly true for parents who take time off work to care for children. At some stage, you will want to come back. Young children are demanding of your time and attention and it’s easy to give them everything and forget to pay attention to your work relationships.

In your 30s, it can also be more difficult to form new relationships. Often, you don’t have the free time to meet up for after-work drinks so you have to find new ways to stay connected. This is more reason to value and nurture the relationships you have. Even if you’re busy and tired, schedule in 30 minutes a week for a coffee, phone call or even a text message to stay in touch with your professional network.

For many of us, our 30s are a busy time in both our career and home life. It can be hard to strike the right balance between job promotions, parenting responsibilities and paying the mortgage. Juggling these responsibilities leaves little time to think clearly about your career. I offer a free 45-minute career conversation where we can talk about finding the best ways for you to navigate your career in your 30s. Book an appointment with me today.

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Career hacks I wish I knew in my 20s

Career hacks I wish I knew in my 20s

Over the next few months, I’ll be rolling out a series of articles with career hacks I wish I knew in my 20s, 30s, 40s and so on. Learning by experience is great but it’s also helpful if you can short cut the process by learning from others and applying these hacks to your own career. So, let’s start at the beginning.

My twenties were great. I was young and ambitious with few responsibilities and plenty of opportunities, I had the world at my feet. In my first real job as a university lecturer I thought I knew it all. My career was just going to happen (or so I thought) but boy, was I wrong. I had a head full of book smarts but I hadn’t yet cultivated the street smarts to drive my career, which I could only learn through life experience.

Now, looking back with the benefit of hindsight (and years of experience as a career coach), I realise I could have made life easier for myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I regret none of the decisions I made back then (they have led me to where I am now) but I wish I knew then what I know now.

1.      Get to know your adult self

Your school years give you a great knowledge base. But building a successful career requires more than book smarts. One of the greatest skills you can cultivate in your career is self-awareness. This starts with knowing yourself: your strengths, your limitations, what engages you and what you find a turn-off.

As a young person, starting their career, be mindful of not painting yourself into a box ‘I am this but I am not this’ because in your 20s, you’re still discovering and developing your capabilities. For example, in my 20s I was a fabulous teacher but lousy at research (which was part of my job).

You might be great at computer programming but perhaps your communication skills need a lift. That doesn’t mean you’re not capable of being a good communicator, it just means you need to work on it. The critical part is you understand this about yourself (I call these your blind spots) as it will help you make the right choices about which jobs suit you, what type of training you need and help you choose the employers where you best fit.

I hear so many people saying “I chose the wrong course at university and now I hate my career”.  This happens when you don’t understand your strengths, values and the roles best suit you.

If you can’t get a clear picture about your strengths and blind spots, ask for feedback. This could be from friends, colleagues or your boss. Or, you can work with a career coach trained in helping you gain a better picture of yourself.

2.      Work Overseas

One way to get to know yourself is to travel and work overseas. Your 20s are a great time to do this because:

  • There are more opportunities (eg working holiday visas for under 30s)
  • Often, you have fewer commitments, like mortgages, family, which makes it easier to pack up and go

Working overseas takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you develop your soft skills, like communication. Also, it’s exciting to meet new people, work in different environments and see new places! And, it can be a great way to make and save money. Many older people I speak to cherish their memories of living and working overseas in their 20s and the work and personal benefits it brought them.

3.      Seek great leaders

Young people are fantastic in the workplace. They bring new ideas and enthusiasm.  But what any young person lacks (because they haven’t worked previously) is experience.  That’s why it’s important to seek out a great leader to show you the ropes. A great leader knows how to guide you, to harness your ideas and give you the direction and support you need to be successful.

It’s okay not to have all the answers on day one. In fact, any reasonable workplace will expect you to make mistakes. Learning by experience can be great as long as you approach your work with a growth mindset. That is, see each experience as an opportunity to learn rather than punishing yourself for not getting it right every time.

A great leader will also help you navigate the grey areas of the workplace. In an ideal world, everyone in the workplace would be supportive and encouraging but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During your career, you will encounter difficult people and a great leader can help you build the skills you’ll need to manoeuvre around difficult people while maintaining your professionalism.

4.      Invest for the future

As I mentioned above, your 20s is often a time when you have fewer responsibilities, like a mortgage and family. It frees you up to work full-time and grow your earnings.

While retirement may seem a ridiculous concept, it creeps up on you faster than you imagine. So, your 20s are a good time to start saving, for both short-term goals and long-term goals. The Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) has a great superannuation calculator on their moneysmart website. It allows you to plug in your circumstances (age, salary, superannuation and whether you make additional contributions) and predict how much money you will have when you retire. You can use this calculator to make alternative scenarios and decide if you want to sacrifice a small amount of money now so you have retirement savings to live on later. With compound interest, small voluntary contributions to your super can make a big difference. Of course, I’m not a financial advisor and this is just general advice, so speak to someone qualified to get specific advice for your circumstances.

Money isn’t the only investment that will pay dividends for your future. Education is an investment that brings life-long benefits. In my blog Build Your Knowledge, Build Your Worth, I reference research from the Australian Census which shows people with post-graduate degrees earn more than school leavers or graduates with bachelors degrees.

Learning more doesn’t always mean doing another degree.  Having a growth mindset and learning from your mistakes is also important, as is cultivating your soft skills. In fact, US-based EQ training company, Talent Smart, says 90 percent of top performers have high EQ and earn USD$29,000 more per year. They also say 80 percent of low performers have low emotional intelligence.

Cultivating self-awareness and strong emotional intelligence in your 20s will pay dividends as you progress through your career.

5.      Establish your personal brand

A personal brand is a trade mark of your most distinctive values and characteristics, as observed and assessed by others.

Everyone has one. Consciously or not, how you talk, think, interact with others, execute your work and even how you dress are all part of your personal brand.

You will have a big advantage in your career if you start early to understand and make conscious choices about how your build your personal brand.

Personal branding strategist, Dr Dra Natalia Wiechowski, says that personal branding is about managing other’s impressions of you.

“If you position yourself in a great, in a positive and impressive way, people will choose you. And not the other individual. Because they know what they will get when they work with you and what you stand for,” said Dra Natalia Wiechowski.

In my blog Why Personal Branding is Important for Your Career I provide a four-step process to build your personal brand. Use these steps to think about your personal brand early in your career, make conscious choices about how your build your personal brand and you’ll reap the rewards.

6.      Nurture your network

In your 20s, you may not appreciate the importance of building your professional network. Your professional network is comprised of your colleagues and former colleagues, managers and ex managers, alumni (if you attended TAFE or university), industry groups you belong to, online connections, such as LinkedIn and others in your circle of influence.

The best career opportunities are not always advertised. Often, it is word-of-mouth and a generous endorsement from someone in your network that leads to your next promotion.

According to Ohio State University Professor, Tanya Menon, you are more likely to find work opportunities through acquaintances than your immediate friendship and family group.

“Most people don’t get their jobs through their close ties…their father, their mother, their significant other…they instead get jobs through their weak ties, people they’ve just met…the people you’ve just met today are your ticket to a whole new social world” said Ms Menon.

In my article 5 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Network, I talk about how easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind, prioritizing your ‘to do’ list over less urgent tasks, like reaching out to people in your network. But this thinking is short-term. It’s not great for your relationships (or personal brand) to only contact people when you want something. Instead, make it a habit to check in with your network regularly, and also give them a hand up when the opportunity arises.

7.      Speak up for Yourself

This is a big one I wish I understood in my 20s. As a junior employee, it’s normal to feel that you operate off a lower power base than more experienced and senior members of your team. However, that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate rude or aggressive behavior in the workplace. No workplace wants nay-sayers but being a pushover won’t earn you respect either.

In my blog ‘How to Speak Up for Yourself at Work” I give advice on how to speak up for yourself in a way that makes you credible, likeable and builds your authority. Knowing how to speak up for yourself at work is a critical career-building skill, particularly as you climb the ladder into leadership positions and I urge you to learn this vital skill in your 20s as it will help you throughout your career.

8.      If it’s not working, fix it

A friend of mine, let’s call her Amanda, held an ambition since high school to be a medical researcher. It was her quest to find a cure for cancer. Fortunately for Amanda, she did well academically and was accepted into medical school. She loved the theory but as she progressed through her studies, she moved into practicals. This involved dissecting cadavers. The sight, smell and thought of cutting up dead bodies made Amanda’s guts churn and sparked anxiety. It was fight or flight, so Amanda soon realised she had to get out of medicine and find a career that didn’t involve blood and guts.

The point is, you may start on one path and realise along the way that it’s not right for you. It was hard for Amanda to let go of her dream to cure cancer but she had to face the truth that she couldn’t work in a medical environment. It was far better for her to realise and accept this than stick at it and feel anxious every time she saw body parts. Likewise, if you discover you’re not suited to the career you chose at school, ask yourself if it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life. If not, your 20s is a great time to change careers before you feel trapped by financial responsibilities.

9.      Find a Mentor or Coach

If you have a great boss, consider yourself lucky. Not everyone is fortunate to have a generous leader who helps them develop their career. If your boss isn’t that interested, don’t give up on finding someone who cares about your career. Look for a mentor, someone from your industry who’s more experienced and can provide you guidance based on their own experience. Alternatively, a career coach can help because they are trained in how to give you career advice. Rather than speak just from their own experience, a career coach uses tools to give you more objective advice.

These are just a career hacks I wish I knew in my 20s. The main thing to understand is you don’t have to have all the answers. If you’re feeling uncertain about your career, I offer a free 45-minute my career conversation where you set the agenda. You can ask questions about the small stuff, like how to write the best resume, or talk to me about big career challenges like changing direction. Big or small, I’m happy to help. Click on the book now button and let’s sort out your career challenges together.

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New Year New Career?

New Year New Career?

New Year, New Career?

In mid-January, I received a phone call from a client whom I met for the first time in December. She called me from the carpark outside the company she works for. She’d been sitting there in her car for 20 minutes, dreading to go in.

“I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do another year of this! Every day, I drive for 90 minutes, work all day with a fake smile pretending I’m happy, then spend another 90 minutes in the car to get home. I’m embarrassed to admit this but when I get home I shout at my husband and kids. It’s not their fault! I’m so tired and I don’t know what to do,” she said.

When we met late last year, she told me she hated the long daily commute, she was being paid less than others in an equivalent role and frankly, the job was boring. But, it paid the bills, she’d been there a long time and it wasn’t worth changing jobs so close to Christmas.

I knew then her days in this job were numbered but she hadn’t reached the point where she was ready to leave. But when January rolled around, the thought of another whole year in the same predicament was too much to take.

Why do you hate your job?
In a previous article I hate my job, what should I do?, I explored research by the Australian National University, investigating the factors that lead to unhappiness at work.

The research suggested there are four main factors:

• Lack of control: minimal freedom to make decisions and exert influence.
• Lack of security: concerns about the future of the company and the job.
• Lack of pay: perceived unfairness in how performance is rewarded.
• Lack of complexity: simplistic work, little learning, and an under-utilisation of employees’ skills.
I think this research is interesting. But based on years of clients telling me what they hate about their job, I would add another two factors, which are:
• Having a poor relationship with your manager.
• Not playing to your strengths and doing what you’re good at doing

In my client’s case, the last two factors, lack of pay and lack of complexity, combined with a 3-hour commute left her feeling exhausted, unhappy and in her words, “really, really disappointed in myself”.

Understanding why you don’t enjoy your current job is the first step to figuring out what you want in your next job, because the last thing you want to do is repeat the same mistakes. I have seen many people make this mistake, where they have jumped to another pasture only to find the grass was not greener.

I recommend you write down a list of what bothers you about your current role (if you really hate your job, it should be easy). Then, categorise these issues using the five factors above, and add an extra one called “other” if it doesn’t fit these five categories.

Example 1: What do you hate about your job?

 

 

 

So, what job do you want?

Once you’ve realised what you don’t want in a job, you can start focusing on what you do want.

In my blog, What Career Is Right for Me? I provide detailed recommendations on how to find the right career for you. Essentially, it’s about combining your strengths with your preferences and strengths and weighing those up against your priorities. Every job has its bad days but if you’re driven by a higher sense of purpose, it’s easier to tolerate small set-backs.

Author and Senior lecturer in psychology, Steve Taylor, says finding purpose is key to feeling connected in your career.

“When you’re ‘in purpose’ – that is, engaged with and working towards your purpose- life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful,” said Dr Taylor.

Again, I recommend writing down your thoughts.

Sometimes, it can be hard to objectively see your own strengths. This is where assessment tools can help.

A good assessment tool should not only help you to discover what are you good at but also show you what you can actually do with those skills and personality characteristics.

There are many tools out there but as a professional career coach, my preference is the Career Navigation Report produced by Harrison Assessments which I use with my clients. This personalised and interactive assessment tool provides predictive insight into career enjoyment and career success by assessing 175 relevant factors and then compares the results with 650 careers.

Change Your Job, Change Your Life
Now that you know what you’re good at, what gives you purpose and what your priorities are, it’s time for action. You don’t want to be the person sitting in the carpark dreading to go inside. You deserve better than that.

Over the course of your career, it’s likely you will work approximately 84,480 hours. You will spend more time at work than you will with your family. That’s a lot of important time doing something you don’t love. It is almost insane to spend that much time doing something that doesn’t feel right.

As a career coach, I hear many excuses why people can’t change jobs, some of them valid but most are based on fear. Clients tell me:
• “This industry is all I know and I can’t leave”
• “What if my next job is worse than this one?”
• “What if I don’t fit in?”
It’s okay, I get it. Changing jobs is a big deal. But what are implications of staying in a job you hate?

Research conducted by Jonathan Dirlam and Hui Zeng from the University of Ohio shows job dissatisfaction in your 20s and 30s can have cumulative effects that impact your health in your 40s and beyond.
“The higher levels of mental health problems for those with low job satisfaction may be a precursor to future physical problems. Increased anxiety and depression could lead to cardiovascular or other health problems that won’t show up until they are older,” said Mr Zheng.
Once again, it’s time to write it all down. Consider the impact a new job would have on your wellbeing. It’s important to weigh up your fears with the possibilities a new job can bring.

Example 3: Should I stay or should I go?

I my blog ‘I hate my job, what should I do”, I outline how to make a plan to quit your job.

Consider:
• How much money do you need to live on?
• Do you need to study or retrain?
• Updating your resume and LinkedIn profile.
• Asking for references or recommendations on LinkedIn from colleagues and customers before you leave.
• Drafting a thoughtful resignation letter. Tempting as it might be to give some feedback, avoid saying anything that might tarnish your reputation.
• Setting a date to hand in your resignation.
• Start “working” your network to see what opportunities are out there.

Ask for Help

Changing jobs is one of life’s major stressors. As well-meaning as they might be, friends and family aren’t trained to give you career advice.That’s where someone like me, a qualified career coach, can help you navigate the humps in your career. If you relate to any of the above then act now. I offer a free 45-minute career breakthrough conversation so you can assess whether my service is right for you. Click below and take the first step towards making 2019 your year for a new career.

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Interested in finding out more?

Read

•  I hate my job, what should I do?
•  What Career Is Right for Me?
•  Know your Strengths and Find Your Perfect Career
•  The jobs we hate and love the most
•  The Power of Purpose
•  Lousy Jobs Hurt Your Health by the Time You’re in Your 40s

Do I need a career coach?

Do I need a career coach? It depends

I know what you’re thinking. A blog titled “Do I need a career coach?” written by a career coach. You’re thinking this is going to be a long-winded sales pitch about how great career coaches are blah blah blah.

But my answer may surprise you. The truth is, no, not everyone needs a career coach.

A good friend of mine is a cardiologist. Let’s call him Andrew. He comes from a medical family and just about everyone in his family is a doctor. His family belong to a wide network of medical professionals. Andrew knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was a kid. When he finished school, he applied to medical school and got in. Once he completed his internship, Andrew decided he wanted to specialise so, using his family connections, he found the best cardiologist in his area of specialisation and studied his PhD under their supervision.  His career path was very clear and he had mentors to offer guidance on study and career choices.

Andrew now works in a public hospital and finds meaning and purpose providing the best cardiac care available to people who need it (not just those who can afford it).  That’s not to say he doesn’t have bad days (there are plenty of frustrations working in the public health system) but on the whole, he’s satisfied he’s found his vocation.  I like to say that he has discovered what he was put on this earth to do.

Andrew doesn’t need a career coach.

But not everyone is that fortunate. As kids, not many of us know what we want to be when we grow up, let alone when we are adults and in the workforce.  No-one ever talks about or encourages us to consider jobs that fit with our strengths, work preference and passions. That is, the job that is right for us.

People find work, or work finds people, in a variety of ways. Some find work by circumstance – their family has a business and they are expected to work in it, or out of necessity, like taking a job out of school because they needed the money. Others choose to study at university, generally based on how well they score in Year 12 rather than what makes them happy.  Some university graduates discover their chosen field of study is not what they hoped it would be. Whatever the reason, many people find themselves in jobs that pay the bills but don’t offer them any sense of fulfilment, satisfaction or purpose.

If you can relate to this, then a career coach can help you.

Unhappy at work?

 

What can a career coach do for me?

There are many ways you can work with a career coach, it depends on your circumstances and what you want to achieve. When I meet people for the first time, often they don’t know precisely what they want other than a change from the status quo.

They usually start by telling me their career problems – it could be that they find their job unfulfilling, unrewarding or just plain boring (often a sign that they are in the wrong job) or they talk about  a poor relationship with their manager or colleagues or a lack of opportunities (usually a sign that they are working for the wrong employer).

Once we define the problems, we can start working on the plan to fix them.

The Small Stuff

Most people think of career coaches when it comes to major career changes, like switching industry. But you can also talk to career coaches when it comes to minor career matters like:

  • Re-writing your resume for a new role
  • Overhauling your LinkedIn profile
  • Coaching on how to ask for a pay rise, promotion or performance review
  • Preparing how to network at a conference

A coaches will act as external sounding board to provide you with an external perspective on your issue. This helps you develop a new understanding of your situation and find innovative solutions to your career dilemmas.

Nervous about finding a job

If you’ve taken a career break, like parental leave, or if you’ve been made redundant, you can feel uncertain about stepping back into the workforce. When you feel nervous, it can be hard to recognise your strengths and see the opportunities around you.

In an earlier article Nervous About Finding a New Job? Here are 3 ways to build your confidence I mentioned a survey of 2.500 workers revealed 80% of us think finding a new job is more stressful than serious dental work.

A career coach will provide much needed support and encouragement as you search for a new job and start your new role. Using a combination of tools and conversations, a career coach can help you pin point your strengths, identify your work preferences, find your passion and match them to jobs that will give you purpose and meaning.

Stretching up

Being promoted to the next level can push your boundaries. For example, imagine you step into a role where you’re responsible for managing other people for the first time. Not only do you have the complexities of your own work to manage, but you also have the complexities of leading others.  This is challenging and in that situation, it is useful to have an external sounding board you can lean on to ask questions and discover how to navigate your new role.

Career at a Cross Roads

If your career is at the crossroads and you need direction on where to head next, talking to an external specialist can open your eyes to new possibilities. There is a wide world of career opportunities and the perfect job for you may be one you’ve never considered. A good career coach will help you explore a range of career opportunities that may not always be obvious to you and give support as you resign and shift into your new role.

Is your career at the crossroads?

 

Missing Out on Promotions

Are you missing out on promotions? Many people experience this frustration and don’t know how to promote themselves and their achievements.  In my article How to Speak Up for Yourself at Work I explore why people hesitate to speak up at work and suggest ways to increase your powerbase in a professional and respectful manner.

A career coach can help explore why you are missing out on promotions, why managers aren’t seeing you as the “go to” person and help you devise strategies to get noticed for all the right reasons.

What’s the difference between a coach and mentor?

A coach is an independent professional who is qualified to give career advice. Career coaches are professionally trained and have an obligation to undertake professional development programs every year. They are professionals who work on a fee for service basis, so you pay for their advice. Career coaches will explore your concerns with you and then develop a personal program to help you achieve your career goals. Your career coach will help you get through career obstacles and support you to achieve your goals.

A mentor is often someone more experienced in your field who you can talk to about challenges you’re facing at work.  Generally, they tell you how they dealt with the problem and leave it up to you to implement a similar approach.  In some cases, a mentor will be paid for by your company, or they may be someone who offers their time for free, as a way of giving back to the profession. A mentor isn’t always trained in how to give career advice but they offer guidance based on their own experience.

It’s important to consider these differences when deciding if you need a mentor or if you need a coach.

How do I find a career coach?

The most important step is to find someone who is qualified as a career coach. It’s wonderful that your best friend wants you to be happy but that doesn’t mean they have the resources, frameworks or skills to help you build a flourishing career.

A good place to start your search is the Career Development Association of Australia (www.cdaa.org.au) where you will find qualified, highly skilled, experienced professional career coaches.  Another alternative is to search for “career coach” on LinkedIn.

Once you have your list, check out their profile, read their articles, watch their videos and see if the topics they discuss address any of your career concerns. From there, make your shortlist of preferred career coaches.

I’d recommend you call each of the coaches on your short list. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a free initial meeting so you can evaluate whether they are the right person for you. It’s important to make sure you have an easy rapport with your career coach so you feel comfortable. Use this meeting to ask about their previous experiences, their programs and of course, their fees, of course check out their online reviews or ask for referees.

Like anything in life, cheap does not always mean best so you’ll need to make a value judgment on what you will receive for your fees.  Here is a little tip, the cost of your career coaching program may be a tax deduction, to be sure I encourage you to check with your tax agent or the Australian Tax Office

A career coach will help you navigate the small career humps and the major crossroads. Your goal is to find the right career coach, who will be supportive but also challenge you to strive for the very best in your career. I offer a free 45 minute career breakthrough conversation so you can assess whether my service is right for you. Click on the button and take the first step towards creating your own flourishing career.

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End-of-year career stock take

Is it time for an end-of-year career stock take?

Does your career feel more repetitive and boring than a Mariah Carey Christmas carol on high rotation? If so, it’s time to do an end-of-year career stock take.

Your career is a gift so it’s worth unwrapping. At the very least, you have a job that pays your bills and at most, you have a career gives you purpose, sustains your passions and gives you an nice life.  If you feel disappointed when you unwrap your career, don’t worry, you might not be stuck but a review will give you the clarity to make 2019 more exciting, rewarding and happier. It’s time to take stock, assess where you are now, where you want to be in 2019 and make a plan for how you’re going to get there.  Now is the best time to do that, especially if you are taking holidays.  As you rest and recover from yet another hectic year you are able to let new ideas and possible opportunities float to the top of your uncluttered mind.

Take Stock of Where You Are Now in Your Career

Like a physical stock-take, a career stock-take requires a count of your assets and liabilities and an assessment of your current role. To make an objective assessment, I recommend you do your stock take in writing.

For illustration purposes, I’ve created a fictional professional named John Smith. John is a 45 year-old IT executive for a bank. He’s been in his current role for 10 years.

You can use the table and headings I prepared for John below as a guide for your own stock take. Often there is great value in sharing your completed stock-take with people such as mentors, a coach or a colleague as you will gain extra information from an external point-of-view.

John’s Career Stock Take

Work Stocktake

 

Having completed his career stock take, John is building a good understanding of his current situation. His next step is to review his job.

Assess Your Current Job

To gain a complete picture of where you are now, consider what you like and don’t like about your current job. Changing jobs or employer is only one option, sometimes you can make some adjustments and find career fulfilment by staying where you are.

Of course, there are tangible ways to measure your job like pay, vicinity to home, travel opportunities, etc  but what about the intangibles? These are things like, are you pre-occupied with negative thoughts about your job at the weekend? Are you filled with dread about going to your workplace or do you bounce out of bed on Monday morning with a curious and excited mind? Does your job allow you to use your strengths? Are there opportunities for personal and professional growth?

John Smith’s Job Assessment

Career Assessment

 

Looking at John’s assessment above, he works for a company that has good potential but the long hours, poor relationship with his manager and feeling like a prisoner during business hours means he’s unhappy.

By completing these two simple exercises, John has a more thorough understanding of his current position.  Already John can see some of the things that he can improve or change to make his job more enjoyable.

Where are you going?

Now that John’s taken stock of his current position, it’s time to look at his career goals. He doesn’t have a clearly defined five-year plan to become CEO so John decides to start small and consider:

  • What does he want to achieve in the next 3-6 months?
  • What does he want to achieve by the end of 2019?
  • What’s his big picture goal beyond next year?

As with all goals, John uses the SMARTA approach:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Trackable
  • Action-oriented

Having identified his career assets and liabilities and what he does and doesn’t like about his current job, he finds it easier to write meaningful goals.

Work Goals

 

Again, you can use John’s approach to set your own career goals. Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear vision for the future, start with the next 3-6 months and take it from there.

How are you going to get there?

Now that John’s done his stock take and written his career goals, he needs an implementation plan. He also needs to make sure he executes his plan because he doesn’t want to be in the same situation next Christmas!

Let’s look at John’s first goal above. To reduce working hours from 50 hours a week to 45 hours, John will have to cut back one hour a day. How can he do this?

Options include:

  • work more efficiently during the day
  • delegate tasks to others in the team
  • be happy with a good standard of work without striving for perfection

Because he did his stock take and examined his strengths and weaknesses, John knows he has a tendency towards perfection. The cost of John’s perfectionism is that he spends too many hours at work, and it leaves him feeling exhausted. To fix this problem, John needs to reflect on why he is a perfectionist. Why is a good professional standard of work not enough? By addressing this issue, John will be able to reduce his working hours.

But John knows that changing old habits developed over a life-time of work isn’t easy.

Don’t Get Stuck, Get Help

If you feel stuck in a rut, ask for help. You can start by asking family and friends but, despite their best intentions, most are not qualified to give career advice. A career coach is a trained professional who can help you do a thorough and objective stock take of your career, identify realistic goals and put a career development plan in place.

Beyond being an independent sounding board, career coaches use analytical tools, like The Harrison Assessment Career Guide  , to map your strengths and identify your career possibilities.

The end of a working year is a great time to reflect on your career. If you’re not happy in your current job, don’t worry, you’re not stuck. Writing down a plan is a good way to see how you can move forward. But making changes can be difficult, and that is where I can support you.  Book a career breakthrough session today and let’s talk about how to make 2019 your best career year yet.

 

Learn More and earn more?

Build Your Knowledge, Build Your Worth

Learn More and earn more? The facts prove it – when you build your knowledge, you build your worth. This is true for both formal education (as in qualifications) and informal education (professional development, on-the-job training and developing soft skills like emotional intelligence).

As a career coach, I often hear about people who aren’t interested in further learning. I’m told “it will take too much time” or “I already have a qualification” or worse “it’s a waste of time”. I can understand these objections but they are short-sighted – and in the current job climate – dangerous for your career.. The nature of work is changing rapidly and now more than ever it is critical to expand both your hard and soft skills to increase (or maintain) your salary and stay employable.

What Are You Worth?

In this context, when I talk about ‘worth’ I am not talking about your intrinsic worth as a human being, I’m talking about your perceived worth as an employee.

The really obvious way to measure your worth as a worker is your salary. But that’s a short-term measure. It can easily change depending on your job or circumstances. Another measure of your worth is how employable you are, that is – do you have the skills that employers want? A third, measure of your worth is whether you achieve career success usually measured by meeting key performance criteria.

Regardless of how you measure your workplace value, being a lifelong learner will build your worth across these measures.

What does lifelong learning bring to your career?

In his TED Talk, Essentials for Lifelong Learning, Designer Danny Stillion, says pursuing lifelong learning brings infinite possibilities. Rather than feel trapped in a job you hate, being a curious lifelong learner gives you the creativity, confidence and capability to go after the career opportunities you want.

“I’ve come to value three essential elements to lifelong learning: Curiosity + Passion + Empathy. When you take these three and sum them up they lead to infinite possibilities,” said Mr Stillion.

Approaching your career with curiosity gives you permission to dream, an appetite to ask questions and the passion to keep learning until you find the answer.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of creativity to a sustaining a long and successful career. Curiosity is a key ingredient of creative thinking. Curious people ask questions like:

  • Why is it done like this?
  • Can we do it better?
  • How can I make it better?

Curious and creative people are valued by employers because they solve an organisation’s problems.  Recently I was talking to a person who was able to switch careers because she solved a company’s problem.  She wasn’t in the market for a new job but she had recently finished a professional development course on problem solving, and now is the Chief Innovation Officer for her new employer.

Curious and passionate employees are change makers. And passion is infectious – it influences a workplace culture. When you combine passion and curiosity with emotional intelligence it is a driving force for a cultural shift. So, if you’re concerned about losing your job to automation, think about this – a robot can perform tasks but it cannot demonstrate ingenuity, curiosity, passion, nor can it influence others to change.

I touched on emotional intelligence above and it is the final ingredient. In his article How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials, Preston Ni defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to understand, manage, and effectively express one’s own feelings, as well as engage and navigate successfully with those of others.” I’ll go into more detail on the significance of emotional intelligence to your career later in this article.

An employee who is a lifelong learner, combining curiosity, passion and emotional intelligence is prized by employers.

Learn More, Earn More?

Australian Census Data 2016  shows that the further you go with your formal education, the more likely you are to be employed AND the more money you earn. In fact, the data shows people with a bachelor’s degree earn twice as much as those without.  So, while pursuing higher education can seem time consuming and expensive in the short-term, it does pay dividends for your career, earnings and employability in the long-term.

Average weekly earnings by qualifications

It’s not just about degrees

Not everyone has the time, money or capacity to pursue a university education. That doesn’t mean you have to stop learning at high school. There are many other valid ways to grow your knowledge and your worth.

Learning from mistakes

Earlier this year, I wrote about how important it is to cultivate a growth mindset for a long and successful career.

People with a growth mindset accept that making mistakes is a critical way to learn and grow their capabilities.

The National Basketball Association says that by acclamation, Michael Jordan was the greatest basketballer of all time. He earned an estimated USD$94 million in his career. Yet, Michael Jordan says failure was the biggest driver of his success.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

 For Michael Jordan, failure was an opportunity to try, learn and try again. So, through applying a growth mindset to his career (curiosity, passion and empathy), he earned both acclaim and a big pay cheque.

The importance of soft skills

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, in 2018, the Australian public’s trust in media, business, government and NGOs is at an all-time low (and sits just four points above the world’s least trusting country, Russia!).

As the world becomes more automated, employers are looking for people with high emotional intelligence (EQ) who can listen, build rapport and create trusting relationships with customers and colleagues.

US-based EQ training company, Talent Smart, says 90 percent of top performers have high EQ and earn USD$29,000 more per year. They also say 80 percent of low performers have low emotional intelligence.

So, building your EQ by understanding your own emotions and showing empathy towards others is a great way to increase your salary and future proof your employability as computers start to do more process-driven work.

High emotional intelligence

 

Source: http://www.talentsmart.com

On the Job Learning

Learning on the job is another way to build your knowledge and your worth. You can do this by teaming up with colleagues in your business who have the knowledge and skills you need (and vice-versa). For example, you could ask the accountant how to read a balance sheet and income statement. This is a critical business skill that will help you to:

  • Understand the financial drivers of the business.
  • Put forward a business case where the numbers add up.
  • Manage your work to optimise the company’s cash flow.

Imagine going to your next salary review with a business case demonstrating how you have contributed to the company’s profitability and cash flow. It makes a compelling reason for a pay rise.

Online Learning

One of my clients recently said to me, “I am too old to go back to university.  I would look ridiculous in the lecture with all those young kids”. This is a common concern. So, if attending university for lectures isn’t your thing, then you can gain formal qualification by signing up to online learning. There are many options from reputable educators, like Open University, where you can earn a degree from numerous universities.

If formal education isn’t for you, there are many online courses you can access for free or low cost.  Providers like LinkedIn offer free online courses allowing you to learn and improve your skills when it suits you or when you need those particular skills.

For example, I know a marketing consultant who learned online how to produce podcasts. This allowed her to offer another service to her clients, and her time investment was rewarded with a new income stream.

Being a lifelong learner, both formally and informally, will help you earn more and stay employable. But with hundreds of pathways to learn, it can be hard to know which one to take. I can help you identify gaps in your hard and soft skills, give you direction and offer encouragement and support along the way. To learn more and earn more, book a career breakthrough session with me today.

To find out more about how to be a lifelong learner:

Watch

Read

What mindset are you?

What Mindset Are You?

Your mental game, or mindset, plays a critical role in whether you will just survive or thrive in your career. Everyone experiences tough challenges but do you see these challenges as a learning opportunity or a failure? That is, do you have a fixed or a growth mindset? What mindset are you?

What is a Growth Mindset?

Stanford University academic, Dr Carol Dweck, conducted an experiment with 10 year-old children to see how they cope with challenge and difficulty. She gave them a set of maths problems that were too hard and asked the students to solve them.

Some students responded to the situation like they would a catastrophe. They complained the tests were too difficult for their skill level and they felt their intelligence was being judged. These kids failed the tests. When asked what they would do next time, they responded with things like “cheat”, “find someone who did worse” (so they could feel better about themselves) or “run away”. These kids had a fixed mindset.

But other kids responded with comments like “oh good, I like a challenge” and “there are going to be lots of good learning opportunities today.” These kids had a growth mindset and not surprisingly, performed better in the tests.

What is your mindset?

In her TED Talk The Power of Believing You Can Improve Dweck also refers to a high school in Chicago that took a different approach to grading exams. If students didn’t pass their tests, they were awarded the grade “not yet” rather than “fail”.

“If you get a fail, you’re nowhere, but if you get a ‘not yet’ you’re on a learning curve – it gives you a path into the future,” said Ms Dweck.

So, a growth mindset is a way of approaching your career (and your life) that recognises you are constantly learning and growing your mind and capabilities.

How does a Growth Mindset Help My Career?

Many people I speak with are their own worst critics. In a 45-minute career consultation they can tell me every wrong decision they’ve made in their career and how it’s left them feeling unhappy.

They talk to me about the time they “should / shouldn’t have done” or “could / would have done” BUT “they didn’t”.  They see these decisions as personal failings.  One client said to me “if only I didn’t waste my time with that degree, then I wouldn’t be in this job”.  Another client often says to me, “you know if I hadn’t listened to my friends then I wouldn’t have applied for this job and I would still be happy rather than being here with you.”  Thoughts and feelings of failure occupy their minds, often consuming time and energy that could be focused on moving forwards, not dwelling in the past.

It’s easy to assign yourself a ‘fail’ grade for your career and resign yourself to staying in a job that makes you unhappy. But what if rather than ‘fail’, you told yourself “I’m not there yet but I’m on a learning curve” OR you said to yourself “OK this has worked what can I learn from this experience and what can I do to change it?”

This simple re-phrasing can open a world of possibilities.

Imagine you face a big challenge at work:

  • You are knocked back for a promotion.
  • Your contract is not renewed.
  • You have a tetchy relationship with your boss.
  • You are made redundant.

It would be perfectly normal to feel down about any one of these challenges.

But rather than label yourself a failure, imagine if your reaction was “there are going to be lots of good learning opportunities in this” or “oh good I was hoping this would be a challenge.” Or “OK know I have learnt what not to do”.

On one level, it sounds insincere and foolishly optimistic to react in this way. The point is not to trivialise your feelings but re-frame your thinking so you see a way forward when life throws you curveballs.

See Your Potential

This small shift in your thinking can make a seismic difference to your career.  Each of us is born with inherent strengths and limitations but our capacity to grow and learn is not pre-defined at birth.

In another study, researchers looked at the brains of children with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. The children with a fixed mindset registered almost no electrical activity in their brains whereas the brains of children with a growth mindset were on fire.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset can have similar benefits in adults. If you engage your brain with a challenge and think your way through it, you develop new neural pathways. Your brain literally grows as it learns. If you run away from a challenge, you don’t benefit from the challenge. Your mental capacity is not fixed. With stimulation, your brain and its capacity to solve problems continuously grows.

When 16-year-old Jessica Watson said she wanted to sail around the world solo, she was told she would never make it and her parents were criticised for being irresponsible about her safety.  Her critics could only see how and where she could fail, whereas those with a growth mindset like her and her parents could see the opportunities for success.

Jessica said in an interview “I didn’t have a lot going for me but I did what I had to do to get there. It makes you think what else are people capable of?” she demonstrated her growth mindset.

On her first trial expedition, Jessica crashed her yacht into a ship, which broke the mast on her yacht. The naysayers delighted in saying “I told you so” but Watson was determined to achieve her dream.

“I don’t think a lot of people make the connection between a big goal and lots of realistic achievable steps along the way. There were so many positives that came out of hitting that ship (although I didn’t think it at the time). It made me more confident that I could handle the situation if everything fell apart at sea,” said Ms Watson.

By accepting challenges and thinking “I’m not there yet but I can learn” you develop your capacity to solve work and life challenges.

Your Career is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A career is a long run that requires endurance – both mental and physical. A professional athlete trains so they are ‘match ready’ but it doesn’t mean they don’t suffer setbacks like injury or being side-lined for another player.

Most Australians will spend 40 – 50 years of their life working either full-time or part-time, stopping for breaks (either forced or by choice) along the way. And nearly everyone experiences moments when they feel like they’re ‘on the bench’ rather than ‘in the game’.

Having a growth mindset can help with endurance to last the distance and not give up when you’re on the bench.

Find the Right Support Crew

As a good friend of mine once said, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Getting through challenges in your career is difficult so having the right support crew is critical.

Jessica Watson said there was no way she could have sailed around the world solo without a dedicated team of people who shared her vision. Her team, from boat builders to cheerleaders, all helped her achieve what the media and critics said was impossible.

“It was a matter of finding people along the way who were going to help me and I found some pretty awesome ones. I was always going to need people to support me and I could never have done it without them” said Jessica Watson.

The same goes for your career. Along your 40-50 year career journey, you need to find the right people who share your vision of who you are and what you can achieve – enablers to help you achieve your goals. Just as top performing athletes need a coach to achieve peak performance, so do professionals. I get a lot of satisfaction helping professionals develop a growth mindset and achieve success in their careers. Why not talk to me about your career, the challenges you face and let me help you be successful?

Click below to organise your free 45-minute career growth conversation

Book Now.

For more information about how to cultivate a growth mindset:

Watch

  • The Power of Believing You Can Improve
  • Jessica Watson (OAM): The World’s Youngest Solo Sailor

Read

  • How Your Brain Reacts To Mistakes Depends On Your Mindset

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