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:

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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
How to speak up for yourself at work

How to speak up for yourself at work

Knowing how to speak up for yourself at work is a critical career-building skill, particularly as you climb the ladder into leadership positions.

Do you ever feel trapped into saying ‘yes’ or worse still saying nothing at all when you’re served the raw end of the prawn? It’s not unusual, especially if you feel like you’re operating from a position of low power. No workplace wants nay-sayers but being a pushover won’t earn you respect either. The key is learning how to speak up for yourself in a way that makes you credible, likeable and builds your authority.

Why Do I Hesitate to Speak Up?

According to social psychologist, Adam Galinsky, most of us have a range of acceptable behavior. Sometimes, our decisions are too weak and we regret not speaking up. Other times, we go too far and we regret speaking up.

“When we stay within our range of acceptable behavior, we are rewarded. When we step outside our range, we get punished in a variety of ways; we get dismissed, demeaned or even ostracized (sic),” said Mr Galinsky.

Source: How to speak up for yourself  by Adam Galinsky

Galinsky says our perceived power influences our willingness to speak up. If you believe you have a low power-base, your range of acceptable behavior will be narrower than someone who perceives they have a high-power base. For example, a graduate will perceive they have less power than a senior executive therefore, the graduate avoids speaking up in meetings because they fear being ignored or worse damaging their personal brand in front of the boss.  This in turn creates what Galinsky calls the Low-Power Double Bind – you don’t speak up, therefore you go unnoticed and as a result, your powerbase remains small.  This bind works to keep you silent.

But your powerbase isn’t constant, it changes based on your situation.

“Our range isn’t fixed, it’s dynamic. It expands and it narrows based on the context. And there’s one thing that determines your range more than anything else, and that’s your power” said Mr Galinsky.

Source: How to speak up for yourself  by Adam Galinsky

There are two sides to feeling powerful:

  • Feeling powerful myself
  • Others seeing me as powerful

“When I feel powerful, I expand my own range. When others see me as powerful, they grant me an expanded range” said Mr Galinsky.

On the other side of the coin, people are social beings. Being liked and belonging in social circles is important so we fear behaving in a way that will jeopardise our social standing.

Why you won’t be respected for being the ‘yes’ person

Consciously or not, you teach people how to behave towards you. This is especially true as you move into leadership roles, when your team and other leaders are watching how you behave. Being obliging might make you popular but it doesn’t always earn you respect. In the wild wilderness of the workplace, creating professional boundaries is a way of marking your territory and letting others know about what you will and won’t tolerate.  It gives you an identity that frames how people treat you.

For example, if you are not invited to an important meeting and you don’t speak up, you teach others it’s okay to exclude you. Or if you’re railroaded into taking on more work when your plate is full, you teach others you can be pushed around.

Knowing how and when to take a confident stance will teach others what you expect and accept.

When Is the Right Time to Speak Up?

When can you assert yourself? When can you offer an opinion? When can you make an audacious ask?

When it’s necessary

Asking yourself “is it necessary to speak up about this issue?” is a good litmus test to decide when is the right time to speak up. If it’s a small, low impact issue and you have very little gain from speaking up then consider letting it slide. If you make noise about the small stuff, you jeopardise your chances of being listen to when the issue really matters.  But if it’s a big issue (in terms of ethics, cost, risk or impact to the business and team) then you must find your voice.  I wonder how many people named in the Banking Royal Commission now wish they spoke up?

When it’s your responsibility

Imagine you’re the General Manager of IT and a big website project hasn’t gone to plan. Some of it is your team’s fault, some of it isn’t. The Head of Marketing is furious and is ready to throw your whole team under a bus. Do you let the team take the heat or speak up? Of course, as the manager, you must speak up, it is your responsibility to be an advocate for your team.

When it’s true

Speaking up about an issue when your unclear about the facts is risky because you can wind up making an invalid argument, or worse looking silly. It’s always a good idea to do your research to find data or evidence to support your position before you turn the spotlight on an issue. Then you can speak up with accuracy and confidence.

How to speak up and stay professional

As I mentioned previously, workplaces are social circles, which makes speaking up risky. But these five techniques will help you maintain respectful relationships and your credibility.

1.       Walk a mile on someone else’s shoes

When you take the perspective of others and find out what they really want, you’re more likely to get what you want and maintain a respectful relationship. But it’s hard to do, especially in a crisis when there’s pressure and emotion.

Back to the earlier example; imagine that you’re the manager of an IT team and the Head of Marketing has publicly blamed your team for a website project flop.

Instead of having a shouting match in the corridor about who’s to blame, book a meeting. Use this time to listen to your colleague’s gripes and understand their concerns. Start by accepting and acknowledging your team’s errors and let marketing know you want to work together to get the project back on track. In a firm manner, also let the CMO know that publicly shaming your team saps their motivation and doesn’t encourage their best work. Ask them to raise any concerns about your team’s performance with you privately and assure her you will address them with your team.

When you take the other’s perspective it allows you to be assertive but still likeable.

2.       Advocate for others

One skill that women have shown to be particularly good at is advocating for others. Galinsky’s research showed women are more audacious in their requests and get just as much as men when they negotiate for their team. Through being an advocate, you discover and expand your own comfort zone and become more assertive. But it’s not always about helping others, sometimes you have to help yourself.

3.       Be flexible and provide choices

According to Adam Galinsky, you’re more likely to negotiate a win and still be likeable if you provide options.

“My research shows that when you give people a choice among options it lowers their defenses and they’re more likely to accept your offer,” said Mr Galinsky.

One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is to give a choice between two good deals. For example, if you’re negotiating for a new salary package with your boss, do your research. Find out the salary benchmarks from your role (many recruitment agencies provide this data for free) and ask HR what you can include in your salary package. Many companies offer additional annual leave or paid study. Put two alternatives on the negotiating table (and deliberately exclude the third alternative, no pay rise!).

Package 1 Package 2
+ 15% cash +10% cash
No extra leave 10 extra annual leave days
Study allowance $2,000 Study allowance of $5,000

This is a far more powerful position than saying “I deserve a pay rise” without any research or data to support your claim.

4.       Build Social Support

This approach can help if you need to catch the eye of senior managers to get ahead but don’t want to be seen as boastful.

Having a broad support network makes you feel more powerful. And when you feel more powerful, you are more likely to speak up for yourself.

There are two ways you can build social support at work:

  • Get others onside by advocating for them. It helps you expand your powerbase in your own eyes and the eyes of others.
  • Ask more powerful people in your workplace for advice on how to accelerate your career. It demonstrates humility and it helps build an ally from above.

Having good working relationships with peers and seniors will build your powerbase and help you find your voice.

5.       Play to your strengths and passion

When you play to your strengths and find your passion you give yourself permission to speak up and your enthusiasm becomes infectious.

If you feel you’re coming off a low power base, get some evidence about your strengths. This could be:

  • Results you’ve achieved listed against the responsibilities on your job description
  • Testimonials from customers, managers and colleagues about your work

Being passionate about your work will build your own perceived power and others will grant you permission to speak up.

Speaking up for yourself is a difficult but very necessary skill to learn if you want to step up in your career.  As a professional coach, I can help you build your personal authority and practice how to speak up for yourself at work. Book a career breakthrough session today and feel more powerful at work.

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5 Ways to Stay Connected to your Business Network

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Business Network

A business relationship is like any other – to last the distance it has to be based on mutual respect and benefit. We’re all guilty of getting caught up in the daily grind, prioritizing the ‘to do’ list over making time to nurture valuable relationships, the rock on which supportive networks are built . But failing to stay connected to your business network is costly – these people are your tribe who will support you (and you them) to build a successful career. This blog provides 5 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Business Network.

Why is a business network important for my career?

Have you ever noticed that geese fly in a “V” formation? When the lead goose tires of flying at the pointy end of the “V”, it drops back and another goose moves up to take the lead. The tired goose is carried by the updraft of the other geese. And the beautiful thing is, these geese are not driven by self-interest. By working collectively, each goose advances more easily. Like geese, people have a great capacity to support each other in their careers and life in general.

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.

Let’s face it, careers are challenging. First, they span a large part of your life, probably 40 years or more. Secondly, the nature of work is constantly changing. You need to learn and adapt to stay employable. Thirdly, people are social animals and we are compelled to belong to tribes. This is why you need your business network – a team of champions who lead, inspire, encourage, supports and advocates for you. But don’t be a taker, instead be like the lead goose, who works their heart out to support the other geese, you to should focus on giving to others before asking for something in return.

How to build influence, credibility and trust

A business network isn’t something you can just tap into when you want something. To keep professional doors open, you need to build and maintain your social status, which is largely based around your influence, develop credibility and trust. And social status isn’t just for the bold and the beautiful, introverts can be highly influential too.

Influence

Every day, everybody needs to solve problems. Build your social influence by helping people at work and in your business network. If you’re an expert in your field, use your knowledge to answer questions, or introduce people or provide articles of interest. Lend your support to others and it will be returned when you need it.

Credibility

Credibility is the key to keeping doors open. There is no one behaviour that defines credibility, it’s a compound made from authenticity, transparency, honesty, consistency and visibility. When you communicate with your colleagues and business network, have a clear purpose. Be honest and transparent. If you’re seeking an introduction, be upfront and tell them why. Make sure your relationship isn’t compromised in any way and show gratitude when you’re given help. Demonstrate these characteristics each time you interact with your business network and you’ll build a credible personal brand.

Trust

A trustworthy person is someone you can rely on, who delivers on promises, who keeps sensitive information confidential and acts credibly (see above). Being someone with integrity will make you a trusted member of any business community.

The importance of giving recognition

Existential recognition sounds like something out of a philosophy text book but plainly speaking it means noticing a person is alive and letting them know they’re important to you. Giving recognition authentically to people at work and in your network shows you care, is a great way to build rapport and a good excuse to get in touch.

You can save recognition for major milestones like birthdays or anniversaries, or be proactive and recognise people for minor achievements. “Hi Tom, I read your article on LinkedIn and thought it was really interesting. Well done.” A sentence as simple of this one will make you memorable for all the right reasons.

5 Ways to Stay Connected

There’s no right or wrong way to stay connected. There’s a time and place for each type of communication I have listed below. Think about your purpose: why are you interested in building a relationship with the person you are contacting? What is the best way to build the relationship that benefits both of you? You need to combine the reason why you are communicating with the right type of communication.

Social Media

Social media is a quick and convenient way to communicate but it’s probably the least personal. Show your interest by reading other’s posts and articles and engage with them via a share, like or comment. This is a good way to build rapport with new contacts.

On Linkedin, ‘follow’ someone you’re interested as a soft way to show you’re interested in them and their ideas. It also gives you a chance to build up your understanding before you ask to connect.

However, following and commenting on posts and articles is a one-way form of communication – it doesn’t really allow you to start a conversation. To further your relationship, you need to make a connection.

When you make a new connection, I encourage you to write personal messages rather than click on pre-scripted button – it shows you’re genuinely interested. For example, you might say “I’ve been following your posts on <subject> and I’m interested to find out more. Would you like to connect?”. That way, your invitation doesn’t arrive unannounced and out of context.

Email

Email is more personal than social media but again, you miss out on verbal and physical cues, which is a big component of communication. Sending an article of interest is one way you can connect and show you’re thinking about your contact. And of course, make your email personal and make sure you have permission to send an email to your contact, or you could be breaking the law. But before you send an email, think about your purpose – is your email genuinely helpful or are you just adding one more to the list?

Connect Others

As the old saying goes, it’s often about who you know rather than what you know. If you want to expand your business network, look for ways to help others succeed and provide introductions. Your generosity will be remembered and likely, reciprocated.

Another way to make stay-in-touch is to invite people from your network to attend events that will help their careers and provide introductions to your network in-person.

Call

In the digital era, a phone call might seem old fashioned but it shows a personal touch. A well-timed phone call to congratulate your contact on a recent business win shows thoughtfulness. But while phone is more personal and allows for a two-way conversation, it is also more time-consuming so consider your timing and make it convenient for both of you.

Face-to-Face

Face-to-face is the most personal way to connect but also the most time consuming. It’s a great way to listen and building your mutual understanding of each other because you benefit from visual and emotional cues as well as the content of what the person is saying. This helps you to build a stronger connection. A coffee catch-up is ideal when you want to dive deeper but remember – don’t ask for a meeting only when you want something.

In summary, be generous and considerate with your network and they will always be happy to hear from you.

Building and maintaining a professional network is a key ingredient to making your career successful. But it’s also a skill many of us find challenging. I can help. Book a free 45-minute career breakthrough conversation and I’ll help you learn how to network.

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Wellbeing at Work

5 Steps to Maintaining Your Well-Being at Work

Do you feel you are thriving at work, or just surviving? As I mentioned in my article How to Find a Career You Love, you will spend approximately 80,000 hours at work over your career. That’s a lot of time to spend doing something you don’t enjoy or that makes you feel unwell.

The Ill-Effects of Workplace Stress

Research of 30,000 Australian employees conducted by the Workplace Health Association of Australia  shows 65 percent of those surveyed experience moderate to high stress, and 41 percent were considered ‘at risk’ of serious health issues such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Some cancers
  • Mental health concerns

Dr John Lang, CEO of the Workplace Health Association of Australia, says the findings are concerning.

“This is an alarming insight into the poor levels of health experienced by most Australian workers. It highlights the urgency to deliver preventative actions in the workplace,” said Dr Lang.

But it’s important to remember you are not trapped. There are steps you can take to improve your sense of well-being at work.

What is Well-Being?

Well-being has both a physical and mental component.

The steps you can take to improve your physical health are more obvious, such as:

  • Exercise more
  • Eat healthy food
  • Give up smoking
  • Reduce alcohol consumption

But what if you do all these things and still feel unhappy at work? What can you do to feel better?

According to well-being expert, Dr. Martin Seligman, there are five key steps to finding and maintaining your well-being.

1.      Purpose

Purpose often relates to belonging to and serving something bigger than yourself. Finding your purpose doesn’t mean quitting your job and giving away all your worldly goods. It’s about understanding why you do the work you have chosen. Does it play to your strengths? Do you feel satisfied after a day of work or does it leave you feeling exhausted? If creativity is your strength but you crunch numbers all day, chances are it will leave you feeling drained.

In his TEDX talk, Start with Why, Simon Sinek talks about what makes Apple more successful than other companies. He says it’s because they are clear on their purpose and put it at the centre of everything they do.  If you understand your strengths and have a connection to your work, it will contribute to your general sense of well-being at work.

2.      Positive Relationships

Humans are inherently social animals who crave love, compassion, kindness, support and approval. Research by Gallup shows that having at least one friend at work can greatly reduce workplace stress and increase a feeling of belonging, trust and support during difficult times.

By contrast, a poor relationship with the boss is one of the main reasons people leave a job. Another study conducted by Gallup suggests 40 percent of employees would sack their boss, given the opportunity. Managing difficult bosses can be tricky but author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Dr Travis Bradbury, provides strategies successful people can use to overcome toxic bosses.

If you are unhappy at work, now might be a good time to revisit workplace relationships and assess what impact they have on your well-being.

3.      Achievement

A sense of mastery and success in your job will contribute to your well-being at work.  It’s impossible to win at every challenge but feeling absorbed by your work and feeling a sense of accomplishment will make your work life more enjoyable.

Think about marathon runners. Running 42km is probably one of the most illogical things you could ever do – it’s exhausting and painful – yet the sense of accomplishment marathon runners feel at the end of a long and challenging race is almost euphoric. Can you bring some of that into your work?

Positive Emotion

In his book, Flourish, Dr Martin Seligman talks about two different kinds of positive emotion.

Ebbs and Flows of Life

Your mood is a transient emotion that ebbs and flows, often in response to internal and external stimuli. For example, if you’ve had an argument with your partner in the morning, there’s a chance you’ll have a low mood at work that day. But often, a low mood doesn’t last – you kiss and make up and the low mood passes.

Satisfaction with Life

Understanding how you feel about life more broadly requires a more rational and in-depth analysis than the daily highs and lows. Do you generally feel optimistic about your life? Optimism has proven health benefits and like any skill, it can be learned and developed through daily practice. If, in the long-term, you feel pessimistic about work (and life in general) then it’s time to reassess.

Engagement

Engagement is closely linked to enjoyment, which comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity. Engagement is about being completely absorbed in what you do. You may not instantly recognise that you’re engaged while you are completing a task but on reflection you might think ‘that was good’.

Dr Amanda Allisey of Deakin University says finding out what you really care about is a good way to find a sense of engagement.

“If you ask someone today why they want a particular job, or want to work for a certain organisation, the answer isn’t just “because it pays well”. It’s more about the meaningfulness of the work, or having the opportunity to do something you really love. It’s about tapping into what people care about – and contributing to a sense of well-being,’ said Dr Allisey.

A physical and mental sense of well-being at work is an important factor to a long and happy working life.  If you are searching for your purpose or feel disengaged at work, then talk to me about how you can improve your well-being at work and live a more flourishing life. You can book your Free Career Breakthrough Conversation through the button below:

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If you would like to learn more about well-being, I recommend you:

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If your work is causing you stress and anxiety that is impacting on your immediate well-being then we encourage you to ring the Beyondblue Support Services on 1300 22 4636.

The Importance of Creativity for a Long Career

The Importance of Creativity for a Long Career

The importance of creativity for a long career is more critical than ever, to stay relevant and employable in the age of automation

According to an article by Business Insiders Australia, one in three Australian jobs will be automated by 2030. And it’s not just manufacturing, white-collar professions like accounting and legal are also at risk.

It’s easy to feel gloomy about the future of work but it’s not all bad. Author, Daniel Pink, says that right-brainers (people who think creativity) will rule the future because their skills are both highly valued by organisations and not easily replicated by robots.

“Lawyers. Doctors. Accountants. Engineers. That’s what our parents encouraged us to become. They were wrong. Gone is the age of “left-brain” dominance. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers — creative and emphatic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault-line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t,” said Daniel Pink.

So, creativity is not just important for your career, it’s a must-have skill to ensure you have a career.

What is Creativity, you ask?

Does the word creativity conjure images of the artist Pro Hart exploding cream cakes onto a giant canvass?

The good news is you don’t have be an artist or in a typically creative job to think creatively. Most people, if they put their mind to it, have the capacity to be creative and use creative thinking.

According to Linda Naiman, Founder of Creativity at Work, creativity is “characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.”

All you need to do is look at the “disruptors” that we are fond of talking about to understand this point. Take for example, Uber. They saw the problem of poor taxi service and provided a creative solution in ride-sharing. LinkedIn saw the time and effort to create and maintain a professional network and provided a creative solution. Freelancer saw that small business had a problem in getting stuff done and created a hub to connect small business with skilled freelancers. Each of these business are examples of reexamining old problems with creative solutions.

Therefore, creativity is finding new and innovative ways to fix business problems. And building your reputation as a problem solver will help you grow your career because every organization wants to hire self-starters who bring solutions rather than problems to their role.

Can Creativity Be Learned?

Many people think creativity is a gift you are born with or receive through divine intervention. However, training yourself to think in new and innovative ways is a skill you can and must learn for a sustainable and successful career.

Tanya Seelig, author of inGenuis: A Crash Course in Creativity, says that creativity is one of the most important skills we can learn.

“With enhanced creativity, instead of problems we see potential, instead of obstacles we see opportunities, and instead of challenges we see a chance to create solutions. Creativity is critically important in everything we do, including designing products, growing businesses, and building alliances between nations. We are literally inventing the future every moment. And these skills can be learned,” said Dr Seelig.

How Can I Be More Creative?

It really doesn’t matter how you get your creative juices flowing, the important thing is that you find a creative process that works for you. Practiced regularly, creativity becomes a professional and personal habit.

Here are five ways you can bring creativity into your work life

1. Change Your Mind

One way to boost your creativity is to look existing work problems differently. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and think about how they use your product. Or think about the types of complaints employees make in the lunch room. Connect different parts of the business, combine ideas and challenge traditional business assumptions. For example, consider the invention of smart phones. A mobile phone used to be a tool to make phone calls and send text messages. But companies like Apple reimagined its potential and now mobile phones are used as cameras, diaries and even credit cards.

2. Look Outside Your Industry

Researching other industries can be a great way to spark your own imagination. In a world of 7.5 billion people, it’s unlikely you’re the first person to experience any given problem. Google is a great place to start. Consider re-framing your question so it’s not specific to your industry or job and learn how others have tackled the same or similar issues.

3. Make a Plan

Creativity isn’t something that just happens. In fact, it is a discipline. You need to set aside time to think, research and engage in problem-solving. And you need to make a start. Don’t wait for divine inspiration, put pen to paper and allow yourself to play with different ideas without expecting to nail it in the first five minutes.

4. Team Up

No one has all the answers. If you have a specific problem that needs a creative solution, talk to others and ask for their suggestions. In particular, talk to people who work in different industries or professions as they can suggest a different angle.

5. Walk Away

If you’re not getting anywhere by sitting and starting at a problem, walk away. In her TED Talk, Want to be more creative? Go for a walk, behavioural and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, suggests going for a walk is all you need to get your creative juices flowing.

As I read and contemplate all the research about the future of work, one thing is clear: to have a successful career, you’ll need to think creatively.

Let’s work together to secure your future career. I can help you tap into your creativity and bring your ideas to life.

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Watch:

• A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
• Want to be more creative? Go for a walk.

Read:

• The Future of Human Work Is Imagination, Creativity, and Strategy
• Bet You Didn’t See This Coming: 10 Jobs That Will Be Replaced by Robots
• RISE OF THE MACHINES: New research predicts a third of Australian jobs will lost to automation by 2030
• Who Says Creativity Can’t Be Learned?

 

Are you searching for reasons not to go to work

Should I quit, or should I stay?

It has been a few years working for the same employer and the passion of waking up in the morning excited to go to work has disappeared.  Does that sound like you? Or are you searching for reasons not to go to work?  Or does the mention of your employer make you break out in Hives!!!!

Yes, workplace unhappiness happens.  It is a “thing”. It happens often and to most people.

A recent Gallup Survey revealed that 85% of the international workforce is disengaged at work. Most employees are unhappy with their career.  The reasons are many but the key for us in this blog is the fact that such a big number are chronically unhappy.

Being unhappy at work is terrible.  It makes unproductive as an employee but worse it makes us a bad person to be around. Workplace unhappiness causes stress, it impacts on our relationships, and it can make us sick.

However, before you quit test your decision with these simple questions.

Is my boss showing interest in my career development?

A common issue employees experience is their employer does not provide the fundamental tools to enhance their career.

Some organizations embrace the idea of their employees working towards their goals to potentially move to a new area of the company. An action plan with an employer to develop one’s career includes the following:

  • Quarterly career development meetings
  • Discussing areas of improvement
  • Continuous education
  • Mentor program with experienced colleagues

If you believe there is no opportunity to progress at work, it is time to start searching for a new job.

Is this a great place to work? Do people want to come here and work?

Let’s face it. Some workplaces condone an unhealthy work environment. As a result, employees feel uncomfortable at work to express their concerns to management. A work environment where office gossip, harassment or unprofessional behavior is accepted can prevent you from experiencing high levels of job satisfaction.

Is the Company is Growing?

Growing companies are happy companies and happy companies usually have happy employees. So, if you are in a growing company and unhappy then you might need to consider if you are a good fit for the business A company that is growing has the budget to hire new staff, invest in software technology, offer career development programs, offer bonuses for high performance

If a company regularly announces negative cash flow, missed targets, is laying off staff and its long-term growth looks unachievable then it may be a good idea to leave and protect your entitlements.

What stage of my career am I at?

The reality is many employees outgrow their positions at work.  This could be for many reasons however before you make the decision to quit you should think about: the opportunities in other parts of the business; what development opportunities exist for you where you are; your age, level of experience and the value you could bring to another business; the state of the employment market. As much as quitting may feel good it can very quickly turn into a bad decision if you can find immediate employment.

Is my health being affected?

If your job is making you sick then it is a “no brainer”, you need to get out of there.  Nothing should come before your health.

What to Consider Before Quitting

To quit or not to quit your job is a very serious decision and there are many things you need to think about.  Before making such a serious a decision you should talk to a professional career coach.

What the career coach can do is help you discover new insights about what is making you unhappy at work, suggest alternative ways of dealing with your unhappiness, and help you make the right decision for you.  Most importantly, a career coach will help you find that dream job.

If you are considering quitting your job, then I encourage you to first book a Career Breakthrough Conversation to talk with us about your career and your dream job and whether quitting is the right move for you.

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Further Reading:

Our most recent blog I hate my job – what should I do?

Hate your job

I hate my job – what should I do?

Over the last year in Australia, there have been 500,000 searches on Google about what to do if you hate your job. That suggests there are a lot of unhappy workers in Australia!

Everyone has a few off days but if you consistently loathe going to work, you have a problem.

In my previous blog 5 Steps to Maintaining Your Well-being at Work, I talked about the ill-effects of workplace stress, which can result in both physical and mental disorders.

Many people tolerate unhappiness at work because they need the job to pay their bills. But if your work affects your well-being, it’s time to reassess. Without your health, you can’t work or live sustainably.

 Why Are You Unhappy at Work?

There are many reasons why you could be unhappy at work but according to research by the Australian National University, there are four factors that consistently lead to unhappiness:

  • 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.

Do any of these factors apply to your job? It may explain why you are unhappy at work.

Think first, speak later

Before you shout from the water cooler “I hate my job” – pause and think. Your boss may well be a jerk but there’s a good chance you’ll need a reference to secure your next job. While you may get a short-term burst of satisfaction telling workmates how unhappy you are, think about what you stand to lose from doing so.  One of my clients who hated her job unwittingly started to bad mouth her job, her colleagues, her boss and the business – classic “career unhappiness” behaviour.  She did not realise how indiscreet she had been until she applied for a new job with another firm and was told she was unsuccessful because they knew of her bad behaviour.

Take a break

Quitting your job or accepting a redundancy is often a smart thing to do if you really hate your job because it creates a “circuit breaker”.  It gets you out of the negativity.  It can, in many cases be a positive life-changing decision.  In my blog The 6 things about redundancy I talk about the value of taking a break to give yourself time to think about your next step. A holiday is a good idea because it will also give you time to re-charge your batteries, get the negativity out of your head and think about “what next” before you move on with the next phase of your life.  Many of my clients have taken a break after being made redundant and have reported that it was: “the best thing I could have done”, “a great freshen up”, “a chance to close off that chapter of my life”, and my personal favourite, “a chance to reconnect with myself”.  These are all very positive sentiments.

Psychologist Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne says a successful holiday can benefit your physical and mental health.

“Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle. We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines,” said Dr Krauss Whitbourne.

Do Talk to Someone You Trust

If you’re unhappy, it’s not good to brew up your feelings. Instead of complaining at work, talk to family and friends. However, keep in mind family can’t always give you unbiased advice because they depend on your income and might be fearful of change.  I remember when I left my last job a family member said to me “what do I tell people you do?”.

Your friends will give you well-meaning advice but it can be unhelpful.  Think about it, have you ever received advice from family or friend that was objective, well-researched and appropriate to you?  I would guess rarely because they all have a perception of what you should be doing – according to them.  It’s amazing how many of my clients talk about how they changed things based on family or friend’s advice and it only made things worse!

Sometimes, you need an independent sounding board, like a career coach – a trained professional who will listen objectively and help you sort out what is best for you.  A career coach is the person most likely to give you the best advice that suits you.

Should you stay, or go?

The decision to quit or stay in a job can be complicated, particularly if you are the main bread-winner of the family.

To help make a decision about whether to stay or go, I recommend you write down:

  • A list of things about your job that are not working. Can you influence any of the things that make you unhappy at work? For example, if you don’t like your boss, can you request a transfer to a different area?
  • The costs and benefits of staying or leaving. When faced with the prospect of leaving a job, many people will act out of fear and list only the risks without thinking about what could improve in their lives.
  • Scenarios for what life would look like if you stayed or if quit and chased career happiness.

Writing down the facts on paper will help you assess your situation rationally, rather than emotionally.

Make a plan before you quit

If you have decided you want to leave your job then make a plan. 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.

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