Category Archives: Career management and transition

10 Barriers to successful promotion

careerI see many people in transition who struggle to advance in their careers  internally within their own organisations, in almost the same way as if they were involved in an external job search.

Today,  many companies have very rigorous internal promotion processes which can be as daunting as looking for a position outside a current organisation.

However,  there are many common elements and they require the same structured approach to achieve success. Just like an external  job search,  the process can take up to a year, further complicated by competition against colleagues,   some of whom may have become friends. Some companies even go to the expense of conducting external executive searches to benchmark the quality of their internal talent pipeline.

Over the years I’ve noticed what has become an all too familiar pattern with ten barriers to success:

  1. Lack of expertise in self-promotion:  many are unused to dealing with this type of process and are simply confused. This is compounded by a refusal to ask for help. Many in established positions have no idea how neutral input can make a difference to the outcome. Very often organisations will fund transition coaching especially at a senior level. Ask, and if they say “no”,  don’t hesitate invest in yourself.
  2. Lack of self-awareness: most people make very little time to think about themselves – their skills, goals, achievements, vision and passions. Those who are still employed are equally as guilty as  job seekers of this, perhaps more so because they know the organisation and the players.  They think they can ” wing it ” on the day.  A thorough inventory of achievements and skills should always be made as part of any on going career strategy. Internal candidates quite frequently have less interview exposure than externals so their self presentation skills can be more rusty.
  3. Stuck in “yes / but” :  Many want to make a change and explore new methodologies but get stuck in self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours. They are unable to make that paradigm shift to get there.  As Einstein pointed out “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different  results.”
  4. Avoidance strategies:  transitioning professionally takes a lot of work and many are not prepared to run the hard yards.  They get caught up in the cyber black  hole of “busyness” , unproductive work on computers of all sizes,  convincing themselves they are working effectively, when they are clearly not.  Business plans have to be prepared, strategic value to market statements must be created, plus whatever other activities organisations demands  (personality and psychological testing for example.)  All of this is time-consuming.
  5. Low self-esteem and or anxiety:  these two psychological states are frequent bed fellows which feed on each other to produce the  “busyness” above. Fear of failure maybe at the root of these dangerous emotions or perhaps there have been some missed  or failed opportunities in the past. Falling into the low self-esteem cycle undermines productivity and ultimately success. Find a coach, a mentor or a neutral friend or colleague to support you.
  6. Poor time management: whether in employment or on a job search a structured approach to time management is critical. Goals should be set, plans made and implemented and time planned.
  7. Failure to set goals: internal candidates are well-known to their management which has  both negatives and positives. It’s not enough to pitch up, suited and booted to give a brilliantly polished performance on the day. Strategic preparation over an extended period is critical, including professional image management. If your appearance look like a sack of spanners most days in the office,  a one day transformation for the interview will not be enough.
  8.  Lack of both mentors and sponsors: for the necessary support. Implement some visibility raising strategies to  raise your profile within your company. It is really easy to neglect an internal network. Create some strategic alliances.
  9. Failure to evaluate the competition.  Is your manager sponsoring you? If so, is he/she also sponsoring others for the position? Find out what you need to do to get full and unqualified support. Be aware of who the other candidates might be and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  10. No Plan B: in very  competitive internal processes which might have long-term career impact,  as part of the planning process ask yourself what you want to do if you are not successful.   Having a “Plan B” is key – will you stay on and try again? Does this mean your career will have stalled? It’s important to understand what your next steps will be and create a plan in advance. Knowing that a potential key resource may leave an organisation can be a factor.  Make sure your external network is in place too,  as your ” just in case” safety net.

So whether an external or internal candidate,  the career transition process carries many common elements! What would you add?

Good luck!

Do you have a career P.L.A.N.?

Do you have a career P.L.A.N.?

Do you have a career P.L.A.N.?

Do you have a career plan?

The likelihood of most of us sitting down every year with a professional career coach to create an annual career strategy is about as great as chocolate cream cake becoming a zero calorie dessert any time soon.  No one would think of having a medical with an unqualified doctor or getting their cars serviced at an unauthorised garage. Yet many casually stick their heads out of their pods and ask their colleagues, spouses,  pub buddies,  friends or family members for definitive input on what are potentially important career questions.

Do you go with the flow?

Most of us have a very  casual, laissez -faire, “trust in the moment” attitude to our careers, especially if we enjoy our jobs and  are professionally  satisfied.  Careers quite often move along at their own pace with perhaps some superficial input at an annual performance appraisal.  But few organisations are progressive enough to have meaningful  appraisal  systems that they actually implement.

In our lives we maintain our cars, our gardens, our health and our homes,  yet we rarely maintain our careers.

Until of course there is a problem or we get stuck.

Then, in response to a glitch or unexpected situation we frantically update our CVs, reach into our network to call “what’s his name”  and desperately try to set up some sort of online presence.   So even if we are sublimely happy (and perhaps even more so)  every one of us should have a career or professional plan.

There is a fine line between complacency and contentment.

Here is my helpful acronym that illustrates why:

P is for  PURPOSE  –   Create goals  “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”  said Tony Robbins.  If you go through this process with a professional career coach so much the better.

L is for LEARN  – learn and understand your transferable skills and strengths. They will thread through your careers like a string of pearls and will become invaluable confidence builders and key to your overall plan. The workplace is changing at a phenomenal pace and skills become  quickly outdated.  Ongoing life and professional learning should be a key component in our career plans. .

A is for ANALYSIS –  in any S.W.O.T. analysis identifying opportunities and development needs will be very significant.   People who know what they are good at and have identified any skill shortfall are almost always excellent managers and leaders.  Set up training programmes and create strategic alliances and network contacts in line with your longer term goals.    Ask what can you do for those connections before an issue arises.  If any crisis does occur “what’s his name” will be someone you can contact without embarrassment and  who will be happy to return your call.

N is for NAME –  naming and articulating your success stories and goals and creating a plan boosts a dream or a wish into a reality. In today’s complex workplace even the most successful, competent and content among us have set- backs.    Knowing the steps that underpin a career plan make it so much easier to be flexible and re-evaluate in the light of new circumstances and change direction if we need to. Having the skills and experience to create and implement a plan will help you get beyond any negative situation.

So do you have a career P.L.A.N.?

If you can’t measure it – don’t mention it

Why "if you can't measure it -don't mention it makes perfect sense".

Why “if you can’t measure it, don’t mention it” makes perfect sense.

The Peter Drucker  phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has been around in management training manuals for decades.  With some dissenting views, it is widely accepted if not as a business truism,  certainly as  a useful guideline and management tool.

In career management what is also gaining credibility is the line “If you can’t measure it – don’t mention it.”

I’m a big subscriber to that philosophy.


We are seeing a convergence between the marketing techniques usually associated with entrepreneurs and businesses with individual self promotion (in biz patois Personal Branding)  with the the same measurable values starting to become applicable. Many balk  at this shift,  feeling that people are becoming commoditized.  But are they really? All this really involves is simply a move from a task and chronology mindset, to a result, achievement and skills focus.

Just as we don’t care about the detail of the business process for any organisation,  we are also starting to expect the same approach on individual resumes and profiles.  We don’t care how smart phones are made. We just want to know what they can do for us. When we  buy jars and tubes of emulsified chemicals from L’Oreal, we buy products that are hopefully going to  magically transform us – even if it’s only in our imagination. We are buying the added value. Why? Because we are worth it.

The management accountant who produces monthly reports and forecasts using Bex Analyser and Excel would be better placed telling us what he used that information for,  rather than describing the  detail of the routine task.  If this can be followed with a metric and results so much the better.

If you are “young and dynamic”  I need to know what difference that will make to an organisation. If it means you have just graduated  at the top of your class with the most up to date mathematical models to support faster analysis of business processes, at your finger tips. Tell me that.

These are just two conversations I had this week alone.

Forget cute, metrics matter!

Very often people are so focused on being cute, zany or idiosyncratic that their message becomes simply verbiage and we have no idea at all what they mean.  I am highly literate so always recognise the individual words,   but sometimes I have no clue what the person actually does in a joined up sentence. “Effective change agent,  crisis manager,  business turn around leader.”  A crisis could be a merger, takeover or a blocked loo.  What sorts of businesses, crises and changes? What were the outcomes? Can this person do that for us, is the over-riding question of any employer.  If it’s not clear and the question has to be asked,  the risk of losing the reader (me) has already increased. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I am slow!

Just as when we buy a lap- top we will want to have some information on the basic features (weight, operating system, colours, memory, hard drive etc)  the main questions will be centred around what value that lap- top can add,  how we can benefit from it and how we can best use it for our own purposes.

Job search processes are no different. If a computer had a “buy this computer”   sign on it, wouldn’t you ask “Why? What will it do for me? ”

Candidates are no different.

Radio Interview with Mary van de Wiel – The Art of Career Transition

Mary van de Wiel alias "Van"

Mary van de Wiel alias “Van”

This is yet another illustration of the power of social media with an introduction from long time Twitter connection @CareerSherpa  Hannah Morgan to   Mary van de Wiel, Brand Anthropologist,  creator of NY Brand Lab & Brand Audits and  of Zing Your Brand.  .

As CEO, Brand Anthropologist at The NY Brand Lab and, a NY-based consultancy, workspace & lab, Van helps entrepreneurs, start-up CEOs and business leaders recognize themselves so others can.   With a strong background in advertising as a high-profile Creative Director she has  many corporate successful campaigns under her belt.

Van invited me to an intercontinental radio interview yesterday!  She is a skilled interviewer and the time flew.  We had great fun and lots of useful tips emerged from our dialogue.

So  what does Personal Branding mean to the job seeker or a person in transition?  I wondered if  I dare tell  Mary, a noted Brand Anthropologist,  that I hate the phrase and the first thing I do in my coaching programme is de-mystify it and make the process accessible !

I did! Listen to find out!

Listen to internet radio with NY Brand Lab Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Most important  takeaways:

  • Set goals! Make career management part of your ongoing annual routine and career strategy . Your brand, visibility and online and digital presence should always be in line with those goals.
  • Brand  YOU marketing will vary from one person to another. Be authentic.
  • Recruiters are time bound  – use the top half of your LinkedIn profile wisely with easy to digest but punchy text  with key words included.
  • An online presence is only a tool to get you to interview and meetings.
  • Don’t wait until you have a problem to take care of your career.
  • Network, network AND then network!.

My two dares:

  • Find 6 new powerful words to describe yourself. Think of a new way of telling your story . Use your transferable skills. Create a dialogue.
  • Invite 2 new people from your organisation or network to lunch before the end of the year. Why only two?  I want it to be achievable!

Enjoy! Let me know if you make your dares!

Why professional development should not be confused with ambition

ostrichA tale of two ostriches

Time to get your head out of the sand!

Esther is 45. She has worked for the same company for 15 years. She enjoys her job as a middle management customer service supervisor which is varied and demanding.  She is a wife and mother of three children  and her family are her priority.  She values her privacy,  so is not on LinkedIn, Facebook or any other social media which she considers to be “silly” and  intrusive. She has a close circle of friends who are all her peers.  The focus of her personal development is outside the office where she regularly takes classes on cookery, Italian and photography. She almost never goes to any professional networking events,  conferences or courses, either online or actual because she likes to get home  to the kids. Plus as she says, she is not “ambitious.”

Three  months ago her husband told her he wanted a divorce.  Six weeks later  her boss resigned and his replacement is implementing a re-structuring exercise. Esther’s position will disappear.

Hugues is 50. He  works as a Procurement Manager  based in the production unit of an international packaging company located within a stone’s throw of the Alps. He has 22 years service. His passion is climbing and every spare moment is devoted to trips and preparing for them. He is very active in local schools and youth groups, training young climbers about safety procedures. He is a volunteer on the local Mountain Rescue Squad.  As a long serving employee he is regarded as being solid within the organisation with a good understanding of the subtext of all the office politics and considered to be the  “go-to” person to get things done outside the system. He has turned down promotion and  the opportunity to learn English  because he doesn’t want to re-locate to the H.Q. in Paris and take on the travel commitments involved in a more senior, regional role.  The nearest mountain is also possibly three hours away. He is completely happy where he is and does not consider himself to be “ambitious.”

In January Hugues’ company was taken over (swallowed up really) and the procurement function has been centralised in Ireland.

Esther and Hugues have had their heads in the sand for a very long time.

The moral of these two stories is :

  • Complacency is not a safe place to be
  • Security does not exist.
  • Be prepared
  • Be up to date
  • Have a flight plan

What would you add?

How to create a career strategy when ALL jobs are temporary.

So do you think that change will fly by and leave your career plans untouched? You do? Then I suggest you watch this video!

Do you have career insurance?

One of the greatest challenges is planning a career strategy in a job market that is changing faster than we are.   All the goal posts are moving and staying current is becoming not only challenging, but confusing in economic times where no one  ( yes NO ONE)  is indispensable.

Youth unemployment is soaring to unprecedented heights, default retirement ages are being deferred or even abolished. Benefits offered by corporations have been eroded and the expectation of career longevity with any one organisation is a concept of a bye gone era. None of us would think of not taking out house, car, medical or travel insurance to meet all sorts of contingencies. Yet many of us don’t consider applying these measures professionally.

Career management has shifted to become professional protection which requires career insurance.  But despite the widely available  information about declining economies, many are confronted by change unprepared and uninsured

What can you do?

Create an ongoing personal development plan:  at one time it was enough to work hard, meet or exceed objectives and recognition and reward would follow. This is no longer  necessarily the case. We all have to invest in the ongoing development and widening of our skill sets.  The pace of change is so rapid that many aspects of all our jobs could disappear or be re-allocated.  We have no idea what new jobs will be needed or created. If you have not added formally to your skill set in any way in the past 2-3 years –  this should be a priority. Attend a course or sign up for a webinar. Access to educational opportunities has never been wider and more affordable, especially online and distance learning to fit in with our full schedules and budgets.

Stay current:  if you are part of the brigade that eschews online platforms and technological change you need to get over that. Rapidly.  These platforms offer access to up to date information in all sectors which is easily available and cheap, or even free. There is no excuse for not registering for alerts and staying in touch. All serious professionals would now be expected  to have a complete online professional profile. Make sure you have one.

Do you have career insurance?

Do you have career insurance?

Create a networking strategy: despite  all the clichéd homilies about not digging wells when we’re thirsty or fixing roofs in the rain – many do exactly that.  Make networking part of your daily routine,  on and offline.

   Do you have a “go-to 10? ” These are  your ten contacts for an emergency. Maintain those relationships attentively because no one likes people  they haven’t seen for years, pitching up out of the blue when they need something. Set up an advisory board of professional contacts or mentors whom you can tap into for ongoing advice.

Get out and meet people:  make this part of your annual strategy whether this is at conferences,  or lunches/breakfasts, within your organisation or externally.  It is a vital part of your career protection strategy.

Raise your visibility: speak in meetings, join professional associations,  write articles, offer to mentor junior staff or contacts,  or try to become a conference speaker.

Are you doing everything you can to protect your career?

Is couple’s career coaching the new way forward?

Family planningI recently had a call asking me if I did couples coaching and family planning.  I told the gentlemen he had the wrong number.  The phone rang again.  It was the same chap.  No he insisted. Are you the Dorothy Dalton who does career  transition coaching and wrote Children: A  Corporate inconvenience and The Great Divide: Planned Parenthood and Corporate Planning? 

Why ..? I asked somewhat cautiously.

“Because  I would like some professional input on how to create a strategy for my career, knowing that my partner and I intend to have children and want to be involved with our families, but we are both ambitious professionally.  Neither of us want the pressure of being the sole income earner. What advice would you give?  Is  it possible do you think to have a couple’s career strategy?”

This was actually a first for me!


Nathan is just 30.  He has have been with his partner Holly (28),  for 8 years and they are intending to  marry in 2015. They both have successful early career track records in their chosen fields – Law and Consulting. Although neither consider themselves to be high-fliers,  both aim for senior management  positions by their early 40s. Holly stated early on that she is not a “bra burner”!  Both are well paid and it was clear that salary is important to them both, in terms of status and the opportunities a high dual income can offer.  They have a comfortable  life style but generally work 50+ hours per week. They are hoping to buy a flat in desirable post code in Central London, without parental help, Nathan was quick to point out.  Both would like private education for their kids and second home ownership, somewhere warm, is part of  a mid-term dream.  Neither want to be the sole main wage earners or child carer.  With the cost of raising a child to 18 rising almost annually, they anticipated they would need two healthy salaries throughout their working lives to meet their goals.

Here we have the archetypal  career couple challenge, but with a modern approach of joint forward planning,  rather than leaving anything to chance. Previous generations simply suggested that women strive “to have it all” and we know how well that worked don’t we?  Is this the  new way forward for today’s young couples?

I suggested they could factor in the following:

  • Ongoing strategy:   It’s impossible to start a joint career strategy in 2012 and just leave it to take care of itself. It has to be an ongoing part of their joint  long term goal setting process. Sheryl Sandberg said that choice of partner is one of the most significant decisions we make in a lifetime. Yet 50% of modern marriages end in divorce.  I suggested that Nathan and Holly make a conscious decision to invest and check regularly that they remain on the  same page and continue to share the same goals. There can be a tendency for all of us,  especially when busy or stressed to simply drift.
  • Audit of current companies. Can their existing organisations offer what they are looking for or should they move for optimal  longer term career progression in line with their goals? What are their parental leave policies for example? Holly’s manager had been told when she announced her pregnancy that having a baby was not one of her KPIs and was already starting to be side-lined.  Holly believed she would need to move sooner rather than later to build up her career and reputation in a new organisation.
  • Target  future companies. Look for organisations with strong and supportive parenting policies as well as an active commitment to  a balanced work/life culture, which both could optimise,  without being penalised.  This would be especially important to Nathan.  The reality is many companies discourage men from taking paternity leave in practise.  Networking in these organisations to establish if these policies are really implemented, rather than lip-service clauses in the company handbook, would be helpful.
  •  Senior women: Target companies with women already at  a senior level, who have a reputation for being supportive of junior women. Holly does not want to be a trail blazer.
  • Where to live: Is the proposed  property purchase a transition purchase or should they be looking at addresses near to preferred schools, with perhaps accommodation for a nanny and with easy access for family support?
  • Fertility back-up plan: I have known  many couples make a plan to start a family, but nature doesn’t always oblige.  Just because they intend to have their children when they are 36-42,  doesn’t mean to say it will happen. This age range is associated with reduced fertility. Oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) and elective sperm freezing would be worth researching.
  • Financial planning : Seek professional financial advice early on. Create financial reserves.
  • Plan for the unexpected. Although it’s great to have a joint life and career strategy, all laid out and agreed  and I do think this type of consultation will become increasingly common, sometimes s?*t  just happens. It’s not on the plan and we can’t do anything about it. People get sick, accidents happen and the unexpected hits us sideways.  The skills to cope  with these off-plan challenges will be paramount and not using them could mean that they become like under utilized muscles, without exercise they are not effective when called on.
  • Drop the plan if it stops working. The plan is not the end in itself  and panic is not the best fall back position. Give advance permission to create contingency plans!

What advice would you give to couples to create a joint career strategy? Is this the new way forward for today’s young couples?