Category Archives: mission statement

Career reflection: Could you get your own job?

What would happen if you had to apply for your own job?
In the past year I have been conscious of , and written extensively about,  the pace of change in my particular  field which seems to be greater than ever before. It’s hard to keep up!  Every time I learn something new, I have to get to grips with something  even newer.  I cannot imagine I am alone in this position!  I also coach people in transition in various professions and sectors and advise them always of the need to stay up dated in their fields.  But what about  people not looking for jobs or directly at risk in any way?

Could they successfully apply for their own jobs?

Could you?

One of the cruellest spin offs of any organisational re-structuring is that sometimes employees are invited to re-apply for their own jobs, frequently when they have been in post for many years and have considerable seniority and  experience. But does this mean that they are necessarily the best candidate for the job as it exists now in the current environment and climate? Regrettably not always.

There are a number of counter arguments to this thesis.

Organisational responsibility
Many will say it’s the  responsibility of the organisation to ensure than their employees are trained and up to date in any developments in their field and are performing to the best of their abilities. To  some extent this could be true.

Any switched-on company committed to employee development  will do this,  seeing  peak employee performance and talent management  as  intrinsic to bottom line success.  But in times of economic stringency and turbulence,  when training budgets have been slashed, updating employees  and keeping them up to speed may not be their top priority.  This is set against a background of quite often incomplete , inadequate, and irregular performance appraisal  which limits meaningful feedback from any manager to  his/her reports. Essentially many employees have no real idea of how they are actually doing, or where their strengths and weaknesses lie on the ideal candidate spectrum.

Avoid complacency
Many of you will also say that it’s no way to live,  or work,  in a state of permanent insecurity always worrying about someone coming in to take over your job. That’s also true.  But complacency isn’t a good state either. One of the things we have all learned in this current economic crisis is that there are no certainties in life. So perhaps  it would be foolish to sit and wait for someone else to take responsibility for your career  and ultimately your life. Many people who are moved sideways, demoted, have promotion disappointments or who get fired,  very often don’t see it coming.   Many of  us are wedded to our tried and trusted ways of operating. Even though we might acknowledge a need to do things  differently at one level (mainly intellectual),  we still struggle to implement  practical change. It doesn’t matter if it’s C-suite level of Fortune 500 companies  or middle managers in SMEs, taking that step to honestly and brutally self appraise is never easy.

It’s also not just about the arrogance of captains of industry such as Fred “The Shred” Goodwin,   or the senior executives of General Motors or Lehman Brothers who failed miserably to understand the limitations of their own performance, until of course it was too late. It’s important for us all to  consciously examine our own roles in relation to the market and be aware and take care of any short fall.

So  maybe start asking  yourself the following questions:

  •  How qualified  am I for this position,  not necessarily always  in  terms of educational certificates,  but in experience?
  • Is my knowledge current?
  • What improvements could/should I make to may own skill set and performance to achieve better results?
  • What other changes would I make ?
  • What is my mission statement?
  • Can my contribution be measured?
  • Do I look for ,  process and act on constructive feedback?
  • What value do I add?
  • Do I know my own worth? Do my bosses, peers, and reports?
  • Who could replace me?

So… would you hire …you?

Does your career need a health check?

Fortunately, despite the events of the past couple of years, career coaching isn’t just about  crisis, redundancies and  panic job search. Transition coaching can happily be more  routine and measured:   brainstorming for the next stage, setting some goals, making a plan.  So with any executive working on this career management phase,  we always start with  a gentle chat about themselves and what they’re looking for.  Essentially and almost imperceptibly, what we’re doing  is a  career health check.

Self- insight
This process establishes where they’ve been,  what’s going on right now and  where they’re headed.  What I call the “know thyself spectrum”. Then I  ask them to draft a short  mission statement.   Not a  big deal you would have thought for rising captains of business and industry. But many are astonishingly resistant and some in fact even struggle.  They don’t see this as necessary to the process.  They have a great  job already and don’t need  to produce what they perceive  be part of a new CV . They’re completely fine.  Just need a bit of fine tuning. Still I insist!

Avoidance strategies
The range of excuses I hear to get out of this  exercise warrant  an “A” for creativity.   Kids –   listen  and learn from the best!

    • It’s on my office computer, not on my lap top ( ooooh….and vice versa!)
    • Backberry/iphone/ other  electronic gizzmo is down/crashed
    • Meetings: Wall to wall / Back to back
    • Deadlines : Year end /Q end/weekly/daily
    • Flight / trip:  delayed / bought forward
    • 3 kids: that one came from an executive with a stay at home wife
    •  Crisis: Personal/ family/professional/ national/ economic /global

Trust me – there is nothing I haven’t heard before!   There is seemingly a whole breed of executives  who don’t  have the following words in their vocabulary:  beer mat, pen, 15 minutes, plane, airport lounge, taxi – plus some other obvious ones.   This  type of inventive procrastination comes even from people who on the surface of things are  leaders in their sector,  perhaps in the top percentile of their professional and academic fields,  or have achieved significant business successes and are outwardly brimming with confidence. But despite this,  there is  something holding them back  from putting a name  to these  signficant achievements and the skills they needed to call on to facilitate such great results.

There is a reason why we all need to do career health checks on a regular basis.

Benefits
Personal insight,  knowing your strengths, weaknesses  and achievements  and being able to articulate those to yourself ,  is important for managers to excel in their current  roles.  It is not just those executives  who find themselves  unexpectedly on the job market.   A high percentage of executives I coach,  who have been “let go” admit to being unhappy in their jobs before the redundancy was made.  They also  suspect  that their bosses were possibly aware of it.  Harsh though it may seem,   companies generally  find a way to retain high performing, motivated managers, no matter what sort of crisis  they’re in.

So why is it important to understand and  articulate  these skills and achievements,  to know well how we have dealt with  any challenges in the past and be relaxed about any future ones?  It gives us all a sense of control.

Control
Feeling in control,  having that unshakeable self-belief  that we have the resources to successfully deal with anything that comes our way, generates self – confidence.    Self confidence is that indefinable , intangible quality that effective managers possess in spades.  It’s not a flashy showman leading from the top  or an over bearing arrogance that won’t listen or consult. It is something else all together.

Confidence
Confident managers know what they’re doing  and their teams can see that.  This is highly motivating and leads to better results.  Because confident managers have recognised their own successes and achievements,  they have no problem endorsing the success of their peers or reports.  They instinctively set in place recognition systems to foster and support self belief in those around them. This inspires greater team effort and even greater success.  People gravitate towards them. Success breeds success.

Confident managers are great mentors and don’t feel threatened by new talent. They generously encourage and develop.

Strengths and weaknesses
Because they know what they do well and  how they do it,  they also understand where and when  they don’t do so well.  Confident managers  are happy to  consult and  are comfortable looking for opinions, advice and support.   They are open to unsolicited input. Astonishingly,  true confidence can even admit lack of confidence  and  say ” I really have no clue what I’m doing,  but I’m going to find out.  ”   And they do. They process criticism positively.

Pro-active
Truly confident managers know that it’s important to get it done,  rather than get it right and will motivate and support calculated risk taking.  They rise to new challenges.  They get out of the way.  They give themselves and their teams permission to fail,  but still  keep a watchful eye on the score card. They support,  not blame,  during the failing process and takes steps to manage any  fallout if that’s what needs doing.  They see mistakes as part of  a learning  process. They take steps to avoid repeated bad habits.

Goals
Confident managers are  positive thinkers, solution driven and not problem focused. The first thing they want to know  “How can we get that done?”  not what the barriers are. Confident managers have goals and if they are off target they realise that they have to change … so  they sit down,  re-assesss and make new goals.

Sometimes on beer mats in airport lounges. They don’t need a perfect time, environment or location. They just get it done.

So when was the last time you gave your career a health check?

Choose your words wisely!

Inspired by Wally Bock

Divided by a common language  

Chatting on Twitter the other night, Wally mentioned in passing that he was a vet. Wow I thought. He’s an international leadership guru , writer, poet AND a vet. That’s pretty amazing. I went into recruiter mode. Thoughts about wide ranging skill sets , the long years he must have spent in college and training, plus potential career paths all raced through my mind. Then I realised (just as quickly) that we were probably having a cultural mis-communication moment. In UK English “vet” is a commonly used abbreviation for veterinary surgeon, but in the US it tends to replace the phrase “war veteran”.

Word choice

It then occurred to me if two Anglophones can mis-communicate so successfully and we use vocabulary and word choice as a professional tool all the time, what are the implications for those that don’t? I’m not talking about advertising spin either, but just presenting our message in a succinct and positive fashion, that everyone can understand and easily digest.

The importance of word choice in communicating a message in job search strategies is a vital part of my coaching programme. It’s key in CV writing and drafting internet profiles not only to be identified by Applicant Tracking Systems, but to identify your personal brand, which is the essence of your message. Strong language is absolutely essential in developing a correctly pitched elevator speech used in direct networking and interviews. They all require precise vocabulary, but presented in different styles and formats. Living in an international environment where English is the global business lingua franca, I also see people both communicating and confusing in their second, third or even fourth languages every day.

 Think!

I coached someone recently who used this phrase “Used to work in a multicultural environment : continuous contacts internally with US and European colleagues. Daily contacts with customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa mainly”

What he had actually done was this: successfully identified market development opportunities in key emerging markets,( some very challenging countries which I can’t specify for confidentiality reasons) created multi- cultural and cross discipline teams (requiring the management of significant cultural differences and business practises) to spearhead the launch of the product portfolio. The result was x increase( large number) to his company’s bottom line. Was that obvious? Not at all. Same role, but which one is going to attract attention?
I have observed over time that there are generally two parts to this communication process: communication with yourself (internal message) and then communication with others (external message). Sometimes it is only about the use of effective “brand” language ( vocabulary), but quite often it’s more than that.
 
So what needs to be done?
 
 Internal communication: this is about self awareness and self insight. You need to identify and understand your own challenges and achievements – I know I keep bashing on about this – but it is key. If you don’t know what you’re good at – how can you expect anyone else to know? You are your own best asset. Recruiters don’t have time to look for sub – text and to analyse the possible implications of what you’ve been doing in your career. We need to be told in very precise terms. Self insight also facilitates the interview process so you present yourself strongly verbally as well – this is your own brand development . It avoids the awkward pauses, repetition and embarrassing moments in interviews. But it is equally vital that you own your personal message. How do you define yourself? As the person in “daily contact” or the person who ” spearheads”?
 
External communication: Choosing powerful vocabulary and phrases to get your message across in the best possible way in all media is really important. This is not boasting (that’s about personality and delivery) or falsifying( that’s about lying). It’s your brand marketing. Would we buy Coke if it was advertised as a “brown fizzy drink” Probably not. Suggesting “refreshing” and “thirst quenching” or whatever else they say, produces a different and successful picture. Same about you! Use words such as: identifed, created, instigated, enhanced, extended, exceeded, generated, conceived, won, strengthened, secured, restructured, transformed to list just a few. Lose weaker words such as: facilitates, co-ordinated, set up, played a key role, contact etc. Let the facts speak for themselves and back up your achievements with incontestable examples or numbers.
 
If you are not a wordsmith, or English isn’t your first language, enlist support to help craft the most convincing CV possible to send a message you believe in. Why run the risk of being rejected because of some weak words?
 
You don’t want to be a “brown fizzy drink”!
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Career Management: A Learned Skill

Countless numbers of CVs cross my screen every day, either from candidates in the search process, or clients involved in transition coaching. So I’m pretty familiar with them

Jim Rohn usefully tell us ” To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask? ” Great advice!

In the past week alone, by chance, I have seen a CV without an email address, one seemingly without a name (really.. although it did finally appear at the bottom of the 3rd page, in italics, font size 10) Another two, where it was impossible to tell what job the candidates actually did. This is before going into the more sophisticated aspects of SEO, transferrable, value-adding skills and the like. It’s a snapshot of a standard, unexceptional week. All four felt that they could manage their careers themselves. There were more – but you get the picture.

The credibility gap

I did have one perfect resume (my spirits lifted – it doesn’t take much!) But when the candidate came to the interview, disappointment kicked in. Within minutes of our discussion, I could tell from the responses, that the guy in front of me bore no resemblance to the message conveyed in the resume. There was a credibility gap, a big one. Why? It just wasn’t his voice. The CV had been written by a CV writing service with no integrated or follow-up coaching. When we talked about the process he had been through, he had made a decision that finding a job was something he could do on his own. He believed he didn’t need anything else.

I am starting to wonder if career management is like raising kids and being in relationships. Is it something most of us feel we can all do instinctively? Until there’s a problem. So now, even in the face of all the statistics that scream change and difficult times, job losses outstrip vacancies 3:1 in Europe; we still have a tendency to believe that we can cope on our own.

“Yes” / “But ”  dialogue 

Discussions on this subject tend to centre on what I call the “Yes..but” dialogue. “Yes” means “ I hear and recognise what is going on”. The inner message suggests openness “But” means “ I’m not going to change. There is something about the status quo that suits me, even if it’s being stressed ” The inner message is closed.

My observation is that there are a number of consistent factors that people use as claims for their rightful spot in the “but” camp: no energy, no time, cost.

So I am just asking you to try reframing your thoughts and putting them into perspective. Manage your mind!

Reframe the no energy issue. Formulate a mission statement. This is just a buzz word for an action orientated, note-to-self. If you have been caught out in this downturn and are currently feeling overwhelmed, now would be a good time to deal not just with those specific issues, but also to prepare for the future. Life is never static and nothing is permanent. There will be other situations to deal with right throughout your career. Promotions, re-organisations and transfers are just some of the possible changes that any of us face, even in sound economic times. If you found a hole in your roof, would you wait until the next storm to fix it? No, I doubt if you would

Focus

A mission statement will help you focus on what is important in your life, so that you can prioritise your goals and provide a framework for your daily decisions. It will allow you to act, not react. This opens up a whole raft of possibilities. Choose strategies that offer long term skills and problem solving tools, which you can use again and again, not just a band–aid, quick fix approach, to get you out of a short term jam. You need to commit to the journey, not just a stroll. That will help you bridge the credibility gap. Include objectives to nurture yourself both emotionally and physically. These steps will make you feel more in charge. Empowerment is energising. Energy creates time.

Reframe the question of time. There is a wealth of free resources online , in libraries and inexpensive bookshops. But I agree, it does it takes a huge amount of time to sort through the vast quantities of conflicting, often confusing, professional information. Let’s look at this too.

Seemingly the average American watches 4h 32m of TV per day, while in Europe its 3h 37m per person. There has apparently been a 38.8% increase for online video viewing, in the 12 months, March 2008 to 2009. Even if you cut back by 10 percent on your favourite shows, that would still release about 3 hours a week to focus on your career goals. I took a week in elapsed time to download all my CDs onto my iPod. Most of our daughters take way over an hour to get ready for a date.

So the question to ask yourself – can you really not find the time?

Reframe the question of cost. Step back and put the question on any current or future investment regarding career transition support into perspective.

You spend at least 8 hours of any day working at your job. This goes on for possibly 40 years. Total will be about 76,000 hours in your life or career. Do the maths. Even as a daily investment – how minimal is any expenditure throughout a working career? Now put that into context. We are talking about fractions of Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen and most other currencies over a total working life.

If this is something you can’t stretch to now, make a note to build professional support into your future budget, in the way you might make contingency funds for painting your house or that hole in your roof.

These simple strategies should get us out of the “but” camp. But only if that’s not where we want to be.