In my mid-20’s, after spending a few years in the fragrance business, I decided to write a book. I would travel the world, visiting the beautiful and exotic places fragrance ingredients come from: Madagascar, the South of France, the Spice Islands, Italy. The book would have Pulitzer-prize level research and Vogue-worthy photo shoots. It would be the “Eat, Pray, Love” of its generation.
I didn’t share my dream, convinced that someone would steal the idea. And I thought about it all the time. Finally, a friend suggested I write “just one chapter.” So I booked a trip to the Banda Islands, Columbus’s original “Spice Islands” destination. It was super exotic.
I picked clove and nutmeg from trees, I learned about the Dutch rule and Indonesian independence. I drew lots of attention knitting on the airplane (the local craft is batik dyeing), I swam in unbelievable coral reefs, I looked up and saw the Southern Cross instead of the North Star. I spent a balmy evening drinking beer with a group of single-boat sailors who were teachers from Darwin, Australia on academic break.
And I never wrote a single chapter of the book.
Does the “leaky tire” dream sound familiar? It’s the one that keeps you tolerating a reality you don’t like. Like the confusion of managing the two or three people who report to you, the disconnect you have with your boss because you don’t know how to talk to him or her, or the relationships that drain you at work…the Sunday night blues.
Careers have ups and downs, and situations that start out great can shift slowly without your realizing. Being in a rough stretch probably means you need to take stock and make a shift. Before you change jobs, have you learned the tools to manage your boss, your direct reports and your colleagues?
Here’s an exercise I love. Grab a friend or two. Imagine you are meeting in five years, and share where you are as if it’s all happened. What you are working on, who you are working with, your outside of work life, your influence, and position at your job. And have your friend (or two) role-play and add to your story. If they know you, they are likely to add details that matter to you and you hadn’t thought of.
In the end, I loved the trip I had so much more than the one I’d imagined. And when I got home, I started the work of taking stock.
“Let’s face it, work-life balance is a myth,” is something you hear a lot today. And yet the more I work with people, the more I see that they are exhausted and need a little peace. Meditation, yoga, vacation are great remedies for staying in a positive, creative mindset. And, I believe that balance also comes from dealing with the underlying issues:
- Do you know what energizes you so you can craft a career that lets you spend more time doing those things?
- Do you have the communication skills to manage the relationships around you so you can ask for and get what you need?
- Do you take action, even if it’s not perfect, so that you can stop procrastinating and move forward (not just with a big career move, but in the little everyday things)?
What would work (and life) be like if you knew what you bring to the table and had a ton of confidence around it? If you could know what matters most so you can let go of therest and stop feeling overwhelmed. And, if you knew how workplace politics work so you could have a strategy because just putting your nose down and doing the work, isn’t working. Today’s change is accelerating the uncertainty around career, and around life. The sooner you learn to ride the wave, the better.
This is what I do with clients every day. Sometimes I call it “Houdini” leadership because it’s about making small shifts that have a big impact, without changing the situation you’re in. This week, would you think about two things that feel out of synch and are distracting you? What do you need to do to clear that energy?
It feels like every day I speak to someone who says,
“Claire, my job search isn’t going well.” To which I say, “OK, what actions are you taking?”
“I’m applying to jobs online and I never get a response.”
Radio Silence – on the outside. On the inside, I’m going, “Argh!” (bang head against the table) “What am I doing wrong?” (bang again) “I say it over and over and they don’t listen.”
Hearing that the only thing someone is doing is responding to online job postings Drives. Me. Crazy.
A friend sent me this article on resume writing today It makes a few good points about how to get noticed by applicant tracking software. It also says that today people’s careers are much less linear. Problem #1: If your career is less linear, how are you going to create a resume with just the right words to get picked up by a machine? Even a slight “shift” puts you at a disadvantage.
But really the key stat the article ignores is that you are now applying along with an exponentially larger number of people. Here’s the thing about applying online. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It gives you the sense of having crossed off a To Do. But you are spending precious time and energy on black hole work. This article is a perfect example of how the media’s love of hype distracts us. Hype is great for their click bait and advertising. But please don’t let it be your guide to managing one of your most precious assets — your talent and career.
Phew. I get emotional.
Here is a better way:
- Start with a target. Where do you want to work, and in what job role? Specific is better; don’t be open to anything at this stage.
- Make a list of companies in the industry. (Include your current company. Often the issue is that you are not selling yourself effectively for the promotion you want).
- Figure out who the people are who would be at the right level to hire you.
- Get a list of industry groups that have events where you could meet those people.
- Craft your message and start talking to people. First, your friends and family, then your alumni network, then people you meet at these events and continue outward from there.
- Ask for exploratory meetings – these are not informational; they are you asking to introduce yourself in case they have a job in the future.
If you are feeling a bit stuck in your work, here is a challenge. Pick a target that includes a job title and at least one company. Use the company website or LinkedIn to figure out who works there at a VP or above level. Then, find a few industry groups (hint: these are often in the interests section at the bottom of a LinkedIn profile). Then yes, the next step is having a good message. But just knowing the who’s who is a big step forward.
The internet can be an incredible tool, as long as you don’t let it run the show. If you want to chat about how you are focusing (or not focusing) on your target, please click here for a complimentary session with me.
In March I was invited to deliver a time management workshop to 200 NYPD Captains, Inspectors, Chiefs and Deputy Commissioners. It was an honor and it was fascinating. I learned how much these leaders are juggling — managing their precinct, developing their teams, community relations, and the constant disruption of emergencies.
The day was also moving. I realized that first responders are trained, and hold as a defining value, to serve and respond. And that can come at a cost — to balance, to home life, and to their own recognition, success and growth.
Sound familiar? Yes, these professionals have the same challenges we do, just revved way up. It is really hard to prioritize when that means saying no to someone. Thing is, being in perpetual overwhelm can lead to consistent distraction, which can make you lose focus and be checked out with those you care about most. It can lead to chronic stress that affects mood, energy, weight, and health. It can lead to career goals going off the rails — You do projects well, but don’t have time to celebrate, or get the learning and recognition you deserve. You don’t have time to work on what will grow you as a leader, and progress and promotion become elusive.
Here’s the good news. You can change it with a shift in mindset. Saying no and putting your needs first can be hard, but as the “oxygen mask” instructions on the airplane, you must take care of yourself first even when it feels counterintuitive. And if you can’t put yourself first, get curious about what’s getting in your way. Hint: It’s usually not “them” or the situation.
This week would you give some thought to what matters most to you right now — balance, personal or career growth, or something else. Where do you want to be in a year? What quarterly goals do you need to meet to get there? If those are non-negotiable, what do you need to delegate (or learn to delegate) to get there? What outside instruction might you need to learn. If necessity is the mother of invention, make your needs a necessity, and get inventive.
If you would like to schedule a complimentary call to talk about shifting your mindset, please click here.
This year I’ve been making a push to scale my business. It is also, despite having gotten a flu shot, the sickest winter I’ve had in a long time. Introduce the “lizard brain.” It takes enormous energy to expect a different outcome, when you are trying to do things the way you always have. And yes, that can wear you down.
Take the leader who wants to motivate her team, reduce turnover and have more time to meet her own goals. The voice of resistance, the lizard brain, might say something like, “Really. I mean, can’t they just take it. I didn’t fall apart every time someone told me I’d messed up. And aren’t I being inauthentic if I coddle my people when it’s just not my style?”
Or the professional who wants a promotion, but isn’t willing to identify the key decision makers and work at improving his relationship with those people. Instead, it’s “That’s for self-promoters. My work is solid. I’m just going to put my head down and keep at it.”
Or those of you who would love to feel excited about going to work every day, but tell yourself that work is work. Wanting a sense of purpose and to feel like you are living up to your potential is spoiled and whimsical.
Remember the furies in Greek mythology? They were the townspeople, or the voices, that kept the hero from doing what he or she needed to do. Here’s an exercise to try. Imagine all the doubts are like those furies. See how eager they are. And just put them aside. Head to another space, put gags on them, whatever you need to do. Then think of one thing that makes you uncomfortable, but that you’ve consistently heard can help shift things. Then, like a star athlete, imagine doing that. Feel into what could happen and what is possible. It’s OK if it feels uncomfortable. Once you do that, plan and commit to one time that you will try the new thing. Doesn’t have to be forever; just try it once.
I always love hearing your experiences, so please write once you try it. If you would like to schedule a conversation to chat about the chatter in your head, please click here to schedule a complimentary session with me.
Writing a resume can make you feel vulnerable. It’s very personal to talk about yourself, it’s hard to know what will catch the reader’s attention, and it feels like so much is hinging on it. The reality is that a resume is just one piece of a larger process- whether that sets your mind at ease or feels overwhelming.
Yes, there is background work to do. But there is also a step by step process. I call it the Career Clarity approach because it requires more than just tactical solutions. Writing a good resume, like every step in career management, requires clarity of vision and the confidence to move forward.
The mental shift: New clients often want to send me their resume. It does give me a sense of their background, but it is not (as I think they hope) the final document they will send to potential employers. That’s because without a target, a resume is just a list of jobs. If you want a resume to pop, you must know the job you are targeting and what contribution you can make in that job. From there, you can prioritize work experience to tell a story.
The simple process – Once you have a target, including what you think you can contribute in the job:
- Write a long laundry list of every job you’ve had and its responsibilities. Include things like: dress on trend (for a retail job) or attend industry conferences (for a job where innovation is important). This scratch list can take several pages.
- Find a job description for your target job.
- Edit down the laundry list so that it uses the verbs and keywords from the target job description and prioritizes accomplishments that connect to the contribution you believe you can make in the target job.
A good resume is fairly short, one or two pages, and tells the story of where you want to go next. You don’t need a summary paragraph because if you do it well, your last two jobs should be the summary.
If you would like to have a conversation about your resume and the job hunt, simply click here to schedule a complimentary session with me.
“I had an entry-level candidate ask me in the interview, ‘What is the vacation policy?’ In the interview!”
“Oh, I know. My junior people want to work from remote, just like people who’ve been with us for 10+ years.”
“Seriously, why can’t they just put their heads down and work? I worked my a** off at their age. And I didn’t ask questions.”
“Don’t worry, soon enough reality will hit and they’ll stop job hopping, put their heads down, and get to work.”
I made up this conversation from remarks I hear senior leaders make all the time. And because I work with mid-level managers every day, I smile. We aren’t going back. As this article my friend Rick sent me suggests, the smart money is on figuring out the new rules so you can get more from your team. And if you are a middle manager with direct reports, trust your instinct:
- Let your team own their own development – This doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything. It means today’s middle managers are very receptive to programs that support their growth and teach them how to advocate for themselves, not ones that sell your organization. Millennials assume they will work at several organizations. They won’t be lured by promises of employer loyalty. Bring in programs that focus on helping them gain control over their destiny. They want to learn what they can offer, and be in a mutually beneficial relationship with you where the power is more equal.
- Embrace remote and flex time – You know how to manage relationships remotely and can work super effectively over text, email, and video-conference. So let your team do their thing. Focus on output, not office face-time. And, be aware that technology can let your team vent to remote friends instead of dealing with the issues that frustrate them. That can lead to passive-aggressive behavior or lack of engagement. Be proactive about frequent and transparent check-ins. Model how to take feedback by learning the rules. Don’t be the manager who defaults to “I never would have said that to my boss!”
- Encourage downtime – Technology has let work seep into life 24/7. Encourage your team to check out. And, don’t send them emails on evenings and weekends – you aren’t modeling checking out. Plus, it will distract them and interrupt the critical time they need to restore.
- Tend to your culture and on-boarding – With more people working as contractors, make sure your on-boarding process gets them up and running fast. And, make sure they know the values and rules that support your culture.
My Creating Your Own Engagement, Influence Using Social Style and Taming the Inner Critic seminars help you take the mystery out of inspiring your team. Learning the keys to today’s employees, you can stop wondering how to hold on to your best talent, and get them to take initiative and work with you enthusiastically, without falling apart when the going gets tough.
To bring these programs to your company, to try them out as lunch and learns, email me to set up a time to talk.
Be a good listener. It doesn’t sound sexy. But most CEO’s, board members and C-Suite leaders will tell you it’s the single most important skill in leadership. We spend time talking to sound knowledgable. Yet people are much more likely to say we are smart when we listen to them. Today I speak with Joann Baney, communication professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and founder of The Professional Development Company. Joann has trained and coached thousands of professionals and students on how to be better speakers, have better executive presence and feel more confident at work. She travels the world to teach and train, and works with New York’s City’s Firefighters and Police department. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with Joann for the last ten years and can’t say enough about the quality of what she teaches and how she shows up. Please watch our conversation on listening and gain insight on how this important practice can build your influence and executive presence.
See our Clarity Conversation by clicking Joann’s photo.
If you are interested in how Joann’s work can help your organization, please contact her. And if you’d like to learn more about being a strong listener, please check out Joann’s book: Guide to Interpersonal Communication
As always, you can learn more about how to bring communication skills to your career by scheduling a 30-minute Career Clarity session with me. Simply click here.
A year and a half into my first real corporate job, I realized I hated it. I liked the people, I liked the company. I just hated the marketing role. Sounds simple enough, but what happened next is something I see people do every day. I turned on myself. I thought, “This is a dream job. So many young women just like me would love this job. What’s wrong with me?” A big, fat implied should.
The implied shoulds: “I should not be so shy,” “I should speak up more and be more confident,” “I should be able to motivate others,” “I should be able to talk without getting nervous.”
When we should ourselves, we also hand over our power. Try this instead:
- Make four columns on a page. In column one write the heading: What I am struggling with/Where I am stuck/What is frustrating me. Then put a three minute timer on and write a bullet for each thing you can think of. Do this before going on.
- In the second column, write Implied Should and write one for each. Here’s a hint: it often comes as a comparison, “So-and-so always says the right thing when her reports do something wrong.”
- The third column is Empathy. What can you give yourself a break about? Maybe you’ve had three bosses in three years and no-one has taught you how to give feedback. Maybe you’ve always heard you are so likable, you’d be great in front of the room and it never occurred to you that public speaking is a learned skill. Maybe you think it’s impolite to say in a meeting, “Didn’t I just say that?”
- This column is A Question I Can Ask. For each bullet or challenge, think of a question. “How does one learn to speak up in meetings?” “What could I say or do to make my direct reports understand my expectations?”
When we turn things into a question, two things happen. First, the brain is wired to start looking for answers. Second, we surrender a bit to the universe and it generally provides. When I started shifting my ask from “What’s wrong with me,” to “What can I do to understand the kind of job I’d like,” things started to happen.
I’ve worked with clients again and again who are convinced they hate their job or some aspect of it. When they can create a new habit around getting curious instead of turning on themselves, it makes them happier in the job they are in and clearer about where they’d like to go. If this struck a chord with you and you want to hop on the phone to chat about making a small shift yourself, click here to schedule a complimentary session with me.
The 4 Mistakes I See Job-Seekers Make
It’s amazing how consistently I see job-seekers make these mistakes. It’s not that they aren’t talented or smart — it’s that (please listen up!) job search and career management are a separate job from the job you do. It’s frustrating but true. Doing a job without learning the tools of career management means you are being complacent about your next job — you may do fine, but are unlikely to hit it out of the park. Here are four blind spots many of us have:
• Have no target — Most of us begin the job search by putting together our resume and looking on line for open job listings. There are two problems here: First, a resume is a selling tool, not a diagnostic tool. You craft your resume once you know what you want to do, so that you can highlight the experiences that are most relevant for that job. This is also true for internal promotion – if your resume is a list of mini-stories, then make sure you are sharing the ones that would position you well for the role you want. Second, on-line jobs: forget that most of them are listed for legal reasons and get filled internally. The bigger problem is that when we look at them, we subconsciously start to fit ourselves into them — most of us completely abandon our hopes and dreams, all for a kitchen soup job description that was written under pressure.
• Network without a message — The logical impulse is to think that networking is about getting to key people. It is indeed important to know the key decision makers who can make your next job happen. However, people can’t help you if they don’t know A) What you want and B) What you can contribute in that job.
• By-pass friends and family — When I hung my shingle nine years ago, I bought a book on selling by Zig Ziglar (his real name!). In it he said that if you have a really great vacuum cleaner, why do you feel uncomfortable selling it to your friends and family? If it’s so great, wouldn’t you WANT them to have it? The same applies here. If you know you could do a job, define what it is and tell everyone you know. Positive messages are like batons in a relay race — people love to pass them along.
• Think it’s a done deal — This is the most heartbreaking of all. A month or two into a job search, someone will get a hot lead. Internal referral, great interview, enthusiastic follow up from the hiring team. In their excitement, the person ignores other leads, which makes them focus too much and get anxious about the hot lead. Then a few days of radio silence from the hiring team. The candidate begins to follow up too often and sound needy. They may even get resentful and feel betrayed because the connection had been so great. Eventually the candidate hears nothing or hears that the job went to an internal candidate. And a month is lost.
Here is a better recipe for avoiding these mistakes:
• Take the time to assess your strengths (Strengths Finder 2.0 is a good start), write down how those strengths contribute to the team, and really believe it. Even if you are just starting out, think about high-school and college examples. Use this knowledge to develop one or two job targets.
• Craft a message that tells people what you want and what contribution you could make to their organization. This is true at your current organization for a different or more senior job.
• Share this message with key people when you can get to them, but start with people who know and respect your work, and ask them who else you should be speaking to.
• Consider all leads as just one option. For job search, have 6-10 active leads. Yes, 6-10! For promotion, make sure you have a couple of options. Your boss may leave or get transferred, or someone else with more pull than your boss might get their candidate into the job you wanted.
If you would like to have a conversation about mistakes you may be making in your job search, simply click here to schedule a complimentary session with me.