Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

My apologies for not updating this blog lately. I’ve been busy, and working on my career, but I’ve gotten behind updating this blog.

I have delivered the Branding Yourself for a Dream Job talk a few times this summer, but I haven’t had any great comments, questions, or ideas for new posts. However, a few people that had seen the talk in the past have noted that the things I’ve suggested have worked for them.

I will likely be out of touch on this blog for another month as I have a number of events to travel to and various work commitments, but I’ll endeavor to do a better job keeping posts coming that can help you with your career.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What Did I Do This Year?

Recently I had a friend talk to me about completing an annual review for their job. The end result was this person wasn't seen as accomplishing a lot, and didn't get the raise they expected. However, their view was different. This individual felt they'd worked hard all year and had accomplished a lot.

When I asked the person what they'd done, I received some general thoughts about working on this project or that. The individual was insistent that they had spent a lot of time at work after hours solving difficult problems. When I pressed for which problems, or which projects, there was a lack of detail provided.

No one is going to track the work you do. Even on big, highly visible projects, it's hard for a manager or others to remember your individual contributions. Even if you complete some project by yourself, your manager will be worried about their own accomplishments, and those of their other direct reports.

You need to track your accomplishments throughout the year.

Use a blog, a Word document (back it up), Evernote, OneNote, or something else. Make notes throughout the year and have them ready when you get prepared for your review. Include specifics. Note the tasks that you actually completed and have a specific way to describe them quickly.

Summarizing your work for the year is almost like a book report. You want to take the story of your work year and provide a report that both condenses the year into a few sentences, but includes specific details that highlight your contributions.

Very few people will do this, or be prepared in advance, so a little effort can go a long way towards advancing your career inside of an organization.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Karma and Professionalism

I think it's important that I present a good image to others, which means I'm cognizant of the impression I make with others all the time. Certainly there are times I may do something that isn't professional or may offend others. However I try to keep in mind that the impressions I make are potentially those that might effect my career.

I ran across this picture. The original tweet has been removed, but I've seen it in quite a few places, so I'm guessing it's real.

Now, even if it's not, this has probably happened. In fact, I bet it's happened to quite a few people in many industries. I've run late for interviews, as the interviewer, and I wouldn't be surprised if this happened to me some day.

How should you handle this? Well, as the interviewer I guess that depends on how you feel. For me, I'd think this is the type of person that likely would take shortcuts, or make decisions without regards for others' feelings. If you felt you needed to take a parking space because you're late, at least apologize. Don't curse at someone that's upset. I'd be tempted to tell the person that they are a big disadvantage in this interview as they've shown poor judgment and behavior with others.

As the interviewee? Apologize profusely. I hope you have a reason, but you should be contrite. If you aren't, perhaps you should work on that.

We all need private spaces, places where we can unwind and vent about issues. However, if you're anywhere near a business situation, I'd suggest that you consider the person you have a conflict with just might be the person you want to do business with in the future. Adjust your behavior appropriately with that in mind.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Own Your Mistakes

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. In fact, if I listed them all out, I’d probably be embarrassed by the sheer magnitude of the final tally. However those mistakes also helped me grow and learn. Often once I’ve made a mistake, I find a way to train myself to not make that mistake over and over. Easy with computers, harder in other areas, but still possible if you make an effort.

I linked to a list of leadership tips recently, and #6 on the list is to embrace your slip-ups. Own your mistake and don’t blame others. Apologize, correct the issue, and learn from it. I’ve seen this same advice for coaches and teachers, and I’m sure I could find examples from most other professions. Learning from failure is an innate part of humanity, and one you should accept.

I’ve coached sports, I’ve managed people. I never expect them to be perfect, and while I don’t want mistakes repeated over and over, I also need to accept a certain number of them. Part of me learning to do that better was learning to own my own mistakes, acknowledging them, and apologizing.

It’s not easy. I struggle to say I’m sorry, but between being married for decades and having multiple children, as well as various employees reporting to me, I’ve learned to be better. I try to accept others’ mistakes, as well as my own, and get better.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. There are punishments, payments, losses as a result of mistakes. However bear them with dignity and the resolve to reduce them the next time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Building Leadership Skills

Many people won’t choose to become an organizational leader explicitly. Meaning they won’t become a manager, director, or someone else expected to lead a group of people through various tasks.

However, all of us can become better leaders as a part of our daily work. I ran across a list of 12 leadership tips for people that aren’t explicitly in charge, i.e. not the boss.

It’s a good list, and while this might seem like common sense, I think there are some good items to think about for the future in here, not the least of which is communication skills (#4).

I think that this is one of the most important things you can do, and it’s why I constantly preach blogging and practice of your communication skills. This is fundamental to the way that most of us interact with others. We must convince them, or question them, or report to them, all of which require good communication skills.

If you write often, practice writing.

If you speak to others, practice speaking.

Learn to become a better communicator above all else, and then look through the other tips to see what you can do better to increase your ability to provide leadership in your career.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Keep Up with Connections

I realized today that I haven’t logged into LinkedIn in a few weeks. I usually try to check after an event, and get connections updated with new invitations. However after my last two events, I had a number of family items in between and after. I didn’t check.

However I got a message some someone that noted they’d sent me a note on LinkedIn and I hadn’t replied. Ugh, that’s bad.

I found this:

2016-03-10 09_58_42-Store

Yikes. That’s a lot in a month. I’ve tried to check every week or two, so perhaps I’ve had this many and didn’t realize. I spent a few minutes reviewing and accepting invitations.

Note, I accept all invitations. However I classify them.

I need an appointment to remind me, and I’ve set one up.

2016-03-10 10_06_00-Start

This is a good time for me, late in the day, just busy work to look at connections, which should be quick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who Do You Want To Be?

One of the things that I think is important is for you to look forward in life. Look forward in your career to the professional that you want to be. Hopefully this is a goal you get closer to, but never reach as you strive to always be better.

Even if you change directions, for example, for me moving from a software programmer to an administrator to a DBA to a manager, you are striviing forward in a new direction. It’s fine as long as you strive and work to improve.

However does your resume stretch you a little? Does it show your potential future employer were you want to go?

A little hint: it should. Part of your resume is what you want from a job (or client), and how your past supports you moving in that direction. Emphasizing this, highlighting this early in your resume, does a few things.

First, this allows the employer and you to quickly see if there is a good fit. If the employer needs someone to maintain old ASP technology and you are looking forward to data science, or vice versa, this probably won’t work for long. There’s nothing wrong with deciding this is a bad fit. It can save you from thinking you will find a long term position when you’ll be quickly bored.

Of course, this also gives the employer the chance to think about whether they want a short term fix for something.

The second thing is that you get the chance to drive yourself forward with the things you choose to emphasize about yourself. You achieve some focus here.

If you use it. That’s the hard part, but with some effort on your part, you can focus your efforts in small ways to drive your career actively.