Friday, December 9, 2016

Distracted from Your Career

2016 has been a tough year for me. More travel and a shift in focus at my own job. While that can be good for my career, and certainly provides lots of content for my blog, it does mean that I haven't been as focused on my career writing.

I would like to do more here, and am already planning to limit travel in 2017. I am making a goal to get back to regular posts here on career topics.

My apologies to everyone following the blog, and I will try to do better next year.

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Actively Drive Your Career

Did you choose to take your current position from among many offers? Or did you accept the job because it seemed like a good position and you needed a job (or to get away from a job)?

Far, far too many people let their careers drive them. They fall from job to job, taking the first position offered them that seems like a good decision. I rarely find people, including myself, that actively search for, and take positions they really want.

Part of the value of building your own brand is that you will be able to showcase your skills and experience to a variety of employers. Even if you don’t need a job, you have the chance to apply for, and consider, positions that might better suit you than your current job.

You can actively drive your career forward, targeting specific industries, positions, or even companies. You have the ability to build a brand that is tailor made to attract the attention of the company or individual that might give you the job you want.

Of course, you need the qualifications and experience, and that should be your first step, but as you gain that experience, you can enhance your brand to help you get the job you want. Your brand will match well with the position, and give you the chance to control your career.

This doesn’t mean you often change jobs or employers, but rather that you make conscious choices about the types of work you want to do, the place where you do it, and the way in which you work. The more you invest in your career, improve your skills, and showcase that improvement, the more likely you are to see you career move in the direction that suits you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 Resolutions: Networking

OK, I’m late. I planned on a series of resolutions for January, perhaps my own resolution, but life got in the way. That’s OK, and it happens. It’s what I also tell people. You have to balance life and work, and this is my hobby project, promoting your ability to brand yourself, so I had to balance this with a crazy month of family stuff, travel, and work.

With that, let’s continue. Think about this.

I’d like you to consider making a resolution to network more in 2016. Take some time now to plan out how you can meet more people, rekindle old acquantences or build stronger bonds. Ensure that you have a group of people that you can use in the event you seek other opportunities.

I urge you to keep in touch with past friends and acquantences. Make a point to contact at least one person a quarter that you don’t otherwise communicate with.

Networking the most impotant thing in your career, and certainly referrals are becoming more important in filling positions and finding opportunities.

Use Notes

I’ve tried this, and you should do. I don’t love this now, and I stopped, but it might work better for you. In any case, I made an honest effort to track networking for about six months.

I would make notes about who I talked to, jot down something I remembered. Then I’d review the list before I went to a new event and think about catching up with someone that I had met previously, or consciously ensuring I met some new people at the next event. It become difficult for me since I meet so many people, but I broadened my reach a bit while tracking contacts.

Now I look to catch up with different people at each event, which works well for me since I am at an event almost every month.


Plan to attend some work events, or even create your own by inviting people to a happy hour. Go to user groups, industry gatherings, ask to attend a conference. No matter where you go, make sure you meet people.

Participate Online

Try social networking if you never have. Use Linked In to touch base with people, ask questions, or just comment on what others do.

Above all, network more. Not just to network, but to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to drop contacts that don’t work out for you, or you don’t like, but continue to try and meet new people.

Even if you work in a corporate office, I’d hope that you could meet 10 new people this year. Let’s aim for 5 inside the company and 5 outside in your industry.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How Often Should You Blog

I had someone ask me this question recently, and here’s the answer:
When I talk to people about building their brand and showcasing their talents, I suggest blogging as the best way to display their skills. However after they ask about finding topics, the next question is invariably about how often to blog. My answer? As often as is comfortable for you.
What I suggest to most people is that they set aside time for writing and then use Word, Notepad, or any editor to draft posts. Write ten posts on whatever topics you like, and see how long it takes to complete them. Get feedback from friends, re-read them a day or so later, and count them finished when you’d be comfortable to publish them. Then schedule the ten posts based on your pace of writing. Perhaps 10 posts takes you a month, maybe it takes you ten months, but whatever time required is your pace. It may change over time, but blog at whatever rate fits in your life.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Resolution Month: Write Better

Writing is an area that I constantly struggle to improve in my career.

Writing is an area where I constantly struggle to improve as I work on my career.

Writing is an area in which I constantly struggle to improve as I work on my career.

Improving my writing is an area where I constantly struggle.

What’s funny, is that I rewrote that sentence above quite a few more times, but this was all I could remember.

Writing is a communication skill. It’s an important one, as most of us regularly communicate with others through the written word. Emails, reports, and more are all written forms of communication.

I sometimes look back at my writing for a decade ago and I’m stunned, embarassed, and sad. In many cases, my ability to communicate was poor. However I take solace in the fact that I have improved in that time.

There are any number of articles providing advice for better writing. Most of them are similar, and boil down to simple things that do improve your skills. As in the one I’ve linked above, practice is key. Writing is a skill like many others, and the more you actively practice, the more you will improve.

I’ll put more posts together on this topic in the future, but for now, make it a point to look over some of these links as you write your next blog, email, or even social networking post. Take a minute to try and change one thing in your writing.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Resolution Month: Learn Something

I was talking with my brother recently. He’s in the medical field, and he has to devote a certain percentage of his life to continually learning more about his practice. He reads articles and journals, and goes to small events to keep up to speed on what changes with medicine.

Those of us in other fields, especially technology, should treat our careers the same way. We should be looking to learn new things for us, not just for our employer. It’s our responsibility to continue to improve our career skills.

It’s January, we’re almost halfway through the month. Make a resolution to learn something new this month, in the next 16 days. Pick a small topic, an area you’re unsure of, and start working.

For my goal, I’ve been trying to solve puzzles in the Advent of Code, and had a very interesting discovery in using hash tables in PowerShell. It’s not something I’ll use every day, and I might need to look up syntax again, but I did learn this structure exists in the language and how to work with it.

I’ll even get more practice on one of the other puzzles I’ve solved in Python and am re-solving again to learn something new and practice skills.