I keep getting the question of how to advance on the job. Many people seem to feel frustrated that their work is not appreciated enough, and they see others getting promotions before them. They often complain that these other people are not working as hard or producing as much as they are, yet for some reason these other folks are advancing.
Why? That’s the big question.
Yes, sometimes it’s because they are the bosses son or daughter. That is called nepotism!
But often it is because those getting ahead have been strategic in their research, planning and communications. They position themselves for advancement.
How does this work?
Say you are in a sales support position and want to move into sales. You perceive a sales career as having more independence, higher earning potential and a springboard to get further into management. That is a reasonable goal.
How to make that happen:
You can take control of planning for a promotion and career development. Just think through where you want to go, meet with people who are in that role, establish support, get information and advice, develop an action plan, and most importantly, FOLLOW THROUGH.
Onward to your career advancement and success.
This is a sticky topic and one that most people prefer to stay away from: Errors at Work. We all make errors; they are part of normal human functioning. We are not error-free beings.
But the magnitude of the mistake and how it is perceived and responded to by our bosses, managers or supervisors, can vary tremendously. So too can our inner reaction to our error.
Let’s take a close look at one example:
This one is quite personal and still has an initial sting in my memory, followed by a soothing conclusion.
I was the senior training specialist at a large high tech corporation, responsible for the design, development and implementation of sales and system engineer training. We based future training plans on the results of exams that students took at the end of their three week program. The numerical results were calibrated, compared and analyzed.
For this particular sales training group of about 100 students, it added up to hundreds of exams to correct, with data to tally.
I did the calibrations and gave the results and recommendations to my manager, the department head, Dr. Lowe.
My recommendations were sound, based on the test results, and the next six months of training programs were in the process of being designed.
Until. Until my manager called me into his office with a stacks of tests. (Yes, this was before we did it all online.) He showed me that I had made a glarring error in my math. And that error led to incorrect assumptions, which led to erroneous training recommendations. Ugh!
I was appalled, embarrassed and ashamed. I had earned a promotion to senior training development specialist just three months prior. I felt like melting into the floor, disappearing, or at least pushing back the hands of time and re-doing my work. I’m embarrassed to say that I burst into tears, excused myself, and ran to the restroom.
This was the first time I had ever made what I thought of as a major, horrendous mistake. It was a mistake with significant implications, too. I started doubting my professional capabilities and thinking that perhaps I should quit my job. I finally pulled myself together, walked into the hallway, and my boss found me. Dr. Lowe was an extraordinary man. He had left a prestigious professorship at a university for a corporate position. Yet, he still looked and dressed as a professor. He was a well respected professional in the world of training, and I was so embarrassed to have made a mistake, especially to fail Dr. Lowe. He walked me to his office and closed the door so we could talk privately. He looked at me deeply and said, ‘Joan, how many decisions do you think you make each day at work?” I thought hard and said I probably make a few hundred decisions each day. He nodded and said he had known me for over ayear and noticed that I made many, many excellent decisions. He reminded me that he was the person who saw my work closely, had granted me a major job promotion, and he was still sure I was worthy of it.
He went on to explain that as professionals we really do make hundreds if not thousands of decisions, large and small, each day. And the day that I had calibrated the training exams I clearly made an error. One error, a pretty big one. But actually, our training plans could still be changed and no real damage had been done.
He told me that the real damage could be to my sense of professionalism. And he did not want that to happen. He wanted to make sure that I still felt good with myself, and could hold my head high, and not have self doubt. This man, Dr. Lowe, remains a tremendous role model to me.
As I continued in my career and moved into management, and later coaching, I always used that approach: We are fallible beings who will, from time to time, make mistakes.
I always told my team, and later my clients: You will make errors, everyone does. Learn from them, try not repeat them, and try not make too many. But we cannot allow a mistake now and then to hold us back from being the best we can be in our jobs — 0r in our lives, for that matter.
Onward to bringing the best of you to work and not having a dangerous thing called ‘perfectionism’. We humans are not perfect.
Best regards and hoping that whatever mistakes you do make are found by gentle souls.
Like you, I probably get over 50 emails a day. And after years and year of receiving and writing emails and hearing feedback from clients, I see a pattern of what works and what doesn’t work with emails. Here goes:
Remember that emails are just one form of communication. You typically can also pick up the phone, perhaps see the person live, text them or discuss the item in a group meeting.
When you do choose to write an email, think it through strategically. Consider the other modes of communication before you settle on writing an email. Who should and shouldn’t be included. If you included the right people and if you said anything that could be misinterpreted. Read your email over at least twice. Listen for anything that could possibly be misinterpreted and edit accordingly. An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure. This saying applies perfectly to the dos and don’ts of writing emails.
Onward to the best of your communications at work!
today I got a call from a reader asking if I could help her figure out her next career step. She is 55, facing job loss,
and after decades in the financial sector, would like to start in a whole new kind of work.
The funny part was when she asked if I could recommend an ‘intuitive’ who could point her in the right career direction!
Perhaps to her surprise, I told her that good intuition, and the ability to read people well, is an important tool in the toolbox every career coach should have, but that career direction is not based on magical thinking, fortune-telling, or sensing one’s aura. It is based on asking probing, thoughtful and reflective questions that help the client see themselves clearly and make sound decisions going forward. The process involves assignments where clients are asked to identify their strengths, skills and preferences. They are asked describe times they were at their best and felt great about their work. They are asked to write out specific projects or job parameters, the goals, the team (or solo work) the challenges, the tasks, the required skills, outcomes, types of rewards and compensation and how they prefer to be managed. Together, we develop a profile of what they bring to work, what they enjoy at work, aspects to stay away from and new areas they might want to explore and develop. We also construct a profile of the kind of management, culture and colleagues that they prefer and an environment that suits their style and preferences.
Next, we research to identify the work environments, industries and kinds of work that will result in a win-win for them as employees and for their prospective employers.
Career coaching work is not voodoo or magic, but a carefully designed process. In the case of looking for a new career direction, it’s based on going from the inside-out and back in time to reflect back to you your best work profile. Then, it involves a process of seeing there that work profile can best fit into the market place; what kinds of industries, companies, organizations and job descriptions best match.
Self Awareness as a Key Differentiator
The other benefit of this process is that self-awareness if an extremely attractive feature to a employers. Employers like to know that you know who you are and what you bring to their team. Self realized individuals are typically more mature, easier to get along with and understand how they can best support the goals of a group. Self aware people also raise their hand to participate in projects that truly meet their strengths and skills. And they stay away from projects that do not align with their best selves.
When you interview for jobs, I encourage you to write out what brings the best of you to work. Give examples and show how your proven skills and abilities have helped to drive business forward; or helped to achieve the goals of the organization.
Every year it’s good to do a personal check-in. Reflect to see what you’ve enjoyed at work this last year. Where you made your impact. Think about how you responded to challenges, how you worked with your colleagues, what kind of compensation and reward were meaningful to you. Are you enjoying more solo or group work? The more you understand your own motivations and preferences, the better you will align yourself with success..on your terms in your unique way.
Onward to your career success in all ways, always.