Activating the best of you!

Dear Readers,

I was recently contacted by a national technology publication to address the issue of how to manage one’s career during an economic downturn.

I thought that you, my readers, might well be interested in hearing some of the strategies I shared. Having been a corporate manager involved with deciding who should be laid off in times of industry contraction, plus having coached many, many clients  in the last 11 years as an executive and career coach after layoffs,  I have five proven strategies to share with you. The goal is to position you as one of those invaluable employees that the organization chooses to keep and have you well positioned to find a new position if you are laid off.

Sometimes entire organizations or departments are laid off and no employees are spared, but often the management ranks employees and  keeps the ones perceived as most valuable. I’d like YOU to be on the list of those that get to keep their jobs! Please read and follow the advice in the following five areas:

  1. WORK LIKE YOU ARE NEW ON THE JOB!  Yes, remember back to your first few weeks on the job? Remember how you were so careful to dress right, look good, take notice of everyone and everything going on around you? You were keen to make a good impression and form good relationships. You were super motivated to do a great job and get along with everyone. You were alert and trying to learn the bigger picture of how your company worked and how you could best play a role. Well, go back to those days of being fresh and alert! Show you care and bring your best self to work each day. It will be noticed!
  2. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE: Make sure that all the people around you, especially your manager and the organizations upper management, knows that you are a contributor. Clearly communicate the projects you are focused on and the contributions you are making. Let folks know the skills that you are bringing to your job. If you’ve gotten sloppy about doing status reports, change that now. Each week, write up a full report to your manager of all the work you have done. Let him/her know any questions you have, resources you need, red flags or problems. Also let them know if you see new opportunities for contribution in the organization that could make that manager looks good. Yes, make your boss look good!
  3.  ONGOING TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT. Show that you are a lifelong learner. You are ambitious and ready to learn, grow and contribute more! Check into your company’s training department and see if there are classes you can take. Look to participate in industry conferences and meetings. See if you manager might have a budget for your development. See if there are opportunities for you to do a talk and make your company look good. Ask your manager for areas that he/she thinks you need to develop in and ask how you can learn those skills or develop those traits. Do some research on your own. Go for a higher level certification or degree! Those things also make you more employable in your industry.
  4. RAISE YOUR HAND!  Always be the one on your team to offer to help and to take on new assignments. Offer to help train the newbies. Suggest ways that you can do extra work that can contribute to the bottom line. If there are new areas that your organization is getting into, do research and show what else can be done to help the organization become a leader. Find out the new skills that will be of value in the future and find a way to develop those skills. Be the most helpful person on the team, willing to go the distance. And be the one who publicly recognizes the contributions of others. It is important to be seen as a great team player, not someone who is only interested in their own success.
  5.  UPDATES & BIRD DOG YOUR INDUSTRY.  Update your profile and your resume. be in ready position for new opportunities. Take recruiter calls. All of them. Ask recruiters about the industry and what new types of jobs and positions are in demand. Then learn the skills needed. Energize your network. Call all of your old contacts, peers and managers. Get the ‘skinny’ on what’s happening. Who is moving where? Where are the new jobs? Expand your network now!                                                                                                                                               None of us can control an economic downturn. But knowing that one might happen and doing all one can to both secure current employment and be ready for new employment is the best way to safeguard our careers.  Always, BRING THE BEST OF YOU TO WORK. In fact, that is the tagline of my coaching practice:  Onward in your career success!                                                                                                                                 COACH  JOAN 

Dear Coach Joan,

My boss is on an exercise and diet kick. Up until last year she was overweight and out of shape, but when her husband, due to health problems, started a diet and exercise regime, she got on board. In a big way. Now she is a zealot, and although we see that she really seems happier, more productive and energetic, we resent her trying to recruit us to her cause. We find it rude and intrusive. Kindly advise.

Skeptical Susan
Dear Susan,

Ah, those exercise and diet zealots! They can drive us crazy with their enthusiasm and desire to get us all into their low carb, vegan, paleo diets, on the treadmill, up at 5 am for jogging, weight-lifting  etc.

And what do I think of it?

I am of two minds regarding bringing one’s personal life into the workplace.

On the one hand, I find any kind of evangelizing at work to be rude and inappropriate. Whether it is for religious causes (not allowed), for the purchase of selling Girl Scout cookies (controversial) or for a particular diet or exercise regime, it is iffy if it belongs in the workplace. Some companies have specific rules and regulations around this topic.

Yes, we are naturally enthusiastic about things that we feel help us in our lives, but is the workplace the best place to share and encourage our practices, belief and habits? I think we need to step back when it is clearly crossing a line. And what are some examples of that?

It is crossing a line if a colleague is printing out her religious prayers at work, on work equipment.

It is crossing a line if a manager says that absolutely no sugar can be brought in to work events. (Unless it is a food that could cause a serious allergic reaction, as in the case of some peanut allergies, for instance.)

It is crossing a line if the company mandates that everyone uses the company gym and monitors usage.

But is it crossing a line when your manager strongly recommends that you clean up your diet and start an exercise program? When does a recommendation turn into a mandate?

Here’s where I stand on the boss being a diet and exercise zealot:

1) Let them be a great role model by sharing the improvements they are noticing to their work performance. Perhaps they find they are more alert, agile and productive. Yes, they can share those findings, and offer to be available to discuss how they have managed this change. But that should be done on a one on one basis, not to the whole group, unless perhaps the whole group agrees they want the information.

2) If they take up work time, say in a staff meeting, discussing the details of their new eating and exercising regime, I suggest that in a one on one setting you let them know that you are not interested, and don’t find this relevant to work. If it persists, you might poll others on your team and discuss it with HR. That is, if,  they have seriously crossed the line into evangelizing on work time.

3) In your one on one meetings with your boss, perhaps you do want to learn more. It doesn’t sound like your boss is demanding your participation but hey, if you notice they are really improving in ways that you find positive, maybe you do want to learn more. And maybe the company might even give you the time and some financial support in joining an athletic center or providing work time for sports activities.

Yes, Susan, zealots for any cause seem inappropriate in a work setting, but in the case of good health habits, with noticeable positive results, it just might be something to check out!

Heading to the gym now,

Coach Joan