Hungry for a Hearty Career? Stir Up Your Tolerance for Starting Over.

Most of us dread starting over. It means more cursed change.

Some profess to love change, believing it’s about new beginnings. Those wary of change understand it’s about ends.

Nothing changes unless something stops. Whether we’re optimistic about the change or not, we’re still left with the impacts of “end-ness:”

  • Familiar routines become undone
  • Our role is defined differently
  • Relationship dynamics are affected
  • Adapting to new processes and tools is required
  • Performance expectations shift
  • Opportunities for advancement blur

You’re hard pressed to develop a rich career without embracing change, even as it turns your world upside down.

A career of many colors

The days of cradle-to-grave careers (and even professions) are over, cry as some might. Ours is a business world of movement, innovation, mergers, technological advancement, and speed.

As business changes, the outlines of our careers change with it. We need to see ourselves in the business of building a career path that has sustainability and heft.

You may have a degree in education, computer science, marketing, finance, or business administration. Today that just means you’ve demonstrated the ability to learn, to perform proficiently against standards, and to conduct yourself appropriately in a learning environment.

How any of that a contributes to developing a career is about what you do next.

A hearty career is the amalgamation of many steps and decisions, assembled in linear progression or wildly divergent.

You take the success potential out of building a career when you’re afraid to start over…and over…and over.

Your career is a business trip–you get in gear, follow one route for a while, arrive at one destination, see the sights, discover a new path, change or shift gears, and set yourself in motion again.

Some people arrive at their first career destination and stay there. Very few find their dream jobs, at least right away. But you can tell those who have stopped dreaming or even looking. They complain about pretty much everything.

That’s generally what happens when you’re afraid to start over.

Big careers start small.

It’s the rare person who knows what they want to do with their life while a teenager. But that’s where career paths too often get started.

You see where you get your best grades, assume that’s where your talents are, and set your sights on schools that will credential you. Then you go into the job market, promote your abilities, and get your first real job.

That initial job is your first, small step on the road to a potentially big career ahead. Chances are, though, you’ll have to find the courage to choose from many forks in the road to get there.

Do you want to:

  • Stay in sales or move into marketing?
  • Continue as a company programmer or join an app development start up?
  • Remain a classroom teacher or launch an on-line course design company?
  • Commit to a family-owned business or work in a Fortune 100 company?
  • Play forever as a country band singer/guitarist or go solo in Nashville?

Building a big career means making smart choices. It’s not about following your passion but rather about building a strong base of tested skills and experiences that are your marketable assets. (No one makes this case more strongly than Cal Newport in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.)

Every career decision you make builds on the previous ones, both the good and the bad.

Careers are the ultimate platform for self-discovery, and if you’re lucky, some company is paying you while you figure out your best path.

Fight the fear.

Starting over is scarier than staying put. A lot of worry often comes with your choices.

But when there’s a great opportunity that’s right in front of you, that’s the moment when you must face your fear of change and go for it. So stir up your tolerance for starting over and satisfy your  hunger for a fulfilling career.

 

Here One Day…Then? Accepting Self-confidence As a Work in Progress

We know it when we feel it. When it’s in our grip, we soar. When it leaves us in the lurch, we land hard.

Self-confidence, by definition, is:

  • Being sure of your own abilities
  • Trusting those abilities
  • Having faith in them
  • Feeling assured you really have them

Self-confidence is in our heads. It’s the way we assess ourselves and decide if we’ve met expectations–our own and others.

Every day, readers find their way to my posts on self-confidence using search phrases like:

  • I’ve lost my self-confidence and I don’t know why (or I do).
  • I need help getting my self-confidence back.
  • No matter what I do, I can’t find self-confidence.

I get it: I’ve uttered those words myself.

It’s universal.

Everyone struggles to build and maintain self-confidence.

The way we see ourselves changes. The way we process feedback changes the way we see ourselves. New experiences test our abilities either adding to or detracting from our self-confidence.

It’s a moving target which makes maintaining self-confidence a work in progress.

Most of us don’t like that. We want our self-confidence to be a constant, something we can draw on anytime like a fat bank account. But that would take the growth factor out of living and working.

We can’t grow and get better if we’re all comfy about our self-confidence. We need to be kept off balance a bit, so we will push ourselves.

Consider this:

No matter how accomplished someone is–how famous, how rich, and how long they’ve been on top–loss of self-confidence will occur time and again.

So when our self-confidence sinks, we need to stop all the woe-is-me talk and get cracking.

The only real way to build or restore your self-confidence  is to act, to keep doing whatever will re-energize your belief in yourself.

You may have to turn to family, friends, and/or advisers to get you thinking more positively, but in the end, it’s about you getting busy.

Famed country singer and actress, Dolly Parton, after a meteoric early career, had to face an unsuccessful movie, tensions with big players in the industry, and the loss of her personal support system (long time friends who were moving on with their own lives.) She felt alone and became unglued.

She wrote in her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business:

I collapsed. It seemed that all my support systems had disappeared. The very foundation of all my beliefs had been shaken. The dreamy little kid from the mountains had become a fat, disillusioned, hopeless woman.

She stopped singing, playing guitar, and writing. She felt that people had given up on her because they thought she’d lost her drive. After some lengthy, painful soul-searching, she snapped out of it, writing:

It’s okay to think that about Dolly Parton, but better not stand in the road in front of her. I was about to come roaring back.

Self-confidence is a commitment to yourself, no matter if the cards seem stacked against you or how you were raised.

Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern, a veteran of over 80 films, revealed on ABC’s Live with Kelly & Michael, that as a child he was considered, by his parents, so uninteresting that he had to raise his hand at the dinner table in order to speak.

Dern clearly found a way to build his self-confidence anyway.

What to do?

When your self-confidence flags, you might follow these steps to reinvigorate it:

  • Figure out what caused its decline (Answer: who, what, when, where, how)
  • List prior achievements that initially built your self-confidence; internalize them.
  • Commit to being optimistic.
  • Recommit to patterns of behavior and actions that brought prior success
  • Learn and adopt new approaches that make sense.
  • Keep working, participating, and putting yourself out there.
  • Build momentum, assess your progress, make mid-course corrections, and keep going.

Self-confidence comes from building your capabilities and doing things successfully

As people, we are all a work in progress, and our self-confidence is our engine. Get ready to rev it up!

 

Miserable in Your Job? Wake Up Your Dreams.

wake up 2373187031_87a9803e8c_mMaybe you’re sick of it–that  “follow your dreams” bit.

It can be annoying when fabulously successful people deliver that seemingly hackneyed message. Their words make it sound so easy, as though our dreams are actually clear to us and the path obvious. Their encouragement can even sound a bit like criticism. Ugh!

We often convince ourselves that realized dreams are for other people–mostly celebrities, pro athletes, and people a lot smarter than we. That’s our first mistake.

Open up.

Our desire for approval (and fear of disapproval) from friends and family can be a powerful force.

So, most of us keep our dreams private for too long.

Choosing a career that’s far afield from what you really want sets you up for big disappointments. The sad truth is that most people do just that.

When I coach people facing career crossroads, I ask them this:

Describe briefly the career/job you’ve always dreamed of having that you have never pursued or have only toyed with.

In the list below, the arrows tell you what these folks saw as their dream jobs:

  • Senior corporate finance director after 30 years → Manager of an entertainment-related facility
  • Entry level accountant → Sports team front office administrator
  • Business analyst → Own and operate a bed and breakfast
  • Single mother of four with a medical degree out of the workforce for two decades → Practicing and teaching alternative medicine
  • New college grad  with an English major →  Wine dealer/Travel writer/Set locator for movies/ Travel company founder

 Dreams linger, so it’s never too soon or too late to embrace them.

Your dreams belong to you and you only. Your challenge is to pursue them–on your terms.

Wake up your sleepy head.

Our dreams start in our heads. To make them real, we need to be awake and in gear.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is the voice for the garden snail  who dreams, quite unbelievably,  of being the greatest auto racer in the world in the animated Dreamworks film, Turbo. As Reynolds says, the message in this fantasy film is important:

No dream is too big. No dreamer is too small.

It’s often the case that we start small as we explore our dreams, testing out whether or not we can cobble together plans to achieve them. Each step inches us closer to our vision.

That’s how it worked for county singer, Dolly Parton, who ,throughout her career, has said she always dreams big dreams.

The fourth of 12 children, the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Tennessee, Dolly grew up, as she describes, “dirt poor,” living in a rustic, one-room cabin, and singing in church.

Her talent for singing and songwriting, her grit, willingness to work hard, her charity, and her willingness to dream bigger and bigger dreams propelled her career. She’s never stopped dreaming.

Neither should we.

Fear not.

It’s never too late to get started. So consider these steps:

  • Put a sock in your mouth–to stop the “I can’ts” you mutter that self-sabotage
  • Turn over lots of rocks–to find out what’s needed to realize your dream career
  • Nibble at the edges–to find an entry point for your first efforts
  • Pick your spots– set some specific goals and a timetable for your plan
  • Step forward–involve yourself in some way no matter how small
  • Keep moving–by gradually increasing your participation

You can turn your dream into reality by simply putting yourself out there.

Say “hey.”

Converting dreams into reality requires consistent and persistent hard work, sacrifice, mental toughness, and resilience. You’ll need to muster your courage, withstand  disappointments, and protect your self-belief.

Your dreams also need the help and support of others. So share them with the right people.

It’s important to ask for what you need when you need it from those who truly care about you and your dreams. Your moment will come but the ride is what it’s all about.

Photo by SanitMB via Photoree

Getting Nowhere In a Hurry? Take a New Route. | Manage Your Day-to-Day

It’s wonderful when a book moves me to recalibrate my routine and reclaim my creative goals. That’s what happened when I was invited to read and blog about Manage Your Day-to-Day edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U. This book delivers the goods as  the structure, content, and style harmonize. I keep it within reach.

We work hard to find the right job and even harder to progress in it. manage_book

So, it’s discouraging when our days feel:

  • Harried or unsatisfying
  • Repetitive or fragmented
  • Controlled by the needs of others
  • Menial and incomplete

The hours can be long and the unrelenting demand for information exhausting.

There’s an edge to our days when we’re concerned that we’ll miss something and inadvertently disappoint the expectations of others.

Working your way

You’re the one who controls the way you use your work day. It may not always feel that way, but it’s true. It comes down to setting boundaries, adopting right habits, and managing the expectations of those around you.

Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei at 99U, targets the drags on your time and psyche through short, tightly focused articles by 21 accomplished business people, writers, and academics who get at the heart of big issues and provide realistic ways for change.

Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, writes in the foreward:

No matter where you work or what horrible top-down systems plague your work, your mind and energy are yours and yours alone. You can surrender your day-to-day and the potential of your work to the burdens that surround you. Or you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it.

The book unfolds in four sections that become the routes for a career going somewhere.

Route #1: Build a Rock-Solid Routine

All routines aren’t necessarily productive. We can spend a lot of time checking devices, meeting with people, and walking the floor, believing that somehow we’re capturing essential information we need for..well…something.

Mark McGuinness, author and creative professionals coach, advises:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.

Reactive work is all that checking.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project,  reminds us to protect the time needed for creative work if we want to produce something of worth.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently…frequent work makes it possible to accomplish more, with greater originality….    

Route #2: Find Focus in a Distracted World

Differentiating ourselves is essential to our career growth. It’s how we stand out from the crowd to demonstrate our uniqueness and creativity.

Consider this point by Jocelyn K. Glei:

In a world filled with distraction, attention is our competitive advantage. Look at each day as a challenge–and an opportunity–to keep your eye on the prize.

Our ability to manage distraction to enable our creativity to flourish means we’ve conquered the paradox noted by Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University:

Increasingly, creative minds are torn in two opposing directions. We’re asked to apply our intellectual capital to solve hard problems….At the same time, we’re asked to be constantly available by email and messenger and in meetings…..

Route #3:Tame Your Tools

In every career there are tools of the trade; pros know how to use them effectively. Technology, both a social and practical tool, challenges our decision-making and self-control.

Jocelyn K. Glei reminds us that:

Technology should be a tool, but if we do not keep our wits about us, it can easily become our taskmaster…It’s easy to blame the tools, but the real problem is us.

So each time you reach for a device, ask yourself: “Why and why now?”

Route #4: Sharpen Your Creative Mind

What we want from our work most often is the freedom to make a difference, to produce something useful, and to be creative.

Design professional, Stefan Sagmeister says it best:

If you want to do projects that you really love, you have to be aware of how difficult they are to do. For a long time I wasn’t doing certain projects, but I thought I would love to do them if I had the time. Then when I had the time, I avoided doing them because of all the other stuff that I still needed to do, like e-mail. And it’s just so much easier to do e-mail than to actually sit down and think….we don’t have time because it’s convenient not to have the time, because we don’t want to challenge ourselves.

Re-claim your time

Time is precious and limited. What we do with ours is our choice. It’s time to break our bad habits and dig into the work that will ultimately fulfill us. Taking control of our time day-to-day is immensely empowering.

Ahead of the Curve or Behind the Eight Ball? | Averting Criticism

8-ball 3779658241_bc1e517a8c_mCriticism lies in wait for us at work. Sometimes we can anticipate it and sometimes not.

Most of us learn to live with a few doses of negative feedback, especially when we have the opportunity to rebound.

Averting criticism that has the potential to be truly damaging, though, takes savvy.

 Protect what matters.

We each have a personal, career brand to protect so we can keep moving forward. Our bosses have one too plus the reputation of their work groups. Leaders need to protect the brand integrity of their organizations to remain competitive and viable.

Unfair, relentless, and ruthless criticism can turn your good efforts into ashes.

Consider the potential criticism leveled at a supervisor who:

  • hires or promotes an employee who steals, bullies, or lies
  • decides to absorb another work group and then releases excess employees
  • makes downsizing decisions that  cause employees to lose their jobs
  • replace fully functional equipment or technology with new ones

Everyone affected by those changes, whether directly or indirectly, is a critic in waiting. If the move is successful, they will likely be quiet. If not, watch for incoming!

There’s no reason to be a sitting duck when the potential for criticism is in your path. Going on the offensive, most often, is your best strategy.

You don’t make decisions in a vacuum. There are good reasons to act and risks too. You are ahead of the curve when you anticipate criticism and behind the eight ball if you don’t.

Keep your head out of the sand.

I recently facilitated the annual board retreat of a small non-profit facing the stepping down of four board members, including the president and vice president, both of whom were founders.

These officers were beloved, dedicated, and capable, having led the organization with warmth and strength for eight years. They were to remain as committee volunteers but it was time for new leadership.

The original board of ten would now be down to six, with two becoming new leaders. This was an unsettling time, focused mostly on internal matters. But what about the critics.

The board needed to consider what their constituencies would think and say about this major shift. How would it impact membership, sponsors, donors, partnerships with other organizations, and confidence in their sustainability? These are the questions that once answered and acted on would avert, though not eliminate, significant criticism.

The board decided on some key actions:

  • put together the messaging around these changes
  • prepare the slate of nominees for election at the upcoming annual meeting; arrange for mentoring by the exiting officers
  • develop a Power Point presentation for the annual meeting outlining past achievements, ongoing and new projects
  • write a press release for the announcements
  • arrange to meet with key allies to answer questions and strengthen relationships

Not only will this work strengthen their brand in the marketplace, it will raise the confidence of the board members and provide the messaging needed to expand its membership.

 Averting criticism

You avert criticism by defusing the arguments of your critics:

  • Provide the details of your story (transparency) before misconceptions are devised
  • Talk about your good work and successes as a foundation for your decisions
  • Anticipate and address potentially damaging issues when you see them
  • Address legitimate concerns; reinforce your intentions, purpose, mission, objectives, and positive actions
  • Be upfront and out-front, affirming the standards and values that support your position
  • Build a coalition of supporters who have your back and are willing to say so

By getting ahead of an issue, you empower yourself.

These steps also help if you’ve:

  • experienced a decline in your performance
  • violated a company rule or policy
  • mishandled a customer or vendor problem
  • damaged company equipment or software

Whether you’re an employee, supervisor, manager, or executive, managing your career progress means anticipating criticism, whether deserved or not, and then averting it.

So do you best to get ahead of the curve and watch your value rise.

Photo by lel4nd via Photoree

 

 

 

 

Would You Do Me a Favor? | Gratitude for WordPress.com Staff

wordpress2 imagesCAH55A5X

Taking my own advice is a lot harder than giving it. That’s an embarrassing truth.

Like a lot of people, I don’t like change that makes me feel helpless. I need to feel that when things start going awry, I have the ability to take the reins and keep things on course.

So you can imagine how it felt for non-tech me when I took the plunge last week to switch to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Now I know what a cold sweat feels like.

Support is magic.

 I’ve known for a while that I needed to expand what I could do on my blog, but, because I dreaded the change-over, I made lots of excuses for putting it off.

It took some straight-talk from my friend, Pam, to cut through my resistance. I finally got the ball rolling with the help of my consulting practice website host.

During my corporate management days, I’d been through a number of IT changes, big and small. I was fully aware that there is a potential nightmare lurking in every one.

I’ve also come to know that technology today is complex to the nth degree. No one can know  fully how everything fits together, since the piece parts often take on a life of their own.

Even so, I was still caught off guard when things got stuck so close to the finish line.

WordPress.com staff to the rescue

 It was crucial for me to be sure that my subscribers and three years of statistics were transferred from the free WordPress site to the now self-hosted one.

Luckily, I learned that WordPress.com staff could do this for me. But again I felt helpless, not really knowing how to access the right person. I’d followed forums before, but I really needed to find someone to partner with me to make things right.

And I did!

I’m a bit old school, being more comfortable in live conversation when I’m in a pinch than sending notes. The challenge is knowing how to explain the problem, so that no one ends up down a rabbit hole or going in circles.

I submitted my issue as “transferring subscribers” to WordPress and then was assigned a WordPress.com staff member  to assist me in a private forum.  That was the start of a great experience.

The response and customer care that I receive from this expert staff was exemplary. He knew exactly what he needed to do and directed me with clarity and calm to complete  inputs required on my end.

He helped me understand what was needed to make the changes, answered my questions patiently, took on the stats transfer issue, and conveyed a genuine sense of caring. He made me feel that my needs really mattered to him.

In every way, he was the consummate professional. My gratitude is enormous, and I told him so many times.

A favor request

It looks to me like my blog is working fine. I have noticed that there are some search wrinkles where you might find an old post on a search engine, but when you click on it, you’ll get a “page not found” notice. But that seems to be clearing itself up. I’m also taking some other steps to help mitigate that.

But because I hate that old helpless feeling, I would appreciate it if you could do this for me:

Please click on the “Like” button at the end of this post.

If you are a subscriber, I’ll know you were notified. If you found me by googling an issue, it’ll confirm that too. And if you just liked this post, I’ll get the message.

Please write a comment if you’ve had any problems or to share your thoughts.

That way I can do more troubleshooting.

Thanks so much for continuing to support my blog. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my perspectives with you.

Photo from WordPress

“Living in Fear” at Work? Why? | Overcoming the Killer Consequences of Suspicion

Suspicion is our enemy. It spawns defensiveness, driving our optimism, courage, and self-confidence underground. And we let it. living in fear 7597105228_1b6c41eddc_n

As a consequence, we allow it to turn us inside out, then blame it for our woes.

Avoid fabricating backstories.

There’s no getting around the inevitable, ever constant change that’s the daily bread of business:

  • The CEO announces that all employees need to be more accountable for their work output and then implements a company-wide training program to launch a new accountability culture.
  • A couple of popular, high-ranking managers are let go for unstated reasons and ushered out without time to pack up their things.
  • Organization changes are announced and long-time gurus of the business are passed over; younger, up-and-comers are given coveted, high visibility roles.
  • Your boss reconfigures your job duties unexpectedly, requiring you to develop new technical skills.

These changes produce angst. What does it mean to our careers? To our ability to keep our jobs?

Most of the time we understand little at best about the reasons that drive these changes. The less we know that more suspicious become about what’s behind it all.

In the absence of information, we fill in the blanks ourselves, creating backstories that morph into dramas we accept as reality. So we tell ourselves:

  • “My department is always blamed for late reports, so this accountability training is about us. I wonder whose head they’re after. Maybe I’ll be the scapegoat.”
  • “One day the CEO talks about leaders having to be more flexible and the next day those managers are gone. I could be next.”
  • “If they demote the managers who are the keepers of the company’s historic knowledge, that means they can’t see much value in what I know.”
  • “My boss knows that I don’t have all the skills for my new job duties. It feels like I’m being set up to fail which could get me fired or displaced.”

We think self-composed, doomsday stories will prepare us for the worst. But they only drive us into an unhealthy state of “living in fear” of the Career Grim Reaper.

Focus on facts .

The notion of “living in fear” of losing your job or workplace status is self-imposed hyperbole, a desire to create drama in your head around the unsettling aspects of change.

We all tend to fear the unknown. So the antidote is information, the factual kind.

When facing changes at work, ask yourself what you actually know. Be careful not to accept as fact what your fellow employees are telling you, since they’re prone to fabricating their own stories based on supposition and hearsay.

Focus on what you’re contributing–your work output, behavior, skills, and willingness to adapt to change:

  • Listen to what the leadership wants from you and determine how you can deliver it.
  • Realize that when managers are let go, their release is not about you. Stay focused on your role and performing well.
  • Recognize that the repositioning of employees in an organization is how new leaders and fresh thinking are fostered.  See those changes as clues to what you need to demonstrate to move up.
  • Accept that the way you do your job will continually change. Instead of dreading new requirements and technology, be prepared to accept them.
  • Be ahead of the curve by continually looking for ways to improve the way work is done.

Stay focused on the actual work you’re performing and the feedback you’re receiving.

Work grounded.

You can only control your own output and behavior. Although it’s important to observe what’s going on around you, getting caught up in the intrigue will only distract you from what you’re paid to do.

It’s easy to get drawn into the paranoia, doomsday projections, and soap opera scenarios of coworkers, but that’s a trap itself.

Instead, stick to what’s real–the work in front of you. Listen to direction that comes from the leadership and do your best to ride the change train to a successful career.

Photo from Razan alhammad via Flickr