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Archive: Bad reputations follow you everywhere — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

January 3rd, 2014 Comments off

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All it takes is one indiscretion, one moment of anger, to brand you with a bad reputation. Even worse, once people develop an opinion of you as a troublemaker, they may see issues where none really exist. Sometimes, we can damage our own reputation so badly that other’s expect us to be a problem. This was brought home to me again, as I watched my son’s latest Little League game.

The story goes back about 2 weeks. During another baseball game, the coaches and managers of one team had words with the coaches and parents of our team over the style of play they encouraged. The umpire (I can never imagine trying to do that job) had to sort things out, but the damage was already done. Complaints were filed with the league about one particular coach. As usual, word of this incident got around among the other teams and, most importantly, the other umpires.

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Fast forward to this week, when my son’s team faced this same coach. Sitting in the stands, I overheard the umpire’s instructions to the coaches and thought they seemed adversarial right from the start. Hmm. Had this umpire heard about the previous incident? Around the second inning of the game, I notice that the opposing coach had been removed from the game and was loudly complaining to league officials in the parking lot. I wondered what had happened, as I hadn’t seen anything overt.

As far as I can tell, the umpire for this game had heard about the previous incident and was determined to avoid any sort of repeat occurrence. In that light, he was looking for even the slightest infraction and then took advantage of that to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Was this fair? I don’t really know, as I don’t know what precipitated the coach’s removal, but it points up the problem with how quickly developing any sort of bad reputation can effect your work.

The same thing can happen to you in your work and career. Once people have developed an opinion about you, it can color every other interaction. If you complain once, you might be branded as the complainer in the company. Slack off once and you are the slacker. It is horribly unfair, but it occurs every day. In order to deal with the speed at which life comes at us, we often fall back on making assumptions, snap judgments and stereotypes. This coping mechanism serves no one well, though. We can be labeled unfairly and we can also label others unfairly. This then leads to further complications, which can derail personal relationships and leave us wondering where it all went wrong.

Develop a reputation for one trait and it will dog you for a long time, just as it did this coach. Those around you will expect you to act in a certain way and each time you do, it will only confirm their judgment further. Over time you can dig yourself a very deep hole.

So, how do you combat this “pigeonhole” effect? You must start with the very first occurrence. If you feel that you are starting to develop a bad reputation in a particular area, you must address it immediately. Had this coach talked with previous umpires and coaches and tried to find an amicable understanding the first time, he might not have had to face this second confrontation. Instead, those around him simply assumed that he would continue to act as he had in the past.

Next, this coach also had to turn around these expectations by going out of his way to act in exactly the opposite fashion. For example, if you are seen as “the complainer”, “the hothead” or “the slacker,” you have to do everything in your power to counteract these opinions. In some cases you may simply have to “bite your tongue” in public and address issues in private with individuals. If you get angry during a meeting, you will have to spend weeks NOT getting angry. Changing perceptions is extremely difficult so you have to work at least twice as hard to change them as you did to develop these perceptions.

Think of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. He didn’t get just a little bit better, he changed completely. To quote, “He was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more.” The best career advice is to always work to build the best reputation possible and, if you stumble, immediately correct your actions so you aren’t saddled with a bad reputation that can limit your effectiveness in your job and your career.

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Archive: Don’t be afraid – You won’t learn unless you ask — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

December 13th, 2013 Comments off

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No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, if you really want to learn something about your work, your ideas or a particular product, you only have to ask. Of course, asking for feedback can feel embarrassing and even frightening. Still, listening to other’s consul and opinion is one of the most important ways that we learn to improve our own ideas.

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The idea for this column came to me as I was watching a presentation at BarCampLA-3 (http://barcampla.org/), an un-conference here in Los Angeles that runs about every 6 months. One of the first sessions was Susie from SuperViva.com, a goal-tracking web site. I was impressed with the site, but I was even more impressed with Susie. She demonstrated the site and then asked everyone in attendance for their comments, questions and ideas. That takes guts! It also provided her with a wealth of information on what new features people might want and how to modify the site to better meet the members’ needs. Susie clearly thought her site was ready for review and knew she needed input from a wide variety of people, so BarCampLA offered her a great opportunity.

Now, you don’t have to go as far as presenting your work in a public forum, at least not yet, but there is a variety of ways to put the power of “asking” behind any of your projects, personal or professional. Start small and then grow into more public environments and larger groups of people as your project matures.

The first step in getting feedback on your ideas or projects is to collect a trusted and smart group of friends. Once you feel you have your idea in some basic form, take the idea to them and ask them what they think. This initial discussion can, and should, alter your original idea, adding features, removing others and getting you to the next step.

You start with a small group so you can acclimate yourself to the fear that all of us feel when we ask others about our ideas. We worry that others will hate the idea or even worse, want to change the idea so much that it no longer feels like our own. This fear is real and palpable. It is also the one thing that can keep you from learning and growing, so it must be overcome at all costs. Some of us can dismiss it through our own willpower. Others, like myself, will have to use tricks or rewards or otherwise force us beyond the fear. Whatever method you find best, you must move beyond the fear.

After your initial round of feedback, and any tweaks you have made to your idea or project, it is time to implement the first version. This version doesn’t have to be complete, but it should offer some clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Now it’s time to expand your feedback group. From the very beginning, everyone should be enticed to provide feedback on your idea or project.

Nothing can replace this hands on “usability” testing that the only the real world can provide. You will quickly notice issues and you should work just as quickly to resolve them. Sometimes, you might change one feature, only to realize that the initial idea was better. Change it back. Do whatever it takes to meet your user’s needs. I can guarantee that you will be learning something important every day.

Now that you have your idea or project in some basic shape, you repeat the process with an even larger group. This new group will bring different needs, thoughts and experiences to your project and help to refine it even more. Their ideas might contradict the concerns of earlier users, but you might find that this is simply a sign that a feature doesn’t work as well for 1,000 people as it did for 100. Again, you tweak and change, add and remove features and continue refining your ideas.

At this point, you have probably started to communicate your idea to the world at large, but this certainly doesn’t mean you stop taking input from those around you. In fact, this process should continue for the life of your product or service. If you don’t make a concerted effort to continually receive and act on feedback, you are stunting the growth of your ideas and business. 

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Audio: Organization: The 7 Skills of a Successful Careerist — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

October 2nd, 2013 Comments off

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Read and Listen to the Introduction to this series, The 7 Skills of a Successful Careerist.

When most of us think about organization, we think about calendars, address books and to-do lists, but organization, as it relates to your life and career, is so much more. We all know  from personal experience how unorganized people and companies can make our lives much more difficult than it need be – sometimes to the point of chaos. Why would we wish to inflict this on others ourselves? If you want to have a successful career, you must become organized – at least in some basic way. Thankfully, and despite what you might think, it’s relatively easy to be organized. Even more, the slightest bit of organization, will help you to stand out among those who haven’t yet learned that lesson. Organization can be an excellent way to build a very successful career.


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The first step in getting organized — and staying organized — is to CAPTURE EVERYTHING. Too often – in work and life – we simply ignore or forget when we are given the events, action items, and creative ideas that need to be accomplished. There’s no way you can hope to smoothly make your way through life, if you don’t remember what needs to be done and when. Yet again though, through personal experience, we know that people do this every day. Instead of organizing themselves, they rely on others to constantly remind them what they should be doing.

Capturing everything doesn’t require any technology more expensive than paper and pencil. Sure technology can help you capture and manage more information, more easily, but the basic factor in organization is a change in behavior, not the addition of more technology. Developing an understanding of organization and the methods involved will allow you to use whatever is available. Here are 3 basic concepts to get you started on the road to organization.

To begin, there are three capture “triggers” that you must learn to identify and act on the moment they occur. Sure, you will eventually need, and want, to collect even more trigger items, but these 3 are the most basic and important.
Dates and Times – Put them in your calendar

Even in our modern and technologically advanced world, our lives still follow the calendar of days, weeks, months and years. Each season still brings common activities and themes in our work. Just as we pay attention to the movement from Fall to Winter or Winter to Spring, we need to pay close attention to the events that pass through our calendars.

Whenever you are given a date or time for an event, stop – immediately – and capture it. It doesn’t matter if the date is specific or vague, near or far, large or small. Dates are important markers in our lives and in some ways they allow us to see into the future, knowing what must be done and when. The simple act of capturing these events allows us to prepare and plan.

Capturing events in your calendar also directly sends a message to those around you. If you are speaking with someone and you stop for a moment to put that date in your datebook, calendar, wherever, you are demonstrating to those around you that you are committed to being organized.Your simple action of writing it down, or entering it into your phone, sends a clear and loud message — “I Care!”
Don’t worry if the date is vague, or might change in the future. Put it in anyway. You could always move it, if it changes. It is far more important to capture all the events, rather than trying to sort out which ones are useful or not.

Next, when you’re given a prepared calendar for a school, company or organization, take a few moments to enter in any and all dates that are of interest or importance to you, your family or your company. This might include days off from school, holidays, teacher meetings, business conferences, ends of fiscal years, tax filing deadlines, etc. If it’s a date — and has any meaning or interest to you — capture it.
As a parent, I find this step particularly important. It can be hard to juggle multiple calendar when both parents work and high school age children begin to have their own unique calendar. Pickup must be arranged. Practices for theater and sports teams must be considered, along with homework, tests and other events. Capturing the bulk of those events at the beginning of the year can make your entire year run much more smoothly.

While capturing these items is a starting point, there is an advanced method you can include once the basics are working. Whenever you enter an event, take a moment to think about what needs to be done to prepare for that event and then capture those date and put them into your calendar as well. If you need to make cookies for a bake sale, or create an end-of-quarter presentation, add an event 1-2 weeks ahead to remind you to prepare.

Action items

After dates and events, the next important capture trigger are the “action items” that make up your life. These action items can be given to you by others, driven by your calendar items, or action items you give yourself. Just as with calendar items, you need to capture these items immediately, so that nothing falls in the “cracks” of your work and life.

As with calendar events, when you are having a discussion with someone, listen for action item triggers and capture them as they occur. If you hear the words “I need” or “I want”, it should immediately send you into capture mode. Those around us often give clear indications of what they want and need us to do, but if we fail to capture them, it is as if they were never said at all. This can lead to large disagreements both in life and work. Capturing these action items can go a long way towards smoothing and speeding communication with those around you.

You can capture action items in a simple list, organize them by project or category, or in whatever way makes the most sense for you personally. It’s far more important for you to capture them, then the methods you use to capture them. That said, capturing action items in one place is best. This can be a notebook, paper journal, phone or computer, but I would advise against scattering them across a bunch of sticky notes or scraps of paper. In that form, they are far too easy to misplace and make it difficult to review these items when needed.

Thoughts and Ideas

The final capture trigger in this basic organizational strategy is your own thoughts and ideas. We all have thousands of ideas and thoughts each day and yet, if you don’t capture these ideas — good, bad or indifferent – most will be lost forever. These ideas could be the basis for dramatic changes in your life and career and — in some ways — failing to capture them is like throwing away money. Your ideas are important and deserve to be captured. They are the fuel that drives your work and career. You can never tell what ideas might be useful or important in the future, so your job is to capture as many as possible and review them on a regular basis.

Rinse, Repeat and Review

That review, of course, is the final piece of this organizational strategy. You will find that calendar items, action items and your own ideas will naturally generate even more items that need to be captured. It will become a never-ending cycle of organization and productivity. The simple act of capturing these items, puts milestones along the road of your life. You can’t help to grow and improve in your work and life, because the simple act of capturing these items will constantly remind you what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.This basic and easy-to-use organizational strategy lays an excellent foundation for building the career you deserve.

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Archive: How is your career story changing over time? — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

August 31st, 2013 Comments off

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Would you read a story or novel where, at the end, nothing has changed? Would you feel anything for a character who has learned nothing over the course of the book? Would you read the next book in the series? I think not. That fact is, change is what makes a great story. We want characters who learn new things and change over time. We want to know more about them. We want to understand their decisions based on past behavior. The same goes for your career. If you aren’t changing, both personally and professionally, why should anyone care about your career?


 

 
Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

We have all seen them — people who got their first job right out of high school and never left. They are doing the same work today that they started doing 10, 15, 20 years ago. This isn’t to say that they are bad people or bad workers, only that the failure to change, for whatever reason, can trap us in our lives and our work. If you want to insure a more successful, and varied, career you need to embrace change and communicate that change to those around you.

In the past, I have talked extensively about developing career stories that can be used to explain your work, and your career desires, to those around you. “Change stories” are one particular type of these stories. In my experience, communicating your career change is as important as change itself. Without it, you may have changed dramatically, but unless others know it, it makes no difference.

So, how do you share the changes in your life with those around you? It is often as simple as opening your mouth. Do you discuss the new books you are reading with others? How about new software, computers and gadgets? What magazines or web sites have you discovered recently? Do you let your friends know when you enjoy one of their recommendations? If not, make a point to start sharing your changes today. Recommend that great book on management to someone who might find it useful. Forward a particularly good, and appropriate, web article to your boss or co-workers. Let those around you know how your knowledge and thoughts are changing over time.

I consider change communication to be one of the most important aspects of my writing, both here and in my blogs. I love sharing neat, new information with people, but it also gives me a chance to show how my thoughts and knowledge are changing over time. This is especially true when I have some form of epiphany that changes something fundamental about my work or life. Perhaps I have stopped recommending a particular piece of software or discovered a new type of cuisine. This makes my life more interesting, both to me and, hopefully, to my readers, friends and family. It is an important aspect of giving my life, and my life story, some excitement. Just like a character in a great novel, it makes people want to know more about me.

To bring this back to the work world, what changes are you communicating to your managers and coworkers? Have you been reading management books lately? Which ones? Did you enjoy them? What lessons did you learn? If you aspire to management, the simple act of sharing your thoughts on these books is enough to plant that idea in your managers mind. “Hmm, we need a new manager for this department. You know, I was talking about the latest Tom Peter’s book with Douglas the other day and he really seemed to know his stuff. Maybe we should ask him.” While this is an idealized scenario, you can clearly see how communicating the changes in your life can plant the seed that could grow into something much bigger.

Want to be a programmer? Start talking programming with your co-workers. Want to move into advertising, or graphics, or anything else, start sharing your thoughts, reading and learning with those around you. Tell your story frequently and well to all who will listen. Share the story of your life and career changes. Let others know where you are headed and what you want. If you do, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the new opportunities that come your way, both in your career and in your life.

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Don’t let “feeling stupid” stop your from learning what you need — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

August 26th, 2013 Comments off

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I have spent the last 30 years helping people to learn about technology in a number of ways and there has always been one, constant theme to this process — people hate to “feel stupid”about technology — or anything, for that matter. I think “feeling stupid” should be a diagnosed clinical physiological problem for all the damage it causes. Too many times, I have seen people suffer both personal and professional trials, simply to avoid the embarrassment and fear of “feeling stupid.” Let me tell you, though, avoiding the fear of appearing stupid to your friends, family and co-workers could be the most damaging act you take in your life and career. It can have far-reaching effects that limit your effectiveness, productivity and future success. Embrace “knowing what you don’t know” and then seek to learn.


 

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Dog Days


It is often said that the most dangerous people are those that “don’t know what they don’t know.” They blunder from one crisis to the next, never knowing that their lack of knowledge is harming both themselves and those around them. They seem totally secure in their actions, even when they have no understanding of the problem at hand. Further, they often lash out at those who try to help them learn more — their outward veneer of security masking a deep insecurity beneath. Don’t be this person. Feel confident, yes. Feel secure, but also know that their are times when “feeling stupid” is the best indicator that you have something more to learn.

No one likes to feel stupid, of course, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all face it — often on a daily basis. What is more important than the feeling, though, is what we do about it. Some of us are so affected by “feeling stupid” that we hide away and worse, hide our stupidity. Instead, we should take every opportunity to learn more when we feel we don’t know enough. Faced with an unknown word in the paper you are reading. Look it up! Don’t understand some monetary policy, do some online research. Can’t figure out why the roses in your garden aren’t blooming? Ask a knowledgeable friend.

The truth is, there is absolutely no reason for feeling stupid in today’s world. We have so many resources to help us understand the world around us, if we only took the time and energy to use them. From the immediate and handy confines of your smartphone you can find nearly any piece of information. Sure, you might have study deeper and longer to truly understand a complex topic, but getting started in your learning has never been easier. Even more, if you truly fear “feeling stupid”, no one else needs to know what you don’t know. You can step away, do a little research and return much the wiser.

Why then, do we still fear feeling stupid so much? Mainly this is due to insecurity. We fear being judged by our coworkers, our boss, our family, our spouse. We fear what they might think about us if they only knew how stupid we really are. I have a shocking revelation for you, though. They are just as stupid as you are. Sure they are probably stupid about entirely different things, but they carry around the same baggage as you. They fear feeling stupid, too. Perhaps by understanding this fact, we can all come together in our stupidity and move beyond it. We are not alone. We all share a common burden. If we start to collectively understand that fact, perhaps we can all move beyond our feelings of stupidity and move forward with our career and lives.

“Feeling stupid” is merely a sign that we have more to learn, not a sign of weakness. If we take this sign as an indication to learn more, we turn those threatening and scary feelings into a powerful force for improvement. If we move beyond our fear, we can move forward in great leaps. More importantly, if we all collectively understand that we are all stupid in something, perhaps we can move beyond the psychological angst we all go through whenever we are confronted with our own stupidity. Perhaps we can all start helping one another with the challenges in our life and career, instead of hiding behind bluster and intimidation, whenever we find we don’t know something. Imagine what you work and life could be like if we were all helping each other learn more, instead of demeaning and punishing others if they dare show their stupidity. It is as important to “know what you don’t know” as it is to understand the ignorance of others and understand that we all have something to learn, sometime in our lives.

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Beyond the Briefcase: New visual icons and symbols for career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

August 12th, 2013 Comments off

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I recently did a Google Image search on the word “career” just to see what it would turn up. There I found lots of pictures of signposts and arrows, lots of uses of the word Career in various typographic styles and, of course, eager, young  (almost exclusively) workers attired in suits, ties and/or skirts, often carrying briefcases. While I wasn’t that surprised by the search results, I find myself continually surprised by the icons from the past that we still use to represent work and career. Almost like the stereotypical usage of an old, rotary phone being used to represent a telephone or any type of call, the use of the briefcase or the suit and tie is just as outdated..


Dog Days

Books by Douglas E. Welch
  
 

Yes, of course, many people still report to a standard office wearing the standard corporate uniform, but many others now work in companies, locations and even in attire quite different. In fact, I would say that the standard icons we use for career represent less and less of the modern workforce every day. They also highlight our outdated views of career at a time when we need new and more powerful ways of developing the career you deserve. The anachronism of these icons might fool someone into thinking that today’s work world is just like our parents, or grandparents time, when I think it is clear that today’s work world is very much different, much more complex and filled with so many new opportunities.

So, I am asking all of you. What do you think the new icon for career should be? What visual metaphors spring to mind when you think of your work and your career? What single image springs to mind when someone says the word career? I’d love to hear what you think and what might envision. Share your ideas in the comments on this column, on the Career-Op pages on Facebook and Google+ or reply to me via Twitter at @careertips. I’d love to see your ideas!

For myself, my own thinking about new career icons follows a number of tracks. Here are a few of my ideas:

Lmproulx Iphone

Computer//Tablet/Smartphone

Since its invention, the telephone has always represented communication and, in many ways, business itself. “Let your fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages used to be one, major way of finding business and services and even customers that you needed. Today, with the ubiquitous nature of computers in business, along with the more recent counterparts, the tablet and smartphone, I think a good case could be made for making these devices the “briefcase” of our era. Instead of folders of documents, the daily newspaper, magazines and perhaps a lunch crammed into a briefcase, we carry our data and our knowledge around in these smaller and smaller digital “briefcases.” I think it is safe to say that the smartphone alone could become an icon for overall human productivity, not just career. So much, both good and bad, useful and not, occurs on these devices that it seems likely they will become the new icon of work and career.

A network of interconnecting lines and arrows

Network connection

One clear truth about careers in this age, and even in the past to some extent, is that your career is made up of a host of connections between people, companies, data and more. A network diagram with lines and arrows going in every direction certainly seems to reflect the nature of career. Rarely do you walk your career path alone. You are constantly connecting with new people, new technology, and new information. I think a good visual icon for career should clearly represent this integrated series of connections where we live and work every day. Not only would it better represent the reality of our lives and work, but also reinforce the importance of these connections both for us and for those around us.

You

Douglas Portrait with Toonpaint

People often appear as career icons — the dapper professional, the uniformed plumber, the rugged construction worker, but too often they are both stereotypical and generic. As I often preach here in Career Opportunities, your career is personal — one of the most personal aspects of your life. Your career is, and should be, unique from any other career in order to match your wants needs and desires. Stereotypes are less and less useful today, as more people are developing what could be considered very non-traditional careers. They combine a unique blend of skills, knowledge and desire to create their own, personal career. Perhaps this means that the best visual icon for a career should simply be a picture of yourself, doing what you do. Maybe you are simply the best visual icon for your career. Someone as unique and individual as the career they develop.

What images come to mind when you think of career? Do they help you in the building of the career you deserve or do they hold you back with archaic ideas about work and career? Share your best visual career icons with myself and all the readers and listeners of Career Opportunities. Perhaps, together, we can find a new metaphor that represents career in a deeper and more meaningful way and move “Beyond the Briefcase!”

***

Archive: Don’t wait for others to energize your career — do it yourself

August 2nd, 2013 Comments off

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Visit any business and you will find a host of the employees plodding through their work day. Clearly, they lost all energy and excitement about their work years ago, but instead of seeking a better job elsewhere, they put in their time day after day and wonder when someone will come and save them from the monotony. Truth be told, this is never going to happen. No one is going to come and take them away from their dull and pointless careers.


Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

Visit any business and you will find a host of the employees plodding through their work day. Clearly, they lost all energy and excitement about their work years ago, but instead of seeking a better job elsewhere, they put in their time day after day and wonder when someone will come and save them from the monotony. Truth be told, this is never going to happen. No one is going to come and take them away from their dull and pointless careers.

The fact is, the only person who cares about your career is you. If you don’t take the initiative to reach out and find something better, no one will. Your managers, your company and your peers can’t care about your career. They are too busy thinking about their own concerns to add yours to the mix. You can’t sit around waiting for the career equivalent of the big lottery jackpot, I can guarantee you that it will never arrive.

Find some energy

Part of the reason people get trapped in unfulfilling jobs is that they allow it to sap their energy and their spirit. They simply feel too tired to pursue anything but the input-only entertainment of television or video games. Energy, though, is exactly what they need to find. They need to conserve one small bit of energy every day so that they can seek out one small, yet fulfilling opportunity or idea. Like exercise, the more you do it, the more you feel like doing it. You just have to locate that small kernel of energy that let’s you start the ball rolling.

Where do you find this energy? In most cases, you simply need to let go. Even when a job is unfulfilling we still carry a certain, inborn sense of responsibility. We still worry about the bureaucracy, the politics, the chances of layoffs or bankruptcy. It is one of the few times when we can care too much about the fate of our company. We allow these worries to drag us down and sap all our energy, even though we might be telling ourselves that we don’t care about our job at all.

So, disconnect from your job to find the energy you need to grow. Now, I am not telling you to stop doing your work. That would be foolish. I want you to disconnect from the petty, childish and demeaning parts of your job that are sapping energy you could be investing elsewhere. Do you and your peers spend your breaks and lunches complaining about the company? Are you carrying around anger, disgust or even hatred of your company? Let it go! You have better things to do with your time.

Investment

Once you start engaging in these damaging behaviors, you will suddenly find that you have more time, more energy for more enjoyable activities. Maybe that news story from today’s paper will entice you out to a new park or store. Perhaps you’ll feel like cooking that new dish you wanted to try. It is in these small ways that you’ll first see improvements. Then, as you gain more and more energy, the effects will spill over into other aspects of your life. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the energy grows and grows of its own accord.

Oddly enough, you might even find yourself enjoying and engaging in your current job more. Once you disconnect from those destructive behaviors, you might find out that your job isn’t quite as bad or quite as hopeless as you might have imagined. Sometimes, you’ll find that your new found energy is best re-invested in making your current job better, instead of moving somewhere else.

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What you SHOULD be sharing in your social media feeds — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

July 30th, 2013 Comments off

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A few weeks ago I talked about how to attract work and opportunities to you, instead of constantly begging for your next job. One of the biggest elements of attracting work to you is using social media to share the most interesting aspects of your life and work and show people “what you do and how well you do it.” Of course, it is worth taking some time to think about what you might share on your social media feeds that contribute to this end goal. Here are a few ideas to get you started in sharing the right kind of information.


Dog Days

Books by Douglas E. Welch
  
 

  • Short stories of your best work successes

These aren’t some self-serving stories about how you saved the day, although some may have that aspect about them. Rather you are sharing these stories to help anyone else who might be experiencing the same, or similar, issues in their own line of work. Depending on your work, this could be a post on how you solved a particular tricky accounting problem, solved a difficult problem with a hidden leak (if you are a plumber), made a car run better (if you are a mechanic) or created a great computer system that saved your company tens of thousands of dollars (or even a few.) As you can see, it doesn’t matter what type of work you do. We all have interesting stories to tell that can be tremendously useful to others. By sharing these stories, you not only show people the quality of the work you do, you also help them solve their own, similar problems. This alone could lead to a job or consulting offer down the road. I know it has worked this way for me.

  • What you are reading, watching, listening

Sometimes, the media we are consuming can be very illuminating about our lives and our work. For myself, I make a point of sharing what books I am reading, what blogs I subscribe to, what videos I am watching and the podcasts I listen to as I drive about on business and pleasure. I think that if people pay attention to these items, they can get a very clear idea about where my interests lie and it can do the same for you. Again, the best thing about this is that you are just sharing what you find interesting, not trying to promote yourself, so it is a nice, soft pedal, way of accomplishing the goal of letting people know you — and your work — better.

  • Your thoughts on work, industry and life issues

While you need to be careful about descending to the level of a “rant” in these posts, working out your job issues in writing can help you discover solutions to solve the problem. Don’t name names, but rather address the deeper issues involved. Create “what if” scenarios of what you might do to solve the problem if you had the power. Tell people how you personally dealt with a problem, even if you couldn’t change the situation yourself. You can, and should, also talk about issues in your industry and how you would address the problem. Again, thinking through these issues helps you in so many ways. You might hit upon a solution that no one has discovered yet. You might find a solution to your own work issues and finally, you might help someone else who is dealing with the same issues. Often people are helped just by knowing that they are not alone in their problems. If you can offer some commiseration with their issues, and perhaps even a helpful solution, you can develop a great reputation as a problem solver that can lead to large opportunities down the road.

  • Cool things that you discover in your life and work, online and offline

Finally, one of the greatest pieces of information that you can offer is the cool things that you discover both online and in your own life. As I read through my RSS feeds each day, I often find 2-3 items that are worth sharing with others. This often results in many ‘Thank you” messages being returned as well as people sharing the information with their readers/followers/Facebook friends.

These items can take several forms. Some might simply be for entertainment (witness all the silly cat pictures out there). Some might be useful answers to business problems such as new smartphone apps, new web services and new online publications. These items also can, and should, be elements from your own life. Interesting pictures you have taken, neat templates you created, interesting architecture, music, writing and friends you encounter in your daily travels. Don’t limit yourself to just sharing things that others create. Create your own “neat things” to share, too.

If you are feeling a bit stuck on what to share via your social media feeds, I hope that these ideas will spur you into action. I believe that it is through softer sharing, rather than blatant promotion, that we can have the biggest impact on our work and careers. Rather than jumping up and down shouting “look at me, look at me”, you can have much more impact instead saying, “Look at this cool thing I found. It helped me and it might help you, too!” That is certainly how I approach my own use of social media and I believe it can be very effective in building the career you deserve.

***

Privacy and the need to sell yourself in your career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

July 22nd, 2013 Comments off

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Privacy is in the news a lot these days and it is a valid concern for all of us. That said, when you are trying to build the career you deserve, an excessive focus on privacy can make your careerbuilding more difficult, if not impossible. This is due to a large change in how we find jobs and develop our careers. The days of resumes and job fairs and networking are over, at least in the traditional sense. Today, you need to be spending every moment telling people “what you do and how well you do it.” If you insist on keeping every aspect of your life private, you are severely limiting the number of people that know about you and the opportunities these people may be able to provide. When it comes to your career, you can’t “hide your light under a bushel” and expect to achieve the career results you want.


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Yes, the big world of the Internet can be a bit frightening sometimes, but you can, and should, engage in it in as many ways as possible. During our recent CareerCampSCV, I spoke with a number of attendees who were very concerned about keeping their social media activity private. For me, this has always seemed odd, as I believe that the main purpose behind social media is being seen, publicly, by those people who most interest you, are most interested in you and are most able to help you achieve your career goals. To keep everything private seems, for me, to defeat the entire purpose of social media.

That fact is, in today’s world, I believe you MUST be engaging in social media and you MUST be sharing “what you do and how well you do it” publically. The job world has changed dramatically and limiting your social media use is actively hampering your career. Who knows how many opportunities have never come to you simply because people don’t know the depth of your knowledge and skills. You can’t wait for job openings to be posted, printed in the newspaper or shared on a job board, You have to be positioning yourself to attract opportunities and social media is one great way of doing that.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you share EVERYTHING about your life on social media. Like any person who lives their life in public (celebrities, musicians, writers, etc) you need to actively pick and choose what you share. You need to develop your own public-facing persona much in the same way your favorite television or movie stars do. Does this sounds silly? It might, but it is also the new reality of your career.

Just as an actor must consider and cultivate their audience, so must you. We all have an audience, no matter what we do as a career. This is a new thought for most of us, but an important one. Gone are the days when you could survive in your career as a quiet little drone that toiled away in the background for 30 years. If you truly want to build the career you deserve, you need to be actively promoting yourself, positioning yourself, publicizing “what you do and how well you do it!”

What if you don’t want to live the public-facing life of an actor or celebrity? You are in trouble, because that is simply the way that life and career works these days. If you are not hustling to build your career then all you are left with is what other people offer you or what other careerists have decided they don’t want. You need to grow and adapt to this “new normal” or you risk having a career that is stunted and unfulfilling. I believe you deserve better, but it means you have to stretch yourself and your, perhaps outdated, understanding of how a career works.

Again, I am not saying that sharing your life and work publically is something you MIGHT want to do, I am saying that today it is a CRITICAL part of your job search and career. If I sound unequivocal, then you are understanding me correctly. The Internet has changed the world in many dramatic ways and it has deeply changed the way we approach a career.

If you want to build the career you deserve, you must engage in the world as it exists today and leave behind outdated concepts of job search, the nature of work and your career. The work world has moved on and unfortunately many of us have not followed. Don’t be trapped in century-old ideas about how you find a job. Use the amazing tools that are now at hand (and those yet to come in the future) to your best advantage. It is not in the past that you will find the career you deserve, but here in the present and out there in the future.

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What you need: Supportive Family and Friends — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

March 26th, 2013 Comments off

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Of all the features of a successful career, an abundance of supportive family and friends is high on the list. Life itself is enough of a struggle. Without the support of those around you, you will find it difficult to learn and grow in your life and your career. That said, supportive family and friends aren’t always to be found naturally. You may have to create, cultivate and convince them of how important their support can be in your life. In some desperate cases, you may find that those who should be the most supportive aren’t — or can’t be — for a variety of reasons. Understanding these reasons — and the people around you — can help you to overcome those situations and better recognize those who truly have your better interests at heart.


 
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Supportive family and friends are so important in our careers because we risk much when we enter the adult, work world. We risk being judged. We risk failure. We risk embarrassment and we even risk the discovery that we have chosen the wrong work or the wrong career. As you all know, career building can be stressful, so we need those people in our lives who can comfort us when the going gets rough; those who can mentor us and help us rebuild our confidence when our own belief in ourselves is running low. These aren’t people who lie to you just to make you feel better, but rather those who express their support, no matter what we decide and give us a firm foundation to stand upon while we reach for greater things.

Without these people, we can often feel adrift, lost and afraid. Without this stable foundation, we may not have the courage necessary to reach for bigger achievements in our lives. Without them, we can find our careers stunted and our work days unhappy, just because we lack the support for taking the most important steps. We can languish in our lives simply because it feels safer to stay in the cave than to venture out. There might be a bear waiting outside, or so the primitive parts of our mind might have us believe. To that I will say, yes, there are bears out there, but there is also so much more. It is worth braving the forest because you will find wonderful things there, too. Our family and friends can give us the courage to peek outside the cave and take in all the world has to offer.

As I mentioned earlier, though, sometimes our family might not be the best place to find support in our lives and our careers. Sadly, they might have so many of their own issues, worries and fears that they simply have no space for yours. They may be addicted, ill or the victim of their own, unsupportive family. They may simply be unable to provide you the support you need for lack of their own experience. In some cases, your family will not want you to succeed because your success would point up their own failures. Maybe they never had the courage to step outside the cave and when you do, it only, painfully, reminds them of their own failures.

Bemoaning your fate won’t help, though. Once you recognize these issues, your only recourse is to seek out and build the support you need in your life. This is when we reach out to our friends. In some cases, our friends can become more of our family than our own blood relatives. Our friends have less baggage, fewer issues and see us as an individual, rather than just a small part of a larger family and the collective issues they might have. Friends can take or leave us — and we them — so we need not appeal to them or appease them if we don’t want. We associate with friends — and they with us — because we enjoy each other’s company. We genuinely “like” being around them. This can often make it easier for them to be supportive of us when we need it. There is simply less “history” to work through than their is with our family.

Of course, if we expect others to be supportive of us, then we must be supportive of them. Again, this doesn’t mean we don’t tell the truth to our friends. Rather it often means we tell the truth when others will not. This can mean everything from telling them that, “yes, those pants do make you look fat”, to the fact that their addiction to something is endangering their life and everything in-between. Still, the most basic underpinning of the relationship is support. To be supportive of each other means that you both, honestly, want to see each other succeed — in life and career — as much as possible. This can be difficult sometimes, such as when someone is gaining more success than you are, but it is so, so important to everyone involved. We should be able to celebrate everyone’s success, even when we are struggling ourselves, since we have played some small part in their success.

The biggest enemy of supportive relationships is this — insecurity. Insecure people find it impossible to be supportive of others. They see the gains of others as a direct loss for themselves. Instead of mutual success, they only see a zero sum game where they lose when others win. Insecurity seems to be the deep-seated cause of much of the anti-social behavior we see in society today. We can experience insecurity in our families, in your relationships, in our friendships — anywhere where people interact. It is important you recognize insecurity when you see it and avoid it at all costs. I often say, “it is impossible to reason with unreasonable people” and insecure people are often the most unreasonable people you will meet. They see the world through one filter. They see any success as a direct attack on their life and career. Because they see the world this way, they will lash out, attack and sabotage those around them when possible. They become the exact opposite of the supportive environment that we all need to thrive. Avoid them at all costs.

I hope that your family is helpful and supportive in your life and career. Many are. I have seen mothers and fathers grit their teeth and smile when their children make decisions different from what they might make. They welcome them back to offer a friendly and supportive shoulder when needed. They help their children to succeed in every way possible.

If you are blessed with such a family, appreciate it, celebrate it and thank them at every opportunity. If your family is not as supportive as you wish or need, though, it is up to you to find another, more supportive environment. You might find this through your friends, your organizations or even your work, but find it you must. Everything will depend on finding a supportive environment that will help you to thrive. That said, if you are seeking out a supportive environment, you must seek to be the same for others. You can’t have one without the other.

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