Let me tell you, one of my new favorite additions to the blogroll, The Grindstone, is really kicking it out of the park. Here is their latest and great, by LinkedIN’s Connection Director (great title, right?) Nicole Williams.
I have heard it from co-workers, I have heard it from friends and I have heard it from colleagues sprinkled all across the globe…”I am so frustrated with this &^%$# job!”
Ok, well…let’s talk a little bit about that. You see, we choose to be in a given job, and whether we know it or not, whether it feels like it or not, and whether or not we have people who rely on us—opportunities for change do exist and they require thoughtful consideration and ACTION.
The Dilemma: You’re sick of getting the brush-off when you want to help manage a project at work.
In a tough economy, quitting feels like a bad idea when you have dependents and enjoy cuisine beyond Ramen fare. You cannot leave your job, and you must find ways to leverage your skills within this role to be given more responsibility.
Leah’s Advice: Create an Opportunity ANY way you can.
Let’s say you need more responsibility, but no one will invite you to the table, or, if you ask to join the table, you are waived aside…well, what then? This is, to my mind a classic case of what I like to call, “Go Off and Prove It”, or, “GOPI” for short. I like to think that no one can stop us from doing the work we are meant to do, and that we do not actually require the permission of other folks at our various jobs to take on more responsibility…we may just have to be willing to change what the responsibility looks like for us. Say the Big Girls don’t want to share their responsibility on a certain project on which you have expertise: find ways to provide input to the group by asking them what would help THEM do their jobs better. Did they tell you how they would like their coffee and copies collated? We have a plan for that. Get out of their game entirely, and find ways to support the same or a similar project outside of work (provided there are no ethical consequences for doing so), then bring back measurable results from this project as evidence of your ability to take on more ownership in the next project. If they don’t hand you some opportunities to shine, you need to start stockpiling your experiences to make your move…when it is the right time. But do NOT stop gaining experience to do the work you actually want—whether it is as a volunteer or as a an advocate or a consultant, you’ll need that experience when you begin your job search.
The Dilemma: Feeling Stuck in a Dead End Job
You know you are too smart to just maintain spreadsheets and edit someone else’s correspondence for the rest of your life…what do you do? How do you make a change when it is all you seem qualified to do…at least on paper?
Leah’s Advice: Stop Being Afraid to Re-Tool.
I encounter this problem most of all with my Baby Boomer clients, who have been socialized to believe that there will be one prominent educational opportunity in their lives and they either take it when it’s ripe, or they missed out on it entirely. Or, if they already went forward with their education, it is the only experience in post-secondary education they are allowed to have. You couldn’t be more wrong.
I have two words for you: Continuing. Education. Basically, university’s have these departments. Don’t live near a university? Try your community college. They have programs too, and are often the best value for your buck. Simply Googling the name of the school and “continuing ed” will likely yield you results to help you get where you need to go to find scores of online and in-person classes, certificate programs and workshops…all aimed at supporting people who are not a bunch of 18 year-olds. Programs range from pre-Allied Health programs (to help prepare you for a Nursing program, Occupational or Physical therapy, Cardio Respiratory Therapy or Sonography among many other programs) to Culinary Arts, to Small Business Development, to learning the fine art of cake decorating. Want to be come a Certified Public Accountant? Learn Spanish? Obtain your Special Education teaching endorsement? That’s where to go to find it.
Fun fact: the average person in the new millennium (can you believe we are still calling it that?) has SEVEN CAREERS in their lifetime (note: I did not say “jobs”). Every new career will require new skill sets, even if some cross over from your former career, and you will need to re-tool to get those skills.
Someone blandly said to me a in a sports pub the other night, “You know, if military leaders paid half as much attention to strategy as some of these football coaches, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now.”
Well, I confess I don’t know much about sports…or military tactics for that matter, but she had a point. Football coaches spend countless hours searching for the right play to snag a victory for their team. Among the considerations are: the opposing team’s strengths, weaknesses and goals, any players with paticular challenges, and certainly the plays that will maximize the home team’s advantages. To top it off, you will notice that football coaches frequently create plays that anticipate several outcomes for various decisions on the field, flexible enough to account for last minute changes.
We can, and should do this with our careers. Where is your playbook? What does it look like? How long is each “play” or have you not gotten to that point yet? I know a young woman who does her career planning in 5 year chunks, setting long term and short term goals for her self, with various contingencies in case there is an unexpected change, tp keep her on her toes and help her self-manage her own needs. I also know a career-changer in his late forties who has decided to start a small business as a handyman. He is feeling enormously overwhelmed by all the things on his to-do list to be prepared for every situation, and all the many considerations when starting a small business. We created a playbook together one day in our local coffee-shop to help him think through his plan and his desired outcomes. He told me later that having that plan and an idea of what to expect (though, flexible) really helped him manage the anxiety.
Today, on Super Bowl Sunday, let’s root for our teams (of course!) but also perhaps think about what the next “play” looks like, in our own careers…and make a plan.
I DIG this blog series on negotiating your salary. especially for women, who are notorious for not negotiating their salary, this is an outstanding resource.
I really enjoy the specific advice on some tricks for recent graduate school graduates and the six month mark, and the specific strategizing around career positioning and duties.
-Expand your job description
-Ask for additional duties
-When asked what you made at a previous job: “I am flexible: I need to learn more about this specific position before I would like to share this information”
-Learn from the senior-level execs: negotiate your “professional pre-nuptial agreement” in the form of severance.
-Identify a “sounding board” professional
I STRONGLY encourage the women who follow this blog to listen to chapter four on Gender and Negotiation. It is brilliant, and can be found at the bottom of the page of the link.
A Negotiating Story…
I want to share a story while we are on this topic, and it is the story of a new graduate from grad school. I asked my mentors what to do, because the pay band was tiny, only a range of 5,000 or so. The top of the band was the minimim I had set for myself. So…was I supposed to go right for the “jugular” as they say, and ask for it? My current boss, a career counseling WHIZ told me not to ask for the top. When the offer rolled in, I was offered just shy of the top. But…here is the thing. As un-self-entitled as I see myself when it comes to working in a recession, I also felt a little put-off. I worked hard in grad school and in college, plus I took a year between the two to serve my community as an Americorps member. I was Qualified, with a capital ‘Q’. My mentor from Indiana affirmed my instincts, “If you don’t ask, it is money on the table you aren’t getting. the least they can do is say no. ASK.” I asked. In fact, if I am being honest, I almost ASKED the HR rep how much I should make. I accidentally slipped a question mark in my counter offer, before I mentally “put on my big girl pants” and went for it. Period. No question mark. Hey, we all slip a little sometimes, and I was no exception as a newbie professional.
They accepted, quickly. And all because I asked for what I though I deserved. One of my proudest moments, too.
Mentoring is so important. Don’t believe me? Ask hyper-successful (and happy to be so) professionals. Someone gave them advice, someone may have given them a much needed critique, or maybe a break on a day when it was seriously needed. Regardless of length of mentor-ship or depth of relationship, mentors are important. I say this as a mentee and a mentor.
Many of you know that I have mentored a number of high school and college students over the past few years, largely around career development and academics. But did you know I received mentorship myself? Indeed I did. It was never anything very long term, or very aggressive…it would not have worked out for me if it were! I have always been very intent on my own plans and and as a youth, not always open to advice. The people who did mentor me, though, knew this. Who mentored me? A case worker I had while I was still in college and still technically a foster youth, my Literary Theory professor who gave me terrible advice on which career to enter, but who ultimately walked me through some challenging academic experiences in college, a practicum supervisor in graduate school who refused to let me give up when some of my editorials were attacked. I even stayed close with one of the staff members from a group home I once lived in. This woman, Carol, was (and still is) an immensely wise and insightful person. She pulls no punches and is capable of shaking me up when I need it most. All great mentors.
As a mentee and a mentor, I’d like to invite you to participate in National Mentoring Month by both thanking the people who have mentored you…and reaching out to organizations or family, or family of friends who both want and could strongly benefit from, someone to touch base with, bounce ideas off of, and connect to.
National Mentoring Month:
Mentoring in RI:
Real Connections mentoring program for RI Foster Youth: