Friday Fast Tip: Take Time

With the holiday around the corner, it is a good time to remember to take time to recharge. We have the tendency to get so caught up with work that we don’t take much needed time for ourselves. However, no one can run 24-7, so if you have the opportunity, take time off – rest, refocus, and come back with renewed productivity.

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What I’m reading now: Getting feedback from your employees

Taking feedback like a champ might be one of the hardest lessons you’ll learn as a manager. But recognizing the fact your employees actually have something to teach you is a good thing—because it will help you continue to grow in your role.

  • Author: Jennifer Winter
  • Title: When the Student Becomes the Master: Taking Feedback From Your Employees
  • Source: Forbes (Originally The Muse)

Career Planning: What Not To Do

Planning out your career can help you to determine what skills you need to build and where to invest your time. However, there are a few things you shouldn’t do when developing and implementing your plan:

Assume that things will remain constant – Life can be very unpredictable, as can be careers – independently or because of each other. You may switch companies, decide to start a family, or market factors may shift dramatically, as we saw with the dot com bust. Ultimately, if your environment doesn’t change, it’s likely you will. We are constantly evolving and learning new things about ourselves and our interests. Imagine yourself ten or even five years ago; are you the same person today as you were then? If your plan is too specific and dependent on today’s reality, which, of course, it will be, because unfortunately we can’t predict the future, you may find yourself closed out of opportunities.

Stick by your career plan no matter what – In the same grain, don’t get caught up in the details of the plan, insisting on doing exactly what it says and nothing else. That lack of predictability I mentioned means that career planning requires flexibility. “Instead of envisioning the perfect job and planning out the perfect path to get there, begin with a direction, based on a real desire, and complement that with a strategy to discover and create opportunities consistent with what you want you want to do,” advised Forbes contributor Paul B. Brown. Focus on the outcome and realize there are many paths to get there.  When things veer off course, don’t panic. Good career planning involves having back up plans, the flexibility to improvise when things change, and the realization that it’s just a plan, not a contract.

Not know yourself – The best way to find out what you are good at and most interested in is by experience – trying, failing, and succeeding. It is through these experiences that we may discover that the things we thought we liked, because someone told us to do it or because we were good at it or because it was the only thing we had done before, are not actually the things that we are passionate about. Creating a meaningful career plan takes deep self assessment. Skill and interest are not the same thing, and both need to be considered. But if you aren’t sure of where your career path is headed, start by just being willing to try new things.

Limit your development to on the job – Once you do determine the direction you are headed, you will want to start building your skills and expanding your experiences. However, it is a mistake to think the only place to do that is at work. In our interconnected and mobile world, you have access to many, enriching opportunities outside the office. Whether you decide to join a professional association, participate in a regular tweetchat, or take classes online, you will benefit both your career and personal development in ways you couldn’t do only on the job.

It’s not fun to admit, but we don’t know everything. We don’t know where we will be in five years or what we will be doing. That doesn’t mean that creating a career plan is pointless. Instead focus on broadening your plan, taking it step by step, and allowing room for personal growth. It’s ok if your path leads somewhere unexpected; those are often the best experiences.

For Sale: Me! How to market yourself at work

Most of us get a bit shy when asked to talk about ourselves. Even completing year-end reviews can make us feel like we’re gloating. But in today’s world of “personal branding,” progressing your career, no matter what your profession, requires marketing yourself.

Become a go-to person: The first step is to be someone worth bragging about.

  • Start by assessing your personal strengths and weaknesses. What are your skills and interests, and how do they relay into your job? Do you find there is something you are better at or know more about than most of your coworkers? How can it help them to do their jobs better?
  • Once you discover your niche, become an expert. Build up your expertise both at and beyond work. It is great to take advantage of training available on the job, but taking it a step further to learn through associations, reading, communities of practice, and other opportunities outside work not only shows your dedication to your practice, but is really where true expertise is formed.
  • Offer to help. You are an expert; you have an informed opinion, share it… that’s why people have you sitting at the table. There will be two types of opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge: The first, more obvious opportunity is when someone seeks out your help for work related to your expertise. The second is less obvious and requires you to proactively identify opportunities where your expertise could be of use. And don’t let that hard work go to waste, keep a log of what you’ve accomplished, evidence of your work, and emails where you’ve received thanks and praise.

A little gloating goes a long way

  • If you did something great, let it be known… at the appropriate time. A year-end review or a promotion conversation is no time to be shy. Prepare a list of your accomplishments and be ready to answer the question, “Why should you be promoted?” Much like on a resume, your accomplishments should be tangible and meaningful to the audience. For example, “I developed a new process, which contributed to our team spending 20% less time working on administrative paperwork and instead dedicated that time to our clients who reported increased satisfaction.”
  • Too much is too much. There is an appropriate time for boasting, but otherwise humility is something everyone will appreciate. Take the time to compliment others on their hard work. Give credit where credit is due, and focus on doing great work that others can see instead of hear about.

Be visible: No matter how great you are or what amazing things you can do, it doesn’t matter if no one knows you.

  • Take time to get to know your leaders and for them to get to know you. Put 15 minutes on their calendars to tell them about your background and to learn from their experiences.
  • Expand your network beyond your immediate department. It’s nice to build deep relationships with your closest coworkers, but often opportunities will exist beyond your department. If you have the chance to work on a side-project or have lunch with someone new, take it. Don’t forget to drop them a note from time to time too. This is something I have to continue to remind myself to do, but is valuable for maintaining your network.

If you’ve found something you are great at that is helpful to others, there is a good chance people will take notice. Unfortunately, they’re not always the right people or enough people, especially if you work for a large organization where someone other than your immediate boss has a say in your progression. While it may seem unnatural, some “strategic self-promotion,” as Eric Rudolf referred to it, is critical. So take a moment to assess yourself and be prepared to brag a bit when the time is right.

Career Development is Not About Promotions

Often leaders wrongly think promotions and career development are the same thing. However, career development is about much more than climbing the “corporate ladder.” Career development is about knowing as much about your employees as they do about themselves. It is about developing a person as a professional, helping them to achieve their career goals at all levels, and retaining them within the organization by providing opportunities to do work that matters to them.

Psychologists and career experts, Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, referred to career development as “job sculpting.” Job sculpting, they said, “is the art of matching people to jobs that allow their deeply embedded life interests to be expressed. It is the art of forging a customized career path in order to increase the chance of retaining talented people.” They warned it isn’t easy; it requires a manager to know more than just what skills an individual excels at, but aligning a person’s work to their interests is critical to job satisfaction and retention.

So what should managers do to properly develop their employees’ careers? Start by getting to know your employee beyond their day to day tasks.

  • Ask key questions, such as: What are your goals? What are your interests? What drives and excites you? What has been your favorite task to work on?
  • Observe: Take note of which types of activities seem to energize them, those that they seem most passionate and interested in versus which activities they seem to do just to get done or even seem to make them unhappy.
  • In order to get the most out of your observations, you need to give them opportunities to take on new types of tasks and projects. Test them in different positions with different challenges. Often younger employees, in particular, need these opportunities to learn about what really interests them.
  • Develop an individualized plan for growing their career. Plans should include future position options and the training needed to excel in those positions. Don’t just move the employee into the next available position. Think about the types of positions that would best align with their interests and then determine the skills they need to develop for those.
  • Realize that the best place for your employee might not be with you. The important part is to keep top talent in your organization, not necessarily in a particular department. If you recognize you have a strong performer, but it’s not possible to line up their goals and interests with the positions within your department, help them to find other opportunities elsewhere in the organization.

Promoting an employee should not be the goal of career development – it should be a result of it. Instead focus your career development efforts on getting to know your employees and what makes them tick. While not as simple as just determining what they are good at, true career development will allow you to retain top performers and will mutually benefit both your organization and the employee.

Friday Fast Tip: Be Visible

In order to get ahead in your career, you have to be visible to your leaders. Take a moment to introduce yourself to leaders who don’t know you yet (unless you’ve talked, it’s best to assume they don’t know you) and even set up 15 minutes on their calendars to talk about yourself and your career goals. And if in the course of conversation, you can find a way to help them do their jobs, even better!