Friday Fast Tip: Be Empowered

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker

No matter where you are in your career, no matter what your title may be, everyone has the power to make changes, to suggest improvements, or to do something significant for their organization. Most often the issue is not if you have the power, but whether or not you are willing to use it. Don’t be afraid to have a voice, to have an opinion, and to bring your expertise to the table. However, don’t forget to spend just as much or more time learning and listening still.

How to love your job

Work is work and so it’s not always fun, but it’s how we spend the majority of our day and can greatly impact our overall mentality. Not to mention, how you feel about work impacts your productivity too. That’s why it’s important to love your job, to feel good about going to work, not necessarily every day, but in general. So how do you do that?

Maintain a hopeful outlook

As I said, work can be hard. Organizations go through changes, people come and go, and our individual work can ebb and flow. Sometimes it’s easy to become negative about the future, especially when others around you are expressing their discontent. While it’s important to be realistic, it also doesn’t get you very far to be pessimistic, so focus on the things you can control, the things that are working, and stay hopeful that the challenges  you are currently facing will pass. Uncertainty can be scary, but most things in life are temporary, so take it in stride and you may be surprised to find that the outcome is better than before.

Create solutions not complaints

Sometimes issues will arise that can inhibit your ability to work effectively or may impact your job satisfaction in other ways. Don’t let these issues be a reason to give up and check out. Instead, think of potential solutions. Remember that if you’re spending your time complaining about the problem, you are only contributing to making the problem worse. Nothing is perfect and that’s ok, because each of us can be part of making our situation better. By focusing on solutions, not only will you have the opportunity to resolve the problem, but just taking the initiative can boost your engagement and commitment to your work.

Help others

We all have unique experiences and skills, which we can leverage to help others. Not only does helping others make us feel good (not to mention the professional benefits of being a team player), but it also shows us our own value. Through the process of helping others you learn more about yourself and gain a sense of purpose. “Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and into work without groaning and grumbling — something that you just can’t fake,” wrote Janet Choi in her article, The Motivation Trifecta.

Do more than your day to day job

If what you do day in and day out excites you, that’s great. But if you feel like you wish you could do something else, something more, well than you can… and you should. Even better, you don’t have to switch jobs to do it. Don’t feel restricted by your job description.  Ask how you can help a coworker on a project, get involved with an internal effort, become an intrapreneur. If there is something within your organization that intrigues you, get involved.

Go outside your comfort zone

Change is hard, and often we prefer the safety of where we are now. But the flipside of change is stagnation, and as we stagnate we grow bored, less productive, and dissatisfied. Change may mean trying something new, something you’re unfamiliar with, or not an expert at. It may mean going from being the most experienced person to the least, but it is absolutely worth it. The only real way to grow is to get a bit uncomfortable. As professionals, we should seek to grow constantly. Admit it, we’re most excited at work when we’re learning, trying, and mastering new things, so step out of your comfort zone and take on something new.

From a personal perspective – some days are very difficult to have fun and love work. However, the positive attitude with which you approach any situation does impact your well being and those around you. I try and look at things not from a day-to-day perspective, but from an overall perspective and recognize that things will turn better. It is each of our responsibilities to make the environment in which we work a good working environment and to create ‘fun’ and joy with our activities.

Friday Fast Tip: You’re never 100% ready

Through the course of your career, many new things will come your way – new projects, new goals, new roles. Sometimes we may shy away from new things, because we don’t feel we are fully prepared to take them on. We may doubt whether we are really ready, so we pass on the opportunity. Well here’s a secret, you’re never going to be 100% ready for anything worthwhile. So take on those new things, learn as you go, and when you’ve mastered that, move on to the next.

How to excel as a new college grad in your first career

I spent a day last week talking to recent college grads readying to launch their careers.  Among the things we talked about was how do you do well in your fist job.  There are a few things that everyone, regardless of experience level, can do to excel.

Get involved in as much as you can – learn the business

Completing your regular job tasks is critical, and it’s important to not take on so much that you are unable to do that. But if you do have the capacity, taking on additional projects is a great way to grow professionally, learn parts of the business you may not be in, get to know others, and really help out your management team. When your manager asks for help – think of each ask as an opportunity for you professionally.

Take Initiative

We all know that when we finish one task, we should ask our manager what more we can do. However, you don’t always have to wait for direction. The best employees take the initiative to add value beyond their day to day work. Whether that’s thinking of ways to improve work processes, creating new ideas to serve clients, solving a problem that has yet to be addressed, or developing your skills there are plenty of ways to add value without waiting for your boss to tell you what to do.

Admit to problems early

No one likes problems, but problems are inevitable. The important thing is to not think that you can avoid them, but to be prepared to deal with them as they arise. The worst thing you can do is hide a problem that may impact your team. Instead, meet with your manager as early as possible, tell them about the issue that has developed, and provide details on how you’re working to quickly resolve the issue. If you aren’t sure of the best way to resolve the problem, ask for help. Asking for help is always better than risking making the problem worse.

Do your best and stay positive

When we start our careers, it’s not uncommon to be doing something that we don’t love or aren’t yet experienced at. The first part of our careers is about developing our skills and finding our interests. It’s also the time when our colleagues and managers learn how we work. So no matter what you are doing, whether you love it or not, do your best and show your manager that you can be counted on to take on bigger tasks.

Equally as important, is keeping a good attitude. Let’s face it, work can be hard work. It can be stressful and chaotic and having someone around who takes changes and challenges in stride can make a big difference. You can always teach an employee a new skill, but you can’t teach character.

You don’t have to be an expert to make a positive impact.  Managers appreciate employees who take on additional tasks, add value to projects, keep problems from getting bigger, and do their best while staying positive. The key is to be a positive contributor, add value, and expand your capabilities in the process.

Guest Post: Leveraging Change Into Career Success

One thing is for certain, everyone experiences change. Change, whether anticipated or not, can be difficult.  It elicits feelings of excitement, fear, stress and/or happiness.   In today’s world, change disrupts the flow of what has been, evolving current situations or making them irrelevant.  Those who have thought themselves invincible now must confront vulnerability.  Whether broken and bruised or strengthened and motivated, they can continue on their path, look for another way, or quit.

Many IBM executives can attest to the frequently changing nature of the consulting world and how those opportunities (whether favorable or not) were leveraged to accelerate their career path.

In his 14 year consulting career, Srini Attili, a Partner in the US Federal Healthcare Team, experienced a lot of changes as he navigated his career path from a Junior Programmer to an IT specialist to an IT architect to a Client Partner and Capture role.   Many of Srini’s career changing moments actually resulted from people believing in him.  His credentials and reputation caused people to seek him out for new opportunities, which gave him a chance to prove he could be successful in new territories. In a microwave generation, many find it difficult to be patient and take the time to understand business needs and goals, often shying away from the unfamiliar, but it was the unfamiliar that allowed Srini to grow in the depth and breadth of his knowledge base.

“Instant gratification is good for all, but sometimes you have to be patient, step back and look at it from the perspective of the people who are accountable for the overall delivery and see what impacts them.”

– Srini Attili

Application Innovation Services Leader, Andrew Fairbanks, is no stranger to change either.  In the late 90s, Andrew was thriving in his career and enjoying working on a series of short strategic engagements with a variety of higher education clients.  After winning a $500 million proposal to design, build, and operate an online university, Andrew was approached to be a part of the delivery team.  Making the transition from short term engagements to working on a large complex delivery for a sustained period of time would grow to be something that Andrew enjoyed.  Moving past the initial impulse of fear and being open to the risks that come with new engagements would open up a number of opportunities for Andrew that enabled him to move through the ranks from a Program Manager to a Program Executive to a Senior Program Executive.

“When your leadership comes to you and ask you to do something, be willing to take the gamble.  They are usually doing it for a reason, because they think it’s in the best interest of your career and it’s what the business really needs of you.”

– Andrew Fairbanks

Many career changing moments find us in a place where we experience new people, subjects, or clients.  Speaking with Lori Feller, IBM Interactive Experience and Mobile / Social Business Leader, it was clear that the theme of collaboration repeated throughout her career experiences.  A support system is needed to help endure changes, whether planned or unexpected, and being able to identify those resources is critical to managing transitions in one’s career.

“I really couldn’t do it without the support of my mentors, my peers, and the people that I work with everyday.”

-Lori Feller

There will be many defining moments in someone’s career that can either propel or hinder their success.  One of the most common ways to deal with change is to adjust your thinking.  Approach change as a process – reframe how you think about change and be flexible.  Every successful person has encountered unplanned changes at some point in their career.  Their success comes from how they dealt with it.

Whenever you encounter change in the workplace:

  1. Recognize that change does happen
  2. Be aware of your surroundings and subtle clues that change is coming
  3. Recognize the stages
  4. Communicate with others
  5. Do a self assessment
  6. Be flexible
  7. Continue to do your work
  8. Be positive in actions and attitude
  9. Maintain your network
  10. See the big picture

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

Gail Sheehy, Author

 This post was written by: Jelece Morris, Consultant for IBM.

Don’t Skip These Work Events

Sometimes the last thing you want to do after a long day is spend more time with coworkers. Your idea of going to an “after work event” involves your couch and definitely not a suit. But our current environment makes it all too easy to get disconnected from our peers. Whether we telecommute, work in decentralized locations, or are just incredibly busy, we often go far too long without face to face interactions. So while it’s more than acceptable to miss a few of those events, make an effort to not miss them all.

The internet will never replace in-person

There is something to be said about getting together face to face. There is something there that can never be replicated by social media no matter how many tweets we post or photos we add to Instagram. This is not to denounce social media or the value of it (this is a blog after all), but it is to say we must realize that social media and virtual realities can’t reproduce the connections and interactions that are forged when we get together in person. In my casual surveys of our ‘virtual’ consultants on how best to engage, given most are millennials, I often expect a podcast or twitter session.  However, the most common answer is an in-person get together.

Out of sight, out of mind

As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” Often we work from necessity: “This needs to be done now, who here can help?” But opportunities arise for those who realize it’s not just about the right timing, but the right place too. I frequently tell our consultants who are waiting for their next project to come to the office. When we host brown bag lunches or celebration dinners, I always encourage employees to attend in person and introduce themselves to someone they’ve never met. I tell them this, not because they can’t do their work from home or to make them uncomfortable, but because, more often than not, their potential next Project Manager or the person who will help them solve their latest problem is there too. That simple act of seeing someone and shaking their hand puts them at the front of our mind in a way that no email or resume can – no matter how amazing it is.

People make it all worthwhile

It’s easy to make work all about work and it’s just as easy to get burnt out from doing so. Ask anyone who stays with their organization why they do it and nine out of ten times the answer will be, “the people.” When we spend time with our coworkers, we commiserate over challenges, we collaborate on solutions, and we connect over a shared purpose. Camaraderie is not something that can be manufactured; it’s built through the moments we share. We develop relationships with people through our time spent together, over lunches and at conferences and potluck dinners, not through teleconferences and LinkedIn. It is those relationships that bond us to our organizations and lead us to stay day after day.

So go to that work event, the brown bag lunch, the town hall. Don’t miss those in-person interactions that have become all too rare today and yet that we often pass off as just another thing to do. Whether you are looking for your next opportunity or just need a reminder of what it means to be a team, there is no real substitute for getting together, putting the technology down, and talking face to face. It was a New Year’s resolution for me to do just the same. I, too, am working to go to more events outside of my normal network. Sometimes it’s tiring, not being home at night during the week, but the importance of connecting, networking, and just having casual connections is an important part of our self, our career and our ability to grow.

Friday Fast Tip: Slow, Don’t Stop

Over the course of our professional lives, there will be times when we wish to slow down – perhaps when we are raising a family, for example. Often, we are inclined to believe that we must completely stop what we are doing to do this, but when we are ready to accelerate our careers again, it can be daunting. Instead of stopping, find ways to slow down. Work with your manager to set a more flexible schedule that meets your needs, and then when you are ready to hit the gas, you won’t be starting all over again.