Managing Career Life Cycle

For most employees your career has a life cycle of its own that needs to be proactively managed to ensure that you are growing and developing throughout your career to meet your changing priorities.

Honeymoon Stage

Whether it is your first job right out of college or a new job later in your career, there is typically a honeymoon stage.  You are excited about the job and they are excited to have you but then reality sets in.  You need to learn new skills and responsibilities.  You must also build relationships with team members and other key stakeholders.  Even if you have accepted a new senior level position, you need to learn how things are done at the new company and build your relationships.  In this stage you are typically doing a lot more listening than speaking as you seek to learn and understand.

Blissful Stability Stage

In most instances, the new employee or person in the new job settles in.  They learn how things work and they begin making contributions to the organization.  They receive feedback, participate in training, take on new projects, etc. as they continue to learn and grow in the job.  It is important to keep track of key accomplishments along the way for future reference.  Relationships grow stronger during this period and responsibilities and knowledge tend to grow.  Often in this stage employees are offered opportunities to take on additional projects internally which may lead to other internal opportunities.

Complacency Stage

Some employees hit a complacency stage.  The job is no longer challenging, they are not learning new things however looking for a new job either within the company or externally is a lot of work.  Rather than stepping up the networking and updating the resume to begin a job search, they hunker in to “tough it out.”  Unfortunately they tend to become jaded about the job and the company but are not doing anything to change the situation.

Time for a Change

If it is time for a change either internally or externally, the employee must prepare for that journey.  First honestly assess why it is time for a change and what is important to you in the new role.  Is it more responsibility or maybe less?  Is it the opportunity to learn new skills or a new industry?  Honestly assess your skills and interests to build a plan.  Conduct information interviews with people doing the types of jobs you think you want to hear their perspective.  Identify the skills required.  If you decide to move forward, update your resume and have someone review it for you.  Build a target list of companies and use that to strategically guide your networking to support your search.  Of course, if you are successful you start back at the honeymoon stage.

Does Longevity Still Matter?

I visit many companies in the course of my work and I am often surprised to find people who have been with their employers twenty years or more.  While that is no longer the norm it has certainly not disappeared.  Many people grow and change within their current organizations for extended periods of time.  On the other hand, particularly younger employees tend to move frequently.  Often the lure of more money, better benefits, an exciting new role are all reasons to motivate a quick change.

While a series of jobs on the resume is not the automatic red flag it used to be in the job search, hiring managers are still nervous if they see a candidate who can’t stay more than 18 months in the same company.  Taking on new positions within the company is seen as a positive but jumping too often and too soon can raise concerns.  For candidates with multiple jobs be sure you can tell a story of why you made each change and what you gained in experience from each successive job.

To have a successful career you need to be continually managing your career looking at what you are learning, what skills you are developing and what brings you satisfaction at work.  Your career can be successfully managed through the stages.

 

 

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Standing Out in the Best Way Possible

Employees want to be noticed by management.  They want meaningful work, significant high visibility projects and access to senior management from day one.   In most organizations, they have to earn the trust of their managers first.  As trust builds, so do the opportunities available.  There are various ways to build trust in the workplace and to ensure that you are noticed for the right reasons:

  • Delivering Results – With each assignment, strive to do what is asked and more. Think about how you can add more value.  What are logical next steps, what additional questions does this raise, what other data would be helpful?  Meet or beat deadlines and if there is an issue let someone know in advance not at the last minute.  Managers typically don’t like surprises.  Provide accurate work in a timely manner and more projects will likely flow your way.
  • Interactions with Others – How you treat other people goes a long way in building trust and earning positive attention. Show respect.  Treat everyone well – administrative staff, receptionists, custodians, etc.  Be a good listener.  Empathize.  Do not act entitled, that turns people off.
  • Ask Questions – Ask questions when you don’t know, don’t assume that you know what is needed. Ask once, take notes and don’t ask the same question again.  Knowing when to ask questions is strength not a weakness.  Demonstrate that you are constantly learning.  Be willing to show others how to do something in Excel that may be new to them or offer a tip on project tracking.  While you are still in learning mode, don’t forget that there are opportunities to share your skills and experience with others for the benefit of the team.
  • Offer Your Services – If there is a major team deadline, ask how you can help. Sometimes an extra pair of hands can make a difference and you have demonstrated your willingness to help.  It is important to be seen as part of the team.  If you have unique skills, offer to put them to use in the project at hand.  Maybe you can do something unique in Excel or PowerPoint that will make a difference.
  • Volunteer – If there is a new project that interests you, volunteer to be part of the team. Help your manager understand the skills you want to enhance and proactively work to identify opportunities to hone those skills.

Earn bigger projects and more visibility by delivering results and being a team player people want to work with you on their projects.  As you earn their respect the demand for your services will increase.  Be the person everyone wants on their team.

Accepting a Job Offer

Finally, after all the interviews, thank you notes, reference checks and more, you received an offer.  Congratulations.  Now, convince the hiring manager that they made the best decision by how you accept the job.

Say Thank You

Thank them for the time they committed to the process and let them know how much you enjoyed learning more about the role and meeting the various team members.  They have committed significant time to identifying the best fit, let them know that their process helped you as well.

Demonstrate Enthusiasm

Be sure to clearly articulate your enthusiasm for the company and the role.  Tell them what excites you most about the company and this opportunity.  Share the key factors in your decision to accept the position.  While they were searching for the right fit, so were you so let them know you feel that you found that right next step as well.

Engage Early

Show them that you really are excited by asking what you can be reading or reviewing in advance of your start date to help prepare you to hit the ground running.  If they have something, it will only help you and if they don’t at least you offered.  This shows that you are truly interested and excited.

Demonstrate Professional Courtesy

Once you have finally made the decision, it is only natural that you are anxious to get started.  Resist the urge and give your current employer a professional notice and use your final days to document your work and train others to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.  If you disrespect your current employer, that send a negative message to your new employer as well.

Be sure to update your Linked In profile with your new position so your contacts will know where to find you.  Remember to do a lot of listening as you start your new role to help ensure your success.

Interview Tips – Addressing Mistakes

You are in the midst of an interview and you think it is going well when the interviewer asks you to talk about a mistake you’ve made and how you handled it.  Your instinct is to avoid talking about mistakes and to focus exclusively on the positive.  But let’s face it, we are human so we’ve all made mistakes.  If you are prepared to discuss a mistake it can work to your advantage in an interview.

Acknowledging a mistake is important to demonstrate your self-awareness and growth.  We all make mistakes but it is in how we handle them that we differentiate ourselves.

Own It

Briefly describe the situation and what you did wrong.  It is not necessary to go into significant detail but provide enough of an overview to put the error in context.  Take responsibility for your error.  Don’t blame others.

What Did You Do?

You then want to focus on what you did when you realized the error.  Did you notify someone?  Did you take responsibility?  Did you address the issue?  What was the eventual outcome?

What Did You Learn?

The most critical aspect of your response is what you learned from the experience.  Were you able to add a new review step to avoid doing something similar again?  Did you identify a way to verify the input or confirm the information to be sure you were working with the right data?  Did you identify a weakness in how you work that you’ve had to overcome in some way?  If you can demonstrate that you learned something and it has impacted your behavior going forward, then you have turned the mistake into a positive.

Similar to a behavioral interview question where you want to respond using the STAR method – Situation/Task, Action and Result you want to be sure to explain the situation, define your actions and focus on your results and learning.  Managers want employees who can recognize their mistakes and learn from them.

The Job Search Journey

Don’t let anyone tell you that the process of searching for and landing a job is easy.  In spite of technological advances, it is still a journey and those job seekers with a plan and flawless tools have a greater likelihood of success.

Hiring managers have a deep pool of candidates for most positions so they are seeking the best fit for both skills and personality and they can afford to be selective.  Candidates need to “wow” the employers in the interview to stand out from the crowded field of candidates.

Often hiring managers have so many online applications that they dread digging through the pile of resumes.  If they have networking connections or referrals from colleagues they are more likely to start with the short pile.  The savvy job seeker builds a strong network to ensure that they are in the short pile for review by hiring managers.

What makes a candidate pop for the hiring managers?

  • Preparation – They expect that every candidate will have reviewed their website.  The candidates who stand out have gone further, reviewed the website in detail, read about the company in WSJ and other periodicals, researched the industry trends and issues and identified and done preliminary research on the competition.  How does this show in the interview?  These candidates ask very insightful questions of their interviewers and ask specific follow-up questions.  They are also able to tailor their responses to what is most important to the company.
  • Have examples that demonstrate your strengths – when answering behavioral questions, be sure you have examples to share that clearly demonstrate your strengths and show how you go above and beyond.  For example if you were an analyst they expect that you can “crunch” lots of data and prepare a summary.  What wows them is if you have an example where you did the data analysis, identified some key trends, did further research on those trends, identify an issue and solved the problem or made key recommendations about next steps.  Can you effectively use the data to support decision making?
  • Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm – Sounds obvious but it is often overlooked.  Be engaged and attentive throughout the interview.  Ask insightful questions.  Take a few notes.  Refer to notes if needed.  Let the employer know you are excited about the opportunity and why.  Let them know the value you bring to their organization and how you meet their needs.
  • Solve Their Problems and Ease Their Pain – Yes in an interview you are selling yourself but if that is all you do you likely won’t land the job.  The hiring manager had a business problem to solve or pain to relieve.  Show them how you can add value by solving the problem or relieving the pain.  Focus on what you can do for them.
  • Be Interested and Interesting – Show interest in the interviewer, take cues from what’s in their office to zero in on an interest or hobby.  Show that you care about them as a person.  Be prepared to reveal a bit about your interests if asked as well.  Be someone they would want to work with on a daily basis.  If the interviewer starts wishing the interview was over, you are not going to get the job.  Be personable but also be genuine.

Increase your success in the job search journey by ensuring that you wow the hiring managers in the process.

 

Turning Down a Job Offer

After a series of interviews, the good news is that you received the job offer.  The bad news is that you are not sure you want to take it.  How should a job seeker handle this?  Is this career suicide?

It doesn’t have to be.  If handled correctly this could be a very positive opportunity to move your career forward in the desired direction.

Clearly you sold yourself well during the interview process.  The hiring manager is able to visualize you in the role and sees the value of your experience and skills.  Thank them for the vote of confidence by making the offer.  But, the interview process is an opportunity for you to assess fit while they are doing the same.  If you don’t come to the conclusion that this is the right next step for you, listen to your gut and analyze your reactions.

While you may be flattered by the offer and it may include a salary increase or a new title, those alone are not reasons to accept.  Is this the type of work you want to do every day?  Do you feel comfortable working with this group of people every day?  Do you believe in the mission of the organization?  Is there an opportunity to learn something new and develop new skills in this position?  Is the position enough of a challenge to keep you motivated?  Does the opportunity enable you to play to your strengths?  Is this a logical next step given your longer term career goals?  Be honest with yourself and fully evaluation the opportunity.

If you conclude that you are not interested in the position for any of these reasons or more, be honest with yourself.  Maybe it is your dream job but the demands of the job are too much to take on right now due to a new baby at home, a move, a degree to finish, or other personal issues.  If you do not feel qualified or feel it is a not a good fit, acknowledge that to yourself.

Once you have determined logically not emotionally that this is not the best next step for you, it is important to notify the hiring manager or HR immediately.  Thank them for their offer and their confidence in you.  You do not have to share all the details of your decision but give them a valid reason for your declining the offer.  You learned a lot in the process and just don’t feel this is the best step for you at this time.  If you know a qualified candidate, offer a recommendation.  Handle all your interactions professionally and with respect.   The business world is small these days and you don’t want to burn any bridges for the future.

Once the decision is made, let it go.  Don’t keep analyzing the situation and playing what if.  You made the best decision at the time so move forward focused on your career goals and your future success.