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Change one habit. Surprise yourself. Think like a winner. Sound familiar? Quick hit advice seldom leads to lasting change (for that matter we might as well throw in the old standby ‘Lose ten pounds and don’t forget to exercise!’) Lasting change begins by first changing your state of mind so you can express new thoughts in new behaviours.
Here are three key ‘coaching-lite’ questions you can use to chip away at calcified thought patterns and open up a new mindset for taking positive action. It’s best to run your concerns through these diagnostic questions when you are emotionally level. Avoid diving in when emotionally overwhelmed or caught up in the drama of the moment.
3 Questions You’ll Be Glad You Asked
1. What else could it be?
When you’ve figured out the situation to the best of your ability take one step back (yes back, not forward). Return to the drawing board and ask yourself for one more idea about what might be going on.
Benefit to you – Deeper thinking can lead to insights you may not have considered before.
2. Where’s the challenge in this?
Look beyond the initial knee-jerk ‘no’ response. No – I can’t do that. No – that’s asking too much. Ask a positive question instead – ‘How could I stretch myself to achieve what looks initially implausible? What could I do differently to achieve a new result?’
Benefit to you – Proof that your abilities are solid and you have a reservoir of untapped strengths. (If the result is work-related you’ll also have a new achievement for your resume!)
3. Where’s the opportunity in this?
Looking beyond the immediate situation – either good or bad – and ask yourself ‘What else might it hold? (A chance to build your reputation or develop a key relationship?) There may be several ways you could play out an impending scenario that could lead to something bigger and better than you originally imagined.
Benefit to you – More motivation to think and act strategically by taking a closer look at the big picture before taking action.
Once you’ve experienced how quickly these three questions can rewire your thinking and open doorways to affirmative action, you’ll want to expand how you use them. Try them out with your kids when they are working through a first time problem and walk them through their thoughts on a solution. Select a single one when working with a peer or direct report and see how it changes the tone of your conversation. And of course, use them regularly in coaching yourself to great success and satisfaction in your personal and professional life.
Asking coaching questions – it’s a habit worth building.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on May 8, 2013
Some days you like your job and some days it’s the last place you want to be. The pros and cons vary from boss to boss, project to project even day -to-day. The complexities of the status quo can motivate you to stay in jobs, or leave companies – even change careers entirely.
The challenge is – how to you weight the factors in a rational way to give yourself a sustainable degree of overall fulfillment? As an example, are you over emphasizing the drain of a long commute and minimizing the charge the client-facing work generates for you? For some the daily commute is a prime factor. For others it’s a much needed time to transition from work to home reinforced by using an alternative route that may take longer but offers more breathing space.
As your career matures – and you do as well –you may no longer be willing to make the kind of tradeoffs you once did. It may be time to set new boundaries and priorities.
Finding your Career SmartPoint can be a fragile process. You want to preserve what’s working, but still make some fundamental changes. This can include reducing your work week, working from home, rededicating yourself to a second career certification, degree or small business endeavor. It can mean stepping off the management ladder and reporting to a new (and younger boss) as a front-line specialist and leaving the senior-level cares behind. Try negotiating with your management team to recraft your current job over time in order to get more of what you want, and less of what you don’t want. Or would a smaller firm where you can be more versatile put the challenge back into your day? A start-up? A not-for-profit?
It’s perfectly valid to consider non-work priorities too. Imagine taking your foot off the gas pedal by working 4 days a week. Think about freeing up time for children and parents, volunteer work, self-development, overlooked interests and pursuits. Time for yourself!
These kinds of decisions come through careful planning taking into account finances, family needs and long term goals, but they can be done. Self-assessment, psychometric testing, strategic planning, professional advice and in-depth conversations with peers and mentors can all be helpful in putting the puzzle together.
Finding tradeoffs in your workstyle means creating a Career SmartPoint that reflects who you are now and who you plan to become.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on March 27, 2013
So where are you on the scale of ‘should I stay or should I go in your current job?’ It’s good to check in periodically to measure the health of your career. Your level of satisfaction and fulfillment in the work you do are also key indicators in your quality of life. While short term compromise is possible and even preferable for the right reasons, long term delays in finding the right fit can do you and your talent a disservice.
Why It Might Be Time to For You to Move On
- You’ve had a ‘critical incident’ at work. Perhaps you got passed over for promotion again. You are not on that key account. The work you’ve always done is getting passed over to the new hire. You’re not in the loop on the big project. There’s a growing sense that enough is enough. It’s time to go.
- You finally realize that your company is not a top compensator and your salary is stuck where it is as long as you stay. You might have a sense that performance reviews are kept low as a salary cap measure. Perhaps your bonus was disappointing again. If there is no salary acknowledgment of advanced skills and or a new designation you might move ahead somewhere else.
- You’ve been offered the option of a severance package with a stay or go scenario. If so, check out your options carefully, they vary from company to company. You could looking at anything from an extended working notice period, a lateral or lesser position, a salary continuance or lump sum payment.
- You’ve been ‘dehired’. The severance package arrives in a meeting with HR and your boss. Sometimes it’s a complete surprise or perhaps you had a hunch, either way you are in job search mode now.
- You’ve received a call from a recruiter asking if you know of anyone interested in a job posting they’ve sent you. You realize that it’s a great opportunity, so you start interviewing to see if there’s a fit. It’s not so much that you initiate a search, but that a search is initiated for you.
- You surf Linked In, keep an eye on indeed.ca and one week, there are a few job postings that combine to say “the time is right” – let’s get started and get serious about this. Works even better if you hear from an old colleague there’s a great job open at their firm.
- Your spouse or partner, your friends or family – their careers are moving on, there’s some subtle peer pressure to keep up and lots of ready advice on how to work the job search. Best if combined you’re your own motivation.
If you come to the ultimate realization that no matter how much you’d like things to be different at work, it’s likely to be more of the same it may be time to face reality. Then, If you do want to make change happen in your career, it’s up to you to take control of your future.
What would it take to increase your career health in 2013?
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on January 19, 2013
There are lots of reasons people stay in the jobs they have – even if the work is more mundane than they might like. At times these career sticking points can be a good thing. They promote stability, prevent job-hopping and directionless resumes. On the other hand, a heads-down approach in the workplace can prevent you from seeing things as they really are or considering the kind of bold moves that can add depth and flexibility to your career path.
What People Say About Why They Stay
- It’s my comfort zone! I know the people, my routine, and what’s expected of me. I can walk through the day fairly certain I can handle what comes up. It’s easier to stay.
- I’ve been here so long I don’t know what else I could possibly do. I’m such a specialist I’m not even sure how I’d fit in a new organization.
- I have no idea how to look for a new job. Where would I start? I certainly can’t take a chance that my current employer would find out. It could hurt my chances of staying here.
- As much as I might want to go, I’m handling overtime, family, parents, outside commitments and when I do get home, I’m exhausted. I have no energy to organize a search and getting off work for an interview, really!!
- I’m not sure the grass is really is greener somewhere else. I’d need to make it worthwhile – a better commute, a salary increase, and a new title would be great. I’d like more customer contact and a new industry too would really be invigorating. How would I find all that?
And the number one reason people stay in their current job is ….loyalty to the people they work with – that’s it – their sense of personal and professional connection to their co-workers, and even their boss. If they feel they are an appreciated, valued and respected member of their ‘work family’ they will weather some storms to stay.
More on why people finally decide to move on….in the next blog posting!
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on January 7, 2013
Our instincts are surprisingly accurate when it comes first impressions. It’s that deep ‘friend or foe’ hardwiring we have now operating on high alert in this era of high speed. While we used to say it took 5 minutes to form an impression, executives say they can do it in 30 seconds (flashes of – professional integrity, well spoken, confident & intelligent).
For HR specialists who interview constantly it would be curious if they didn’t form quick impressions (sense of – gets to the point easily, builds rapport with people, organized & precise). We gather up fast bits of information, verbal and non, and we then test out our assumptions over the next few minutes. While our first impression is still malleable and will add new data (technically sound, sense of humour, problem solver) generally it magnifies what it has already glimpsed.
So here are some ideas for you to boost your own first impression -
- Get your professional image lined up (clothes, shoes, haircut – hair is what most people remember)
- Tasteful is the watch word (for women jewellery, makeup, colours, fashion trends, purses)
- Grooming is critical (it counts even more than you already think)
- Slow down the clock. Pause and make a mental note that this matters and focus on the introduction.
- Be positive, genuine and look ‘em in the eye (long enough to notice their eye colour)
- Get the handshake right (extend your arm and return the grip style and pressure)
- Repeat their name plus a comment (Gerry, Good to see you here.)
- Make a positive statement (We’ve got lots to discuss today, I know.)
- Have 3 pieces of positive small talk at the ready –a local event, news item, recent trip
- Share a smile (the best non-verbal communication) & add a point of agreement early in the exchange
- Pause and listen to what they are saying with 100% attention, adding a nod if you like
- Respond to their comments clearly and briefly (so the interaction rolls on)
- Pay them or their company/staff/product/service a compliment (only if it is sincere and truthful)
- Make a direct reference to why you are there (the opportunity, the speaker, the meeting, the event)
- Ask a short question about them (What brings you here today? What kind of work do you do? )
The next time you’re in a group setting, take a bird’s eye perspective and watch objectively to see how people engage with others to set up that positive impression – or perhaps how they don’t. You may be surprised at what you notice.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on November 8, 2012
When clients touch base these days it’s sometimes about the launch of their daughter or son’s career, rather than the priorities of their own. It seems the torch is being passed from the obstacles of the workplace to the obstacle of getting started in the workplace.
New graduates are certainly frustrated with hiring roadblocks resulting from pressures such as -
- Reduced numbers of entry level jobs overall
- Hard core screening processes
- Unrelated, part-time service jobs predominating applicant resumes
- Requirements for industry specific experience
- Higher workload distribution so fewer new hires needed
- Lack of orientation and training to succeed in new jobs
- Increased expectations of new hires to hit the ground running
- Boomers staying in jobs or phasing in work/retirement options – (had to include this)
- Let’s stop here, the list gets too long – (and I appreciate that it applies to non-graduates as well.)
Essentially grads lack that crucial 2 to 3 years of experience need to start climbing the career ladder. Yes, volunteer and summer work over several years adds up, but the fundamental business track record is missing. It’s the old frustrated question of “How do I get experience, unless I’ve got experience?”
The answer is you start where you can with what you’ve got. Pay your dues – even out of your chosen field – and gather your transferable skills so you have something of value to package up and market to your next employer. Don’t wait for the perfect job. Your first one may be for an unknown company with less than glamorous working conditions and more hours and less pay than you could imagine. (On the other hand, the hours could be short, say a 3 month contract at 24 hours a week?) Hard to believe this is what you went to school for.
Humble beginnings are the roots of careers. While it can take ruthless determination and escalated connections just to land one, they start out small.
Then you dig in your heels and start learning all over again. New personalities, policies and politics. Clients, products, systems and services. Be smart. Pitch in. Stay organized. Win supporters. Deliver results. Keep your promises. Ask questions. Grow relationships. Build teamwork. Stay positive. Show initiative. Work hard.
Once you’ve got that first job experience and your references are strong, start looking for work that is more aligned with what you really want to do, and make a move that brings you closer to that. Consider your first job as a launch point and you’ll be amazed at where it can take you.
More on what you can do to help your grad land work in upcoming blogs.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on October 18, 2012
When the choice between one candidate and another is a narrow one, employers scrutinize carefully. What are those mysterious elements that can tilt the balance in favour of one over another? Better yet, how can you become a leading candidate right from start of the selection process?
The simple answer is to write an outstanding resume outlining the relevant skills and qualifications you have. The right answer is to expand that foundational resume into a compelling career narrative that not just defines your value to the new organization – but also clearly sets out the added abilities and attributes that only you bring to the table. You want to demonstrate that you are unique and uniquely qualified. (A fantastic cover letter doesn’t hurt either.)
Here are the kind of things that can identify you as top talent and grab an employer’s attention. You…
• Have taken or are taking a course as part of a plan that leads to a relevant certification
• Are completing the final course in a new designation, i.e. CMA, PMP
• Have received awards or recognition from employers or communities for your contributions
• Have chaired a fundraising Committee that raising a record-breaking $$$$
• Have been a Project Lead on a national initiative, rollout or technical upgrade
• Acted as a key resource on a company-wide cost-savings or efficiency project
• Were selected to a community position where you influenced local events
• Shown leadership in a critical or crisis situation where the results were visible
• Participated in the selection, hiring and mentoring of new staff
• Developed and delivered training workshops or seminars for employees
• Met or exceeded any targets or (sales) goals on a consistent basis
• Delivered under budget or deadlines on complex, multi-phase projects
• Were recently selected as the prime contact for major accounts or customers
• Increased revenues or profits in any definable way
• Set up new systems or process improvements that made a difference in business operations
If you are systematic about it, you can probably come up with more ways you’ve added to the organizations you’ve worked with. Think about customers, clients, new business, senior management, projects, vendors, stakeholders, staffing, internal initiatives, promotions, pilots, launches. Consider your part in innovations, change management, sales and team development.
Looking at your career this way, you may be more valuable than you think. (Now that’s a positive thought.)
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on September 5, 2012
If your office could talk, what would it say about you? Modern, sleek, organized and focused or cluttered, dated, piled up and overwhelmed. Take an honest 360 and see how the signals from your ‘home away from home’ are being read.
I have to tell you I have seen an astounding array of stuff stacked on desks and squirreled away in cubicles and everything tells a story. Some stories are great like recent awards and certifications. Also good – visuals and charts on products, services and info that places you on trend. Leadership, management and communication books tend to stand out, along with the technical ones that keep you current.
Some office items tell a less favourable story. What would you think of messy spaces that are choking with -
• An oversupply of scraggly plants or artificial flowers
• Family photos in frames galore…is this the living room?
• The kid’s artwork, the kid’s artwork, the kid’s artwork
• Multiple novelty mugs or desk toys– it’s not a playground
• Any stuffed animals especially in collections or motifs of any kind – think frogs
• Old cartoons, especially ones with Dilbert-style cynicism
• Too. Much. Paper. – shouldn’t this stuff be on your computer?
• Mugs of Pens – needed maybe for all that paper?
• Stress Balls – you’re handling it well, right?
• The Staples Easy button – Are you overwhelmed?
• Stuff on the floor, gym bags and shoes – use your trunk for this
• To do lists in plain sight – are you running behind?
• Bowls of candy – a little dated and unnecessary
At the very least run a purge of what’s around you and turn that haphazard array into crisp organization. Your space reflects does reflect you so have it say ‘professional’ in capitals. Make a positive impression with carefully selected items to create a polished personal statement. This will improve how others perceive you and boost your overall workplace brand. More on branding in future blogs.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on August 1, 2012
I had the pleasure of being invited recently to a PWL Capital event www.pwlcapital.com where the featured speaker was Carl Richards, CFP, author and a New York Times contributor. www.behaviourgap.com
His new book The Behaviour Gap – Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money, is primarily focused on financial investments. It also explains the confusing gap between what we think and feel, and what we actually do. These highly transferable life lessons that were not lost on the young urban crowd that attended.
What’s more, the beauty of Carl’s approach – and how his artwork became featured in the Parsons School of Design in New York – is that he distills the concepts in his book into deceptively clear line drawings that deliver the whole message. If Carl can’t fit the idea on a cocktail napkin, he’ll work at it until he can.
So what did Carl have to say about financial investing that can be extrapolated to people, patterns of behaviour and careers? Here are just a few:
- We can decide what we really want out of life. So the more you know about yourself, the better you can align your actions with your goals.
- Overconfidence is a serious problem. The ones who are most overconfident are least likely to recognize it.
- We can embrace uncertainty. Change isn’t always a problem if we can be flexible rather than locked in.
- You gotta be you. You need a strategy that’s made specifically for you.
- Happiness is more about expectations and desire than it is about income.
- Anxious people tend to get stuck in the past and seek comfort in familiarity.
- Good things happen too.
Every summer needs a good book. So, if you’re a reader, enjoy. If you’re visual and just want see the concepts in sketch form, head to his website, they’re all there.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on June 28, 2012
So often we talk about finding your life’s work or following your passion. What if you just followed your people?
We spend some heavy duty workplace time with our co-workers so it makes sense that the more connected we feel, the better we function. And that’s directly linked to our enjoyment of the job and the quality of our work.
Who you work with in many cases can be almost as important as what you do.
As one client told me, “I’d like to work with the kind of people I’d be happy to have a beer with – after work.” They weren’t looking for pub-mates, but that they wanted peers that were savvy, smart and interesting. Genuine workplace relationships with like-minded folks. In other words – “my kind of people”.
Those you work with are also another good way to assess your fit with a current or future employer. Does this group have the kind of energy and direction that keeps you going or do they drag you down?
Realistically we don’t get along with everyone all the time. In fact there may be only a few bright lights on the team that really make the difference, but they can make all the difference.
I’ve met clients who’ve had only a few regrets about leaving an employer or even their line of work, but I do hear that there are people in the company they will miss. The ones that made their day, appreciated their work or shared their interests.
Find your work, find your passion – and find your tribe.
Posted by Lynne O'Connor, Advanced Career Coaching Inc. on June 7, 2012