Find your calling from within
Sure you could be getting better training, or maybe your boss does not understand the value you bring to the table, and you might even be way past due for that promotion. So what is the point? Why stay in a dead-end job? Well, if you are thinking about career refreshment now, you might want to ask yourself one question: Do you really want to try changing jobs in today’s uncertain economy?
There are other options besides jumping ship that might work better during these precarious financial times. You could try navigating your career within your current organization.
Joe Frodsham and Bill Gargiulo have written a book called Make it Work: Navigate Your Career Without Leaving Your Organization. As consultants in organizational behavior and effectiveness, the authors recognize how career frustration comes about; “when you understand your passionate core but are not able to express it in your work,” they said.
The key is first to develop a core foundation—what you truly love or would like to love about your career. This involves identifying your passions, declaring your career, and finding a true career fit. Once you have developed your core or inner career foundation, you can begin shaping your career with the outer tools. The authors describe six practices or outer tools of career navigation. They include building your perfect role, making key decision makers your champion, developing your capabilities, following the company’s real rules for success, networking, and staying connected with your core.
Reshaping your role
Do not rely on a job description or performance review to define you within your organization, the authors said. You have a great opportunity to shape and change your own role just by finding things nobody else sees.
Jarmo Salminen, a manager for project engineering/process control at Georgia-Pacific Chemicals in Atlanta, was working in IT as a divisional IT manager with seven direct reports, even though his background was in process control and chemical engineering.
“I convinced the engineering director at the time that he needs a process control engineering manager to support a divisional process control initiative and that I would be the right person for the job,” he said. The manager thought about it for a few days and came back to Salminen, offering him a six-month trial period as a divisional process control manager. “I also convinced him to transfer three people from my IT team to engineering to support data historian and process control networks,” he said. “He transferred six process control engineers to my team at that time as well. More than four years later we have successfully executed several process control projects, supported all the manufacturing sites, and my team is growing.”
Use your career declaration (one of the core-building tools) to help figure out how you can contribute in ways others are not. This means you need to do your research and talk to others in the organization to find out more about how they contribute.
Nick Sands, a process control engineer at DuPont in Newark, Del., was previously in a manager position, “which I accepted with a limit of five years because a respected manager said that the technical part of your brain begins to wither and die if it goes too long without technical work,” he said. As the end of the five-year assignment approached, he had to decide what kind of role to do next. “The books by Marcus Buckingham, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” and “Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” were very helpful,” he said. “According to Buckingham, a key to success and happiness is to spend more time using your strengths and less time doing the things you dread. By applying the guidance in these books, I was able to identify my strengths and the things I dread, and used that understanding to develop my ideal job description,” Sands said. “I shared the description with some contacts in my company, and one of the managers agreed to modify an existing position to fit. So I got the job I asked for. If I don’t like it, I only have myself to blame.”
Influencing key players
You will also want to be sure you make a positive influence on the key players. Remember, “it’s not just what you know and want, it’s who knows and wants you,” the authors said.
Seeing yourself as others see you can be a challenge when you are mired in your own desire for success.
Yet having good people skills does not necessarily translate into being influential to key players the authors said. “Building better communication skills can help people become better at things such as presenting, negotiating, and listening,” Frodsham and Gargiulo said. “However, these offerings are minimally effective when it comes to being able to truly understand and influence key people in the organization.”
In fact, “exceptional communication skills can actually hinder one’s ability to influence others as they may appear insincere or too slick,” they said. So what is a disillusioned employee to do?
Suspend your perspective
The key is being able to suspend your own perspective, even your own deeply held beliefs.
You have heard the phrase, “walking in someone else’s shoes,” right? Well, this is your opportunity to become each of the key players. As you do, you will gain valuable insights about them, the authors said.
You can find out about the areas where you can serve as a solution for them by asking them specific questions, they said.
Before any challenge, you need the right equipment, coaches to work on weak spots, experts and consultants to pull out your best talents, networks to share your knowledge and get differing opinions, and societies from which to find those networks.
Mentoring and feedback are also important to helping you get equipped to change your organization role and contributions. “Mentoring is not about performance in a current role, but rather about capability in future roles,” the authors said. “A good mentoring relationship must be founded on trust and enable open and transparent two-way conversation. The role of the mentor is to bring a broader perspective to the partnership and to act as a safe sounding board. This person might not be your manager. If you can’t find a mentor, you might want to get feedback from a trusted colleague or “monitor” who can “keep an eye on you during meetings to tell you about critical thinking or behaviors you would like to change,” they said.
Know the rules
Finally, knowing the rules of your organization will help immensely in getting you prepared to navigate a new career path from within. Consider these highway behaviors: speeding, tailgating, and switching lanes. It is good to know when it is okay, and when it is unsafe or just plain annoying. Just as you need to know the rules of the road, you also need to know the landscape around the corporate road rules to reroute yourself into a job you love. Ask yourself and others, “What do people get in trouble for around here? What do people get rewarded for around here?” Once you uncover the rules, you can make the decision when to follow or ignore them, as long as you understand trade-offs and repercussions.
And finally, network, network, network, and check in with core values from time to time to make sure you are headed in the right direction. You might be surprised at how far you can go … right here at home.
Ellen Fussell Policastro (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes and edits Workforce Development.
Renew your career; rebuild yourself online
Of course, reinventing yourself within your company can prove beneficial, especially in today’s tough economic environment. But if you just cannot foresee a future where you are, you might want to consider making yourself more marketable to the outside world. One important way to do this is to increase your visibility online. According to a 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, nearly 17% of employers surveyed reported plans to use online sources such as social networking sites and blogs as part of their recruiting efforts—up from 11% in fall of 2006.
Abhay Parekh, founder and chief executive of Flowgram (www.flowgram.com), a new web-based communication tool, explains four key ways you can use the Internet to build your visibility.
1. Create your online brand. The old adage applies here: You never have a second chance to make a good first impression. The information that appears about you online is the first chance you have to present yourself to a prospective employer. The internet is increasingly becoming a primary source for communication and information, especially with recruiters. You can create your own online brand by registering your domain name (firstnamelastname.com) and creating a web site that highlights your work experience and your unique attributes. Make sure to include keywords relevant to your career so you can improve your ranking in search engine results and become more visible to potential employers and recruiters within a matter of minutes. Register for a domain at sites such as Register.com (www.register.com).
2. Differentiate your work. Whether you are an established executive or just starting out, effective career development means finding a way to differentiate yourself from the pack. The Internet offers some great tools to help you present yourself in a captivating and innovative way. A free web-based communication service, such as Flowgram, could help create an interactive multimedia portfolio of your work that incorporates web pages, slides, and video clips. This type of portfolio is an easy way to distribute through e-mail, blog posts, intranets, and popular social media networks such as Facebook, or through an online community. Prospective employers view information offline as downloadable videos. But rather than simply sending a static resume and hoping someone will read it, such a service could help make job searching a dynamic experience that is engaging and informative.
3. Establish yourself as an expert source. Beyond showcasing your resume and your portfolio, you can use the Internet to create and communicate your own personal brand. A blog is a good vehicle for establishing your voice online. You can also use it to start a dialogue with a larger community of people by sharing opinions, asking for advice, or simply highlighting interesting ideas and information. By starting a blog, you position yourself as an expert source in your field, and also pave the way for making valuable new connections. MyBlogLog (www.mybloglog.com) provides some tools for starting your own web log.
4. Explore your six degrees. You have heard of the six degrees of separation theory. Now, put it to use by harnessing your own chain of connections. Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) provide a perfect platform for job seekers to use their professional network of friends and current and former co-workers. LinkedIn offers a fast and effective way to stay in touch with friends, co-workers, and recruiters, in order to keep the pulse of these relationships alive. By using business networking sites such as LinkedIn, you can increase the likelihood that people will see your name and profile first when businesses or professionals are searching for someone to hire.
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