Taking Initiative for Your Professional Future

Being involved with Gen Y, and seeing how the economy has affected career growth and mobility for recent grads and early careerists; I can’t help but notice some of the pain points they regularly voice. One of the biggest gripes they express is the lack of room for internal mobility. Along with this, many of these individuals also feel as if though there are no opportunities for them to learn, train, shadow, or develop in a way to prove to management that they are worthy for more responsibility in their current role or that they are worthy of promotion. But for those who feel this way, it’s important to realize that just because management hasn’t presented these opportunities doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Sometimes, you need to take initiative to develop your own professional skills and opportunities.

When I’ve mentioned this to individuals, I’ve had many people respond, “Why would I put in all this time and effort if I’m not getting compensated for it? Most of the time it goes unnoticed so what’s the point?” Regardless if those things seem to initially be true, you must remember to take a step back and see the big picture. Taking initiative doesn’t just help you potentially get a raise or promotion, it helps you grow.

Each new project, task, or innovative idea you allow yourself to be a part of will give you so much and will only help you get better and better. You will gain new skills, learn how to overcome challenges more effectively, and really get an idea of what you are passionate about and good at.

Most importantly, the things you do can be a tangible part of your experience. Maybe you’ve done something relatable outside of work on a side project or hobby, but it was hard to prove to your employers that you had the experience. Taking this initiative can give you the experience in a work setting so you can put it on your resume, help build up your portfolio, and have a witness (your employer) be able to prove what you’ve done and refer you.

So, before you claim that doing something a little extra isn’t worth it, think about what you gain in the long run. You are giving yourself the ability to be attractive talent for your current or future employer. That’s the best kind of investment.

Photo Source

Say Yes to Continuing Education

In grammar school and high school, we’re taught to get good grades and participate in extra-curricular activities so we can get into our dream colleges. In college, we are once again told to get good grades, encouraged to take on internships, and asked to join clubs- all to help our chances of landing a great job upon graduation. And once we land those jobs, gain experience, and slowly but surely move along in our career paths- then what? Does education and learning just end there because we achieved the “ultimate goal” of getting a job that offers financial security and benefits? Does it just end there?

It shouldn’t. People should be driven and encouraged to do whatever they can to continue to learn. So many people believe that once they receive that diploma or certificate that they’re done. They paid their dues and finally got their careers in check… and that’s that. When I’ve asked people why they aren’t continuing their education and learning, I often got answers such as this:

  • I’m too old to go back to school
  • I’m too busy with work and home-life to take on anything more
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t need it
  • I wouldn’t even know where to start
  • I’m too scared to start something new

All are valid reasons and concerns but the reality of it is, skills are becoming outdated, people are being automated out of jobs, and technology is upgrading/advancing so quickly that most of us can’t keep up. The world of work is evolving in some major ways. So, the “ultimate goal” isn’t about landing a job anymore, but more about keeping up.

Like I said earlier, all those reasons are valid but there are ways to work around it. For example:

  • Online school
  • Certificate classes
  • Work training
  • Informal social groups
  • Reading new industry books/blogs in your free time
  • Networking
  • Stretch projects
  • Work shadowing

Education shouldn’t just be a stepping stone or a distant memory- it should be ongoing. The world has so much to offer and we live in an amazing time where we can easily access this. So take advantage of the things that generations before us could not. Become the ultimate asset and more importantly, do it for yourself.

Photo Source

Are you a Good Coach to Your Employees?

Recently, I had the pleasure to discuss some human resources, management, and leadership topics with Nick Sarillo, founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza and Pub. He initially reached out to me regarding my passion for company culture and engagement and conversation took off from there. I absolutely loved his outlook on how he manages his employees and he even was kind enough to share some links to articles discussing this. Today’s blog post will discuss one of Nick’s qualities in terms of management: managers should be coaches.

I think many of us can remember back when we first entered the workforce and were simply trying to figure out how to gain the skills to be successful at our jobs. I’m sure we’ve all had the situations where a boss or manager were maybe a little too harsh, too impatient, or too judgmental when it came to a task we hadn’t quite mastered yet. I know that myself and many others would feel a bit deflated in these types of situations and maybe even had a sense of doubt of whether or not we’d ever get it down. Even if you aren’t a new employee and have been working for several years, these types of situations still can arise. But what can managers do to make it better?

Nick had told me about how he coaches his employees and manages them by “trusting and tracking.”  He decided that the best way to help engage his employees is by training them thoroughly and giving them all the necessary skills and knowledge they need to perform a job duty. From there, he stands back, let’s them take charge and be accountable for the results. He noticed that this method had helped employees take pride in their work and actually take more initiative when it comes to their growth and development.

Nick built on this method, taking the time to update his training and then allowing his employees the space to develop their roles. Although Nick trusted his employees to progress, he still made sure he monitored them to help them in areas that they were struggling in. Even if he needed to step in, he still made sure the feedback was positive to allow the learning and training experience be a good one for his employees. Some tips that Nick suggested in regard to this are:

  • Make sure you are not giving constant orders and criticism.
  • Offer training, coaching, support, and positive reinforcement.
  • Build training systems into your company and management.
  • Provide helpful feedback on a regular basis.
  • Make expectations clear, track progress, celebrate met goals, and give help when needed.

I was very inspired by this management style and was happy to hear that Nick stuck with it even though other business owners (including his own father) told him he was crazy. This style has helped Nick’s business become one of the top 10 independent pizza companies in the United States. Moreover, Nick has some of the lowest turnover found in this industry.

Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Ill., and the author of A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business (Portfolio; hardcover). www.nicksarillo.com.

More Links:

Bosses Should be Coaches not Cops

Nick Sarillo’s book, “A Slice of the Pie” on Amazon.com

Photo Source

 

Investing in Your Employees’ Learning and Development

Throughout my career, I have taken notice of the efforts that my employers had attempted in order to train and hopefully develop new employees. I’ve also participated in continuous training and workshops as a refresher on the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout my employment at the company. Although I find all of this very important for your employees and your workforce as a whole, I can’t help to wonder if there are additional opportunities that employers are offering their employees. Are employers investing in the employees’ futures, as well?

One of the most inspiring things I have researched was the fact that some employers truly take notice to what their employees’ natural talents are or what their goals are for the future. Some employers also even help present opportunities that will allow employees to gain the skills they need to get where they want to be. But, these types of situations only really occur if an employer somehow takes the time to discover these additional talents or if the employees actually speak up to say what they really want to accomplish while employed there. But what if we tried to do things differently? What if we gave all employees the chance to be open and voice what they want as part of their learning and development? It seems as if though the training that the employees are involved in help them become experts at what they’re currently doing but doesn’t really offer them the ability to expand beyond that.

Call me crazy but I would love it if employers took the time to ask their employees what their career paths were and what type of training they would like to partake in. Give them the empowerment and options to pick what training they need and assist them in getting it. Investing in your employees this way can not only increase engagement, but could also increase loyalty and could even help your organization progress in ways it never could before. You are giving them the ability and the tools to help them be a super-asset for your company.

Too often, I hear employees leave companies because they feel like they have nowhere to go and no chances to grow as a professional and/or personally. So they venture elsewhere looking for the ability to learn and grow. I suppose that this post is more of me thinking out loud because I know that there is much more that is involved when it comes to L&D. Regardless,  I would be impressed to see that employers are giving their employees the options to pave the way to their future within the organization. I would also love to see employees take these chances and see how much it changes them.

Food for thought.

 Photo Source

How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST