Performing with Purpose

 

When reflecting on my career progression, I recall the early years when I first started working. I relied on delegated orders, would dutifully fulfill them and wait for new assigned tasks. It was an endless cycle of repetitiveness and I often found myself on autopilot. Sometimes I even found myself disengaged when I couldn’t identify the intent of some of my responsibilities. But, being young and not feeling like I was experienced enough to have a voice, I continued performing without ever questioning it…that was a mistake.

As I’ve made my way through my career, obtained a degree and became more involved in understanding business and organizational development, I started to see that never questioning anything has done a disservice to my growth and a disservice to the betterment of the organization I was working at. Asking thought-provoking and well-structured questions won’t make anyone question your competency (as I often feared it would), but it gives you a chance to perform better. At this stage of my career, I make it a point to perform with purpose. And to do this, you have to start with one simple question – Why?

  • Asking questions: Once I started to know why certain tasks relevant, I was able to get a bigger picture. Asking what or how always helped too, but I felt the “why” was the most important thing to know. Questioning this allowed me to gain insight into the overall purpose of each function, what the expected outcome was, etc. Knowing this information not only helps you do your job better, but also sets you up to do MORE.
  • Performing better: knowing key details as to the purpose of your task and what’s the expected outcome can help drive the direction of your performance: It gives you a starting point, a path and a goal that you are aiming to meet or exceed.
  • Continuous innovation: set up time regularly to review the information you gathered from asking questions and critically analyze it. With the fast changes in business, it’s important to constantly reevaluate processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Even if you aren’t in a role to implement change, your analysis and suggestions can help leadership see ways to positively impact the business.

No matter what level employee you are or how swamped you are at work, I urge you to take the time to ask questions, find ways to perform better and look for opportunities to innovate. I’d personally rather take the time to do these things and ensure every function I’m performing has a purpose than keep my head down. To help your professional growth and your organization’s growth, its things like this that can help move everything forward.

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Early Career Lesson: The Thing I Wish I Knew

Live%20life%20forward%20-%20inside%20jobs

More often than not, my friends like to joke around saying that I have a tendency to interview everyone I meet (I guess it’s naturally in my blood). I suppose that could be true but it’s mainly because I’m generally intrigued by people. It’s a common occurrence for me to ask probing questions to someone I’ve just met. Where are they from? Why are they here? What do they do for a living? Is it something they love? How did they fall into that? A simple story of someone’s life, no matter how boring it might seem to them, is actually one of the most interesting things I can come across. After one of these conversations over the weekend, I finally had the chance for someone else to turn the tables and ask me some thought-provoking questions. The one that stuck out the most to me was: what do you wish you knew getting into your career?

I met a younger woman this weekend who was just starting out in the full time, professional working world. She was smart, hopeful, ambitious, and driven, which just impressed me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when she asked me about a life lesson I wish I knew when I was first starting out. I know all those sayings: hindsight is 20-20; the lesson is in the journey; and so on and so forth. Yes, I agree that sometimes you need to stumble and fall in order to learn what you can do better. But if I had a chance to pass on some life lessons to someone that was eager to learn, I definitely wasn’t going to waste that opportunity.

I remember being extremely frustrated early on in my career. Just like the young woman I met, I was hopeful, ambitious, and driven. I wanted to do great things and I wanted to be given the opportunity to contribute something to the company that I worked for. I wanted to leave something behind if I ever felt the need to move on. Those feelings and dreams were soon crushed after a little while of working at my former employers. I waited…and waited…and waited. And finally, I was so disengaged and disheartened by my employers’ lack of opportunity, that I would find myself leaving places to see if I had better luck elsewhere.

After years of this, I quickly realized that I shouldn’t be so dependent on my employer. It wasn’t up to them to offer me projects, education, or promotions. I shouldn’t have believed that they were the only way I could progress in my career or expand my learnings. My lack of growth wasn’t their issue, it was mine. My employer isn’t my only resource for career development and knowledge building. If I truly cared about my progression, it was my job to make that happen.

If the opportunities to partake in conferences, take classes, or network with industry professionals weren’t an option at my company, I needed to make the effort to do that on my own. If there wasn’t a stretch project that I could do that would enhance my career, I needed to pitch it to my employer and make it happen. Sometimes, you need to go outside of your immediate circle (aka organization) to grow and then bring back that value. You need to take initiative to take control of your own future and position yourself within your company. You need to find your worth and not wait for someone to hand it to you. Define yourself.

When I finally realized this, I found that my confidence had skyrocketed. I found a voice, I began to offer opinions, and I felt like they mattered. I’ve learned so much that it makes my head hurt some days. It’s indescribable when my managers now come to me for suggestions or advice. I felt like I did myself a favor.

Some days I wonder what would have happened if I realized I was in control of my development sooner. Would I have progressed further than where I am now? Would I be an industry expert or consultant? I’m not really sure but I am glad that I figured this out early enough to make a decent impact throughout my professional career so far. So, if there was one thing I could teach early careerists (or really anyone), it would be that you need to take initiative to develop your own career. We live in a time where resources are infinite and possibilities to do this are endless. Do yourself a favor and make the effort as soon as possible. You’ll be happy that you did.

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Stretch Projects to Increase Development and Engagement

Recently, I came across something pretty inspiring. I learned that a department manager has taken the time to learn the individual needs and passions of each of her subordinates, regardless of how insanely busy she was in her own role. She regularly takes the time to speak to them one on one to learn what their career goals are, what skills they want to develop, and address any concerns. Although that is impressive in itself, she doesn’t stop there. She takes the time to find opportunities for her employees to develop the skills in order to work their way toward their personal and professional goals. Since she started doing this, the increase in engagement has been phenomenal.

If you are a manager that’s looking to increase engagement in your workplace, consider trying this:

  • Regularly schedule one-on-one talks with your employees in an open atmosphere.
  • Make sure you talk about your employees’ career goals so you can get a feel for what they’re looking to accomplish.
  • Discuss some of the tasks and skills they would like to develop.
  • Talk to other managers in your organization to learn of different tasks or projects they’d need assistance on.
  • Discuss these opportunities with your employee to see what they’d be interested in pursuing and what would be feasible for them to do on top of their current workload.

The extra work involved in this might seem overwhelming but the benefits are worth it:

  • Employees will feel more accountable and appreciative to have a chance to develop themselves.
  • Engagement and morale will increase.
  • Turnover may decrease because employees will feel like they have professional and career growth opportunities within the organization.
  • Employees will develop skills that can help them become more of an asset to your company.
  • Departments using the employees for their projects may be more efficient with the extra help.
  • Opportunities like this can allow departments to build a stronger bond and work better, cross-departmentally.
  • Employees can gradually work their way into a role or even determine if the role or career path fulfills their passions as much as their originally had assumed.
  • It can bring in new perspective and fresh ideas.

Sometimes extra training or promotion might not be feasible in your organization due to budget, financial, and hiring issues. But, in the interim, this could be a great way to keep your employees engaged and happy while working there. It promotes continuous learning and in a way they are truly passionate about. This can create a stronger and better workforce.

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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.

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Internal Mobility is Good for Your Company

Last night I was involved in another weekly Twitter #tchat (yes, it is my new obsession). Once again, this chat had some great contributors and some interesting information to consider. The chat’s subject discussed how companies and recruiters should focus on internal mobility for filling job openings. It seemed that a lot of the “chatters” felt strongly about this topic and believed that there were many benefits of this promotion track. The common believe was that a solid internal mobility program can be very good for your company.

Here are some informative and useful take-aways I got out of this chat:

Internal mobility can fuel employee engagement. The common theory behind this is: if you invest in your employees they are more likely to invest in you. If you want your employees to be more engaged in their work, make them feel like their contributions have a purpose. Make them know you’re taking notice of them and their efforts. Take time to discuss career goals and offer suggestions on how they can reach them. These things can put a little more pep in their step.

It can reduce turn-over. A good portion of people have admitted to leaving their employer because they felt they had no place to go. Sometimes that may be the case, but a good amount of time there are plenty of lateral or upper positions employees can move into. The issue is: employers don’t educate them on these opportunities. Make your employees aware of this to avoid losing your talent. And if you’re feeling really crazy, allow employees to create and pitch new positions that could be useful to the company (Hello, accountability!).

It can cost less to hire from within than externally. Recruiting and hiring processes are time consuming and expensive. This can be even truer if the candidate that was selected didn’t work out within the first few months. Looking at internal employees might reduce these issues. After all, these employees already know your business expectations and have met them. By now, I’m sure you’ve determined that the employee is a fit for your company. Instead of wasting time looking for diamonds in the rough, consider the gems you already have in your workforce.

Training time can be reduced. Like I mentioned above, the current employees already know your business. They know your systems. They know your managers. They know your clients. They know your mission. Basically, they know everything other than the general duties for the new position. Training them on those duties can be a piece of cake because they already have a clear understanding of how certain procedures affect the company. Think about how quick it would be to train them on those few things rather than an external hire who could take months before they completely understand the business in order to do their job well.

It can increase morale. Nothing can kill an employee’s morale more than watching a position they worked hard for be filled by some random outsider. This situation could even cause some resentment towards the newbie and the company. It is reasonable to say that not all positions can be filled internally. However, to keep the morale up, make sure you offer feedback and mentoring to those not chosen. Even if they don’t get the position, taking time to help them professionally progress can keep their positive feelings about the company intact.

It can make employees feel like they have a goal. Most employees want a job that makes them feel like they’re doing meaningful. They want to be accountable and have a sense of responsibility. However, these feelings can dwindle down if they don’t clearly see how their efforts are contributing to their professional growth. Talk to them about what they want and set a path that helps them progress towards their goal. Productivity could increase once they see how their work is directly correlated with their progression. Moreover, make sure you set realistic timelines and expectations so they don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen right away.

I know that not all job openings can be filled internally. Companies need to throw some new blood into the mix to ensure the workforce does not get stale from recycled perspectives and ideas. External people can bring something fresh into the workplace. However, your internal employees may be able to do the same if you give them a chance to prove it.

If you find this topic interesting, be sure to join in Twitter’s #tchat on Wednesday nights at 7PM EST. Additionally, leave a comment regarding this topic either on here or on the chat.

Links:
Recruiting as an Inside Job- Internal Mobility
Internal Mobility- An Inside Look at Talent

What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com