Imagine this. You've been in the same role and company for some time now. You're ready to move on, but haven't been able to get started looking for a new opportunity. A friend invites you to a networking event and introduces you to a senior leader from a company that you've always wanted to get into. Turns out they're searching for someone with the skills and experience you know you possess.
You chat. She asks, "What would you say are your two greatest accomplishments?"
How do you respond?
Would something quickly come to mind? Would you be able to easily describe your accomplishments in a way that is clear, concise and compelling? Or would you hem and haw while searching your mental database and then say the first thing that pops up? Or, worse, would you simply panic and head for the bar?
My point is, you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself, so you need to be prepared.
In my last blog, Leadership and Learning - An Essential Combination, I talked about keeping your competencies relevant and up to date and continuing to learn. It's also important to periodically pause and take stock of your accomplishments. Write them down. Prioritize them. Categorize them - tie them to relevant competencies so you can use them as specific examples that demonstrate the competency. Having this information in mind and/or easily accessible will help you in situations like the scenario above and in performance conversations, your resume or bio, or other situations where you need to share who you are.
Here's a simple template you can use to capture your accomplishments. Use the Situation-Action-Result (SAR) format to describe the accomplishment and then define the competencies associated with it.
SITUATION: What was the goal or challenge?
ACTION: What was your role? What did you do to address the goal or challenge?
RESULT: What was the result (your accomplishment)?
What COMPETENCIES did you use?
When opportunity comes knocking, be ready to open the door!
Till next time,
You’re in a job you like, you can do it almost on autopilot, and your performance reviews are stellar. No need to update your skills, right? Wrong!
Or…you’re in a job you hate, but, “it’s a job” and you are so overworked or busy trying to keep that job that you have no time to even THINK about what’s next, let alone PREPARE for it. There’s just no way, right? Wrong!
Whether you like your job or hate it, keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date and preparing for what’s next is a must. Here’s a “get real” process to help you get started.
Conduct an inventory. Look at your last performance review. Make a list of both strengths and development areas. Then think about what you want to do next. If you are currently working and want to progress on your career path, what skills and knowledge will you need to get to the next level? Add these to your list. If you are looking for a new opportunity, what are the requirements of your target position? Which of those requirements are you lacking? Add these to your list.
Create a personal development plan. Select one or two areas from your inventory that you will focus on in the next three months. Do some research to find resources to help you develop in those areas. Remember, learning doesn’t only occur in the classroom. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Don’t forget to include target dates on your plan!
Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your refrigerator, your desktop. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. You can work on them in your next plan. Take a melting pot approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., on your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.
Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you have gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”
Review, revisit, and revise the plan. Spend some time reviewing your plan and how it worked. Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional/alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and development goals.
Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge is an investment that will keep your market value on an upward trend. And…you never know when that golden opportunity will come along. Be prepared!
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” - Chinese proverb
Till next time,
One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.
In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)
First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny. You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”
Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?
Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.
-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”
-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”
-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.
What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?
Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.
Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.
Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.
Give back. As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.
And, of course, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,
A few years back, when the first baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) began to reach retirement age, there was much written about the impending brain drain as boomers left the workforce. How would we transfer their knowledge? Who would step up to be leaders? Companies were advised to quickly put succession plans in place. And then…the economy tanked and boomers stayed in place and the crisis seemed averted. Now, however, another wave of boomers has hit the mark and concern is bubbling up again.
A cover story last month in the San Francisco Business Times entitled, “From Boomers to Bust?” suggested that “the pace of retirements among baby boomers is about to explode, and it has big consequences for the Bay Area Economy and its workforce.” The impact will be felt more in the Bay Area, the article says, because in addition to the population being older in the region than the rest of California, “the area is in the process of adding more than 1 million jobs by 2040, with talent shortages already a factor across a range of industries.”
Nationwide, an estimated 10,000 boomers a day celebrate their 65th birthday. And according to Gallup, by 2029, 20% of the population will be over 65. Clearly, companies have some serious workforce planning to do, especially those with an older employee base.
That being said, if we look at this situation through the lens of possibilities, I see some real opportunities for both boomers and those who would follow in their footsteps.
While many boomers are anxious to leave the pace and politics of corporate life, not all of them dream of replacing that with more leisurely pursuits. In fact, quite a few plan to keep working in some capacity – either for financial reasons or for a sense of purpose. If this applies to you, then get busy preparing to capture the possibilities. This might be any of the following or none of them (leisure on!). You’re at a place where it’s entirely up to you. Here are some possibilities:
- Work with your current employer to reduce hours or create a more flexible schedule
- Become a mentor to help prepare the next line of leaders
- Turn your hobby into a side business (e.g., become a small space gardener)
- Leverage the skills you’ve built over the years and consult
- Volunteer for a cause that’s important to you
For those who are just starting out or are several years into their career, the exodus of baby boomers can open doors (and windows!) of opportunity, especially in leadership. The key is to have a growth mindset (always be learning) and to leverage some tips from the Year of Possibilities framework:
Pay attention to what’s around you. Where are the opportunities? What do you need to do to get there? Take a personal skill /behavior inventory. Get feedback from others. Use it!
Listen…really listen. Think about a team or department leader you admire. Set up an informational interview to gain knowledge and insight on how to lead successfully in the organization. Listen and take notes. Create an action plan. Implement it.
Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.
And whether you’re a boomer or movin’ on up, don’t stop believin’!
Till next time,
If you’ve been following my advice about taking some “ME” time this summer, you may have had an opportunity to reflect on your life so far. What have you learned that you wish you’d known 20 years ago? What did you NOT do that you wish you’d done (there’s still time!) And what advice would you give your younger self if you could? We posed this last question to our followers and networks a while back and got some really insightful answers. In case you missed it (or would like a second look) I’m sharing it again. I’d love to hear from you if you have something to add; please comment.
The majority of the responses fell into three major categories. All good advice!
DON’T BE AFRAID.
-It’s all about attitude. Have a great attitude, show up with it and leave with it every day.
-Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Be yourself and believe in your gut!
-Always take a calculated risk – it will pay off in the long run.
-Every challenge in life builds strength and character.
-Never let fear hold you back from life.
-Be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak your truth!
-Be more assertive and confident. Be more direct, and STOP apologizing!
DARE TO DREAM!
-Listen, observe and learn – be like a sponge and absorb everything you can. Wisdom is precious.
-Be patient. You WILL get everything you aspire to. Calm down!
-Don’t take the easy road, and dare to follow your dreams.
-Have enough faith and confidence in yourself to seize opportunities.
-Don’t worry what other people think about you.
-Carpe diem –seize the day.
-Plan ahead, but still enjoy the moment.
-Live the life that YOU were meant to live.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
-Follow your heart. Have as much fun as possible!
-Treat yourself with kindness and respect and don’t allow yourself to be abused by anyone.
-Take your time. Life goes faster than you could possibly imagine.
-Enjoy the body that you have, it will change quicker than you think.
-Don’t be compelled to accommodate the needs of others.
-Pick a career that you love and not one that your parents think is good for you.
-Turn off that negative recording in your head. See that you truly are beautiful just the way you are.
-Always have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.
-Everything is better after a good bottle of wine with a friend. (I second that!)
Of course, all of this wisdom comes from having learned these things through a variety of ups and downs on the roller coaster of life. And for that, one final piece of wisdom submitted…
“Don’t regret decisions you have made. Live with them and get on with life. It is way too short.”
Till next time,
Ask any successful senior leader, executive, or entrepreneur and chances are they’ll attribute at least part of their success to one or more mentors they had along the way. Ask any of their mentors who got more out of the experience, and chances are they’ll tell you that as mentors they got back as much or more than they gave. That has certainly been my experience.
Years ago I joined an organization, Mentoring Circles, to mentor women entrepreneurs around developing processes, business acumen, and leadership. I was invited to join the Board of Directors – which I did – and continued to mentor. I got so much out of it. Not only was it thrilling to “give back” by helping other women identify, plan for, and achieve their goals, it was an incredible learning experience. Through mentoring I gained more insight into people, learned from different perspectives, and built a number of cherished, long-term relationships.
In my last blog I talked about some ways to achieve wellness. Giving back is one of those ways. And mentoring is a way to give back. Is there someone who has reached out to you for advice? Or someone you’ve noticed who has great potential yet needs some guidance on how to navigate the organization to get the recognition and opportunities they deserve? Consider volunteering to be their mentor.
Now don’t get me wrong. Good mentoring relationships don’t just happen instantaneously. There needs to be mutual trust, willingness to learn (in both directions), and commitment to the partnership (meeting on a regular basis, open and honest communication, follow through, etc.) As a mentor, you need to be:
- Available and accessible
- A coach and advisor
- An effective listener
- A confidant and sounding board
- A role model
- A friend and ally
- Willing to learn from your mentee
To get the most out of the mentoring relationship, your mentee needs to be:
- Committed to the mentoring process
- Clear about goals and objectives
- Proactive in scheduling meetings
- Prepared and accountable
- Receptive to feedback/advice
- Open and honest
- Willing to learn from you
It’s important to have some structure around the partnership. I recommend that you commit to a 12-month partnership and then reassess. That will give you time to really get to know each another. Also, establish goals and timelines at the outset. Regular meetings are essential – schedule them several months in advance and commit. If you find one or the other of you keeps missing or rescheduling, it’s time to have a serious conversation about the level of commitment. It’s also very important to be open and honest when things aren’t working. Sometimes they don’t. If this is the case, a growth exercise – for both of you – is to figure out how to end the partnership in a positive way.
Does your organization have a mentoring program? Or have you been a mentor? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
Till next time,