The 15 Best Things My Career Clients Ever Said
Part One by William S. Frank
Green Board
  IN 35 YEARS I've spent 35,000 hours helping business people to maximize their careers. My clients have been great teachers. Each has brought something unique, valuable, and special about the workplace, human nature, persistence, or life itself. Several thoughts stand out as memorable. These thoughts are quite simple. But simple is often hard.

1. I create relationships; the relationships create the job offers.
Seemingly without effort, Randall had three job offers quickly, which is rare. When I asked why, he said his friendships were very important to him, so he spent a lot of time developing them. Not Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn friendships, though they can be valuable. But real face-to-face personal relationships. Close personal ties were apparently his top priority in life.

This may be the single biggest learning of my life's work, and I re-learn it daily. Not early, but late in your career, it won't matter where you went to school (except that you need a degree). Your friendships will deliver your biggest victories, and lack of friendships your biggest defeats. Without genuine face-to-face, heart-to-heart relationships, 2,000 connections on LinkedIn may not matter.

    All things being equal, people will buy from a friend. All things not being quite so equal, people will still buy from a friend. If you're not going to make friends, resign yourself to dealing with neutrals and enemies.
    ~ Mark McCormack, author of "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School," and founder of IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion and media operating in 25 countries.

Experience tells me that 80-90% of superb jobs come from friends and acquaintances, and from their friends and acquaintances. Not from online job postings. One of my first questions to career changers or potential consultants is, "How big is your network?" Those who say, "Really small," or "I don't have one," are at a disadvantage.

2. Don't confuse your real worth with your net worth.
It's easy to think more money equals more happiness, and people in career transition without a salary often feel bad about themselves. Truth is, your real worth is not tied to your job title or income. You have intrinsic value as a person, a remarkable one-of-a-kind miracle. This is a theme of my life's work.

    "The circumstances of your life have uniquely qualified you to make a contribution. And if you don't make that contribution, nobody else can make it." ~ Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

    "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it." ~ As quoted in The Life and Work of Martha Graham, by Agnes DeMille

Stints of unemployment, if not too long or severe, can get people back in touch with their families, friends, fitness, and outside interests. Three weeks after a job loss, career changers often hear their colleagues say, "You look so much more relaxed, so much happier."

3. I just gave my boss a good listening to.
It's easy to forget that bosses are real people, too, and that managing one's boss is part of any job description. In fact, in times of conflict, high growth, corporate merger or acquisition, or downsizing, managing your boss can be your only job. The Harvard Business Review website (hbr.org) has several good articles on this topic.

Listening blends nicely with Stephen Covey's 5th rule from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." In my own case, I've never lost advantage in business situations by listening too much. My personal rule is, "Listen 80%, talk 20%. And make sure your 20% is brief and adds value."

4. Make the large problems into small problems, and make the small problems go away!
A super-successful regional sales manager for a building materials company put together some to-dos for his team who were "not getting stuff done." This simple rule-of-thumb struck me as absolutely correct. It's so obvious as to be easily overlooked. I use it any time I feel stumped, defeated, or overwhelmed. On a related note, my friend and mentor, Joe Sabah says, "You don't have to be good to start, but you do have to start to be good."

5. I want to manage my career; I don't want my career to manage me.
I see more and more business people locked into brutal 80-hour workweeks. Often they're being both efficient and effective, so prioritizing or time-saving efforts are useless; and they're not allowed to hire additional help. What's worse, the 80-hour workweek prevents networking or exploring new opportunities.

Tamara had gotten into white water with her boss, whose impossible expectations could never be met. She realized that when your career is running your life, it can damage you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She resigned her position to get back in control of her life, and happiness has been a byproduct.

Quitting isn't always an option, and sometimes it's the worst option. Usually it's best to take two tracks, to tune up your present situation, while at the same time getting yourself market-ready. I've helped rescue many business people from 80-hour death sentences. Sometimes you can negotiate better terms with your current employer; often you must look elsewhere. The first step is to find one or two hours each week to further your own interests. (See my larger take on this: Too Much Success Can Kill You.)

6. I owe it to my people to tell them what I see.
I've met few great managers in my career, which is odd, since I've interviewed hundreds. Many fall down when it comes to giving honest feedback, or having difficult conversations. Others ignore poor performance, or sweep it under the carpet. Some promote non-performers into higher-level jobs or transfer them to new departments or divisions as a way of avoiding conflict.

As a matter of principle, this great manager had the courage to be honest with his direct reports, whether his observations were positive or negative.

I've picked up the pieces after hundreds of company terminations. One of the toughest cases is where someone is fired suddenly and unexpectedly after 10, 15, or 20 happy years with a company, thinking their performance is stellar. A new boss comes in and ranks the worker honestly; they don't measure up, in fact they're failing badly. This is sad and can be tragic for the suddenly unemployed. What happened?

What happened is that managers along the way weren't truthful. They let poor performance slide. I've felt bad at many outplacement meetings, but the surprise firing is one of the worst. And potentially the most violent. It's not okay to blast others, but you may owe it to those working with and for you to tell them what you see.

:: Go to part two  :: Go to part three  ::Return to index of articles

 


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