by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLab®
IN 40 YEARS I've spent 40,000 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.
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.
~ 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.
"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
3. I just gave my boss a good listening to.
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!
5. I want to manage my career; I don't want my career to manage me.
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.
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.
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