Monthly Archive for July, 2010

Career Advice: Admit You Need Help, Build Your Strengths

Forget the macho mode. You are not expected to know everything or to be perfect in all regards as your pursue your career goals. Everybody makes mistakes; everybody needs help sooner or later.

Never be afraid to admit you need help and then ask for it. Many careerists, otherwise smart and capable, hamstring themselves by believing they lose face if they say, “Hey, I don’t understand this problem, much less what to do about it. Please help me.”

Career Tip: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is just the opposite; it is a sign of strength and maturity. When you ask for help, you are paying a compliment to the one you ask. You are saying, “You know something I don’t know. I trust you.”

Everyone likes to be asked to help.

When you put your ego aside and seek help on your career path those you ask for assistance find themselves in your debt.

None of this is to suggest that it is always easy to ask for help. Admitting a shortcoming tramples a bit on the ego.

Career Tip: Don’t make a habit of asking for help to duck responsibility, to take a shortcut, or so you can sit on your butt.  If you’ve made your best effort and you still come up short, then reach out for assistance.

Volunteer to help others. Step in to offer a hand in finishing a tough project. Let it be known that you are ready to help those with less experience.

When you get help, don’t be shy about sharing credit with those who gave you a hand and shared their knowledge.

When you ask for help and get it, be sure to seal the transaction with a sincere, “Thank you.” That simple step, often overlooked, paves the way to ask for more assistance when it is needed.

If you ask for assistance and no one steps forward to help, look out. You are in an unhealthy situation.

I invite you to visit my website for more common sense career advice .

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach

You Are Lost If You Don’t know Where You’re Going

Career Coaching

The young woman’s face was a picture of unhappiness and worry as she asked for my advice about her career.

“My job is driving me crazy. I am frustrated because I am not getting ahead,” she said. “I want desperately to make a change, but I just don’t know what to do about it.”

Her story was one I hear often from people at all levels of their career.

I began our discussion with the root question: “What do you want to be doing five years from now?”

“That’s the problem; I don’t know,” she answered.  “There are so many things I would like to do, it’s hard to make a decision,” she said.  “One day it’s this, the next day it is something else. In the meantime, I feel like time is passing me by.”

“Nonsense, it is never too late to take charge of where your life is going,” I responded. “But you cannot get out of this hole you are in until you make a decision on what you want to do.”

I pointed pit that first step is usually the hardest one to take.  You have a lot of options, I said, but you are afraid you may pick the wrong goals and end up in another trap.  You are frightened by the thought of making a commitment.

And you don’t really believe at this point you can plan your life for success.  Other people do.  Why can’t you?

I went on to explain that if she made a mistake she could always change her mind and set other goals. It is better to pick a target and work toward it – even if it has to be changed – than to continue to drift pillow to post, slipping deeper and deeper into frustration and depression. Long-range goals are basic to surviving and triumphing over short-range failures that are bound to happen.

Four Action Steps To Get On Track

I discussed some specific planning steps–a road map– she should undertake to get her career on track.

First, I explained, she should put in writing her goals for the next three to five years. These goals should spell out what she wants to be doing in her work; where she wants to live; what lifestyle she desires; how much money she wants to be making.

Second, I advised her to make a written list of her assets: her education, her talents and skills, as well as her experiences. Compile a list of likes and dislikes.

Third, I explained she should look at her goals along side her assets. This exercise would identify the gap between where she stood in terms of assets and where she wanted to go. She could see in graphic terms what she would have to do to close that distance where she was and where she wanted to go.

Fourth, she should lay out a map of action for her career, with specific actions and deadlines, to accomplish her goals.

Inertia Is A Deadly Force

“Your biggest challenge is to break out of the inertia and get moving,” I advised her.  “It is like you are caught in quick sand.  Your frustrations sap your energy, so your attitude goes down the drain.  Your present job suffers, which penalizes your opportunities to make a change.  You put off taking action until tomorrow, next week and next month.  Soon, you will be counting lost time in years, and it will be too late.  Sure, that is a grim message, but it is also the way life is.”

The alternative is action, which is a great tonic, I explained.  It builds on itself.  Action will clear your vision, provide strength and confidence.”

Will she get going?  Only time will tell.  Some who seek career coaching do take action and achieve their goals. Unfortunately, many don’t.

It all depends on taking that first step of deciding what one wants to do with one’s life.

I wish you career success.

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach, Common Sense At Work

Your Career: Everyone Wins When You Take A Vacation

You may think this is a difficult time  to take a vacation, but remember this: Time away from the job will improve your efficiency and help accelerate your career…and, of course, improve your personal life. In the end, personal down time will benefit your employer as well. Hopefully, you have the courage and wisdom to act on this axiom.

Career Coaching: Eight Steps To A Successful Vacation

Let’s all hold up our right hands and swear we will abide by eight common sense ideas that will help assure that our vacation times will serve their best purposes.

1. Come to grips with the fact that you are not indispensable. Fact is, absent a serious emergency, your employer can get along for a few days without you. However, it is to be hoped that your absence will cause everyone to understand and appreciate how much you contribute when you are on the job.

2. Reject the macho idea that long hours with your nose to the grindstone demonstrate strength and commitment. It’s what you produce that counts for your employer and for the advancement of your career. Even an ox needs time out of the yoke.

3. Plan your vacation well in advance. Set a date and hold to it, come hell or high water. Cancel your time away from the job only on a direct order from your boss or a personal emergency.

If your employer forces you to cancel your vacation, make sure he has a good reason. If this happens more than once, absent a sound cause, consider whether you are working in an environment that will nurture your work to reach your career goals.

4. As you near the date of your vacation, begin to execute your plan with the same attention to details as you do projects on the job. Do work in advance. Advise those with whom you work of your plans and what you expect to happen while you are away. Delegate tasks to be accomplished during your absence.

5. Name a “gatekeeper” through whom you can be reached. Be sure this is a person who will protect your turf and time.

6. Don’t check with the office while you are on vacation. Someone will call you if you are needed. Don’t panic if they don’t contact you. Instead, take satisfaction in two things: (1) you are working with capable people who can and will follow your directions and (2) your vacation plan is working.

7. Flush work out of your mind. Put other components of your life in perspective. Recharge your batteries. Read things totally unrelated to your work. Get plenty of rest. Re-bond with your friends and family. Appreciate the time you have away from the pressures of your job.

8. Be prepared to double your efforts when you return from vacation to catch up and move ahead on your career path.

Career Advice: It’s well to remember that there is no known record of anyone wishing on their deathbed that they had spent less time on vacation.

I wish you career success.

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach, Common Sense At Work

Your Career: Be Alerted To New Blog Postings

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I look forward to continued conversation about your career success.  I hope you’ll follow Common Sense At Work regularly with the help of blog alerts, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach, Common Sense At Work

Career Coach: What July 4th Means To Your Career

I hope you are enjoying the Fourth of July Holiday. I want to spend a few minutes with you considering The Declaration of Independence, and what it says about the many good things that make America the land of opportunity.

Consider with me the second paragraph of this great document published 234 years ago by a small band of patriots who risked their fortunes and their lives to proclaim independence for the colonies that were to become The United States of America.

They declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness:”

The key idea to me is that we are promised “the pursuit of happiness.” We are not promised “happiness.”

This is the core idea that runs through the common sense career advice I offer in this blog, as well as the articles and e-books I write.

I believe we are guaranteed the right to pursue our career goals and the rewards that reaching them will produce. The key to this successful pursuit is (1) setting goals, (2) earning the qualifications to reach those goals and (3) being willing to work and keep working to achieve career success.

To me, that’s common sense at work.

Is your career plan based on these truths?

I wish you happiness and success in your career.

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach

Common Sense At Work

You’ve Been Named Boss. Now What?

So, you’ve been named boss. Can you handle the responsibility?

The biggest challenge will be to think in terms of managing a function – getting things done through other people – rather than doing everything yourself. Your job is to manage the assets–people, materials and authority– assigned to you so that your department’s goals are reached.

Be prepared for some surprises. No organization ever looks the same from the inside as it does from the outside.

Know that you are not participating in a popularity contest. It is nice to have those who report to you like you, but it is more important that they respect you.

Be realistic about the reception you receive from your staff, as well as your peers in management. There will be many signs of cordiality. Accept them graciously, but be aware that beneath the surface, there is another world rife with tensions.

You will be on trial as the organization takes your measure.

Key members of your staff will wonder why you were selected for the job instead of them.

Everyone with whom you work–your boss, staff and the heads of other departments–will recognize there has been a change in the power structure. Most people will ask themselves the central question: What does the new boss mean to me?

There will be those who will test you to see how you will exercise your authority. Will you insist on having your finger in every pie or will you lay down assignments and back off to give people space to do their job, measuring by their accomplishments?

Will you be shaking an iron fist or extending a velvet glove?

The Meter Starts Running On Day One

Don’t try to remake the world overnight, but keep in mind the meter starts running on day one.

Hasten to establish your competence. Reassure your boss that you will help him achieve his goals so that he will see you as an asset, not a threat. Demonstrate to your staff that you will lead them and protect them in the hierarchy. Various cliques will try to recruit you to their causes. Many will seek to curry favor with you. Keep both groups at arm’s length. Show your peers that while you are a team player, you understand your responsibilities as their boss. You will have a degree of objectivity in your view of the situation on the first day that will never be possible again because the personalities, the pressures, the gains and losses you will encounter will color your thinking as time goes by. Record Your Impressions At The End Of The First Week

At the end of the first week in your new job, write a memo to yourself as to how you see the situation, the task, the pluses and downside factors. Describe how you feel about the people, especially your boss. Spell out your goals, immediate and long term.

Update this document as you go along; use your initial impressions as a benchmark. Always be aware that your risks will be greater because the scope of your responsibilities is broader and the impact of your decisions is more crucial. Never forget that with fewer people between you and the top, you will have less protective cover.

Always see the activities of your department in the context of the larger mission of the corporation. Communicate this view to your staff. You must have their working support if you are to succeed as a boss.

Ask yourself every day, “How can I do this job so well that the organization will be looking to assign more and more responsibility to me?”

Career Tips: How To Ensure Smooth Transition To A New Job

You’ve landed a new job. If you are interested in building a successful career, don’t burn bridges to the past as you move on. Here are 13 steps you can take to help make the transition a positive step toward your career goals.

First of all, be doubly sure you are making the move for the right reasons that in total mean a step forward on your career path. If you are making a change for negative reasons be certain you can leave the negatives behind. Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire.

When you are confident that a change will be beneficial, lay out a plan that will make for a smooth transition.

1. If you are planning to move to another job have the offer, with terms, in hand before you hand in your resignation.

2. Comply with the employee manual or employment contract covering any benefits you are entitled to such as unused vacation time, withdrawal/transfer/roll-over of savings programs and insurance.

3. Give ample notice of your decision, at least two weeks or more time if you are in the midst of a major project. Three to four weeks notice may be expected for some professional positions.

Make an appointment with your boss so you can deliver your resignation face-to-face. Explain in positive terms the reason you are leaving. It may feel good at the time, but resist the temptation to criticize your employer, your associates or working conditions.

Hand over a formal letter of resignation, including the dates of your departure as well as an offer to help your successor.

You never know when you might need a letter of recommendation, so seek assurances that your employer would give you a positive reference in the future.

4. Reach out to your colleagues with a positive explanation for your action. You will need their understanding and support in order to make a graceful exit.

If you have external contacts on behalf of your employer, communicate with them regarding your decision, always in positive terms.

5. Exchange contact information with those persons inside and outside your employer’s universe with whom you have had a working relationship. Let them know where they can reach you and encourage contact. Consider Facebook and LinkIn.

This is a feel-good tactic. Besides you may end up working with them again, even as a member of their staff.

6. Be prepared in case your boss reacts negatively in shock, anger, envy or grief to the surprise and problems your leaving will create for him. Be aware you may be asked to leave immediately. (This reaction can be so extreme that you will be escorted off the premises.)

7. Be sure that the assignments on your plate are running on schedule. Provide your replacement with detailed information of what’s in the pipeline and offer suggestions for handling the projects. Offer to help train your successor. Be available, even after you leave, to answer questions. After all, you know more about the requirements of the position you are leaving than anyone else.

8. Don’t leave behind personal footprints on the Internet. Erase your browser cache, delete passwords to websites and personal files such as email and financial accounts on the computer provided for you. Do not erase anything related to your work.

9. Don’t walk off with any company property such as keys, computers, phones and anything else that doesn’t belong to you.

This admonition also applies to any proprietary information you may have gained. There are tough laws against misuse of such knowledge.

The last thing you want is your employer chasing you to return its equipment and intellectual properties.

10. Be as helpful as possible during exit interviews. Be honest and forthcoming. Couch any criticism you feel is required in constructive terms. “Whatever you do, don’t confess about how much you disliked working there,” advises Tanya Maslach, a career coach who specializes in relationship management issues. “If you want to leave a helpful hint or opinion, consider offering your expertise to your soon-to-be ex-boss…offer to available…if they get in a rut.”

11. Be gracious at any going-away function. Resist any temptation to gloat over your good fortune.

12. Changing jobs is an exhausting experience. Allow yourself some vacation time so you’ll hit the ground running with your new position,

13. Thank those who have helped you along your career path, especially those who made the effort to give you a good send-off.

Click here for more free career coaching.

I wish you career success!

Ramon Greenwood, The Career Coach, Common Sense At Work