Do you manage your career or manage your strategies?

Career transition
Career transition
Which direction should I go?

For years, I’ve contemplated why “career management” doesn’t happen. I’ve thought most people believe that they should manage their career, but few of us do that. It’s like saving for retirement: we all know we should do it and then we hit 60-years old and discover there isn’t much time left to save!

Why don’t we “manage” our careers? Over the last several months on blog hiatus, I’ve thought a lot about that. Most people — or pundits, I should say — think you should be managing your career every single day. Some even every hour of every single day.

But that’s not how work works.

We go into work every day, figure out what tasks need to get completed that day, and if we’re really good, we try and do a few things to hit some goal we want to achieve. I’ve had this rule that I made up about how much you can get done: max of three things a day at work if you are lucky and one thing when you come home. Anything more than that is pure gravy and rarely happens.

And 99% of the time, none of those things have much to do with “career management.”

Yet, career advice is desperately needed — just look at how hard it is to find a new job. Building resumes, doing job interviews, researching companies, trying to look for a job when you already have a job.

Or look at making the decision to move to another city to take a promotion with your company. Worth it?

Or making a decision to leave a job and start looking for a new one. Right decision?

When I laid out what happens during a career, I finally had the paradigm shift: it’s not career management that should be the focus of helping someone in their career. No, it is career transitions where people need the help.

Sure, there are office politics and there is work around goal setting and performance reviews (important work…), but most of the need for advice centers around career transitions. That brief time — two weeks to two months — where major decisions are made that impact your work and livelihood for many months to come. Decisions that can start you down a completely different trail in your life and work.

When you look back on your work so far, what were the most difficult times? What were the hardest decisions to make? How did you make those decisions? Chances are, those times were when you had to make some choice that was going to make a big impact on your life and work. Decisions that would impact your income, your family, and even your circle of friends.

It is those times of transition where you would like the help. And that’s the place I’d like to help you.

Career management, after all, is a lot like the definition of management: executing strategy decisions that have already been made into something real and tangible. Important stuff, but a lot of that stuff is the grind of execution, the continuous work to complete the tasks in a plan.

Career transitions, though, are the strategy decisions that are made to go in a new direction. It’s the making the decision to pass a car, pulling into the passing lane on a two-lane highway where all of a sudden your whole perspective changes. You are breaking rules by driving on the “wrong” side of the road. There is the uncertainty around if the decision to pass was the correct one — especially when you see that car coming down the road right at you. It’s deciding where the point of no return lies, where you can still go back to where you were with the risk not taken. Or when you decide you must press on, but change tactics to pass that car safely.

Career management is making it to the other side of the car, getting set up on your lane all over again, and doing the things you wanted to do after you passed that car. Good things to do, of course, but nowhere near the risky strategy of deciding and then the passing of the car.

Most of us are not in that situation now, the need to pass the car, that place of deciding to make a career transition. But if you are, I can help through products for DIY approaches to making a transition to personal, one-on-one coaching.

When that transition time comes, you’ll need that Cubicle Warrior mentality. And a great coach and mentor to help you in your transition.

Cube Rules Links — June 6, 2014

Cube Rules Links

Cube Rules Links

Here’s what I’ve plucked out of the Internet (not all this week, since it has been a while….) for your Friday and weekend enjoyment.

5 predictions on the future of the resume

This is really predictions about LinkedIn, so you should read it as such. Quote:

As happens in the circle of forward thinkers and futurists, predicting the next trend is inevitable. In the careers environment, many experts feel that LinkedIn is surpassing the resume in value, and in some cases, replacing it altogether.

This likely will never happen. For one thing, the groundwork to create a career story “foundation” is always going to require much digging, unearthing and investigating before the first line is actually etched onto the page or the screen. Where people get distracted is that they think it’s about the form of the career story (or, actually, what you “call it”; i.e., resume, LinkedIn profile, Career Story, Career Portfolio) versus the actual function.

Fear Choice vs. Love Choice

I’m really trying to do more of the love choices — worth the story on the click through. Quote:

I splutter out four words I rarely utter: “Can you repeat that?”

Because every decision on the horizon just got twenty times simpler. Like boom.

Job interviews are getting weirder

Like these questions are actually related to success on the job. I doubt it. But it makes good reading. Quote:

The post-interview stories are becoming increasingly bizarre, she says. “People can be asked to sing a jingle,” she says. Her advice to job seekers in 2014: “Have one ready that’s relevant to your industry. It shows that you’ve done your homework and react well under pressure.”

Please, don’t sing me a song relating to your job skills. I might die. And creating a jingle relating to your industry is considered career advice? Really?

Enjoy your weekend, Cubicle Warriors.

5 ways to improve your resume

Network resume

Network resume

The most important point to remember when creating or modifying your resume is this: Your resume gets you the first interview for a job. It doesn’t get you past the first interview, it doesn’t get you to the hiring manager, and it doesn’t get you hired. It just gets you the first interview.

Of course, that’s no small thing, getting a job interview.

And, based on all of the resumes I’ve seen, you could create a significant advantage for yourself when applying for a job if you had the right stuff on your resume — the stuff others won’t remember or don’t think are significant. Here’s five ways to improve your resume now:

1. List all your job skills

Skills are skills, not responsibilities. That means writing code. It means process proficiency. It means accounting or Emergency Room procedures or commercial baking of pies. These are skills used in your work.

But there are also “soft” skills — how well you play in the sandbox with others. You’ve seen the job descriptions — they all want team players and people who work well in a fast-changing environment (who doesn’t?). But if you don’t list those skills, the skills won’t match up to the job description and the fewer the skills that match the job description on the resume, the less chance there is of getting the interview.

So list all of your job skills.

2. List all of the software you work with on the job

Start with listing the individual Microsoft Office programs you use — especially the less used ones by the rest of the population if you work with them — Visio and Microsoft Access, for example.

Then list all of the software programs you use on the job. Most knowledge workers don’t think this through right — that stuff you do all day on the computer uses software. So what if the billing system you use is the “Best Billing” system — you list it. Why? Because if you will need to use a billing system in the position you are after, listing it means you already know how to use a billing system and now you will only need to adjust to how the new program works. Not learn the whole thing.

Even if it is a proprietary software system built by your company, you list it because now the person reading your resume can see you’ve used “billing” systems and can now ask how yours works as part of an interview.

3. List your business results in each position

People hire people to get stuff done. Your resume is the first place that shows you can produce results from your work. You need to quantify the business results — less cost, more revenue, greater productivity. Percentages and dollars really help here.

If you are not showing your work can produce business results helping a manager reach business goals on your resume, why would they hire you? Answer: you won’t get the interview. Or, if you do, most of the interview will be about finding out if you can produce any results with all those stellar job skills you say you have on the resume.

Help the person see your results.

4. It doesn’t matter how long your resume is, but the first page better be killer

Most people don’t have a great first page of the resume. People looking at your resume can decide to interview you or not in less than 20-seconds. It doesn’t help you to have a great fourth page of a resume when the person won’t make it past the first page.

I have a specific format I recommend for my resume customers that gives you a powerful first page that will help the person make it past those critical 20-seconds and on to the rest of your resume.

5. Use industry-standard job titles as the main job title for your position

Your company may call you a Data Janitor III — and you note that somewhere in the position description — but the bold part should be the industry standard title — Database Administrator. Why? Well, have you ever seen a job description looking for a Data Janitor III? No. Job descriptions use standard industry titles and you want to ensure your job title matches the search criteria the company is searching to hire.

Or, do YOU search for Data Janitor III positions in job descriptions on boards or web sites? No, you get no hits back on your search. But Database Administrator? Yes, lots. Same principle: use standard descriptions in your resume so it matches the standard descriptions companies use when searching for a candidate.

Resumes, remember, only get you the interview. I can help you in starting the career transition by helping you with your resume.

In the meantime, these five actions will help make your resume better. And share this with your friends by clicking on your favorite social media platform.

Multiple reminders put you in productive purgatory

62nd of 4th 365: Planning the weeks to come

62nd of 4th 365: Planning the weeks to come

My consulting work has changed – a new project. Along with the new project comes back-to-back-to-back meetings. Plus all of the normal personal stuff. With it comes what I had ignored: the multiple time and device reminders that come along with one’s commitments.

For the most part — save the one that effectively reminds you of something exactly when you need it — reminders suck.

Classic, of course, are the 15-minute default reminders in Outlook before every single meeting. With the default second reminder at five minutes before the meeting. With the default THIRD reminder at zero hours before the meeting. I have no control over the default reminders except when it is MY meeting invite going out. So I can have all of my meetings have a five-minute reminder, but the vast majority of my meetings are not mine to run.

A lot of my meetings are only a half hour long — good meetings should be that long. So I get reminded of my next meeting halfway through the one I’m in. Then another when I’m trying to wrap up and make sure all the next actions are assigned from the meeting I’m in.

Then there are all of the personal reminders. To get a haircut, I have a personal calendar appointment with its associated reminder — in my case, two hours out so I can look at the end of my workday and make sure I leave on time.

But then the salon sends me a reminder like three days before the event. In email. Then they start texting me on my phone. Somewhere, on some device, I need to acknowledge the fact that I have a hair appointment. This is much better then having them call me as well, but how many different devices and venues do I need to have reminders in when I have it on my calendar in the first place?

My doctor’s office calls me three times over several days to remind me to get my normal tests. When I don’t answer the phone, they end up sending me a letter. My dentist does the same thing.

A reminder about the cost of reminders

A whine, right?

Actually, no. Reminders have gotten so bad that I now need to manage my reminders. I have to opt out of the ones I don’t want to get on the devices I don’t want to get them on.
Then, outside of managing my reminders, the reminder itself creates very unproductive work. The New York Times notes:
Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it
takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.
And then, you work on the interruption and not the planned — you did plan to work on the task you were working on, right? — one you have in front of you:

The majority of the non-self-instigated interruptions come from electronic “notifications” (either email, IM or phone messages); the remainder are person-to-person or face-to-face in nature.  While in-person interruptions are in the minority, they tend to last longer and leave employees with a larger interruption-related workload (as in, the department chief dropping off a pile of expense reports to be completed).

And, unfortunately, we never procrastinate when it would do us good, as73% of interruptions are generally handled immediately – whether they need to be or not.  Workers seem to get distracted by the interruptions and tend to finish the task created by the interruption, rather than continuing on point with what they were doing in the first place.

Between the reminders and the other interruptions during the work day, it’s remarkable any of us get anything done.

The reminder solution?

I don’t have any, save reducing the number and venues (in boxes) where you receive the reminders. It’s a pain.

The only good tip I’ve discovered is to take that initial Outlook 15-minute reminder and change the second reminder to “0 hours” before the meeting starts. It reduces the interruption from reminders by one. Which means, over the course of the day, a reduction of 6-8 reminders requiring you to acknowledge them and then switch back to what you were working on in the first place.

Not great. But a start.

Share your thoughts on reminders on your favorite social media outlet. Click on one below.

Bait the interviewer to ask great questions

James talks portfolios

James talks portfolios

Once you’ve made it to an actual interview for your next position, the challenge, among others, is to explain how you achieved your business results from your work. I advocate the CAR method – Context, Actions, and Results. Here is the context of the work needed, here are the actions I took to get the work done, and, because of the work, we achieved these business results.

The problem here is that interviewers don’t ask the right questions so you can easily slip into this great answering approach. It’s not that they don’t want to know how you achieved your results from your work, it’s that they don’t know how to ask about the work you do. They know their business; they don’t know your business, how it works, what products are produced, how you are organized and how you fit in.

Generic questions result in generic answers

Because interviewers don’t know about your company and work, you get asked generic questions – What do you do every day? How is your job organized? You get asked responsibility questions, not result questions.

Or you get asked “behavioral” questions – “Tell me about a time you ran into a rock and had to recover…”  Personally, I think behavioral questions were invented because interviewers didn’t know what to ask in order to figure out if a candidate knew how to do the work.

Those types of questions are not satisfying for either the interviewer or the interviewee – you.

Bait your interviewer to ask great questions

How do you start this “results questioning” during the interview?

It starts back on the resume. Most resumes list job responsibilities and not results. That gets you questions about your responsibilities. You’ll be fortunate to get a position if those are the types of questions asked. So make sure your business results from your work are on the resume. That will at least start you on the path to talking about your business results and talents needed to get them.

The real resume key, though, is this: put one, perhaps two, sentences that provide context for your work so that the interviewer has something to start the conversation along the results path.

For example

It’s easiest to see with a project: “This project was to covert the medical codes to match up with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.” Then you bullet point the results…how many codes, time for the conversion, number of forms checked, new codes placed to match the ACA.

Instead of saying that you evaluate requirements for a project with no other context, you’ve now provided a perfect way to ask about your work – it’s specific (medical codes), it’s important (the ACA became law and now the company needs to align with it) and it impacts customers (because those codes bring about reimbursement). If you’re in the health care field, believe me, having that one line of context on the resume will result in great questions about your work.

Now the interviewer can start a conversation with you about your work. Now you can respond back with Context, Actions, and Results right into the conversation. You can tell stories that show how you accomplished your results. You can ask great contextual questions back to the interviewer extending the conversation – “Tell me how your company looked at your current systems to line up with the ACA.”

The payoff

At the end of the day, interviewers (and people) remember stories. They remember that you “get it” while other people don’t. They know you got results from your work, even though they may not remember the specifics without going back to the resume.

All because you took the time to figure out your business results and provided the interviewer a great way to open up questions that focuses directly on your accomplishments on your resume.

How could you help the interviewer to ask great questions to show your work?