3 career lessons from 2011

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Pundits will have their best and worst of 2011 articles out there. The best and worst needs noting, of course, but, to me, neither of them are actionable. Instead, I like to look at the experiences we’ve had over the year and then determine what lessons we can learn from those experiences to make ourselves better. 2011, while offering greatness, was a pretty tough year for us working in cubicles. What lessons did I learn?

We need to better influence our performance reviews

Look, the number of performance reviews that just suck is still too high. Whether it is managers showing favoritism, or not knowing what accomplishments you’ve made during the year, or completely blowing off the reviews, performance reviews remain as one of the least favorite activities to work on.

But your raise and (perhaps) bonus depend on it.

A reader wrote to me and noted that unless she did better than a “3-successful” on her performance review, she didn’t get a bonus. And, despite all that she does — and compared to her coworkers — she never gets better than a successful review. That costs her a lot of money besides ticking her off. Now, I happen to think no matter what she does, that won’t change and that informs me she should leave.

But while she is actively trying to influence her performance review, too many of us just passively wait for the performance review without trying to influence it — starting today with goal-setting — during the course of the year. That causes frustration, exasperation, often times anger — and dollars for our family’s well-being. That one extra level of performance can mean a world of difference.

Our job search and interview skills need improving

This past year I’ve probably written a hundred articles on job search and interview skills (also over at Dice.com). It is the number one traffic area on the site. You know why? Because we suck at job interviews. And then we look for easy answers to unlock the magic key for the interview so we can bypass the hard work of getting ready for an interview. When I advise people they need to practice answering interview questions, very few do. Yet, those that do practice answering interview questions go further in the interview process and get jobs more than those who don’t practice interview questions.

Because of my consulting work, I was also a hiring manager this year. And I can safely tell you that people don’t know how to interview and it kills their chances at getting the job.

Doing a job search and knowing how to interview is now a basic, needed job skill in your career profile. We’re not good at using that job skill. That makes sense since we use our job interview skills far less often than we use, say, Microsoft Office to do our work. But with 4-6 people looking for work for every job opening, job interview skills are more important than ever because of your competition for the job.

Interestingly, there is little good stuff out there to help with your interviewing skills. It will be a focus for me in 2012 to have products to help your interview skills.

We need to build employment, not job, security

There are still way too many layoffs from the Great Recession. And the recovery has made a snail look fast. Our reaction to that is to hold on to that job no matter what. Understandable. But a job is the least secure thing to hang on to because a company can take that job away in a heartbeat. Instead, we should focus on building employment security. Employment security says that, though I may lose my job, I’m still employable because of the work I have done.

You know that the long-term unemployed is at one of the highest points in history, right? The longer they stay unemployed, the harder it is to get a job. It is truly a vicious circle. You can build employment security, though. And it requires a decent amount of work, don’t you know. But I’ve become more convinced than ever in 2011 that job security is gone and employment security needs to replace it. I’ve laid the foundations of that in my free report when you sign up for my mailing list and getting “The Employment Security Hierarchy for Cubicle Warriors.” You can sign up by clicking here.

2011 was a stressful year in the world of work. We can learn from that and resolve to make it better in 2012.

Photo by tian2992

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