When I was in college, I spent a year in England as part of my University’s study abroad program. What an amazing experience! And, while I brought back a lot of weird slang and an unusual faux accent (which thankfully disappeared quickly), the one British-ism I still refer to regularly is “Mind the Gap.”
You see, the London underground system (which they call the “tube”) has a looping announcement for passengers to “please mind the gap,” referring to the space between the train and the platform. Apparently, tourists like me just love this. It’s so polite! Us Americans would say something like, “Don’t fall in, idiot.” Or, even more likely, we’d post a discreet sign saying, “Property owner not responsible for injury.”
So “Mind the Gap” is a popular slogan for touristy t-shirts in London. It’s also one of those things that can make a gal nostalgic for a little British courtesy and a public transportation system that really works. But that’s neither here nor there.
I bring this up today because, in my work as a career coach, I find most of my clients come to me when there’s a gap of some sort. There’s a gaping hole between where they want to be and where they are. That gap is so big and so intimidating; they have no idea how to cross it. So they simply stand there, on the training, letting it take them wherever it happens to be going. They never make the leap to the platform.
While working with one client in particular, something new dawned on me. As she sat there making excuses for all the ways in which her career was out of her control, complaining that her motivation was low and her confidence shot, I suddenly heard that polite safety announcement in my head, “Please mind the gap.” And that’s when it hit me.
“Maybe your mind IS the gap!” I shouted.
She stopped speaking and looked at me like I was possibly having a stroke.
“You see,” I told her, “the gap between where you are and where you want to be isn’t that big. But your mind has turned it into something insurmountable. You’re letting your fears and anxiety run the show. We just have to get your mind back in check. It’s like that old trick, mind over matter. Except…it’s mind over job!!”
And thus a new idea was born.
Here’s the truth: Your mind is a powerful tool. But, if you don’t actively manage it, all kinds of junk can take over. Fear, anxiety, self-sabotage…these things live in everyone. When left unchecked, they can create a negativity spiral. That’s when that gap between where you are and where you want to be becomes a giant chasm, impossible to leap across.
If you’re not happy at work, you’re not powerless. Perhaps your mind has played tricks on you, messed with your confidence and forced you to believe you’re stuck. But, in reality, you have everything you need. You CAN take charge of your career by simply mastering your mind.
While working at a bank many years ago, I approved a $10,000 fraudulent transaction. When the FBI showed me pictures of the man who had pulled a fast one on me, I didn’t even recognize him. In fact, the whole situation was kind of a blur. At some point, they pulled the footage from the branch security cameras and, as I flipped through photos of myself smiling and giving what appeared to be excellent customer service to a man on the FBI’s watch list, I could hardly believe my naivety.
Unbelievably, I wasn’t fired. Though it would have been completely justified. My boss really stepped up for me. Not normally the sympathetic type, I think he was just as blown away by the situation as I was.
Clearly, that wasn’t a shining moment in my career. In fact, I’d venture to say it was the biggest and most devastating mistake I’ve made at any point in my professional life. Thankfully, I don’t believe in failure. So I see this as a critically important lesson in judgment.
To help you avoid such painful lessons, I thought I’d share the top 5 things I learned from this experience.
1. Don’t Zone Out
The most inexcusable part about my “situation” (as we will now refer to it) was that I didn’t even remember my thought process. I couldn’t justify my actions. Why? Because I was “in the zone”. Or rather, I was zoned out. I was doing my thing, the monotonous daily tasks I had come to take for granted. My brain was on auto-pilot. I ran hundreds of transactions a day. At some point, it only makes sense that I’d stop paying close attention to each one.
Good judgment is an active process. Engage the brain. If you feel yourself falling into a mindless routine, shake it up. Start working with the opposite hand or move the items you use most frequently. Showing strong judgment doesn’t mean you won’t ever make mistakes, but when you do, you should have a clear understanding (and recollection) of what thought process led you to that conclusion.
2. Slow Down
The truth is, I was probably competing with the other tellers to see who could move through customers the fastest. Man, I hate admitting this. But that was a common occurrence. I was a manager so running a teller drawer wasn’t my favorite thing to do. I only jumped up to help out when the line was out of control. And my presence always forced the other tellers to pick up the pace. We made it a game as a way to relieve the tension. That backfired.
Never sacrifice quality for speed. It’s so tempting, especially when impatient customers are right in front of you. But breathe deep and take slow, methodical action. Good judgment requires time. Give yourself a minute to think about what you’re doing. Rushed decisions are never as defensible as those made with measured, deliberate consideration.
3. Multi-Tasking Is Dangerous
You guessed it. I was multi-tasking. It might not seem like it at first, but my attention was in fact divided. I was running a transaction while chatting it up with a customer. Now, I’m not saying I should have ignored the man in front of me. But there’s a time to shut up and focus, which I never did. I was more concerned with being friendly. I probably was trying to upsell him to an investment product. I definitely wasn’t giving the most important task in front of me the attention it deserved.
I’ve written before about the dangers of multi-tasking so I won’t rehash my point-of-view here. Just remember: Good judgment requires full focus. Give it less and you’ll get less.
4. Stress Manipulates
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned how to appropriately manage my stress. Before that, I truly let it run wild. Stress has a way of manipulating your thoughts. Scientifically, it can actually alter your brain chemistry. Stress can physically change the way you see the world and how you react to it. If you’re under severe stress, you can pretty much guarantee that your judgment will suffer. Get it under control now or pay later.
5. People Aren’t All As Nice As You
This is a hard lesson to learn. I worked at the bank right after college and, until that point, I didn’t really understand just how much “bad stuff” happened each day out in the big world. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t an idiot. But I always thought I could SEE danger. And I trusted my gut. So I figured danger would either jump out with a neon sign over its head or I’d instinctively just know. Turns out, danger hides in all kinds of charming, fun, easy-to-talk-to places. Danger lives inside the most unsuspecting people and moments.
Good judgment means you’re willing to see what’s really there, even when it’s hard. You’re willing to look beneath the surface and confront the reality—that people aren’t always good and truthful. You may be a target. You may be the person who looks easily swayed or distracted, the one whose judgment looks questionable. Don’t let them get away with it. Show them that your judgment is sharp and nothing gets by you.
I wonder what it would have been like if I had followed these tips on that fateful day. Would I have stopped the man? Would I have notified the police, saved the bank thousands of dollars, and possibly even played a central role in bringing down the fraud ring this man was a part of? Who knows? It’ll always be a question for me.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, April 13th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Whenever I’m explaining the concept of personal branding, I always end up talking about Jerry Maguire.
Yes, before Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch and became the perpetual butt of Hollywood’s joke, he starred in one of my all-time-ever favorite movies. He played the title role, Jerry Maguire, a sports agent who has a breakdown breakthrough that leads to him leaving his cushy job and heading out on his own. He takes with him a fish, a humble secretary, and one client, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
So, where does personal branding come in?
Well, the whole idea of personal branding started with a 1997 article in Fast Company. The author suggests that we (the American workforce) need to stop thinking of ourselves as employees; instead, we should think and act as free agents. And, as free agents, we need to brand ourselves, just like a company brands its products, in order to be competitive in an economy full of free agents, and ultimately, to be in the best bargaining position when we’re drafted.
This is essentially the backbone of the Jerry Maguire story. Jerry’s one client, a pro football player named Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), decides to become a free agent but discovers he’s having a really hard time getting the contract he wants. As his agent, Jerry keeps telling him it’s a branding issue: the way Rod perceives himself doesn’t align with the way others in the business perceive him. And the value Rod feels he brings to the game doesn’t match up with what others see.
Jerry fights and fights, telling Rod that his attitude is hurting him and that people think the only thing he cares about is money. To those on the outside, Rod’s heart just isn’t in the game. So, essentially, Jerry tells him to fix his brand. He needs to be more authentic and show more of who he really is in order to be competitive.
This is a great lesson for everyone, regardless of your profession. Personal branding is all about authenticity and showing who you really are. You can’t fake it. When you put up a front, and want people to see things that aren’t really there, you come off as a fake and a phony. And no one wants to buy what you’re selling.
Rod finally did get the contract he wanted and deserved. But only because he let his true personality come through and people could finally see his love for the game. He stopped pretending.
Personal branding isn’t an intellectual exercise. You can’t pick your brand based on what you think others want and then create a persona to match. It’s about tapping into all the things that make you special and letting them shine. When you’re able to really do that, others will see your value as clearly as you do. And they’ll pay for YOU because you’re worth it.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, April 07th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Last Friday, I had the incredible honor of being interviewed by J.T. O’Donnell on her T.V. show called Career Reality. It was a ton of fun, which is no surprise because, if you’re familiar with J.T. (and her website, Careerealism) you know that everything she touches turns to awesome. The interview focuses on my career coaching work and the various assessments I do with clients to help them determine if (and when) a career change is a smart move. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Enjoy!
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, April 03rd, 2011 | 2 Comments »