The end of the year is always a hectic time. Unfortunately, with so many personal obligations centered around holiday activities, it’s easy to get distracted and let your professional loose ends remain untied. When that happens, you end up starting the new year behind the eight ball, racing to catch up. Who among us hasn’t been there?!
To help you out, I’ve created a simple, easy-to-follow downloadable checklist for end-of-year career activities. This isn’t about checking things off your regular workday to-do list (which is also important, obviously). This is about taking care of those pesky career-related tasks that should be done on a regular basis but are often neglected until an urgent need arises. This is about being proactive—doing small but important things now to help make your life and career easier (and more successful!) in the future.
As we approach the new year, now is a perfect time for reflecting on the year that was—where you’ve been and where you want to go in the future. This is equally important for your professional life as it is for your personal life, which is why I always recommend doing an end-of-year career review. While I’ve written about this topic in the past, this year, I wanted to make the process even easier for you. So I’ve created a simple, downloadable worksheet to walk you through your end-of-year career review one step at a time.
Before I jump into the advice portion of this article, please allow me a moment to vent…
I get anywhere from a couple dozen to a hundred or more emails a week from my blog readers. I love it and I read them all, I assure you. I do not, however, answer them all. If you’ve sent me a message and waited breathlessly for a reply that never came, keep reading. I’m going to give you some tough love, followed by some tactical solutions for your problem.
Here’s what happens about 60 to 70% of the time: A reader writes an email that outlines every detail of his or her career situation—pages of text giving me background and side stories and every piece of information I could possibly need to provide the helpful advice this person is seeking.
And then, one of three things happens:
The person simply stops writing. There’s no request for help. No specific question asked. Nothing.
The person acknowledges that he or she can’t pay me for my service but would like the help anyway.
The person asks, “What should I do?” or some version of it.
These are the messages I typically don’t return—not because I don’t care, but because it would be impossible to do so given the volume of work I have on my plate.
But there’s another reason I don’t respond too. You see, I don’t have any desire to help people who can’t first help themselves. (And I believe the vast majority of the world would agree with this sentiment.)
However, it dawned on me this morning that many people might not know exactly how to do that. And that’s okay!! I shouldn’t get annoyed, right? Instead, I should teach people what they need to know about asking for help. And that’s what this article is really about (it’s not just an excuse for me to blow off steam, I promise!).
So here’s what it takes to get the career help you’re looking for, whether from me or anyone else.
1. Be Quick
Everyone in the world has Attention Deficit Disorder these days, so get to your point quickly. Don’t waste the person’s time with endless details before you’ve even determined whether or not he or she is able (and willing) to provide the support you’re after.
Simple trick: Practice defining your problem in three sentences or less. Until you can do that, it’s not the right time to ask for help.
2. Be Specific
Make a direct, specific request. What exactly are you seeking? Don’t be coy. Put it all out there in a straightforward easy-to-understand way.
3. Be Willing To Do Your Part
Let’s be honest: If you’re not willing to invest anything in this, why would anyone else want to? And I’m not just talking about financial investment either. Sure, if you’re approaching a career coach who makes a living providing this service, you should expect a fee. If you aren’t willing to pay, don’t expect a service.
However, even if you’re just asking a trusted friend or advisor for some guidance, you should still demonstrate your personal investment in the process. What are you going to do to make their investment of time and energy worthwhile? Maybe you can offer to treat them to lunch. Maybe you can simply acknowledge the favor by letting them know you’ll owe them one. Or perhaps you just need to assure them that you’ll listen with an open mind and that you’ll take their advice to heart. Often it doesn’t take much to convince someone you’re looking for assistance, not a handout.
What you should NOT do is expect a free ride. You shouldn’t expect to unload on someone, grab their valuable advice and run off into the night without a hint of reciprocation.
4. Keep Expectations In Check
Sometimes I wonder if the people who send me those emails think I’m psychic. For some reason, they expect me to simply give them all the answers to their career problems—and to do so for free over email.
I make it a rule as a coach never to TELL people what to do. Why? Because it’s impossible for ME to know what’s right for YOU—no matter how much information you send in an email. Telling is not coaching.
Don’t trust anyone who professes to have all the answers. A good coach will guide you in finding your own answers. That’s the only way to reach the right conclusion for YOU.
Never ask for help and expect miracles. If you’re looking for an easy, fast solution, grab a dart and throw it at the wall. Use that as your guide. I guarantee the success rate will be the same as if I threw an answer at you over email.
5. Be NICE
There’s no shame in asking for help, but it’s still a request. You’re asking another person to use his or her precious time and energy in service of you. Acknowledge that. Be sincere, polite and humble. And above all else, be nice. A little flattery never hurt anyone. Let the person know why you trust him or her to guide you in this situation.
If you’re requesting help from someone you don’t know, this one is even more important. Explain who you are, how you found this person, and why you’re drawn to them.
I hope this article helps at least a few of my dear readers help themselves. It doesn’t take much to get what you’re after. Follow these tips and I promise, you’ll find the help you’re looking for.
Networking. The word alone strikes fear in the hearts of many. It’s so awkward and uncomfortable! It’s so inauthentic! It’s just so…so…exhausting.
That’s why many professionals put it off. If you’re happily employed and your career is chugging right along, networking often gets put on the backburner. I see a lot of people who only start thinking about networking when they “need” something—like a new job, for example. But in order for someone to help you, they must first know, like and trust you. And that takes time!!
To help inspire you to get started networking NOW, I wanted to highlight just a few of the reasons it’s essential for career success. After all, if you aren’t convinced that it matters, you’ll never do it.
But before I jump into that, let me be clear about one thing: Networking is all about building authentic relationships with real people. It’s not complicated. You’ve done it your whole life. Don’t turn this into something scary or awkward or uncomfortable. Networking can happen anytime, anywhere: In the grocery store, at a nightclub, online, at a volunteer event in your community, or at a local meeting of your professional association. It’s always about making a real human connection before anything else.
Okay…now on to the reasons!
The Hidden (Informal) Job Market
Networking gives you access to the hidden or informal job market, which is a helpful tool even if you aren’t actively job searching.
Allow me to explain this a little more. We’re all familiar with the formal job market: A company has an employment need so it creates a job description, posts an ad on the Internet, and receives a pile of resumes to fill the position.
The informal job market, however, always exists in a much more hidden fashion. Before a job is made public (and sometimes before it even exists) there are informal opportunities. Through networking, you have access to these positions that other people never even know about.
For example, a contact in your network knows a position is soon going to be available at her company because a colleague in her office is retiring. The HR department hasn’t even started recruiting for it, but your contact knows you would be a perfect match for the role. If your contact refers you for the job informally, you could end up at the front of the hiring line before there’s even an official position available.
You might not even been searching for a new gig, but let’s face it: It’s awfully nice when exciting new opportunities just fall in your lap. And if you’re a self-respecting, career-minded professional, you know that when a great career opportunity shows up, it’s worthwhile exploring—no matter how happy you are in your current role.
The 2013 Careerxroads Hiring Sources Survey shows that employee referrals are the number one way to get hired. Sure, it’s no guarantee (that same study shows that only about 1 in 10 people referred for a job were actually hired), but it still gives you a serious leg up on the competition. It’s up to you to close the deal though.
Networking also gives you access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. The people in your network will likely come from a wide variety of backgrounds, meaning they’ll offer a broad range of perspectives and possess a deep well of wisdom from which you can draw.
When you have a strong network, you have a support team—people you can turn to for guidance, advice or assistance. Together you can share best practices. You become as much a resource for them as they are for you.
In short, your network is a valuable professional asset—a resource that makes you smarter, more experienced, and more capable.
Connections = More Connections
Every person you meet has the ability to connect you to (potentially) hundreds more people. That means your professional network grows exponentially with each person you add.
A strong professional network can introduce you to potential future employers, potential clients, trusted service providers and more.
Need a new bookkeeper for your business? Turn to your network! (I just did this recently.)
Want to get a job at Google but don’t know where to start? Turn to your network! Who do you know at Google? Or who knows someone who knows someone at Google? Chances are pretty good that you’re no more than two or three degrees of separation from any company you want to be a part of.
The All-Important “Know, Like and Trust” Factor
Again, I want to stress the critically important role of the “know, like and trust” factor in all of this. The only way you’ll reap the rewards offered by your network is if the people in it truly know, like and trust you. Otherwise, it’s too risky. They won’t recommend you for a job because they don’t want to put their own reputation on the line for someone they aren’t absolutely certain about. They won’t connect you with their network because you could reflect poorly on them. And they won’t be willing to share their knowledge, offer advice or provide assistance if they don’t first like you as a person. We all already have too many demands competing for our attention—if it’s not at least minimally rewarding or enjoyable to help you, there’s no reason to bother.
So start the process of expanding your network NOW, when you don’t immediately “need” something. Deepen those relationships. Be generous and help others first. That way, if and when you need to leverage them, your professional allies will be eager to help.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, August 14th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
If you’ve been a part of the workforce for any period of time, you have at least some level of professional expertise. You’ve got a certain unique set of skills, knowledge and experience that makes you an asset to your organization.
But what are you really doing with it? Are you hoarding it away like a squirrel stashes nuts? Are you saving all that goodness for yourself? Are you using your expertise to further your own career without ever considering how it might help others?
I know it sounds a little odd, but your expertise is a powerful gift that deserves to be shared. It’s yours, yes; you earned it. But why keep all that wisdom to yourself? Why not send it out into the world to be free and lift others to new heights as well?
And the best part? Sharing your expertise not only helps others in their professional endeavors, it also helps you. Here’s how…
1. It engrains what you know.
Nothing helps deepen knowledge as effectively as sharing it.
2. It expands what you know.
Sharing your expertise means inviting a new conversation. If you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, you may learn something in the process as well.
3. It establishes your reputation as an authority.
If you want to be seen as a leader in your field, you have to stand up and be vocal about what you have to offer. But instead of telling people you’re an expert, give them a taste in a way that helps raise their level of expertise too.
4. It increases your professional value.
When your expertise helps the entire team, you become a more valuable part of it. Your presence is worth more the organization—and that can translate into tangible rewards and real dollars.
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great Chrissy. But I don’t want to look arrogant!”
Let me address this right now. If this is what you’re thinking, it’s time to shift your perspective. Sharing your wisdom with the people around you is not an activity born from the ego. It’s about being of service. It’s about them, not you. Giving, not gloating.
Here are a few ways to share your professional expertise comfortably and easily.
1. Become a Mentor
There’s no shortage of young professionals looking for guidance. When you see a newbie with potential but in need of support, take that person under your wing. Share the hard earned lessons you’ve collected over the years.
At the same time, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open. After all, the best part about mentorship is that—when it’s a strong partnership—both people learn equally. As a mentor, you’ll gain a new perspective about the work you do. Your mentee’s youthful inexperience can actually provide you with a wealth of powerful insight…if you’re open to it.
The written word is always a wonderful tool for reaching others. Consider writing an article for a publication catering to your industry or profession. Or start a blog! Nothing is more empowering than putting your thoughts out there for the world to see. The Internet attracts a global audience and I know from experience that the connections you make can be life (and career) changing.
Plus, as a published author—whether online or in print—you’re automatically afforded a certain level of authority. It seems strange, but writers are presumed to be experts (sadly, even if they have no clue what they’re saying).
My point, however, is this: A few bylines can quickly elevate your professional visibility and shape your reputation as a leader in your field. Just be sure that whatever you put into writing is something you stand by wholeheartedly and are proud of…because it creates a permanent record that can and will follow you for the rest of your career.
3. Train Others
Offer to present on a topic of interest at a local industry conference or meeting of your professional association. Host a lunch and learn event at your company. Present what you know with confidence, in a way that engages and enlightens your audience. Remember not to talk “down” to people; as the instructor, part of your role is to tap the wisdom in the room. Open the conversation so others can share their expertise as well. Don’t presume you’re the only one with something to say.
Training others in any setting, big or small, will help boost your public speaking skills (incredibly valuable for any profession) and position you as an authority. Just like writing, standing in front of a room creates automatic credibility.
4. Be a Resource
When you read an exceptionally helpful article, stumble upon a useful new piece of information, or find a more effective way of doing things, don’t keep it to yourself. Each and every day, you likely have something worthwhile to share that could be beneficial to your colleagues. You don’t have to wait for a formal training session or explicit request for help. Instead, simply shoot off an email to your co-workers that says something like:
“Hey guys, I found this article really helpful. Thought you might enjoy it too.”
“Not sure if you guys knew this, but I just figured out that XYZ software has this really cool hidden feature! Here’s a step-by-step on how to use it just in case it’s new for you too.”
Imagine if one of your colleagues did this for you. How would you feel? How would you view that person? Your small gesture can positively influence someone’s entire career. It’s definitely worth the few minutes required.
5. Take the Lead
If you have special expertise that could be beneficial to a particular task or project, don’t be afraid to take the reins. I often see highly experienced folks who don’t want the responsibility of leadership, so they sit back and keep their mouths shut. Then, after the project is under way, they slowly let it be known that they have expertise that could have been helpful but no one listened to them…Oh poor victim!
Don’t make people beg for your help or insight. Volunteer it. Step up and offer to guide the ship if you know you’d make a good captain. If you have something to contribute, get out front. Just remember that the best leaders encourage everyone on the team to share their expertise too.
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, July 25th, 2013 | 1 Comment »