How Conferences Can Increase Your Value

As I’m preparing to attend the annual conference of one of my professional associations (October 3-6), I’ve been thinking about how a well-planned and well-presented conference can increase one’s value to employers. If you haven’t considered that aspect of your career management recently, I encourage you to give it some thought now.

Why Attend Professional Conferences?

I could list several reasons you might want to attend conferences. These are just a few:

  • The best conferences give you access to leaders in your field, with the potential for finding top-quality mentors to enhance your career growth.Learn from the best advice
  • You get a chance to meet new people and expand your personal as well as professional horizons.
  • If you participate in between-session networking opportunities, you get more “bang for your buck” and can become known beyond your local geography.
  • You might learn about new job opportunities before those become widely publicized.
  • The change of scenery from your work environment can refresh you mentally and physically.

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Happy or Unhappy at Work – Do You Need a New Job?

Some people believe happiness at work is either an impossible dream or the goal of lazy people who don’t want to work hard. I think it stems from the Puritan work ethic that’s part of the foundation of this country. “If it’s pleasant, it must not be work.”

So if you’re looking for happiness as part of your every-day work, are you unrealistic? Should you accept that varying degrees of unhappiness, ranging from mild dissatisfaction to outright misery, are inescapable at times?stressed or relaxed

Sometimes You Make Your Own At-Work Unhappiness

This might sound like a harsh statement, especially if you feel as if you’ve been giving the situation your best effort. However, most of us could probably admit to the possibility that we might have some mistaken impressions holding us back from feeling genuinely happy at work. People who manage to feel and express strong happiness in their work situation might have some secret you haven’t uncovered, but it’s also possible you’ve overlooked some aspect of what you’re doing or not doing that’s contributing to your unhappiness.

What might that be?

Here are just a few examples:

  • You accepted a new job that wasn’t your ideal, so now you’re trying to make it feel acceptable–and struggling with that.
  • You have a toxic boss or toxic work environment in general that’s causing you major work-related stress, but you’re fighting the idea that you might need to consider leaving your current employer.
  • You try to avoid unpleasantness or the need to deal with a colleague who’s difficult, instead of looking for potential solutions to the problem.

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Cover Letters – Are They a Waste of Time?

Clients planning a job search often ask me if a cover letter would be worth doing. I tell them the answer is “yes,” “no,” or “maybe”!

Most job seekers know they need a resume of some kind. For one thing, employers expect it. (Despite what you might read about resumes being on their way out, their demise hasn’t materialized yet.)

Cover letters, however, seem to be more of a gray area. You can find “experts” who’ll weigh in on both sides of the issue.

Can Cover Letters be a Waste of Time?Cover letter concept

Certainly–like any other aspect of a job search. If you do a halfhearted job on your cover letter, you might as well have spent the time watching TV. The benefit to your job search will be about the same in both cases!

Similarly, if you don’t do your homework and settle for sending a generic cover letter to potential employers, it’s not likely to be useful. A cover letter that fails to address the company’s most critical needs and indicate how you can help meet those needs means you’ve wasted your time and probably the employer’s as well.

Finally, if you think a cover letter takes care of everything and you don’t need to conduct an active job search, you’re fooling yourself. Cover letters are one of the tools you might use, but they don’t operate in a vacuum.

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What Are You Afraid Of? Career Success or Failure?

Most of us are afraid of something. Some of us are afraid of a lot of things! In terms of your job or career, what are you afraid of? Afraid you won’t succeed and people will look down on you–or afraid you will succeed and won’t be able to live up to it?

Success Requires Determination, Persistence & Faith

Innovative LeadershipYou need to have faith in yourself in order to succeed in your job or career. Without that, the rest might not happen, no matter how strong your professional qualifications are.

If you face stumbling blocks in your current job or obstacles that could derail your long-term career success, fear might try to rear its ugly head and keep you paralyzed–which automatically stymies your progress. The same goes for blazing a path where you have challenging conditions on either side of you–believe you have what it takes to keep moving forward.

Career Motivation Sometimes Needs Inspiration

Poetry might not be your first thought as a resource to overcome the fear that blocks your career path, but it’s not a bad source of inspiration if you understand that it’s not always 100% grounded in reality.

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Career Success: When “Go It Alone” Makes No Sense

When you face a job search or career challenge that has you puzzled–even concerned–about what to do next, you might want to consider whether you’ve been trying to solve the problem all by yourself instead of reaching out for help. Sometimes the solution involves identifying a support team of people who are willing and able to help you succeed. To quote Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Support Team = Success Team

Three men join forces to lift the words We've Got Your Back

You can overcome a lot of obstacles if you have the backing of people who will clue you in to actions you might want to take or even give you a head-start on making a good career decision.

If you have a mentor, that’s a great beginning, but don’t stop there. Your support team should nearly always be more than one person. One function it can perform is to point out to you when you’re about to make a mistake. On the other hand, team members might offer excellent guidance on smart moves you can make. Both approaches provide potentially good value for your career success.

How to Build a Strong Support Team

Perhaps the first step in building a strong support team for your job search or career challenge is to make sure you know where you need the most help.

For example, if you want to move to a new geographical location and find a new job or career focus there, you might want to include in your support team someone who has experience doing or managing relocations–that is, he or she has done it successfully and maybe more than once. What can that person share with you that could keep you from having to find things out the hard way?

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Career Challenge: Are You Sure You’re Up for It?

If everything goes smoothly in your career and you don’t run into any major concerns along the way…stop reading, because this post doesn’t apply to you! Pat yourself on the back and keep on doing what you’re doing. It must be working!

On the other hand….

Career Challenges Can be Intimidating

Take the Challenge 3D Words Action InitiativeMost of us can handle small glitches in our career path, and some of you might be able to zoom through bigger challenges with relative ease. However, it’s perfectly normal to feel intimidated or overwhelmed at times, especially when the challenge looms large on your horizon.

Here’s a classic example: You might begin to realize that your chosen career field—which you’ve spent several years building experience and achieving promotions in—is facing a downward trend. You start feeling afraid that you’ll be sidelined and eventually find yourself stuck in a going-nowhere position. Worse, you’re afraid you might be on a slippery slide to total career oblivion.

Experts (like me!) will tell you to get creative and look for career options that can build on what you’ve learned and achieved, taking you on a somewhat different career path but helping you stay relevant and marketable.

“But that’s difficult!” you might say. “In fact, it’s impossible. I don’t see a way to do it at all.”

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Are You Overworked? Underpaid? Unappreciated? Belittled?

If going to work each day involves dragging yourself out of bed, swallowing an antacid, and gritting your teeth as you head to work–you have a problem! You might be overworked, underpaid, unappreciated, or belittled.

This kind of unhappy work situation impacts many people and can make unemployment look almost attractive by comparison. Note that I said “almost.” Unemployment–particularly involuntary unemployment–carries its own difficulties, but “employed misery” will definitely give you a major challenge.

Demoralizing & Demotivating Work Situations

You could face one of these demoralizing and demotivating work situations:

  • Overworked: Your boss piles on the work, and you’re doing the job of three people. Your pleas for help are ignored or flatly rejected. (“Quit complaining. You should be glad you’ve got a job.”)Tired business woman with documents in her workplace
  • Underpaid: What you were hired for and what the company expects you to do are miles apart, and you’re working well above your pay scale. However, your raise requests are rejected, sometimes for reasons that make little sense. (“You haven’t been in the job long enough.” OR “Paying you that much would insult others who’ve been doing the work longer.”)
  • Unappreciated: You’re making a valuable contribution to the work of your department, but it’s taken for granted or dismissed as less valuable than it is. (“You shouldn’t expect to be congratulated for doing your job. It’s what you get paid for.”)
  • Belittled and/or intimidated: When your immediate boss or others put you down and suggest that you’re basically a warm body filling a chair, that’s belittling. If they exhibit aggressive or domineering behavior, that’s actively hostile. (“Can’t you do anything right? What do we pay you for, anyway?” OR “You should remember no one is irreplaceable!”)worker under magnifying glass his boss

One of my bosses years ago used to say, “Life is too short to….” (Fill in your own ending.) He  would never have indulged in any of the above behaviors with the people who reported to him. However, I have seen and heard of too many situations where that was not the case.

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Is Your Career Progress Stalled or in a Downward Spiral?

Realistically, you can’t expect career growth on a daily basis. That’s not a real-world scenario. On the other hand, if your career progress has stalled for an extended period or, worse, entered a downward spiral, you do have cause for concern. A key question is: What can and should you do about the situation?

What if Your Career Progress is Simply Stalled?

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Say you’ve missed out on more than one promotion opportunity in the last year or so. How worried should you be? If you’re overloaded with work and senior management turns a deaf ear to your requests for an assistant, is that a sign that you’re spinning your wheels or being written off? Are you still basically at the same place you were a year ago, with no real potential for progress?

Maybe it’s time to get a sense of perspective about your situation. To begin with, is this something only you are facing or is it part of a larger issue within your company? If others at your level aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future either, maybe you should be looking at a different concern–in other words, whether the company itself has troubles you might want to examine carefully. For instance, is its management making decisions you suspect could threaten the company’s future or endanger the survival of your department?

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