The following articles may provide insights and ideas for effective career management.
You can do a lot on your own and take pride in that fact. However, you will undoubtedly encounter times in your life when you need support from others. That’s true in your professional life as well as in your personal experience.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being self-sufficient, independent and able to move forward on your own. All the same, if you cling to that obstinately when a smart person would acknowledge the wisdom of reaching out to someone, you’re missing the boat.
This situation actually has two sides to it: (1) asking for help from someone; (2) offering to help others who need it.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Whether it’s pride that’s holding you back from reaching out, fear of rejection, or some other reason, you need to break through that barrier sooner rather than later. No one will think less of you for asking—or if someone does think that, he/she is probably a person you’d be better off without.
Of course, it’s sensible to determine first whether or not you really do need outside help. If you’re giving up on your own effort because asking for help would be easier than trying to go it alone, it’s likely you haven’t done your share of the work yet. Finish what you can and then reach out.
One of the bonuses of doing it that way is that you know in your heart you’ve done all you can on your own. You’re not a quitter. You’ll also feel more comfortable requesting help from someone if you have that knowledge behind you. In other words, you have a genuine need for their assistance, but you’re not asking them to do work you should have done.
And remember to express thanks to the person who responded to your call for help. That’s critically important. Not only will it brand you as someone who appreciates what’s done for him or her, but also it will make the helper feel rewarded for the support provided to you.
Besides the altruistic aspect of the appreciation you communicate, there’s the enlightened self-interest it includes. You’re more likely to get help the next time you need it if you don’t take it for granted now.
Offer Help to Others When You Know There’s a Need
You might be motivated to respond favorably to a request for help, which is fine. Sometimes, though, it’s even better if you don’t wait to be asked. You need to assess the situation and try to determine if offering unsolicited help is a good step to take. If it would spark resentment in the other person, it might do more harm than good.
However, when a clear request for help comes your way, you need to decide whether you can provide the help requested and whether it’s the best action for you to take. Questions you might ask yourself include the following:
Cooperation & Career Success
Which brings me to the point that started me on this thread in the first place: Your career success might go much farther and last longer if you start from a standpoint of cooperation and unselfish giving, balanced by commonsense.
As the saying goes, “What goes around, comes around.” You might even find that your payback comes from someone other than the person you originally helped and at a time when you least expected it.
That’s potentially the most fun part of the journey.
You might find it strange to think of career management in terms of cost. After all, the purpose of effective career management involves identifying and maximizing career opportunities, doesn’t it?
Definitely. However, it’s never wise to ignore the cost factor.
According to one source (ReferenceForBusiness.com), “An opportunity cost is defined as the value of a forgone activity or alternative when another item or activity is chosen. Opportunity cost comes into play in any decision that involves a tradeoff between two or more options.”
What does that mean with regard to your career management and its possible opportunity costs?
Virtually everything has a cost. In this case, we’re talking about career management decisions that require you to choose between two or more viable actions at any given point.
Let’s say you believe that your lack of an MBA degree is hindering your ability to achieve a desired senior executive role. If you decide to pursue that degree, you’ll undoubtedly be looking at sacrificing time and/or money to make it happen. For example, you might quit your current job and go to school full time to earn the MBA more quickly or you could keep your job and go to school on the side—and sleep less!
You can’t “have it all”—at least, not without a cost.
What Are Missed Opportunities Costing You?
Successful business people understand that if you spend time and money on one thing, you are, in effect, choosing not to spend it on something else. In the case of your career management, that “something else” could be a missed career opportunity.
I once had a client who learned this the hard way. His company was offering educational reimbursement to employees who enrolled in and completed an advanced degree program. However, he decided he wasn’t particularly interested in obtaining the degree at that point and didn’t take advantage of the offer.
About 18 months later, his company had some setbacks and started trimming its labor force to cut costs. My client lost his job during that cutback. Yes, he eventually found a new job, but he realized it would have been easier if he could have satisfied potential employers’ desire to hire someone with an MBA. If he had accepted his previous employer’s earlier offer, he’d have been well on his way to obtaining that degree, at their expense.
Costly Mistakes You Might be Making
Are you browsing online job boards, posting your resume on various sites, and generally surfing the Internet to find that “perfect” job you think is out there? If so, you might not have much time to spend building and strengthening your network of contacts on LinkedIn or elsewhere. Those contacts could be critical to your job search–maybe by putting you in touch with other people who could help steer you toward the “right” job opportunity.
Let me give an example. Say you’re on the senior management team at your company and you start hearing rumblings that a competitor is planning a takeover bid. Aside from what you could or might do about that inside your company, you know you should be updating your resume and perhaps putting out some cautious feelers to your network.
Instead, you decide this can wait for a while and take off for a relaxing week-long vacation. Relaxation is certainly not a bad thing, but it’s a choice that means you can’t do something else with that time—like update your resume. That choice could lead to repercussions, such as not having the resume ready when you suddenly need it.
Poor Assumptions vs. Shrewd Career Management
You might feel relatively sure that if your company experiences adverse organizational changes, you’ll be the last to be let go. You could think, “How could they let me go? I’ve been the driving force behind so much of their success!” However, business decisions are made all the time that might not be what you consider right.
Then ask yourself, what other mistaken assumptions am I possibly making that could prove costly?
Now think about why it’s important to weigh your options carefully and often. The reasons are fairly straightforward:
Conscious or Unconscious Choices
A key point to consider is whether you are making choices consciously or unconsciously, and whether you base your conscious decisions on a sound foundation that takes into account what you may be giving up as a result. (It’s more difficult to control the unconscious choices, since you don’t even know you’re making them!)
For example, if you’re offered a position as Vice President of Marketing with a growing high-tech company in another state at a much bigger salary than you’re currently earning, many people might say you’d be crazy not to grab it. Suppose, though, that your two kids are doing well in their junior and senior years in high school, and your spouse has recently launched a small business that he or she has dreamed of for a long time.
Suddenly, the choice becomes far from clear-cut. Any decision you make needs to be well thought-out, with full awareness of the costs each potential decision will involve. Other people’s needs and preferences must now be considered.
When you fail to pay careful attention to your choices, they become unconscious, by-default situations that could cost you more in missed career opportunities than you ever intended to pay. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Choose your path consciously and wisely, based on careful consideration of the career management opportunity costs involved. Finally, make sure any missed opportunity costs are ones you can live with!
That’s not to say that plans are carved in granite and can’t be changed. In the chaotic situation that affects most of the world today—from the global view down to issues faced by our own local communities—change and unpredictability have become the norm. This might tempt you to put your life “on hold” until things stabilize somewhat, and that temptation is understandable.
Understandable, but not a good idea. As we used to say around home, “When things get back to normal, we’ll … But, wait …What if this is normal?”
Flexible planning makes excellent sense if you hope to obtain and maintain a stable source of income and a satisfying work life. If you’re good at planning and have the time and objectivity to work through the issues that might come up, you can do it on your own. Otherwise, you might want to consult a professional who provides career and/or life coaching. Either way, the sooner you initiate the process, the sooner you’ll see progress toward your goals and increase your sense of being in control of at least part of your life!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when getting started on your plan: What do I really want? Do I believe I can have it? What do I think might stand in my way, and what can I do about that? Who might be willing and able to help me?
One variation of the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.” Or, as another puts it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to wind up somewhere else.” When applied to establishing a successful career, not knowing where you’re headed or how you’re going to get there spells trouble with a capital T.
Sometimes people luck-out and easily get what seems like a good job early in life, only to find years later that they have gone from job to job with no clear sense of purpose and have ended up on a dead-end road or one that leads somewhere they really don’t want to go. In other cases, the individual might start with a career path carefully planned out and pursue it diligently, then run into a situation where the rules of the game have changed practically overnight because of technology advances or other events that were difficult to anticipate.
Obviously, there are few (if any) easy answers to some of the dilemmas you can encounter in trying to map out your career and put your plans into action, but here are 6 tips you might find helpful:
1. Don’t depend on someone else to take care of the career decisions for you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consult experts, such as career coaches or counselors, who may be able to help you identify information and resources you might not otherwise discover. It just means that, ultimately, you are the one who has the most at stake in making the right decisions—you can’t hand that responsibility off to other people, then sit back and relax while they do the work for you.
2. Desperation may be a strong motivator for change, but it can seriously cloud your ability to think effectively. By far the best time to investigate possibilities and consider potentially major career or job changes is when you don’t have to. It’s somewhat like applying for a loan or line of credit with a bank. You’re more likely to get one when you don’t urgently need it, because you can readily demonstrate your ability to repay it.
3. Consider who else might be affected by your career decisions. While the final choice is still yours—at least in theory—any unilateral decision you make (without consulting other people who will be impacted by it) could create some serious repercussions for you. If you’re unattached and unencumbered by responsibilities, that’s one thing. On the other hand, if you have family members who depend on you or others who will somehow have to live with the results of your actions, that’s a much more complex situation and needs careful thought.
4. “Look before you leap” may be a cliché, but it still has validity when you’re talking about something as significant as choosing a career that could take up years of your life. Victims of the 2000-2001 dot-com fiasco can certainly attest to that. Swept along by the understandable desire to parlay their strengths into a high-paying, sky’s-the-limit job in the booming high-tech / Internet explosion, many of them overlooked the fact that most of the new companies weren’t making money and had little or no chance of making any in the foreseeable future. When reality hit, it did so with a vengeance.
5. Relationships play a critical role in your success, even in the present era where technology seems to control so much of what we do. Work on developing a resource network that you can trust and depend on to provide you with the right kind of help when you need to investigate, evaluate, and choose a career direction. Nurture that network, keep it healthy, and expand it whenever you find a new resource that would make a useful addition to it.
6. Flexible choices give you more room to cut your losses if you make a wrong decision. Think long and hard if you’re considering a career move that doesn’t allow much margin for error or that requires a major investment of time, energy, and/or money that you might be reluctant or unable to toss aside if your choice turns out to be a disaster.
You may have heard the term typecasting in relation to actors, who sometimes get pigeon-holed for a certain type of role and find it difficult, if not impossible, to land other types of roles. For example, someone who has always done comedy might face rejection from film companies that are casting for a drama or action-adventure movie.
What does this have to do with careers? It’s not uncommon for someone to establish a career in a certain field and then struggle to break out of that space later on. Following are a few examples of the situations job-seekers have encountered, as well as a few ideas about what you can do to avoid typecasting or to break out of it:
A large part of the problem may be that you’ve focused so strongly on what your goal was at the time that you haven’t left any doors open–or taken advantage of those that others wanted to open for you. Now you face an uphill battle to get where you want to go.
Depending on where you are in your career, you may have a lot of time or relatively little to prevent yourself from getting typecast in a narrow career mold. Still, there are usually actions you can take that will support your efforts to broaden or transition your career focus over time. I emphasize “over time” because few things offer a truly quick fix. Patience and persistence are usually required.
Points to consider trying:
The articles included here were written by me unless otherwise identified.
If you are interested in sharing or reprinting these articles, in-full or in-part, for use elsewhere, please note that they are copyrighted, and therefore must include appropriate author credit as follows:
“By Georgia Adamson, A Successful Career, 508-263-9454, www.ablueribbonresume.com.”