Career Due Diligence is the new ‘Networking’

Tomorrow, I’m facilitating a ‘Networking’ session for professionals in career transition. Based on similar workshops I’ve run over the past few years, I anticipate that many of the people in the room would rather be elsewhere. They’ll be there because the majority of employment opportunities aren’t on SEEK, they’re ‘hidden’ – discovered through informal conversations with like-minded professionals, especially in a tight market-place.

I’ll spend the first half hour trying to get them comfortable with the concept. The thought of old fashioned press-the-flesh kind of ‘networking’ leaves them cold. I’ll soon spot the sales or business development manager. For them, networking is as cosy as ugg boots on a Melbourne winter’s night. Their confidence and success stories are always welcome, and can be contagious. A few reluctant debutantes will leave the session with more spring in their step.

But that won’t be before I tell them to forget ‘selling’ themselves and schmoozing cocktail-party style, and approach job search as a career due diligence exercise.

The process of acquiring objective and reliable information on a person or a company as required, especially before a commercial acquisition.

Many of them will have applied such skills in their day job, or researching a property purchase. The challenge will be to summon up some courage*, engage their curiosity, and apply the principles of due diligence during career transition.

As social media redefines networking, career due diligence via cafe conversations has been elevated to a new level. If you’re tackling a job search post-redundancy, or planning a career change, why not do yourself a favour and give it a go?

* From my experience, many introverts find this process confronting. For some great tips, I recommend Nancy Ancowitz’s book ‘Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide for Getting Ahead’.

Leadership Lessons from a Genial Guru

I believe that good leadership is the golden thread woven through all successful careers. Whether leading people, a function, or making a individual contribution, we have an opportunity to create value, and leave a legacy we can be proud of.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my first guest writer, one of my favourite colleagues, and “genial guru” Bob Boyd. As an academic, Bob taught management, and recently facilitated executive development programs across the Asia Pacific. In this post, Bob shares some takeaways from the leadership classics, all distilled for us on one page for an easy read. Over to you Bob…

Several years ago, I was running a leadership workshop in South Korea. On the second-last day, one participant asked me to share what I had learned about leadership from years working in universities and global corporates, and from my reading of leadership literature.

Here are my top 6 points:

Peter Drucker in his HBR article Managing Oneself writes that manners are the lubricating oil of an organisation. I concur completely and have found that rudeness, abruptness being overly direct and unsubtle generates negative feelings and demotivates employees.

Stephen Covey in The Eighth Habit and First Things First talks about the importance of personal ethics and sound business principles. These are not nebulous concepts. Principles and values guide good  business decisions, and ethical behaviour creates loyalty and trust in customers and staff.

Jim Collins in Good To Great reminds us of the qualities of great leaders – humility and determination. And I whole heartedly agree that leaders who focus their energy on the good of the company (not their own ego fulfilment) and the needs of their people, create workplaces where people love to work, with whom customers and clients like to associate and whose superior business results are maintained over long periods of time

Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations reminds us of the critical importance of communicating with business colleagues and staff in a clear unambiguous, open and honest way. She maintains that the failure to confront issues in a timely and sensitive way will lead to less than effective relationships at work.

Noel Tichy in The Leadership Engine speaks of the importance for leaders to have a teachable point of view to:

  • foster the development of good business ideas,
  • instil values that support implementation of those ideas
  • generate positive energy themselves and others, and
  • make tough decisions.

Finally Daniel Goleman in Leadership That Gets Results identifies six leadership styles based on components of our emotional intelligence. He argues we should flexibly apply differing leadership styles  (in particular situations and with particular people), and be acutely aware of the danger in limiting our leadership strengths to only one or two styles, because of being insufficiently aware of our emotional intelligence predispositions.

So in a nut shell, my top keys to highly effective leadership are:

  1. Good manners and consideration of others
  2. Personal ethics and sound business principles
  3. Humility and determination
  4. Open, honest and timely communication
  5. Developing a teachable point of view
  6. Flexible leadership styles

 

Bob(small)

Bob Boyd is a Melbourne-based coach, who offers sound and practical development strategies based on experience and a continuing interest and familiarity with management literature, research and practice. In the last 10 years, Bob has successfully provided leadership development to global companies operating across the Asia-Pacific region. Recently, he has facilitated workshops and coached leaders for the Departments of Justice and Human Services, in Victoria.  Contact him at bob@asiamanagement.biz

 

Be Your Own Career Stylist

How about managing your career like a fashion stylist?

Being your own career stylist, starts with an appreciation of the latest styles and trends

in your area of expertise, industry and job market.

Put together your ensemble, accessorise, tailor your ‘look’, curate, critique, get feedback,

and tweak the options along your own career runway.

Work With What You’ve Got

 

I love the promise of a new year. The enforced ‘down time’ over the festive season gives me permission to switch-off, unwind, and reflect on what is truly important to my career. This month could just as well be called Planuary, as I use the tail end of the summer break, to think about how I’d like to develop my career coaching practice in 2013.

Although there’s always the thrill of finding something newer and better, it dawned on me that I’m surrounded by plenty of great resources – materials that I’ve laboured over, and filed away for another day. Thanks to the occasional Amazon splurge, my bookshelves are stuffed with inspiration. While I have my firm favourites, some of these books sit like orphans on the shelf, waiting to be picked and loved.

This year, I’ve decided that less is more, and I plan to work with what I’ve got.

The same mantra could be applied to savvy professionals, as they take charge of their careers. DIY career development is at your finger tips. Proactive career management not only facilitates progression within a current employer or a chosen industry, it’s an insurance policy in the event of an unexpected career change.

Great development is dynamic, customised, action based and experiential. Forget the generic and formulaic, and explore options which cater to your unique needs. In a world of flatter matrix-based organisations and lateral moves, career development is within easy reach.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) research indicates that a significant part of development occurs through practical experiences. And the more varied the practical experiences, the greater the likelihood of developing a broad repertoire of skills.

Development can take various forms. It may include changing the scope of your position to develop a new competency or skill; a secondment to another department to develop functional expertise; transfer into a new role to gain people leadership experience; coaching; mentoring or completion of a university course.

In her book Developmental Assignments – Creating Learning Experiences without Changing Jobs* (CCL 2006), Cynthia McCauley identified the following challenges as development opportunities:

  • Unfamiliar responsibilities handling responsibilities that are new or very different from previous ones you’ve handled
  • New directions starting something new or making strategic changes
  • Inherited problems fixing problems created by someone or existing before you took the assignment
  • Problems with employees dealing with employees who lack adequate experience, are incompetent or are resistant to change
  • High stakes managing work with tight deadlines, pressure from above, high visibility and responsibility for critical decisions
  • Scope and scale managing work that is broad in scope (including multiple functions, groups, locations, products or services) or large in sheer size (eg workload, number of responsibilities)
  • External pressure managing the interface with important groups outside the organisation, such as customers, vendors, partners, unions and regulatory agencies
  • Influencing without authority influencing peers, higher management or other key people over whom you have no authority
  • Work across cultures working with people from different cultures or with institutions in other countries
  • Work group diversity being responsible for the work of people of both genders and different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

In addition to developing expertise, these experiences generate accomplishments, which bolster a resume, and pave the way for promotion and new career pathways. The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. You are surrounded by development opportunities, which needn’t cost anything other than your initiative. Work with what you’ve got.

* Refer http://www.ccl.org for details on publications

Network Your Way Through the Festive Season

In Australia, Christmas and New Year coincides with our summer holidays. Whatever the demands of our professional lives, we embrace the change in pace, and the long languid days, to soak up the sun and recharge our batteries. By Christmas Eve, we are starting to shed our armour, become more relaxed and accessible.

The festive season is a time for reflection and renewal. We gather with family and friends, reconnect with former colleagues and classmates, meet up with acquaintances and make new ones. With a diary full of social commitments, we engage with people when they are at their most gracious and charitable. It’s a networker’s dream.

Whether you’re contemplating a career change, or searching for a new job as a result of a role redundancy, the holiday atmosphere creates space to explore your options, discover new pathways, refine your strategy and develop a plan.

With an open and curious mind, this downtime is valuable for some career due diligence. While businesses may close over the break, their staff holiday with you. As the ‘Hidden Job Market’ accounts for 70-80% of employment opportunities, you can learn more about the state of the market from the people you meet. ‘Informational interview’ opportunities are all around you.

To maintain momentum and be ready to hit the ground running in 2013, here are 3 things you can do for your career during the festive season:

Polish your LinkedIn profile

Refresh your content, and include a new update. Add an application and edit your headline, experience, achievements and skills, to ensure your profile is search-friendly. Let people know that you’re active, interesting and marketable. Where appropriate, use the fields to signal your availability for a new position or assignment. While you’re there, take the opportunity to endorse a skill or tailor a ‘seasons greetings’ email for your connections.

Stimulate your mind

If you’d like to upskill, or learn something new to accelerate your career advancement, check out courses you can undertake over summer. It doesn’t need to offer gilt-edge accreditation, and there are plenty of cost-effective online courses available. Check out Coursera and Udemy for inspiration. Not only does it show that you’ve got initiative, further study provides intellectual stimulation, gives you something to talk about and add to your resume.

A random act of kindness

Many people need support over the festive season. Volunteering your time and energy will keep you busy and connected over the break. In addition to making you feel good, you will meet new people, challenge your thinking, and potentially obtain an experience which will help you transition into a new career. As many corporate employers support their staff to participate in volunteer programs, they may be impressed by such experiences, which can be highlighted on your resume and LinkedIn profile. For opportunities look around in your community, and organisations such as Volunteering Australia.

Wishing you joy, peace and career fulfilment in 2013

Is Your Career a Work of Art?

The career paradigm has been redefined.

In Gianpiero Petriglieri’s Harvard Business blog post Turn Your Career into a Work of Art and video The Art of Career Development, he proposes that unlike previous generations, we are now reflecting upon our identity and purpose, and scrutinising our career choices, many times in our lifetime. And not only when we are struggling, but when we are succeeding.

Petriglieri writes “the better you do, the broader the range of opportunities you have. You no longer just get to move up, you get to move around. You are exposed to different opinions, worldviews, and lifestyles. You become keener to look for work that grants you more than sustenance and recognition. Work that allows you to feed your passions, express yourself and serve a larger cause.”

Today’s careers are no longer ladders. They are more like works of art.

Success in art is not just making a living, is it about moving and being moved. It is opening vistas and challenging the status quo. While an artist’s life can be exciting, it creates anxiety. Displaying passion can be scary.

In his research and leadership development work, Petriglieri observes the same concoction of emotions among people, especially leaders, who aspire to craft their careers around their passion.

So, to succeed and thrive like an artist, Petriglieri advocates that you:

  1. Build your career on a foundation of expertise
  2. Prove the work you do matters, and makes a difference to you & others
  3. Be courageous and put yourself out there, find a voice & defy convention
  4. Connect to a community that teaches, inspires & supports you.

What can you do to shape your career into a work of art?

 

Your Visual Career Plan

We’re more than half way through the year, and electric blankets are getting a workout down under. My twitter feed has shifted into a lower gear, as tanned bodies come out to play in the northern hemisphere. Very soon, olympians will take to the stage for one magnificent spectacle of career ambition. Wherever you are in the world, mid-year provides a pit-stop for reflection and renewal. It’s a great time to get New Year’s Eve resolutions dusted off. Why not start by undertaking some career change due diligence, and capturing the key points in a one-page visual career plan?

Keep is simple, and kick-start the process by considering the following: 

Must haves

The best career decisions are based on what’s important to you. How do your values impact on the positions you pursue? How much responsibility do you want? Is it realistic, and the stretch you need right now? What’s not-negotiable, what’s nice to have?

What people say about you

Refer to recent performance reviews, 360 reports and customer feedback. What do these tell you about your real strengths? When do you seem to shine the most? Can you leverage these at you next career move? Are there opportunities for development that need your attention?

Achievements

Take stock of what you’ve done over the past 6-12 months. Have you acquired capabilities in a particular area, or won a major account? Did you play a key role on a project, or step into your manager’s position while they were on leave? Don’t overlook or take any career milestone for granted.

Professional Development

What would help you get to the next level, do you job better or differently? While training and education may be appropriate, look for faster (and often more effective) options. Would a secondment into another business unit offer you the expertise? Or could mentoring give you a fresh perspective, and the confidence to progress? Reach out, look for learning opportunities. They may not cost you anything, other than initiative and energy.

Ideal next position

Given all of the above, what does your next role looks like? Is there a variation or an alternative that could work just as well? Will this position give you the opportunity to progress your career in the right direction? Speak to trusted colleagues if you need inspiration or advice.

When you’re ready, share your visual career plan with your partner, line manager, mentor and peers. As “a picture is worth a thousand words”, the plan should readily communicate what you offer and your aspirations. Ask for their input, feedback, support and more importantly, a reality check. Edit if needed.

Use your visual career plan to keep you on track, capture your progress and recalibrate your goals.

And if you dare, share it on Pinterest. You never know who’s cruising!

What’s Your Brand?

One of the biggest challenges facing professionals embarking on a job search or career change, is being able to articulate how they differentiate themselves from other candidates. This seems even more difficult for people who have spent a good chunk of their careers with the same organisation.

In his recent Harvard Business Review post, Bill Barnett wrote that a personal value proposition, or PVP, is at the heart of an executive’s career strategy. He believes it’s the foundation for everything in a job search and career progression – targeting potential employers, attracting the help of others, and explaining why you’re the one to pick.

Although the notion of a personal brand sits as uncomfortably as an elevator pitch with many professionals, these concepts have taken root in the career management arena.

If you are clear on what you do well, and the value you offer an organisation, you will be a more attractive candidate to recruiters and prospective employers. Why? You have made their job easier. They will be able to see where you fit in, and how they can market you to others.

Meg Guiseppi, The C-level Executive Job Coach, describes personal branding in this way:

Your brand is your reputation – the combination of personal attributes, values, drivers, strengths and passion as you draw from that differentiate your unique promise of value from your peers.

It’s up to you to identify those qualities and characteristics within you, integrate your value proposition in everything you do, and communicate a crystal clear, consistent message across multiple channels – online and offline – designed to resonate with your target audience.

In her post, Meg lists 10 brand assessment and development exercises. While it’s quite a work-out, this introspective process will help you define and communicate your personal brand, and provide the cornerstone for your career strategy.

For more on preparing for a career change, see my earlier post Career Change Due Diligence.

Be Your Own Best Career Publicist

As social media and the notion of ‘personal branding’ becomes career management de rigueur, one of my favourite finds this year was Jessica Kleiman’s & Meryl Weinsaft Cooper’s Be Your Own BEST Publicist.

Written by New York publicists, the book shares insider tips on how to use PR principles to build your reputation, make yourself indispensable and promote yourself more effectively.

While there are plenty of great takeaways from the book, I think the following are fundamental for professionals managing their careers:

Communication is the key

It is important to know your career goal. (For more on this, see my earlier post Career Change Due Diligence). If you’re seeking a job or a promotion, you must be able to articulate what you bring to the position and/or the company. You need what PR pros call a ‘hook’, or what I refer to as your ‘magic fairy dust’, ie what differentiates you from other candidates. Make sure your resume highlights these points upfront. If you get to the next stage, these differentiators offer the interviewer a way to connect and could help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s all about who you know (and who knows you)

Networking accounts for up to 80% of all jobs or consulting opportunities landed at executive level. Put simply, we all prefer to recruit someone we know or who has been recommended. Get out and start connecting. While social media has become increasingly important in career management, it’s not enough. You must press the flesh and break out of your comfort zone of familiar faces. It’s important to keep an open mind and expand your circle as widely as possible to maximise all opportunities.

Avoid making assumptions about people. You never know who they know, or what they may know, to assist you with your career goal. Once you have those contacts, try to ‘lightly’ keep in touch on a regular basis, and when you need them the least. Think about networking as learning, sharing and helping others. Networks must be nutured and valued. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a long term investment. All good things come to those who wait!

Toot your own horn (but not loo loudly)

Companies look for employees who offer a return on investment, so ask yourself: What can I offer? Do I, or am I, willing to go beyond my job description? Am I worth what I’m being compensated? (or am I worth more?) How productive and innovative am I, and can I be more so? How do my work and ideas add to the bottom line? Are my contributions essential? Do your own internal due diligence to get the evidence and answers to these questions.  Once you have them, you are armed to communicate and demonstrate your value, and position yourself for that next great career opportunity.

For more inspiration, you can follow Jessica and Meryl on Twitter @BestPublicist.

Career Change Due Diligence

You’re thinking about a career change…what should you do?

Whether by choice or as a result of redundancy, it is helpful to do a personal stocktake or due diligence of your career to date, and re-calibrate your aspirations.

For most of us, a career is the backbone of our life. Regardless of the level you operate at in an organisation, the same mantra applies, Know Thyself. This means know your strengths, your style, what’s important to you, what makes you miserable, what you’re working on, work environments that make you thrive and how you impact others or influence an outcome. If you can’t articulate this for yourself, you’ll have little chance of assessing your career options and communicating what you offer to others.

A career due diligence involves reflection and research. For those of you who enjoy spending time thinking about and planning any significant life decision, this may be a welcome diversion. For those of you need quick results, the process may be a little more frustrating!

By taking the time to reflect on your personal style, strengths, achievements and preferences, you will become more focused and targeted in your job search, whether it is a position within your current organisation, or an opportunity in the external market place.

If this all sounds hard work, take a deep breath, the answers are around you. Previous performance reviews, psychometric assessments, 360 degree feedback etc, previous managers, peers, staff, referees and mentors, may provide you with some useful input.

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself as you prepare for your career change:

  1. How do people describe me?
  2. What are my strengths? Are these things I enjoy and want to continue using in my job?
  3. What are my weaknesses or areas for development? Are these important to address now?
  4. When have I been happiest in my career, and why?
  5. Have I ever been bored or miserable in a position or organisation? If so, why?
  6. What kind of industries, organisations and positions appeal to me?
  7. What are the ‘must haves’ and things I don’t want in my next position?
  8. What are my generic or transferrable skills?
  9. What have been my stand-out achievements in the last five years?
  10. What value do I offer my next employer?

When you have the answers to these questions, you will be well on the way to investigating your next career opportunity.

Good luck!