‘Mind the Gap’- Managing Your Career in 2019

It’s the first week of the new year and you’re back @work, about to be consumed with the demands and challenges of your career. In a matter of months another year will have passed. What will a successful 2019 look like?

We each have a different concept of what that New Year’s Eve IG might portray. How you get there depends on how well you maintain ownership of your career and stay on track to meet your individual goals. Follow these three steps and repeat every three months.

Identify your skills – Take a look at your resume and your job description. What skills did you bring to your current position? What new competencies have you acquired in the past year? (If you find you’re no longer learning, it’s time to change.)

Identify gaps – Take your list and compare it to someone you see as successful within your organization or field. If you’re considering changing careers, what’s the skill profile of a professional in the new area?

This assessment will give you a sense of the gap between your proficiency and aspiration. Check-in with a mentor for feedback on your self-evaluation. What are the best ways to fill the gaps: education, experience, professional development?

Monitor the market – Understanding your strengths as well as potential growth opportunities occurs in the broader context of the market.

Maintain currency with your field utilizing social media, professional associations and networking. If a career transition is on the horizon, begin to create connections through the same channels: social media, professional associations and networking.

Happy New Year! (And mind the gap.)




Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving/Job Search Advice

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, it’s the season to consult Martha Stewart for job search advice.

In a book published in 2005 entitled ‘The Martha Rules’, Ms. Stewart defined ten essentials for achieving business success. Let’s focus on #8 – “The pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges – When faced with a business challenge, evaluate or assess the situation, gather the good things in sight, abandon the bad, clear your mind and move on.”

How do you apply this to your job search? Maybe the thought of competing in this economy is just overwhelming. Or, you’ve been going through a series of first round interviews and none have materialized into a full time offer. You have a business challenge. Time to assess you progress. What have you learned from the process so far? Are you focused on the rejections or the possibilities?

The job search is difficult. It requires a lot of hard work. You may be discouraged by rejection. Rather than focusing on the negative, use this holiday break as a point to leave the bad behind and as Martha says, clear your mind and move on.

To be successful in a job search today you need to honestly evaluate your strengths. What’s your area of expertise? Which employers can best use your skill set? Don’t waste time on job listings that don’t match your talents. If you find a perfect match, but the employer decides you’re not qualified, move on to the next one on your list.

Which brings me to Martha rule #6: ”Quality every day – Strive for quality in every decision, every day.” There are no short cuts. Approach each new opportunity with the energy of your first choice.

You can’t go home again – keeping a journal to tell your story

“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.”             Terry Pratchett*

How do you turn your life into a story? A timeline of your social media posts might provide a hint to your narrative’s trajectory, but the best way is to begin recording what’s happening in your life on a daily basis; on paper, in a journal.

One of the best jobs I ever had was leading a freshman seminar, ‘You Can’t Go Home Again, Now What?’. At the beginning of the fall semester I gave each first year student a blank Moleskine notebook.  The direction was simple – “record your observations of people and place… keep your memories the old fashioned way – on paper. This is your personal space for your personal thoughts.”

Keeping a journal is way to establish a routine in a new environment and at the same time reflect on the unique experience of joining a new community. It’s a practice where you take ownership of your story.

“When  you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”
Anna Quindlen**

College is just one catalyst to begin the process of recording  and reflecting. The ‘Back to School’ aisles in your local Target are full of notebooks in every imaginable shape and size, just waiting to capture your creativity.

Why a notebook and not an online journal? It’s important to disconnect and avoid distraction when you’re talking to yourself about your day. And then there’s the apocalyptic view: when we are all off the grid, we’ll still have our journals.

When we scribble a few words, we are compiling a record that simply makes sense of the day. And on those days when things have not worked out as planned, it’s the perfect place to vent, in the privacy of the lined (or unlined) page.

What happened to all those first year students and their Moleskine journals? I think some may still be in a storage bin, blank. But for many, they contain the treasure of a story of transition and change, a template for continuous, lifelong learning.

String a few years of journal entries together and you begin to see career patterns emerge: choices, consequences and course corrections.

Your journal is your story. There are no rules. You’re writing your story in real time. Don’t edit, but do read what you write.

Take care of the life of your mind while paying attention to the life of your heart.

*Terry Pratchett   ‘The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents’ 2001
**Anna Quindlen   ‘A Short Guide to a Happy Life’ 2000

 

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends…”

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy, ‘Prince of Tides’.

What started out as a two week vacation in October, stretched to include an unexpected medical diversion, into November. It’s time to return to sharing thoughts about work: the lessons we learn from experience, and those we acquire in poetry, novels and non-fiction. It’s in the storytelling that we discover our dreams.

Once you embark on the voyage of your career, the journey never ends, but resonates in the quietest chambers of the imagination. There may be distractions along the way, but the spirit of a ‘calling’ is a constant companion in the adventure of finding your ‘true north.

 

What are you going to do with those energy reserves you stored this summer?

As the sun sets on summer 2016, use the upcoming Labor Day weekend as a catalyst to recalibrate you career trajectory.

Why Labor Day? Timing is everything. This weekend marks a transition between seasons and a sense of ‘starting over’ as a new school year begins.

When you arrive @work on Tuesday morning your plans will collide with the competing interests of colleagues returning to work, equally energized and motivated. If you have a plan, and a schedule of activities already on your calendar you will be in a position to maintain the momentum, moving you closer to your ‘dream’.

Start with two questions:

What do I still want to accomplish?

What is one thing I can do move forward?

Your answer to the first question asserts your priorities, and the second sets the first item on your agenda.

When thinking about priorities, consider feedback you have received from managers, colleagues, mentors and friends. What skills need fine tuning? Is there additional expertise you need to acquire to advance in your current position or transition to a new workplace? Who can help you achieve your goals? Is it time for additional training or an advanced degree?

The ‘still want to accomplish’ question hits at the fundamental essence of who you are, who you want to become, and the legacy you want to leave behind. It has a workplace component, but also addresses work/life balance, and your role as a contributing member of your community.

The next step is to schedule a meeting to set your priorities in motion: coffee with a mentor to review your career direction, an information interview to establish a new professional connection, a visit to a local non-profit, or a meeting with an academic advisor to explore educational options.

Your priorities dictate your agenda.

Before the weekend comes to an end, take a few minutes to review your calendar and block out time for ‘summer energy reserves expenditures’. Send at least one email requesting a meeting and try to find time each week to sit down with folks who can expand your career horizons.

Effectively managing your work/life is an ongoing energy expense. It will keep you moving forward, recalibrating as needed.

 

 

 

The week@work: Olympics close: memories remain, the power of vulnerability, workplace lessons from the cineplex, and Seattle’s millennials @work

This week@work the world’s best athletes headed to the airport and the rest of us, mere mortals, returned to our workplace. A CEO discussed the benefits of embracing vulnerability and a movie critic found workplace advice at the multiplex. In Seattle, the most recent additions to the workforce ‘gig’ their way to dream jobs.

As the Olympics came to a close on Sunday evening, there were three stories that continued to resonate from the ‘workplace’ of track and field.

‘That girl is the Olympic spirit’: After colliding, runners help each other cross finish line’ Marissa Payne for the Washington Post

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For track and field athletes, the Olympics offers the biggest prize of their careers. A gold medal is a tangible symbol of years of hard work and dedication. But on Tuesday, long-distance runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States proved hardware doesn’t always trump heart.

After the two collided on the track during the 5,000-meter race, resulting in a bad leg injury for D’Agostino, the two urged each other on and both eventually were able to finish the race, albeit seemingly sacrificing their chances at a finals berth along the way.

“Everyone wants to win and everyone wants a medal. But as disappointing as this experience is for myself and for Abbey, there’s so much more to this than a medal,” Hamblin told reporters after the race.”

‘This Great-Grandmother Coaches an Olympic Champion. Now Let Her By.’ Karen Crouse for The New York Times

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“The great-grandmother who could pass as Barbara Bush’s kid sister waded through the stands at Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, trying to get close enough to congratulate the South African runner Wayde van Niekerk, who had just captured the gold medal in the 400 meters and broken one of the oldest world records in men’s track and field.

This is Botha’s first Olympics. She competed — without distinction, she said — in the sprints and the long jump when she was young and began coaching in 1968 while living in her native Namibia, then a territory under the rule of South Africa. Her first athletes were her son and daughter, but when they reached a certain level, she passed them off to other coaches, she said, “because I feel that’s not always a good thing as a parent to coach your own children.”

The woman who didn’t believe it prudent to coach her own children has earned the trust of her athletes by treating them as family.

“She doesn’t see us as athletes or as people; she sees us as her children,” said van Niekerk, who asked Botha in late 2012 if he could train under her at the University of the Free State, where she has been the head track and field coach since 1990.

Van Niekerk won the race from Lane 8, considered a disadvantageous position. Botha said it didn’t bother her that he was in an outside lane. “Because every lane is the same distance,” she said.”

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Can Ashton Eaton Save the Decathlon?  Mary Pilon for The New Yorker

“Ten years ago, Tate Metcalf, a high-school track coach in Bend, Oregon, was trying to find a college that would give one of his athletes a scholarship. Ashton Eaton was a talented sprinter with a fierce long jump, but Metcalf received mostly lukewarm responses. His coach felt that Eaton would have the best shot at getting into a Division I college if he competed in one of track and field’s multi-event disciplines, like the heptathlon or the decathlon. Metcalf knew it would make Eaton, who was raised by a single mother and had never had any private coaching, one of the first people in his family to go to college. So he suggested it. “Sure,” Eaton replied, as Metcalf recently recalled. Then Eaton said, “What’s the decathlon?”

Eaton, who is twenty-eight, is now the defending Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder in the event. “He’s the face of track and field,” Metcalf said, sitting underneath a giant banner of Eaton draped over Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon, at the Olympic trials earlier this summer. “But nobody knows it because he’s a decathlete.” It’s true: though he has a gleaming smile, press-perfect interview skills, and historic talent, Eaton has remained virtually unknown relative to his Olympic-champion counterparts and even some of his decathlete predecessors. The one place he’s remained indisputably famous is Eugene: here, his face graces billboards and bus signs; the local minor-league baseball team recently distributed Ashton Eaton bobblehead dolls as part of a tribute night to him. “I haven’t seen them yet,” Eaton told me. “It’s a little weird.”

The decathlon hasn’t always been a path to athletic obscurity. Many consider the winner of the event, which can trace its origins to ancient Greece, the “world’s greatest athlete.”

On Thursday evening, after two days of competition in ten events, Olympian Ashton Eaton repeated as gold medalist in the decathlon. He continues to hold the title of ‘the world’s greatest athlete’.

One of the best series in journalism is Adam Bryant‘s weekly column in The New York Times, ‘The Corner Office’. Bryant poses five or six questions to a selected CEO, and their responses appear in the Sunday Business Section. This past week, Christa Quarles of Open Table shared ‘early leadership lessons’.

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“The importance of embracing vulnerability. Early on, especially when I worked on Wall Street, God forbid that you declare any granular weakness, because people would pounce on it.

But the paradox of owning what you know and what you don’t know is that you actually seem more powerful as you expose more vulnerability. I’ve become more comfortable with exposing my vulnerability and not being afraid to go there.

When I give criticism now, I’ll talk about how I failed in a similar situation. I try to humanize the criticism in a way that says this is about an action, it’s not about you as a person. I want to make you better. If somebody feels like they’re in a safe place and they can hear the message, they’re more likely to change.”

Theater critic A.O. Scott may seem an unlikely source of management wisdom. This week he suggests ‘Even Superheroes Punch the Clock’.

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“This summer, your local multiplex is home to an extended business seminar. There are sessions on crisis-management and how to deal with office romances (“Star Trek Beyond”); on office rivalries and mission-statement drafting (“Captain America: Civil War”); on start-ups (“Ghostbusters”) and I.T. disasters (“Jason Bourne”). Every action movie is a workplace sitcom in disguise.

What is “Suicide Squad”? A bad movie, to be sure — and yes, I’m aware of opinions to the contrary (thanks, Twitter) — but also a movie about difficult personnel issues….The central problem of “Suicide Squad” is one that bedevils department heads and midlevel employees in every corner of the modern economy: team building.”

The last story this week is journalist Kirk Johnson‘s profile, ‘Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.’

“Part of Jillian Boshart’s life plays out in tidy, ordered lines of JavaScript computer code, and part in a flamboyant whirl of corsets and crinoline. She’s a tech student by day, an enthusiastic burlesque artist and producer by night. “Code-mode” and “show-mode,” she calls those different guises.

This year she won a coveted spot here at a nonprofit tech school for women, whose recent graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $90,000 a year. Seattle, where she came after college in Utah to study musical theater, is booming with culture and youthful energy.

But again and again, life has taught Ms. Boshart, and others in her generation, that control can be elusive.

Even for someone who seems to have drawn one of her generation’s winning hands, it feels like a daunting time to be coming of age in America.

“I don’t just expect things to unfold, or think, ‘Well, now I’ve got it made,’ because there’s always a turn just ahead of you and you don’t know what’s around that corner,” she said.”

A final thought this week @work – When we find that ‘dream job’, in an uncertain global economy, we realize there is more to what we do than the compensation: money or medals. The Olympics is our quadrennial reminder to honor our values. Thanks to @abbey_dags and @NikkiHamblin.

 

Photo credits: ‘Fireworks explode during the Rio 2016 closing ceremony’   Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times, ‘Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’ @NCAA, ‘Ashton Eaton’ Matt Slocum for AP, ‘Ans Botha and Wayde van Niekerk’ Twitter, ‘Suicide Squad’ courtesy of Warner Bros.

#TheGreatListen 2015

What if you could capture a generation of American lives and experiences in one holiday weekend? That’s the vision of StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay, and he plans to fulfill his mission this Thanksgiving weekend through a combination of an app and an educators toolkit to enable DIY interviews to gather the wisdom of others. It’s the #GreatThanksgivingListen and you are invited to attend.

StoryCorps recently celebrated twelve years of conducting and recording oral history interviews, beginning with a booth in New York’s Grand Central Station and later taking the booth on the road to all 50 states creating the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered. The next step is to grow the archive of 100,000 to tens of thousands.

Dave Isay and his organization are the recipients of the 2015 TED Prize, and it was in his presentation to the annual conference in April that he outlined his proposal for a “national homework assignment”.

Here’s the plan. Download the app, select ‘helpful hints’ for a short tutorial. Select ‘browse’ to view previous StoryCorps recordings. Go to ‘my interviews’ to outline and record your interview. You can choose  from a list of sample questions by categories. Next step –  record!

“Who are they? What did they learn in life? How would they like to be remembered?”

And here’s the magical part. You can keep your recording for yourself or opt to upload it to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Imagine the story of your family intertwined with other American voices building upon a historical record of their time.

In his April TED talk, Isay described the power of “…everyday people talking about lives lived with kindness, courage, decency and dignity…it sometimes feels like you are walking on holy ground…”

If you believe that you learn from the wisdom of others, this holiday offers an opportunity to join “…a global movement to record and preserve meaningful conversations with one another that results in an ever growing digital archive of the collective wisdom of humanity.”

 

 

The week@work #PeaceForParis

On Friday evening Parisians went to work at cafes, a soccer stadium and a concert venue. An American band from Palm Desert, California prepared to take the stage @work at their dream job. And then the trajectory of hundreds of careers changed.

This week @work tells only one story, of graphic designer, Jean Jullien @work and his response to terror in the City of Light.

A year ago, Jean Jullien gave an interview to designboom, answering the typical questions about his career choice, his approach, his influences and skill. As a young artist he was preparing his December 2014 solo show at Kemistry Gallery in London.

“I’ve always loved drawing, but originally wanted to do animation and comics (which I’m ironically just sort of getting into doing now). I applied to many schools but got rejected by all and ended up in a small graphic design course in le paraclet which was actually a blessing in disguise. despite its serious and practical approach, the course was run by passionate teachers who introduced me to the work of masters such as milton glaser, saul bass, raymond savignac, and many others. it made me realize that design and illustration were basically about making the everyday exciting and creative. design for the people, design for the routine, is what really got me into what I do today. the idea that art didn’t stop at the exit of a gallery, but that it could carry on anywhere and that by intertwining with real objects and things, it enhanced them and found a use.”

In response to a question about his strengths and skill, he responded:

“I don’t think of myself as skilled. not in my drawing at least. I’ve become overly critical and empathic at the same time but I’m not sure either of these qualify as a skill, although they are my number one working tool.”

On Friday, the world discovered Jean Jullien’s skill as empathy translated into a representational image that spread across the internet.

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Time.com journalist Nolan Feeney spoke with the illustrator on Saturday and published the transcript of his Skype interview.

Jean Jullien had just begun his vacation when he heard on the radio about the terrorist attacks in his native France that killed more than 120 people on Friday. While others around the world struggled to put their feelings about the violence in Paris into words on social media, Jullien, a professional illustrator, picked up his brush instead.

“I express myself visually, so my first reaction was to draw a symbol of peace for Paris,” Jullien, who says his friends and family are safe and accounted for, told TIME over Skype on Saturday from a location he did not wish to disclose. “From there it seems to have gotten a bit out of my hands.”

The last question in the designboom interview was “do you have a personal motto?”

His answer: “carpe diem or something like that.”

The Saturday Read – ‘Humans of New York:Stories’ by Brandon Stanton

We learn from the wisdom of others. In Brandon Stanton’s new book we learn from the wisdom of strangers. The ‘Saturday Read’ this week is ‘Humans of New York: Stories’.

“The simplest way to describe the development of HONY over the past five years is this: it’s evolved from a photography blog to a storytelling blog…after cataloging thousands of people, I stumbled upon the idea of including quotes from my subjects alongside their photographs. The quotes grew longer and longer, until eventually I was spending fifteen to twenty minutes interviewing each person I photographed. These interviews, and the stories that resulted from them, became the new purpose of Humans of New York. The blog became dedicated to telling the stories of strangers on the street.”

The first career story is the author’s own. He graduated from college, took a job in Chicago as a bond trader, lost his job, moved to New York and started taking pictures of folks on the street. His work evolved into a blog with 15.6 million followers. His first book of photography, Humans of New York, landed at the top of The New York Times Bestseller List in the fall of 2013 and the new book will debut at the top of the November 1, 2015 list.

Why the response? Because the Mr. Stanton’s stories, told in words and images are about us. The scope of his project embraces NYC folks encountered on the street, reflecting on their past and future. We don’t know names. We don’t know ages. We can only guess in connecting the photo to the quote. At times the words seem at odds with the picture.

Here is one example from a young man, perhaps in his early teens.

“I’ve sort of had an arrogant demeanor my entire life, and I’m learning that I’m going to have to change that if I want to succeed. I realized that it doesn’t matter how clever you are if nobody wants to work with you.”

Another from a young woman seated on a suitcase, in the middle of a train station.

“I wish I’d partied a little less. People always say: ‘Be true to yourself.’. But that’s misleading because there are two selves. There’s your short-term self, and there’s your long-term self. And if you’re only true to your short-term self, your long-term self slowly decays.”

And a man at mid-life in what appears to be a cold corporate lobby, sitting on a stone bench, framed by a stone wall.

“When you’re twenty-five, you feel like you’re riding a wave. You feel like opportunities are just going to keep coming at you, and you think it’s never going to end. But then it ends.”

“When does it end?”

“When you turn forty, and they start looking for someone younger.”

The reader gets a sense they are looking in the mirror, but they’re not. The photo doesn’t match the selfie, but the sentiment fits.

Heather Long, writing for CNN Money, interviewed Stanton and attended his reading at a NY Barnes and Noble. What has he learned in the process of photographing and interviewing 10,000 people? “Americans should reconsider how much they work.”

“He often asks: What is your biggest struggle? And what do you regret most in life?
“Balancing my life is an answer I hear a lot,” he said. “Balancing work and family.”
People go on to tell him how they wish they had skipped that marketing conference and attended their daughter’s 8th grade dance instead.”

One of my favorite ‘inteviews’ appears early in the book (page 5). The narrative comes from a third grader (?).

“I want to build a bridge”

“How do you build a bridge?”

“If you want to build a bridge, it’s going to take a long time and it might be hard because your employees might not be as interested in building a bridge as you are. You have to think about what type of bridge you want to make…” 

He could be talking about life and career.

HONY: Stories invites us on a road trip through the streets of New York, opting for the detours that welcome conversation. This is a book to read slowly, observing the detail in the photos and the humanity in the words. It’s a compendium of other’s lifelong learning, generously shared.

“I want to be an artist.” “What kind of art do you want to make?” “I want to make different versions of myself.”

Acting is not interviewing

Are you so prepared for your interview that your friends and family would’t recognize you? In an effort to be the best candidate for a job it is possible that you try to ‘game’ the process and ‘act’ your way through the interview? Does your personality somehow get lost in the process?

It’s never a good idea to let the job search process change who you are. If you do, the job offer, if it comes will be based on a false set of impressions. More likely, you will not get the offer because a good recruiter will recognize that something is missing.

I recall a series of interviews I conducted with candidates for an international internship program. One of the finalists met all the criteria on the resume. However, during the interview I was never able to connect. The answers to the questions were all good, but I felt I was talking to someone who was trying to get it right – like trying to ace an exam. There was no ‘there, there’.

I wanted to say. “Let’s start over. Go out the door and come back in. But come back in as you.”

Have you ever anticipated a theater performance only to arrive and find a paper insert in your Playbill announcing ‘actor x will be played by y today’? Your immediate reaction of disappointment is the same a recruiter experiences when they are excited about meeting a potential employee and encounter the understudy.

Don’t lose yourself in the quest for work. Take the time to do your research in preparing for an interview. (If you are not a ’suit’ type you should not be interviewing with ’suit’ requiring organizations. If you don’t want to work in a cubicle, why would you send a resume to a cubicle farm?)

Review your resume prior to sitting down with a recruiter. What do you want to communicate that will connect your unique capabilities with the organization’s needs? Outline, don’t script.

Engage in the conversation. Be ready to follow a tangent at the recruiter’s lead. Listen.

Never abdicate ownership of your job search process. Don’t let anyone try to transform you into a character actor to get a part. If you don’t have to memorize your lines, you will leave room for spontaneity and give the prospective employer a chance to get to know you.