Tips for Re-Careering at Any Age
ARTICLE NO. 1
Re-Careering At Any Age
Regardless of age, many people are changing careers. It is estimated that today’s workers will probably change their career four times in their lifetime. This does not mean changing jobs or employers, it means changing careers! Some people are changing careers out of necessity as work is outsourced, automated, or compressed, while others are changing careers out of preference. The “in” phrase is “Re-Careering.”
Age is no longer an obstacle to doing whatever, within reason, you want to do. The only reasonable limitation lies within your self concept: afraid to fail, afraid to succeed, afraid what others will think, etc. Ugh! The key to Re-Careering is a combination of self-evaluation and being in-charge.
My research and observations as a Human Resources Executive leads me to believe there are five pivotal elements to help people take charge of their career. These elements apply to several situations: 1. beginning a career but not sure if it is the right one; 2. feeling stuck in a present career and wondering about changing or staying where you are; 3. wanting to change a career but not sure how or to what; 4. wanting to reinforce your decision to remain in a current career; 5. transitioning from one career to the next such as from the military to the civilian sectors; 6. wanting to retire but not sure what to do during retirement.
Knowing as much as you can about Re-Careering is imperative to your success and happiness. Human Resource Recruiters actually apply these five pivotal elements to candidates when they interview them, and so, it makes sense that the person seeking to Re-Career should also apply the same five pivotal elements whether you seek to join an organization as an employee or be self-employed.
The purpose of this article is to share with you the five pivotal elements of Re-Career success and to advise you how to maximize the chances of your Re-Career success. I identify these five pivotal elements as the Five Sigma of Success. They are: Interest, Competency, Motivation, Capability, and Fit.
The first element is Interest. Most successful people love what they do, even have a passion for it. When you are interested in what you do, your dedication elevates and you want to learn more about it. You love the process and the content. So, the first step to Re-Career success is to find out more about your Interests. A way of identifying your Interests is to identify activities you really enjoyed in the past, what you enjoy doing in the present, and then to forecast your Interests that will be appropriate in a future career. Most Interests fall into categories such as Hands-On, Investigative, Social Interaction, Risk-Taking, Structured, and Creative. So, think about what you liked to do in the past, what you like to do now, and then place your Interests in one or a few of these categories. Then ask yourself if you want to do the same things you have been doing in the past and in the present in the future, or do you want to do something different? How can you leverage your past and present Interests into your future Interests?
Competency is the second element. This means having the skill to do things. You probably have many skills. Perform the same exercise from above, but replace Interests with Competencies. Use the same categories. For future success, you must couple what you love to do (Interests) with what you are good at (Competencies). If you find yourself not very good at what you say you want to do in the future you will need to improve your skill in that area, or find something else that you can be good at.
The third element is Motivation. You must have the fire in the belly to do what you want to do, to withstand adversity, to find the resources to help you reach your goals. It really means identifying your intrinsic and/or extrinsic needs that must be met in order for you to feel fulfilled, to be all that you want to be. When you are not sure what motivates you, you just may fall for anything and be sorry for that in the end. Perform the same exercise from above, but replace Competencies with Motivation. By completing this third step, you are putting the pieces of your Re-Careering puzzle together. You are moving towards leveraging your Interests, Competencies, and Motivational Needs.
Capability is the fourth element. This means having the potential to go beyond what you currently enjoy and do, to become better. In other words, having the capacity to expand, to grow, and to be a life long learner. Again, perform the same exercise as above, but replace Motivation with Capabilities.
The fifth element is Fit. This is the trump card for Re-Career Success, meaning that in spite of the other four elements present, Fit cancels them if it is not present. Fit means finding the right environment to support your Interests, Competencies, Motivation, and Capabilities. Without the appropriate support and reward system in the right environment, all bets are off for your Re-Career success. Again, perform the same exercise from above, but replace Capabilities with Fit.
As a Human Resources Executive, I discovered that when employees in organizations fail it was often because they did not fit into the way things were done in that particular organization. Have you ever heard, "You just haven't signed on-board," "This just isn't the right place for you," or "You really aren't compatible with how we do things around here." This did not mean that the organization was necessarily dysfunctional and the employee was Ok, or vice versa. This only meant that the relationship between the organization and the employee was not suitable, not compatible, not a good fit.
As I have reviewed with you, a key to helping you Re-Career for success is to uncover your Five Sigma of Success, by analyzing your past and present, and then forecasting your future. Regardless of your age, you have had the best teacher for analyzing yourself … your experiences in life. You can tap into your experiences and leverage them for your future Re-Career success.
I am not saying this is an easy process, but seeking answers to questions such as the following are helpful. To uncover your Interests, for example, you might ask yourself: "What did I really like doing when I was younger, and why was that?" "What do I really like doing now, and why is that?" "What do I really want to do in the future and why is that?"
These three questions help you explore your past and present Interests in order to help forecast what your future Interests might be. If your past decisions brought you to where you are today, then it seems reasonable that your present decisions can take you to where you want to be in the future. I recommend you ask yourself similar questions for the other four elements (Competencies, Motivation, Capabilities, and Fit). The focus is to look at patterns and trends.
No one cares if you can't dance. Just get up and dance.
Between years three and four, employees often begin to wonder whether they should move on to another organization or stay put. Therefore, this is the time when the organization should step up their efforts to retain quality employees.
Since it takes about 1 ½ times an employee’s yearly salary to replace the employee (to include recruiting the replacement, orienting the new hire, training the new employee, and getting the new employee fully up to speed, not to mention the lost quality productivity while the job is vacant), it is much more cost effective, at minimal, for organizations to invest in the employees than to replace them. The investment improves not only employee retention and productivity, but it improves employee loyalty and trust to the company, something that is difficult to place a number on.
However, at the same time, employees need to be sensitive in figuring out when it is time to start looking around, when the itch to switch needs to be carefully considered. Ironically, the itch to switch consists of the same five elements (Five Sigma of Career Success) that enticed the employee to join the organization in the first place (Interests, Competencies, Motivation, Capabilities, and Fit). Here are some signs.
- You are no longer Interested in doing the work. What was fun and meaningful is no longer of interest.
- Your Competencies are no longer used in the way or to the degree that you want them to be used. You are not able to exercise your skills like you once were able to, or the organization no longer believes your skills are valuable. Perhaps the job has changed; perhaps you have changed.
- Your Motivation to contribute to the company declines. You are no longer passionate about the job, the company, or the people with whom you work. Your desire wanes.
- You believe that you do not have the opportunity to tap into your Capabilities. You do not see growth opportunity, to reach your potential. You feel trapped with the career ceiling closely hovering over your head.
- You do not seem to Fit in with how things are done, how decisions are made, how people are treated. You seem to get irritable more easily and feel that your values are in conflict with the organization’s values. It seems there are more times when the clash of values is apparent, and you being to resent it.
Other perceptions come into play as you wonder if it is worth sticking around, or if the itch to switch should be a reality. Certainly, you should talk with those with whom you trust, such as the Human Resources representative, your boss, a peer, a colleague, etc., i.e., someone with whom you can safely share your notions and listen to. If you do not have a mentor, then perhaps now is the time to seek one out. A mentor can be someone within or outside of the organization, and someone within or outside of your functional area or department. Not everyone wants to be or is good at being a mentor, but most of us all need one to help us advance in our career. Perhaps you too could be a mentor for someone. Further, maybe the organization has changed without you realizing it, and now you must change. So, before you switch, check out the origins of the itch. Then decide.
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Managing Stress for Career Success
Stress is the common leveler of all of us ... it affects everyone. However, stress is neither positive nor negative; stress is simply the pressure/demands made on all of us. What makes stress useful or harmful to each of us is the way we perceive/interpret the stress and how we react to it; that's what makes it positive or negative.
For example, you might fear making a formal presentation to your company’s management team, or you might interpret the presentation as a positive opportunity to show off or to improve on one of your skills. Either way, it is your perception of the demand/pressure that creates your reality … negative or positive. When you fear making the presentation, you react adversely to it; you might actually become sick the day before the scheduled event, you might forget something during the presentation, you might get “tongue-tied.” However, if you view the presentation as a positive opportunity, you might actually try to learn something about the subject matter, practice a skill that you want to improve upon, or consider it an opportunity to show off a skill-set.
Another example is your reaction to a less-than-optimal performance review. If you view the feedback as harmful or destructive, you might actually verbally attack the person giving you the feedback and even deny the credibility of the feedback. However, if you view the feedback as welcomed and an opportunity to improve on something, then you might embrace the information for self-improvement.
For most of us, it is the negative stress (distress), not the positive stress (eustress), that leads to problems, as the examples above demonstrate. Positive stress gives us the boost to do things better and to become better. Therefore, we must identify the causes of our stress, determine which are positive or negative, and then create a strategy to deal with the stress.
There are many causes of stress that originate from the company. Some are from the setting/environment that we work in; some are from the people with whom we deal with; some are from the processes or policies that we have to follow; some are from what we bring to the job. Here are some examples:
- The amount of control you have over your job.
- The amount of work you have to do.
- The degree of clarity of directions from your boss.
- The level of job security.
- The amount of training you receive to do your job.
- The level of safety within your work environment.
- The level of your career certainty.
- The amount of effective and efficient leadership from the company.
- The amount of trust you have in the company.
- The level of interest you have in the job and company.
- The level of competency you have to do the job.
- The level of growth potential you feel exists in the job or company.
- The level of motivation/drive you have in the job.
- The amount of fit between your values and company's value.
- Family/marital situation.
- Change of financial status.
- Change in residence-school-church.
- Change in friends and social standing.
- Change in eating and exercise habits.
Sometimes distress accumulates so slowly that we never see it coming, while at other times, there are specific signals that alert us to the oncoming distress. Some of the more common symptoms of distress include the following:
1. Drop in job performance.
2. Coming in late or being absent from work often.
3. Being unusually irritable.
4. Being passive or being an easy touch.
5. Being dominating, arrogant, or unfriendly.
6. Being stingy, inconsistent, or manipulative.
7. Being unrealistic.
So, what do you do? You develop an increased awareness of yourself, the environment that you work in, and how to respond to the environment to include the people. Awareness is the first portal of success, regardless of how you define success. Here are some approaches:
1. Become aware of the stressors.
2. Turn negative stressors into positive stressors.
3. Avoid the negative stressors.
4. Invite others to help you gain control of the situation.
5. Accept you cannot be all things to all people/situations.
6. Be realistic.
7. Relax, eat healthy foods, exercise, be positive.
8. Place the stressor into perspective ... what's the worse that could happen.
9. Say "no" politely but decisively.
10. Get rid of your guilt, especially if you did not cause the disstressor.
11. Change your behavior and attitude if you caused the disstressor.
12. Create a realistic career plan and follow it.
13. Do not expect change to happen quickly.
14. Celebrate successes.
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Article No. 5
Electronic Career/Job Search Tips
The Internet has opened up new vistas for organizations in their recruiting efforts, and it has given the job candidates another vehicle to promote themselves to potential employers, yet there are some risks.
Recent Survey Results: Over 1/3 of Human Resources Executives indicate that electronic recruiting is the most effective way for them for find qualified candidates, followed by local newspapers, recruiters, job fairs, referrals, and walk-ins, in that order. Yet, HR Executives caution candidates not to rely only on the Internet.
Tips for the Candidate:
1. (+) Use the target organization's web site to find out more about the specific organization, its core-values, its benefits, the jobs available, etc. as well as to submit your resume electronically. (-) However, appreciate that you might only find generalities about careers and jobs on the organization's web site. (-) Additionally, understand that electronic resume submission/posting will most likely be scanned for "key code words," and if your resume does not include those "key code words," your resume is sent to the "trash." To mitigate against this hazard, use words/phrases that exist in the particular job description you are applying for, as well as use words that seem to characterize the organization. But, do not misrepresent yourself!
2. Use your former college alumni web site for career job searches and industry information.
3. Use "niche boards" which are web sites of a particular industry, professional career, or desirable geographic location. For example, www.telecommcareers.net is for the telecommunications industry and www.CIO.com is the companion site to the CIO Magazine for chief information officers. Other web sites explain specific geographic locations, such as a particular state or city.
4. (+) Read about careers, jobs, industries, and organizations found in blogs. This gives the job seeker informal comments written by others. (-) Disgruntled current/former employees, vendors, customers, etc might have a biased view. (-) The organization has no way of editing the information.
5. (+) Post your resume on web site job boards specifically designed to attract job seekers such as www.careerbuilder.com, www.monster.com, www.jobcentral.com. (-) The same cautions apply that are mentioned in (1) above.
6. Privacy. (+) While using the Internet to post your resume, using social networking sites to discuss your background, career interests, and experiences, and using e-mail to communicate with others are ways to conduct a job/career search, it has dangers of invading your privacy. (-) Do not post or write anything electronically that you would not want made public. (-) Do not believe that "delete message" really permanently deletes the message... it does not.
7. (+) Create your own web site to include your resume and other pertinent information about yourself for others to read. (-) You need to inform others that your web site exists.
8. Since there are many small to medium size organizations that have excellent careers and work environments but that do not have the resources for electronic recruiting, do not solely rely on electronic posting of your resume. Use as many different tactics as possible.
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Article No. 6
The end-of-year is not the only time to reflect on how well your career is advancing, whether you should continue in it for the next year, or do something else. You can perform a career check-up at any time during the year, and you can perform multiple check-ups within the year. Similar to an annual physical, an eye or dental check-up, and even your vehicle's annual maintenance, your career needs a close inspection to determine if you are on the right track, if you need to make some minor tweaks, or perhaps to decide that you need a major overhaul that could include re-careering. Like the other check-ups mentioned above, you can ask yourself some straightforward questions to figure out what your next step may be. It may mean that you can make the adjustments yourself, or it might mean you need a professional career expert to help you along the way.
Regardless, there are five important areas that should be assessed: Interests, Competencies, Motivation, Capabilities, and Fit. Here are key questions for each of these five areas to start out with as you check up on your career:
1. Interests: Are you still interested in your present career or has your interest dropped?
2. Competencies: Are you still skilled in the areas you need to be skilled in or do you need improved or new skills?
3. Motivation: Do you have the motivation and drive to be the best you can be in your career, or have you lost the passion and are not sure what motivates you any longer?
4. Capabilities: Do you see growth opportunities, or do you feel stuck in the same type of work, unable to find advancement opportunities?
5. Fit: Do you fit in the current environment you are in, or do you no longer think you fit in the way things are being done, or feel as good about the people and company as you once did?
If your responses to these five questions are generally positive, then you probably only need to keep reminding yourself that for the short term all you need to do is stay on track, monitor yourself, and make minor adjustments. In a way, your annual Career Check-Up is good, so stay the course, until your next regularly scheduled Career Check-Up.
However, if your responses to any of the questions are not positive, then it might be time to make some major overhauls in your career. Your annual Career Check-Up is telling you it might be time for a change. For example, if you are no longer interested in what you've been doing, then ask yourself what you would like to see as part of your next career. If your skills are not up to par, then you need to determine what you need to improve or what new skills you need to acquire. If your motivation is low, then you need to ask yourself what motivates you; perhaps your motivational needs have changed. If there are no advancement opportunities on the horizon, then perhaps you need to make a career or company switch. If you feel you no longer fit into how the company operates, how it makes its decisions, what its values are, then perhaps you need to consider changing companies.
So, if you believe a career switch or adjustment is needed, here is an easy and fun way to brainstorm for ideas for your next career. No self-criticism is allowed in this exercise. Completing the exercise will most likely take several hours, so take your time. You might work on the exercise in half-hour chunks of time until you believe you are done. While this exercise is applicable to all five areas of your career, the example below is only for Interests. So, here is how the exercise works.
Identify any word/phrase that seems to generate interest for you. The word/phrase might be from an advertisement, a song, a movie, a television show, or just a word/phrase that pops into your head, as for example "playing chess." Write "playing chess" on a piece of paper and circle the phrase. After you circle "playing chess," freely think of other words/phrases that come to mind when you think of "playing chess." Write those words/phrases on the same piece of paper placing them around the phrase "playing chess." Circle all those words/phrases. Then connect all the circled words/phrases with lines, sort of like a web. Not every circled word/phrase will be connected to all the other circled words/phrases, just those that in your opinion most relate to one another. Keep identifying new words/phrases that come to mind for each previously written word/phrase; write the words/phrases on the paper; circle the words/phrases; connect the circles with lines as noted above. Eventually you will have many circled words/phrases with lines connecting them. Again, not all circles will be connected to every other circle. If you do this enough times you will see a pattern, sort of like a thread of thoughts. Your "Career Path of Interests" might also look like a highway map, with each circle representing a city or hub, and the lines represent the roads connecting the cities or hubs.
For example, "playing chess" might cause you to think of "strategy" and "winning." However, "strategy" causes you to think of "planning" while "winning" causes you to think of "losing." So, you forget about "winning" and "losing" and go with "strategy" which may cause you to think of "detail" which may cause you to think of "investigation" which may cause you to think of "being a reporter" which may cause you to think of "following the law" which may cause you to think of "being an attorney" which may cause you to think of.... You get the idea.
When you are done brainstorming, you have a career path for your Interests. Repeat the same exercise for Competencies, Motivation, Capabilities, and Fit. Then, analyze all five career paths. It will guide you to a career or several career possibilities. Then, you need to further investigate these career possibilities for more information. Perhaps you need to attend college, or to talk with someone in the career field. There are many other ways of learning more about different careers.
This exercise is based on the functioning of your brain. Your brain has stored millions of pieces of data, some of which you are fully aware of while some of which is in hidden compartments ready to be accessed when prompted. This is what you have actually done in the exercise, prompted your subconscious to tell you what you already know, but are not fully aware of. Further, writing the words/phrases with freedom, seeing the words/phrases with your own eyes, and then verbalizing aloud the words/phrases causes your brain to make these important connections and alerts you to them. It is amazing how this works.
Small things usually lead to big things. So, repeating the same simple question for different words/phrases, "What does xyz mean to me?" for example, starts you thinking in simple words/phrases that later turns into more important words/phrases. Further, the repetition of the question prompts your brain to access information that is stored away in the hidden compartments previously mentioned because repeating the same question over and over again forces you to think more thoroughly. Repetition also facilitates repeated behavior and increased memory.
While you may get "thinker's block" and not be able to think of words/phrases at first, do not give up. Motivation and persistence pays off, and that is crucial for learning more about your next career. Also, if you notice that the process becomes easier each time you repeat the process for each of the five areas, consider challenging yourself to think of more complex words/phrases.
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Article No. 7
Signs of a Toxic Boss during the Job Interview
Antonio F. Vianna
The job interview is the real-time event where both the candidate for the job and the interviewer have the opportunity to collect relevant information about one another to help determine if there should be a next step of the job interview process. Usually the Human Resources Representative conducts the preliminary interview to determine who should be advanced to the next interview stage, which is often with the manager of the department, that is, the future boss of the candidate.
The interview is supposed to be a two-way dialogue between the candidate and interviewer, but often times the interviewer controls the conversation while the candidate passively sits back. The ensuing unbalance is often the result of the candidate not wanting to seem too aggressive for fear of being disqualified for further job consideration. This usually happens when there is a tight job market or when the candidate is desperate to get the present job, or for that matter, any job. Two obvious consequences result: One, the wrong person is hired. Two, the right person is not hired. This situation further cascades into more problems down the road for both parties.
The purpose of this article is to help the job candidate identify key signs of the boss-interviewer who might be toxic. I define a toxic boss as someone who will poison the employee's future environment and make the employee's job more difficult to accomplish. The toxic boss is not a helper but a hinderer; and should be avoided. The toxic boss acts out his/her behavior for a variety of reasons, but most often to disguise his/her own incompetence. The signs are often associated with disrespectful behavior. Here are some common examples during the interview:
- accepts telephone calls, e-mails, or visitors
- disregards starting and ending the interview on time
- does not seem to have a firm opinion on important topics
- looks at the clock or his/her wristwatch as if the interview is boring
- seems to be unfriendly toward you and quite self-absorbed in him/herself
- overall shows lack of enthusiasm for the company, the interview, and you
- shifts his/her body, has little eye contact, and/or interrupts you so that you cannot finish a sentence or a thought
- includes some sort of criticism of the company during the interview, or just the opposite, finds no opportunities for the company to improve because the company is already "perfect"
- asks you few probing questions, but is more than ready to share his/her accomplishments in a boastful way
- smiles at times when a smile does not seem to fit the conversation, is out of place, or is not sincere
While these signs might seem outlandish, they occur with a toxic boss. You just need to look for them. Toxic bosses come in a variety of personalities. Most are hybrids of the following four common types:
- Impractical Toxic Boss: This is the boss who over commits without providing sufficient resources to get the job done. This boss might seem to be a caring boss, but makes you feel guilty when you are not willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. This boss often seems to be unwilling to see reality as it really is, even at times naïve and an easy touch, but be careful of this one. This boss's subtlety is what gets you poisoned. You'll be told to work hard for the company because the company is so wonderful, and you should be very grateful. In fact, you might be told that it is you who is working for the company, not the other way around. Resources you need to get the job done might be promised, but there will often be an excuse why you don't actually get those resources. While this boss may seem to be understanding of any of your personal or professional needs or accommodations by giving off a nice smile and using a soothing voice, this toxic boss cares very little about you as a person, only what you can do for the company or for him/herself.
- Domineering Toxic Boss: This boss is very impulsive, high pressured, and impatient. This boss wants everything done yesterday at whatever it takes, looks you squarely in the eye and gives you the order. You better follow this boss's exact directions because it is his/her way or the highway. Trademarks of this boss are willing to distort the truth, to take high risks, and to gamble. This boss is unsympathetic to excuses, and considers you a disposable item. So, you will need to get with it, or get out. Second chances are not available with this toxic boss.
- Stingy Toxic Boss: This is the boss who tries to squeeze every penny out of every dollar, and every ounce of effort out of every person. This one is always looking to save a penny, cut costs, reduce payroll and headcount, and in all ways find the cheapest way to get it done, even sacrificing quality. This means s/he is willing to pay you the minimum wage and keep you as low in your salary range as possible. Everything is a cost item, nothing is an investment, even you.
- Melodramatic Toxic Boss: This is the boss who is over agreeable and often times aimless. S/he tries to please everyone but in the end pleases no one. Often times you find this boss acting childlike, even humorous at times. This boss is great at social gatherings because of the exaggerated stories s/he tells. Often referred to as the Teflon Boss, this person strives to make sure nothing sticks to him/her. S/he is willing to smile at you and shake your hand as you are given your termination notice.
What this all means to you, the job candidate, is to act as a diagnostician during the interview, looking for signs, both verbal and behavioral, that suggest the boss you are interviewing with is toxic. You might ask some key questions to help figure this out. For example, ask the Impractical Toxic Boss how you will receive feedback on your performance. Will there be a formal performance review? This toxic boss avoids the issue because of not wanting to give out negative feedback. Ask the Domineering Toxic Boss about innovation and creativity. This boss only wants to take the innovative and creative ideas from others and make them his/her own. So innovation and creativity are taken only if they advance him/her. And remember, you will not receive any credit when things go well with the Domineering Toxic Boss, only be blamed when things fail. Ask the Stingy Toxic Boss how employees are trained. If this boss tells you there is lots of on-the-job training with little other training available, it says to you that this boss is not about to invest in the workforce. Lastly, ask the Melodramatic Toxic Boss what his/her personal opinion is on something, anything. This boss is not about to offend anyone, so most likely there is no firm answer. S/he likes the "color" plaid.
It is always your decision whether to pursue a job offer, but you should always be well informed to know what you are getting yourself into.
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