ABC’s Of Your Career Journey – C Is For Contribution

Some could perceive their career journey as one where they only focus on themselves and their goals. However if you analyze highly successful people you will realize that many help to better the lives of others. This can be accomplished in many ways from assisting in a project, report, presentation, etc., mentoring a staff member or even a colleague, and/or referring someone for a promotion or new job opportunity.

I have had several managers in my presentations talk about subordinates who are just coasting to retirement; they even have a retirement app that details the months, days, hours, and even seconds until retirement. These people are barely engaged at work so just want to put in minimum effort to get their paychecks. These managers are frustrated (some are very angry) that these subordinates do not see the value of leaving a legacy for their colleagues and future workers.

That scenario may be the extreme, however, I wonder how many people realize that they fall into the comfort zone trap. Yes they do their work and may go beyond “occasionally” but really do not think to extend themselves all the time. I am not suggesting getting “dumped on” so establishing boundaries is important but being a collaborative and helpful team player benefits the organization and the person in the long run.

One way to contribute is to become the “solutions person”. Every organization can improve their efficiencies but it takes time. In addition, many people are uncomfortable with change but that is inevitable in this fast paced environment that we all live and work in. Before making recommendations, it is imperative that you analyze the situation, review several alternatives, discuss casually with a few others, and then detail a plan to accomplish it. There may be pushback and it may also fail but some of the greatest inventions and work flows came about from previous failures so you have to at least try.

Although senior leaders have busy schedules, many find time to mentor others. I worked with a Fortune 500 financial services company that paired junior people with some of the top leaders in the company. The matches were not necessarily from the same division and many were not in the same geographic location. The objective was to provide guidance and support to these staff members, however, the leaders said they learned a lot as well and would be willing to be mentors again. The staff members reported that their mentor was always available to them and usually had more sessions than what was required in the program which they truly appreciated.

All these examples can help you in your career journey for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the intrinsic value you feel by helping another person. Even if all you get is a simple “thank you” for all you did, it still is that sense of pride that you helped another person. In addition, in a meeting to discuss a promotion or in a job interview providing concrete examples of how you assisted your organization will be viewed very favorably. Those that keep to themselves and do not go beyond their job description will find it much more difficult to get ahead. This all may seem like common sense but when life gets hectic, we may forget to lend a hand.

ABCs Of Your Career Journey – J Is For Journey

A journey takes time and usually some planning. However, in our instant gratification world today we may find that this journey is taking too long and difficult so we just bail out. This happens very often in one’s job search. The person is very motivated at first to put in the work to find a new position… but for only so long. What they do not realize is that a job search, just like life, is a series of paths that one takes and patience is important to finally reach their ultimate goal. They may also not take into consideration other factors that may change the trajectory of the path they thought was the best. So it may be viewed more as trying to maneuver through a jungle versus a more manageable journey.

Here is another way to view this. When taking a more difficult hike, one must look down a lot and focus on the path. If not, they may trip over a branch or stub their toe. They may also encounter bugs or animals that may not be too happy to see them. That is the same with one’s career. Spending the time to define what you want in your next position and your career is essential. Unfortunately too many people focus on money and other benefits like healthcare but do not drill down on the different duties and responsibilities that may make them successful/fulfilled or not. They also do not identify what issues they may encounter along the way as well. As an example, you may excel at a certain task but you do not like doing it so you procrastinate; this may affect the “overall perception” of you by your superiors and coworkers.

A great tool to help with this is a mind map. It is a technique where you write one thought in a circle and then draw lines with ideas related to it. So you may have written “leader” in the circle and the offshoots could be emotional intelligence, employee relations, negotiations, training, hiring, strategic planning, motivation, etc. By using mind maps you can brainstorm ideas and concepts simplistically but also effectively.

Another issue is that you may not really know where this journey is going to take you. Does anyone really know? I took a position once that I thought would expand my skills but in the end it didn’t because my boss was lazy. Another role I had was much more beneficial than I ever dreamed possible due to the company’s emphasis on training and development. The point is that you do have to define a path but you should also determine some side paths in case things don’t work out the way you thought they would. In other words, do anticipate the unexpected. The greatest leaders always have a second map in their pocket in case the first one leads them down to the lake when they want to be headed to the mountain. Always consider a Plan B. This is not being negative but more proactive. You may be nicely surprised to see a rainbow when you expected rain so you just never know.