Many young executives like to ask for career success tips. I usually start by saying career success doesn’t come in a day. Yet, day-in day-out, I see young people entering the working life and pushing themselves as if they will make CEO in a year. They have a tendency to compare their progress with their contemporaries. However, you should not and must not compare your success to your contemporaries. If you ask me, "What is career success?" I don't have the answer. But, I can give you a career success tip that works for me. However, ultimately only you can answer, “What is career success?” only you can seek. No one can do it for you. It is to be defined by your own values and principles in life. You would have to define what is career success for yourself. It means different things for different people. The first step is to ask yourself, “What is career success?" It is not a question you should mull over daily. You will have to spend time thinking about this. The answer will not come easy. Ask yourself that question, and then let it float in your mind for however long it takes - never force the answer. Next, remind yourself this - if your career is a marathon, then it includes the preparation for the race - the warm ups, the stretches, the strength exercises, the stamina building, and the constant practice runs. Constant effort is what will eventually get a positive response - and that response is success. My biggest fear for many young executives is that many of them embark on this marathon and end up hurting themselves. They hurt themselves because, instead of warming up and stretching, they sprint. Eventually they end up injured, taking months and years to recuperate. This is an important career success tip. Your career like many things in life cannot be rushed. You succeed by not rushing nor lazing off. Your career success comes to you when you do not rush yourself through it. But this also means you do not laze off. When you rush you start to be careless. You forget the basic important steps in the race for your career success. Of course, if you sprint through at this early phase, you risk overdoing it. On the other hand, if you laze off – you won’t put in the appropriate effort needed for success. For success to happen, you need to be moderate in your pursuit. That would be career success tip for you. There is a saying: Hurrying makes things too tight, Slacking off lets things get too loose, By not hurrying and not slacking off, We can succeed at what we do. To conclude, in this race, you are your own competitor. To end this career success tip, I leave you with this thought from Dao De Ching: He who knows other men is discerning, he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes other is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty. He who is satisfied with his lot is rich. He who goes on acting with energy has a firm will. He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continues long. He who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity.
We get it. Looking for work can be scary, especially if you’ve been at it for a long time and haven’t gotten any results.
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One portion of an employee’s personal development is work-related, but there is more. When you think of an employee’s personal development do you think of the skills for them to keep current, get a promotion, or transfer to another department? Improving core skills such as analytical abilities, critical thinking, and/or decision making? Skills to take on a leadership role and manage staff? Obtaining higher credentials?
Assuming so, organizational leaders should:
1. Make sure you understand what employees do and how it aligns with the company’s goals
2. Let employees do the job you hired them to do (leveraging their strengths and interests); nobody likes to be micromanaged
3. Challenge employees with stretch goals
4. Encourage employees to learn new things and give them the tools they need to learn:
- Read books, magazines, trade journals, newsletters, blogs
- Watch online videos, listen to podcasts
- Take courses (in-person, online) and attend webinars, workshops, conferences
- Company-provided training - Microsoft Office, application-specific courses
- Hard skills such as an SQL class, foreign language
- Effective communication skills - writing classes or speaking training (e.g., Toastmasters)
- Other soft skills - time management, problem solving
- Learning platforms - LinkedIn Learning, MasterClass
- Leadership-related training
- Supervisor skills, management trainee program
- Some will want to manage people, but others won’t and that’s ok
- Professional license, certification (e.g., PMP, CISSP), college degree
- Don’t forget to support CPE (continuing professional education) requirements
- Groups - professional associations, networking groups, etc.
- Other - internships, volunteer opportunities
These are great work-related considerations, but there is more. There is a saying by Confucius: “I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” Do you encourage employees’ personal development (and the key word is personal) to be the best version of themself? Have you asked them what is important to them? If it’s important to them, it should be important to you too.
Developing A Growth Mindset
Personal development is lifelong learning and it’s never too late to start. Encourage employees to develop a growth mindset and continue learning while working for the company. This includes opportunities to:
1. Enhance their quality of life such as health/fitness, self-care, self-confidence2. Self-improvement to fully develop their character, capabilities, and potential
- Develop a reading habit
- Personal finances, personal creativity, or other personal-related learnings
- “Work-related” skills listed above even if they aren’t relevant to their current role
- Some organizations (such as Amazon, Chipotle, and Starbucks) have free or practically free college programs for front-line employees, which removes financial barriers
3. Realize their dream - maybe to become an entrepreneur and start their own business
How To Create A Custom Personal Development Plan For Employees
Has your organization recognized that they need to think differently about developing employees? They should work together with the employee to create a custom personal development plan (PDP) based on what the employee is interested in (including both work and personal aspects). Four basic steps are:
1. Perform a self-assessment
2. Establish and prioritize goals (both short and long term) breaking up the goals into manageable tasks
3. Create a step-by-step plan identifying required resources, timelines, etc.
- Identify objectives to reach the goals as well as strategies to achieve the tasks
- Identify any weaknesses, development needs, barriers
4. Measure progress
- Reward and celebrate accomplishments
- Be prepared for setbacks - adjust and course correct
As a leader, be available when employees want to talk with you as well as periodically check in with them to ensure they have a good work-life balance. Both of these could be good coaching/mentoring opportunities.
When there is a comprehensive personal development plan, the employee is more likely to be and stay excited about what’s next (and stay with the organization longer). For more information about personal development, follow me on LinkedIn!
I got an email yesterday from a client wanting to know if I had any job search tips. Unfortunately, he had been recently laid off and found himself on the job market. Talking to him got me thinking...What really makes a job search successful?
The bad news is that there isn't a magic formula. The good news is that there are a number of very simple things you can do to improve your marketability.
Here are four easy steps to follow if you want to speed up your job search:
1. Update Your Resume As Soon As Possible
This might sound simple, but it is by far the most important (and first) step in a job search. You need to have your resume ready to roll at a moment's notice.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of job seekers. There is the job seeker that draws confidence from being prepared and then there is the kind of job seeker that gets blindsided by the unexpected. I know which kind I'd rather be.
The best time to focus on your resume is when you don't need it.
2. Figure Out Who Your Resume Is For
Is your resume for you or is it for prospective employers? The resume might have your info, experience, and accomplishments on it, but, ultimately, the documents that make it past the ATS not only have the right amount of keywords peppered throughout but also show, very clearly, what the applicant can do forthe potential employer.
When writing your resume, always keep potential employers at the forefront of your mind. Make sure you quantify your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Give them a preview of the kind of positive impact you could have on their organization if they were to hire you.
3. Realize It's Not About You
Really. It's not. The most successful job seekers understand that it's about what you do for others, not about what they can do for you.
This is a fundamental idea that for some I hope turns the act of "networking" completely upside down. In every interaction, the most important thing is to demonstrate, "How can I help YOU?" It's the folks who unselfishly look out for those around them who make opportunities happen. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
What connections can you help make? Ask open-ended questions. You may even choose to treat the conversation like an informational interview. What professional needs does the other party have and how can you fill them?
4. Determine Your Target
This is such a simple concept, but it's probably the biggest obstacle I see with many of my clients. You need to have a target. It is as easy as that. How can you expect to reach the goal of employment without aiming for a bullseye?
The first step is to clearly identify the job/profession/industry you are targeting. You may even have a company that you've always wanted to work at. (It's always a good idea to have an interview bucket list—a list of companies you're passionate about that you'd love to work for someday.)
Make sure that your goal aligns with your experience. Then (and only then) are you free to begin outlining a plan to achieve your goal.
Here's an example:
I have an open door policy with my resume clients and I keep tabs on them throughout their job searches. Out of all the resumes and resume clients I've ever had, only one resume didn't work. One. When I wrote the initial resume, my client was targeting retail sales positions. Then she called one day a couple of months into her job search wondering why she wasn't getting any responses. I asked her to send me an example of the jobs she was applying for and guess what? All the online job applications she had filled out were for human resources positions. No wonder her resume didn't work!
After rewriting her resume, she found work relatively quickly and it just goes to show how important it is to aim before you pull the trigger.
Know your audience, be proactive, and remember that it's not about you. If you apply these things to your job search, you'll be employed in no time!
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.