Category Archives: Recession Proof

Think Your Job Is Secure? Think Again. PLEASE.

Recruitment or Employment Issues Chalk Drawing

Think They Can’t Do Without You?

There are lots of reasons that we think we are indispensable at work.  We know more than anyone else.  We’ve been there longer.  We have a close interdependent relationship with the boss.  We’re way better than others who have been there forever.  Whatever it is that you think about why you are indispensable, you are wrong.  NO ONE is indispensable, not even you.  Think about it:

  • The boss who thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread could be gone tomorrow.  It is unlikely that the new boss will instantly see your worth and if you were a favorite, it is likely that your peers aren’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about you.
  • You might have been the best of the best at one time, but does that still apply?
  • How expensive are you?  Are there new people (maybe straight out of school with more developed technical skills?) who are as good or almost as good?
  • Do your peers sing your praises?  Or do they try to scuttle your high horse?
  • Have you consistently over delivered incredible results . . . except for the last 6 months-or even worse-the last year?
  • Is the organization shifting its priorities away from your area of expertise?
  • Do you have a reputation of being negative? Or a diva? Or high maintenance?

They CAN Do Without You!

There are all kinds of reasons that organizations decide to part company with people.  SO MANY of those people are shocked because in their own eyes and mind they were indispensable.  The water closes over you head as you leave with barely a ripple.  People remember you and speak of you occasionally, BUT THEY GO ON WITH THEIR JOB.  They figure out workarounds to close the gap left in your absence.  And those gaps close pretty quickly.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

I’m telling you this so that you will come out of your delusion and will do what it takes to either prevent this situation or be able to deal with it if it happens.  I’m telling you this to get your attention before you find yourself on the outside looking in with total disbelief.

Do you remember what it was like when you started your first job, or your latest new job?  Do you remember how focused you were on understanding everything you needed to know.  Do you remember how careful you were in understanding what your boss wanted and in trying to deliver it?  Do you remember how much you tried to understand the unwritten rules of your organization? If you can re-achieve that heightened level of awareness and attentiveness, then you are much more likely not to take your situation for granted.  You are much more likely to escape being marginalized and finding yourself out the door.

What Should You Do?

Every week (yes, EVERY week):

  • Remind yourself to treat your boss the way you did in your first week in this job
  • Remind yourself that your peers can take you out faster than your boss. How are you helping them?  How do they perceive you?  What can you do to further their agendas?
  • Do something to build your network, both inside and outside the organization.  Who at the top of the organization outside your own management chain knows you?  Who do you know at other organizations that interest you?
  • Keep your skills current.  Get certificates.  Go to school.  Know the latest technology. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry/field.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve done to add value THIS week.

And maybe then you’ll be indispensable:-)

 

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Networking, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

Do You Want To Start Your Own Business? Then Do It.

Stop Planning.  Start Doing.

I speak to a lot of people who want to start their own business.  I speak to lots of people who don’t start their own business.  There is only one difference between people who want to and people who have their own business.  The ones who have their own business actually DID it.  I know.  I spent six years “planning” my business.  I bought every book.  I thought I hadn’t put together enough money.  I didn’t know how to do all the things that I needed to know how to do.  I didn’t have enough contacts.  I didn’t have enough customers/clients.  Duh.  I didn’t have a business.  Why would there be clients/customers WITHOUT a business?  You just have to step out if faith.  I”m not saying do it with NO planning. You have to think out your opportunities.  You have to think out how you’re going to eat. And then you need to do it.

start

I can relate to not moving on it.   Was I more prepared after six years?  Yes.  I was not six years-worth more prepared, though.  So much of the learning that happens when you start your business happens when the rubber meets the road and you actually have to make it work.  There is nothing that does that except actually doing the work.

Do It Before You Leave Your ‘Real’ Job

What I didn’t do, which I should have, was start my business while I was still working my 9 to 5 job.  It really didn’t occur to me at the time, but I now know that this is a great solution to cushion the risk and to accelerate the learning while you still have an income.  With the current state of the economy and the likelihood that you will lose your job at some point in your work life, this approach of having an income on the side that you can ramp up if something happens makes a lot of sense.  There are a couple of new books that are great guides on how to do this.

Some Books That Might Help.

  • The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer.  This book has lots of stories about people who actually DID it.  They started small and built their business while still employed.  The book describes when the business owners cut the cord and relied on their business for their income.  It is a great read and is quite motivational.  You don’t have to wait for perfection–step out and see what happens.
  • How to Work for Yourself by Bryan Cohen.  This is a book that addresses all the excuses you have about “no time.”  (That was what you were thinking when you started reading this post, right?)  Again, Cohen is quite motivational.  As I read the book I started noticing all the ways that I waste time.  (As I write this, this book is $0.00 on Kindle–that won’t last long–grab it!!!)

A slightly older, but more comprehensive book:

So . . . I’ve provided you some books to read if you want to put it off a little longer.  I’ve provided you books that can motivate you and challenge you if you REALLY want to do this.  Which ever–read these books.  Make this the year you DO it.

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Goal Setting, Recession Proof, Start a Business, Success

Get Your Business Started. What Are You Waiting On?

It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

So you want to start a business.  Someday.  Someday will come and go and where will your business  be?  What are you waiting on?  You want to get everything set up first? You want to do the business plan first?  You want to analyze the potential market first?  You want to find money first? You want to come up with the killer idea first?

Let’s Start At The Beginning

Why do you want to start your own business?  That’s the first question to answer.  The answer to this question can actually help you figure out what kind of business.

  • Do you want to work for yourself?  Get rid of bosses?  Feel an accomplishment that you built something? Control your destiny?
  • Do you want a work/life balance?  Be careful about this one.  Most small business owners work an awful lot—many more than their corporate employee colleagues.
  • Do you want to get rich?
  • Do you like the risk/reward of starting and running a business?
  • Do you want to work people of your choice—and not A$$ho@$?
  • Are you stalled out at your current organization?
  • Do you want to create a business out of something you are passionate about?
  • Do you think you can do it better?

Next Step—What Business do You Want To Start?

Do you have a plan or idea that you’ve been storing in the back of your mind for a long time?  Does it make it to your New Year’s Resolution list or you Life Goal list on a regular basis?  If you have such a plan/idea, look back at your answer to “Why Do You Want to Start Your Own Business?” above.  Does your plan/idea serve that reason?  For example, if you want to start a restaurant but your reason for starting your own business is work/life balance, then the back of your brain probably knows that those two don’t go together.  If you want/need security, than, again, you probably know that deep down inside and aren’t really willing to put that at risk by really starting your own business.

If your idea for a business  is perfectly suited to your reason for wanting to do this, then there is some other reason that it hasn’t happened yet.   Some possibilities:

  • Analysis paralysis.  This was mine.  I wanted to think out every possible ramification and pre-plan for each eventuality.  I bought and read every book I could get my hands on.  I went to seminars, talked to experts and still didn’t move forward.  The key issue here is that you can never be ready enough before you start because some of the most important things that make you ready to run and succeed at your business are the experiences you have in running your business.  Even if you’ve run several businesses before, you will not be able to pre-plan all the things that can happen.
  • Fear of failure. I guess it would be nice to be able to out plan failure.  It just isn’t realistic, though.  Depending on how you define failure:  not meeting expectations, not making enough money, not finding your market, not having enough cash flow, not growing as fast as expected, growing faster than expected (OK, maybe that one isn’t failure), going bankrupt–most start-ups fail.  You make adjustments, you try again, you try something else.  Fearing failure is a lot like a four year old fearing growing taller.  It is a necessary part of the process.
  • Lack of time. This may be the reality, but if you don’t make the time, then it won’t happen.  You CAN make time to do what is important.  Steven Covey taught us to do what was important.  To begin with the end in mind.  What does you business look like in your future?  What does it provide you? Money?  Joy? Autonomy? Isn’t it as important as the other things that you are doing?  Carve out one task a day or one task a week to work on.  After a couple of months, you will have made progress and you will be on your way.  Once your business starts to become REAL in your eyes, then it will be easier to put it at the head of the line, or at least in the line, of what you’re working on.
  • Not enough money.  Build a sufficient business plan to persuade someone to help with the money.  Ask friends, family, skilled colleagues who could help.  Figure it out.

Just Start

There is a great gook about this, Just Start by Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer.  Take the risk.  Learn from it.  Move closer to your dream.

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Goal Setting, Recession Proof, Start a Business, Success

How Do You Know When You’re In Trouble With Your Boss?

I used to get feedback on 360° assessments that I was unreadable.  I didn’t do much about it because I really didn’t see it as a problem.  I knew what was going on inside my head and I wasn’t thinking anything bad about any of the people who found me difficult to read.  I knew that if something was wrong, I was crystal clear with the person who did whatever it was.  I’m a direct person and I was direct with those who made me unhappy.  If I wasn’t unhappy, then, despite the fact that I was “unreadable,” everything was OK.

Unfortunately, no one but me had access to what was in my head.  My employees created versions of what was going on in my head.  Most of those versions not only weren’t correct, they were really way off.  I know this because they told me later.  After I learned to be more obvious about what was going on in my head.  After I learned to be direct to people who were doing things right.  People stop being scared of what is going on in your head when they know that you’ll tell them.

BadBoss

This post is about signs that your boss really DOES have a problem with you.  How do you know what is going on in your bosses head when it isn’t obvious?  You have to look for the more subtle signs.  The first thing you have to do, though, is to give your boss the benefit of the doubt.  Assume that your boss is happy with your performance if you don’t see signs otherwise. Some signs to watch out for and to take seriously are:

  • If your boss doesn’t meet your eyes.  Unless your boss does this with everyone, it isn’t a good sign.
  • If your boss avoids you.  This one isn’t as straight-forward.  Sometimes bosses have cliques or favorites.  If s/he spends more time with others than with you, then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s not necessarily good boss behavior.  Pay attention to whether you are the only one on the out.  If not, give your boss the benefit of the doubt (we’ll talk another time about how to deal with bosses who have favorites).  Assume that things are ok, maybe could be better, but are ok.  If, however, your boss really obviously avoids you, then you have a problem. 
  • If your boss constantly finds fault.  Again, is it just you or is s/he this way with everyone?  If s/he is like this across the board, then I’d go get another boss, but it isn’t specifically bad for you.  If, however, the boss nit picks everything you do, you are in trouble.  This could be a style or a communication problem, but whatever it is, it is a problem.
  • If your boss gives you worse assignments than anyone else.  Sometimes you get harder assignments because your boss thinks you can tackle harder issues than others.  If, however, your boss is giving you easier assignments or impossible assignments, then try to figure out why.  Are you new at your job,or to the group?  Have you not lived up to expectations on previous assignments?  On the other hand, do you feel like the assignments that you’re getting are designed to make you fail?  The assignments you get should be at least as hard as those given to everyone else or harder if you’re more experienced or trying to get a promotion, but not impossible.
  • If your boss always takes someone else’s side.  You don’t have a problem if you boss occasionally takes someone else’s side (in fact, that is actually better than if s/he always takes your side).  If, however, you are always on the short end of the stick, then you’re got a problem.
  • If your boss doesn’t seem comfortable with you.  Try not to assume things that aren’t here, but if your boss seems uncomfortable in dealing with you, doesn’t have small social conversations with you, never  sits near you when the occasion arises, then you mayhave a problem.  (You’ll note that I’m not as clear about this one–bosses are regular people–they can be socially dysfunctional just like the rest of us.)

I hope that you’ve read this list and decided that despite appearances, your boss is just fine with you.  That is most likely the case.  If you recognize your situation here, then you need to do something about it.  Over time, I’ll write about what to do about each one of these situations.  If you have a specific situation that you’d like to have my suggestions on, let me know and I’ll give it a go.

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Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

The Specialization Sweet Spot for Career Success

Too Specialized–The Other Kiss of Death

I wrote recently about avoiding the Career Kiss of Death by avoiding becoming a commodity.  Becoming too specialized can also be a kiss of death.  I once worked for an electronic publisher that published legal information.  At the time, there were only two companies that did that.  I was an expert on the legal data published by my company, the sources of that data, the processes used to publish it, and the customers who bought it.  There was only one other company who could use that expertise at that time, and I had a pretty unbreakable non-compete agreement that foreclosed going to work for them.  When I looked around, I couldn’t see any option (I wasn’t as creative then as I am now) for a different job/company than the one I had.  It’s a really good thing that I really liked the job/company at the time.  It’s interesting that now there are lots of companies that could use that expertise.  The job market has expanded through the growth of the industry.  You can’t count on that happening, though.

I decided at the time that I would expand my marketability by learning expertise about other kinds of data besides legal data.  I still had the expertise on how to manage/convert/acquire and sell online information, but I learned how to do all those things with other kinds of data—financial and news.  It still seemed too limited to me, though, so I decided to Genericize Myself by learning expertise that crossed industries.  (The present online information industry that exists now was unimaginable then!)

I became an expert on organizational operations.  I learned how to improve processes, how to re-engineer processes and how to streamline them.  I was successful at improving the processes in my own department, then I began to be sought to help with processes across other departments, and then across organizations owned by my parent company.  I didn’t know it then, but I was learning a very marketable skill that has turned into (part) of my career.  I have expanded this skill and expertise into a consulting business (that includes other things, but organization process enhancement was the beginning core).

Specialize AND Genericize

Jobs, companies, and industries go away.  You need to keep your eye on the horizon of all of these.  At the same time, you need to have deep skills—be the company expert, while you are working on making sure that you have genericized to the point that other jobs, companies and industries can use your skills.  This may seem like contrary advice, but it isn’t.  When you are a deep expert in an area that many companies and industries need, then you are recession-proof.  If one company or industry starts to have problems and starts downsizing, then you can move to another.  You can continue to land on your feet and continue to grow you skills more deeply to expand your marketability.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Recession Proof

Avoid the Career Kiss of Death–Don’t Be A Commodity

Stand Out or Be Out

One of the worst things that can happen to you career-wise is for your employer (or potential employers) to see you as interchangable with other people with the same skill set.  If they think that they can get more where you came from, then they are not valuing you as an employee.  If your employer does not see you as unique, as someone who brings a value-add skill set to the table, then you will stall out at your organization.  Not only that, when you seek other employment after you’ve stalled out, you will not have an easy time getting a new job that pays as well as the last one or that has the potential to take you to the next level.  When people think that an accountant is an accountant is an accountant, then why would they choose you over anyone else?  What is it about you that makes your boss concerned about keeping you, nurturing you and developing you?  What is it about you that makes your resume stand out from the other 300 that the recruiter is looking through?

Of course you know that you are unique and special.  Think about how that is obvious to people who don’t know you well, though.  What is it about your resume or your experience or your skill set that makes you stand out?  If you don’t have a level of expertise or a special skill set that is obvious on paper and at the first meeting with you, then you risk being a commodity.  And that is not a place you want to be in this job market.  In this day of downsizing and outsourcing, you want it to be a no-brainer for the decision makers to keep you, regardless of the other decisions that they are making.

How Can You Tell?

Go online.  Look at the resumes of people who do what you do.    Notice the ones that stand out.  What is it that makes them stand out.  Imagine that you are looking to replace you in your job.  Who would you select from among the hundreds of similar resumes?  Why?  What makes the ones who stand out more interesting, more attractive, more valuable?  How do you stack up against those people?

Now, look at the job descriptions from employers of people in the job that you do.  What are they looking for?  Is there any subset of skills or additional abilities that they are consistently asking for?  What are the things that are listed in the “preferred” skill/education list?  Can you tell if they are looking for someone who is ‘good enough’ or someone who is extraordinary?  For those who are looking for someone who is extraordinary, how do you stack up against those job descriptions?  Would you hire you based on your current resume and skill set for those jobs?

Within your own organization, are there people who do what you do who stand out more than you do?  Why?  What do they have that you don’t have?  This is not the time to say, “He has a degree from Harvard, and I’ll never have one, so it is hopeless.”  If he has a degree from Harvard, is that really why he stands out?  Or is it how he acts, who he talks to or the work that he does?

If you are a commondity–a one-size-fits-all-employee–then you may continue to be employed (if you can figure out how to stand out among the hundreds of other equivalent one-size-fits-all-employees enough to get hired in the first place), but you will not have much of an upwardly bound career.

So What Do You Do?

Based on your observations of the resumes and job descriptions that you looked at, what is it you need to stand out?  Do you need more education or certifications?  Do you need more/different skills?  Is there something that you can do, like get Six Sigma or PMI certified for instance, that makes you a two-fer?  You are qualified at human resources or accounting or engineering, but you can also help with projects or re-engineering?  Can you take it to the next level through some kind of specialized experience?  Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering for things that get you different/more experience.

Understand your brand.  Learn to sell your brand.  Figure out how to get things done without the authorityKeep up with what’s new in your field and your industry.

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Derailment, Recession Proof, Success

How Do You Get Noticed?

Do You Get Noticed?

Do you feel like you work as hard as every one else?  Do you feel like your deliverables are better than others?  Do you feel like no one notices how hard you work, or how good your work is?  You may be right.  Working hard, in and of itself, isn’t usually enough to be noticed.  Doing great work isn’t the only thing that people get judged on.

During my time as a manager and an executive, I usually noticed people who were:

Proactive:  People who don’t wait to be asked to do things, but who suggest that they can contribute, or who even just do it usually stand out.  When you think of it from the manager’s perspective, making sure that you’ve circled back with everyone and made sure that they know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, adds to the job.  If you have someone who steps up and suggests or asks if they should do something, lifts some of the load.  If you show that you are seeing more of the big picture and some of the things that need to get done, then you have marked yourself as having potential beyond your current position.

High Energy:  People who display high energy stand out in a crowd.  They are fun to be around (even for managers).  Not only do they usually do a lot of work, they are perceived at doing more than they do because they just keep at it.

Able to Jump on Something and FINISH It:  Part of this is being obvious about starting and part of this is being obvious about finishing.  Some people are good at one of these and others are good at the other, but it is the people who are consistently good at both who get noticed.  These people who seem to start quickly and consistently and obviously finish the job are the ones that managers and executives come to rely on.

An Expert:  Become the specialist on something.  Become known in your organization as the person to go to for answers with . . . whatever.   Make sure you are quite knowledgeable on the things that are important to doing your job, but also on the things that your boss thinks are important.

Able to Get Things Done With Other People:  People who are networked, who work well in teams, who are persuasive, who are leaders–basically, who get things done through/with other people consistently get noticed.  It is a surprisingly rare talent.

Not a Diva:  People who take more energy to deal with than they are worth don’t last long.  The thing is–if you are worth a lot, people are willing to deal with a lot.  Its hard to know when you cross over that line.  It is just better to not take a lot of work to deal with so that you won’t be surprised when they get tired of your drama.  (Of course, you have to NOT BE A DIVA in addition to one or more of the others  to be visible–just NOT BEING A DIVA is not noticable in most organizations.  People who are the noticeable in the ways listed above, but who are also divas, are noticed in good ways.)

What Kinds of People Do You Notice?

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Hi Po, Personal Change, Recession Proof