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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How Good Do You Want To Be?
What kind of employee do you want to be? What kind of a manager? What kind of a leader? What kind of a boss? What kind of a sales person? What kind of a General Manager? What kind of an Executive? This is a serious question (or I guess several serious questions). Do you want to be “OK” at your job? Do you want to be good at it? Or do you want to be extraordinary? What is your ideal performance? Are you hitting it?
If you’re not hitting it, I’m not going to ask you why not. That conversation is for another time. I’m going to ask you what, precisely, would you be doing if you were performing at your ideal level? Would you be spending more time at something? Would you be finishing things (in a more timely manner)? Would you be talking to people you aren’t talking to? Would you be hustling harder? Would you be less complacent? Would you be getting better results? Would your boss be happier with you?
What Would It Take?
Write down the things that you would be delivering if you were hitting your ideal job performance. Be precise. Look at the list. What do you have to do differently than you are doing now to get those results? Would you be on the Internet as much as you are? Would you be taking hour lunches? Would you be wasting your time in hour long meetings that could get the same results in 15 minutes? Would you be going along to get along? Would you be delegating better? Leading more? Would you be more focused on what you are doing–all the time?
Do you work like you want to be the best? Or do you work like you want to be “OK?” The difference is a change in attitude. Get serious about what you’re doing. Don’t treat it like a job–9 to 5–it’ll be here tomorrow if I don’t get it done. Treat it like a dead-serious goal. You’ve GOT to get it done. You’ve GOT to increase your performance. You’ve GOT to keep it moving.
Try changing your attitude–even for a day and notice the difference. It is much more fun, interesting and fulfilling when you are ALL IN.
Fed Up With Looking For A Job?
Have you been looking for a job for a while? Have you sent out dozens of resumés and heard NOTHING back? Have you talked to recruiters who told you that you weren’t qualified even though you had way more education, but you didn’t have an obscure certification that was listed in the job description? Have you had one conversation with a recruiter or a company HR person who said they’d get right back to you and then NOTHING? Are you getting mad about it? Are you feeling discouraged? Are you beginning to think that you’ll never find anything?
All of the above?
The bad news — you are not alone. In fact, there are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of others. The good news–there are ways to crack the code of this. The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. The hardest thing, and most important, is keeping up your energy, your determination and your commitment. The hardest part is to ignore all the ‘NOTHING’s and treat each new attempt as if it is the first one. It is hard, also, to keep learning from the negative experiences, while you keep approaching each application with as much optimism and energy as you did the first one.
The things that you tell yourself when you get discouraged–that YOU’LL never find something, that there is something wrong with YOU, that it’s hopeless–ARE NOT TRUE.
We have a very difficult confluence of a lot of things happening at once that are making this worse:
- companies are not hiring
- recruiters are able to find enough people without being mindful about how they treat people (and I’m really being diplomatic about that!)
- companies use software to ‘weed’ out resumes that don’t have all the keywords–even when the keywords aren’t relevant
- older people are not leaving the workforce because their retirement funds evaporated
- so many jobs are moving around the globe
- etc., etc., etc.
And so it’s easy not to be optimistic. I get it. It’s hard to keep trying. It’s not fun. It’s SO frustrating when you hear nothing back. It’s SO frustrating when you find a job that is just right for you and you apply and NOTHING. Even though there are people who find a job quickly, most don’t. Almost everyone gets discouraged before they hit pay dirt. The lucky ones, though, can get past being discouraged.
You have to figure out how to keep your energy, commitment, optimism, and determination up. That is way more important than making sure your resumé is perfect. Because if you have your optimism and your energy, then you can fix your resume over and over. You can keep getting yourself out there to network. You can ignore how much you hate working with recruiters because of the stupid things they say and talk to THIS one as if she’ll be different.
How Do You Do That?
- Find someone (or a few someones) to talk to. You need someone who can pump you up on a regular basis. When you talk to yourself in the vacuum of your own thoughts, you are not as objective as you need to be. There are techniques that you need to use to find a job, and you need someone to remind you when you lose sight of them. There are lessons, strategies and tactics to finding a job and you need to be reminded of them regularly.
- Remember that the number of rejections that you get is irrelevant–the number of acceptances is what is important. In order to get acceptances, you have to crack the code. In order to crack the code, you have to keep learning and refining your tactics. In order to do that, you have to keep applying. In order to do that, you have to keep your energy and determination up.
- Network. Socializing (even for you introverts) helps you have a different perspective. It gets you out of your head. If you’re going to socialize, you might as well network. I don’t mean going out to a networking event. I mean going to a social event, or spending some time online on a social networking site, reconnecting/connecting and finding out what people are doing. And telling people that you’re looking for a job. And telling people what kind of a job you’re looking for. And asking people if they know anyone they think would be good for you to approach for an informational interview.
- Don’t take it personally. Hard, I know. It isn’t personal, though. Chances are really good that your resumé never got in front of anyone who could make a decision about it. Chances are that the selection software looking for keywords weeded you out, or the recruiter (who rarely understands the industry, company, job or requirements thoroughly) weeded you out, or your resume was #402 and they cut off at #400. Any of those things are not about you. You still have to surmount them, though. You just shouldn’t take it personally, because it isn’t.
- Think about it like a puzzle. Is it the resumé? Is it the cover letter? Is it that you need to hit it as soon as the job is posted–yes, at 4:14 am? Is it that you need to find someone in the company? Is it that need to follow up better? Keep trying things until you crack the code.
Some Good Books That Might Help:
Way back, before most of us were working, you got a job with a company and you stayed with that company–making steady progression–until you retired. You were, of course, a man. If you got fired, you had done something pretty bad. Layoffs didn’t happen very often. There were career ladders that you took all the way from your first position to your last position.
This is so long ago that many people reading this don’t get it, don’t know why we still talk about it, and think this is a no-brainer. We still talk about it because this model still shapes our expectations in many ways. Our infrastructure is not set up to support the current reality–if so, we’d have portable health insurance and retirement plans. We’d also be much more focused on taking care of ourselves in our careers rather than leaving it to companies. It is time for our mental models to catch up with reality.
The current ‘career ladder’ looks a lot more like those cool folding ladders that can be shaped over obstructions and can bend in several directions as necessary to do the job.
The current ‘career ladder’ takes you up when that is possible and helps you deal with the plateaus, job losses, industry and functional changes that are necessary to remain resilient and successful in today’s economy. Today’s ‘career ladder’ needs to focus on skills and trends rather than specific roles in specific companies in specific industries. Find ways to “Genericize Yourself,” that enable you to move across industries. Find ways to specialize (I know, those sound like opposite pieces of advice, but they aren’t), so that your value (brand) is obvious. Build your resilience for all kinds of shifts in the economy–think of the shifts that have happened in publishing, electronics, e-marketing, and are happening in health care and communications now. You can’t know what is coming, but you can be ready.
I’ve been working a lot with Stakeholder Plans for large organization change lately, and I was thinking that it would be a good idea to create one for a career plan. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of creating a stakeholder plan yet, it is a way of identifying who has a vested interest (in this case, in your career success) and creating a plan to get their help in achieving your goals.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
For example, identify who has any kind of an interest in your career success: your boss, your peers, your mentor, your former bosses, your family, your future boss. Anyone, whether they are supportive, neutral or hostile to what you want to accomplish, should go on the list.
Come Up With a Plan
Then identify which career goal each has an interest in and what that level of interest is–your boss may have a high level of interest in your successful delivery of your current performance goals, but no interest at all in your promotion to a position outside his organization. Understanding this, and creating a plan to mitigate your boss’ ambivalence may be essential to getting that promotion. S/he may sabotage your promotion in order to keep you. A stakeholder assessment–that requires you to think through all the players and come up with both an action plan and a communication plan for each, is likely to crystallize your thinking of next steps, and to speed your career on its way.
Once you’ve created a grid similar to the one above, you can create a graphic that divides your stakeholders into categories:
- High Power/High Interest: Manage Closely (like current boss/potential new boss)
- High Power/Low Interest: Keep Satisfied (like peers/organizational customers)
- Low Power /Low Interest: Monitor (like former bosses/distant peers)
- Low Power/High Interest: Keep Informed (like employees/recruiters
Depending on your goals, your organizational situation and your timing, these stakeholders and their position on the grid will be different. The most important part of this is to think it out–where are your key stakeholders on the support continuum, what is in the way of their full support and what can you do about it? People feel threatened by other people’s career success and the more you’re aware of what people are thinking, the better you will be able to manage it. Stakeholders who could be powerful supporters for your career goals may not know what they are–this exercise can help you identify that issue and come up with a great plan to solve it.