Work, career, profession is important to everyone.
We all need to pursue something larger than ourselves to feel connected to a wider purpose, to feel connected to other people and (most importantly) to foster connection to ourselves in our work.
While this connection is important, it can also be very illusive; it’s difficult to see how completing a task, or a sitting in a repetitive meeting, is really moving the bar forward for your organization (or your career).
Fundamentally, your work is important (why would someone be paying you to do it if it wasn’t?).
Here are some strategies to connect more deeply to the many ways your work makes a difference.
It’s important to remember that how you are recognized for the work you do is different from the value of the work you do; they are not always equal or compatible.
Both are key parts of meaning, but in better understanding how your work makes a difference, you are able to connect to the value and meaning of it (absent of others thoughts, opinions and actions).
This is a vital first step, because if you can’t connect to the difference your work makes for yourself, no amount of positive feedback, or recognition, will make you feel good about yourself in your work.
Not getting the recognition from others you deserve at work?
Giving a voice to the value of your work, using concrete examples, empowers your ability to foster the respect your work deserves from others
There is a misconception that likability is what fuels careers; while being liked isn’t a bad thing, it is not the same as being respected.
Think about it for a moment.
Make a list of all the people you like at work; now make a list of all the people you respect; who would you trust to support your career and work?
I’ll bet it was someone you respected, and not just someone you liked.
So, how do you become well respected at work?
Here are 3 strategies that help you to stay liked AND be well respected.
You can like someone, without trusting them.
You can respect someone without liking them.
But you cannot respect someone without trusting them, even if is only in a specific context (i.e., not liking the payroll person at work, but trusting they will get you paid accurately and on time, respecting their work).
Likability plays less of a role in respect then most of us realize, so when you have to make a choice between building likeability and respectability at work, consider erring on the side of respectability to support your career and professional potential.
You are an expert in what you do, so you see things your boss (and possibly others) at work could not from your field of view.
So, when you see a glaring flaw in leadership’s logic, it’s a tough decision whether to mention it or not; is this a career limiting move (CLM) or an opportunity to support your organization?
Here are five considerations to help you decide when to speak truth to power:
Speaking truth to power is a delicate move, one only you can assess is right for you in your work and career.
When done in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time, in the right organizational context, it can support your high potential, enhancing your career.
I am a consummate do-it-yourself-er (DIYer). I like the challenge of learning new things, I love the creative process, and saving money/time is a great upside too.
While the DIY impulse is good for creativity, it has a professional downside; you lessen the capability to ask for help.
The availability of information on the internet makes it even more tempting to solve a problem immediately by looking it up; there are rich conversations we no longer have with our colleagues, friends and family on how to do things because we think we can find it all by our selves (or online).
What this does is build the “muscle” of self-sufficiency, almost to a fault, as it can feel like you should know how to figure everything out - you get “rusty” at asking for help, feeling more vulnerable about doing it, so yo do it less and less.
It also serves to diminish your patience with yourself, reducing your resilience to stick with the learning curve (everything should happen in easy-to-follow steps, just like on You Tube, or be as efficient as watching a TED Talk).
The learning curve is a really important tool in professional and personal development.
It means letting go of “knowing” and become open to “not knowing”.
This simple act is the first step in any kind of development, and it is rich.
It helps you to be more accepting of uncertainty and your own limits, and in that acceptance, more able to connect with, and trust, others to share your challenges.
The awkwardness you experience along the way means this is important, important enough to stay with discomfort in pursuit of something bigger than yourself.
Something you can only achieve by opening yourself to the wisdom and support of others
It all started great.
Perfect job. Great boss. Fab colleagues. Interesting work.
Then, things changed. Your organization was bought out, or evolved. Your boss moved up or on. Valued colleagues drifted off the team.
The only constant is change; here are three strategies to consider when you think it may be time for a change in your career.
Sometimes, when you talk to others (network contacts, mentors, etc.) about what may seem like better opportunities, you come to the realization you're actually in the best place for you right now.
Or, you learn about fantastic career options in your area of expertise.
Whatever possibilities await you, go into this with curiosity and discernment.
It’s not healthy working for an organization you don’t believe in, but take the time you need to get professional advice, and make a strong career decision, or you risk ending up some place even less desirable.
There is a very fine line between being comfortable at work (secure in your expertise, wielding it with precision) and being uninspired by the sameness of it all.
Boredom happens in every job, it’s a product of predictability and repetitiveness, which also happen to be two key things that can make work less stressful – it’s a balancing act.
So, while you are waiting for that next challenging assignment to come through, or to help you through a slog of mundane work (we’re talking to you, COVID back-log) here are three ways to beat the boredom blues, making your work stand out in all the right ways:
While there will always be an aspect of every role that is boring, make sure to keep an open mind and open dialog with your manger so they know what types of work interest and challenge you.
When your boss knows what types of problems you like to solve, you’ll find more of that work gets on your desk, making you relevant and enriching your career.
When you keep yourself engaged, you show-up at work in positive and noticeable ways, empowering others to trust your work.
If you've read my story, you'll know early in my career I was a huge fan of hard work. It got me to a lot of places in my career. That said, it wasn't great for my well-being (as a guiding principle it's not good for anyone's well-being). Hard work has an up-side, you get many things done with a "rush" from accomplishment (whether it is clearing off your "to do" list, or completing a project), but interestingly it is not something that proportionately contributes to being successful. What I mean by that is, hard work alone will not get you to all the amazing and fulfilling places you could go in your career and life.
It's not difficult to see how working so hard you cannot enjoy yourself puts you further away from success (however you define it). Yet, it’s easy to get caught-up in the relentless pursuit of “getting things done” (or maintaining the status-quo), without consideration to what are you trading away in life so you can feel “complete” at work. Put a different way, music is enjoyable to hear not just because of the notes, but because of the rests in between. When you cram all your waking hours with work it’s like a toddler incessantly banging piano keys; that is not music. It is an assault on the senses. How badly do you want to make it stop?
Perseverance (AKA hard work) is not the same as resilience. Maya Angelou said “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it”. My wake-up call came when I realized the cost of hard work to my health, well-being, and the many ways un-checked effort reduced me. I wasn’t living, I was working, and truthfully it was easier to bury myself in work then to become accountable for living to my life’s true potential. Success is measured not by hard work, but the impact and outcomes of your efforts. Meaningful contributions. Restorative time for yourself. Connection to family and friends.
What “music” are you making in your life?
So, how is this pandemic going for you? Personally I'm over it. I am not looking forward to a long winter cooped up with few distractions; no restaurants, movie theaters, museums or concerts to go to (or very limited at best). So, I've had to have a little talk with myself; the only thing I control in all of this is me and I am reminded of the quote from Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".
Here are some shafts of light I've found, opportunities in a dark pandemic.
1. We will never work the same way again. Working from home is here to stay - not as a steady diet (like during the pandemic), but as a component of a healthy working diet that will see the last organizational hold-outs concede employees are productive working at home. Flexibility to work where you need to, to accommodate life, is now permanently an option for professionals. Studies are showing that most office-based jobs won't be 100% work from home after the pandemic, but employers will embrace this option as a way to reduce costs associated with office space, find scarce skills in tight labour markets, and to support the productivity and well being of their employees.
2. Flow happens in both directions. "Flow", that ephemeral state of bliss when you can immerse yourself in what you are doing, is more possible when you own your day start to finish. With greater flexibility and autonomy over your working day you can flow to the work, supporting greater flow when you work. Waking up energized to start the day is important to your well-being, but energy doesn't happen on-demand between 9 and 5. Working from home you can start at 7:00 if that is when you want to, or 9:30, and not be locked in to a rigid schedule every day that often stifles creativity. Just remember to end your working day accordingly, allowing you to moderate work, life and expectations.
3. Life can happen at work. It always could, but it was a lot harder to pop out for a walk when working in an office setting (in dry-clean-only dress clothes). Now, you have more flexibility in what you wear to work, and opportunities to take a walk mid-day when you want/need to. Working from home, your work day can better wrap itself lovingly around your personal time and family, allowing you to think about dinner during the day, or drop the kiddos off at school. No commute means when you log-off at the end of your work day you have the grace to switch into life and family mode more quickly; more quality time at home with less exhaustion.
In looking at these three things, they influence a large spectrum of the work week in very positive ways, providing both light and opportunity.
We didn't ask for a pandemic, nor are we immune to the fears and concern it raises in our communities, families and in ourselves. Yet, it is important to keep sight of the good that comes through chaos. What this pandemic demands of each of us is courage.
May whatever light and opportunity you see in your days help keep you whole and healthy in the months to come.
Often in my work I am asked about the role of mentors. Mentorship holds a lot of value and I would never call out a well-thought out mentoring program when the time, effort and resources have been put into place to make that happen. However, what many tend to forget is that sourcing what we need for our own development is always in our hands, whether your organization provides a formal mentoring/development program or not. The ideals of mentorship make it popular; it offers the possibility of receiving guidance beyond the “business”, providing support in the relational field; navigating office politics, internal networking and (when it is coupled with sponsorship), helps to increase an individual’s visibility within an organization. That is a tall order for one relationship to deliver on, and before entering into it you should check your expectations at the door.
Development with the assistance of others happens organically every day, not just through mentorship. Seek a mentor, by why stop at building only one relationship? Find people to connect with who hold experiences beyond your own, who have navigated problems and paths you have yet to cross. Meet with them once or often, it doesn’t matter as long as you are open-minded. These individuals will look different than you do, have experienced life in a different way than you, they may even be younger than you are. They will express themselves in ways that may make you laugh, shudder, or make you feel like a slacker. Don’t be complacent choosing to learn from only those who offer comfort and familiarity to you – that is not development - that is confirmation (there is no development in confirmation, although it may seem like it because you feel better when it is present). Mentorship with one individual has a continuity attached to it that allows for a deeper and more intimate professional relationship to take place, but it is not the only professional relationship you need to invest in. Challenge yourself, be more visible, offer up your gifts, your insights and your experiences. They are valuable, especially when they differ from another person’s and you are willing to share them without prejudice, with heart-felt compassion…and from a place where you build shared understanding.
Development is working with someone who will challenge your thinking. If you are lucky you may receive mentorship from someone who can do that, but one person alone cannot be solely responsible for your development (beyond accepting responsibility for this yourself). Nurturing your high potential requires you to put yourself out into the world, being prepared to hear things you’d rather not, receive opinions as well as facts. With development you source your own gurus and teachers, build your own network to call on when you need a different perspective. Through all of these conversations you will need to figure out what is important to action, and what is not. This is development of your high potential.
Looking to leverage your high potential?
To get started book your Career Strategy Session.
Let’s look at the word “career” for a moment. A career is typically understood to be any working experience throughout your active life (both paid and unpaid); from your first “paycheck” job to the day you retire from actively engaging in work (volunteer or otherwise). My client’s come into career coaching identifying a “career” as the professional pursuits they have on their resumes. The work that launched them into professional life, the work they are most proud of, the work where they feel they've done their best.
While you can (and should) be selective on what you represent to others on your resume and social media profiles (so as to attract and retain the types of work that really interests you), this “selective reasoning” often obscures the fact that many people end up getting bumped around in their careers, following meandering paths of employment based alternately on hard work and luck. This is career as a path of least resistance, rather than an intentional course that encourages your growth and development.
In order for your work to be fulfilling and gratifying it needs to be grounded in meaning and purpose. If you haven’t intentionally sat down to think about what you feel your purpose is in what you do for a living, then many of the benefits of your working life will not be leveraged (beyond the paycheck…and money alone isn’t enough to give you satisfaction in your work). Often working lives become “scenery”, something you go through, not unwillingly, but without a lot of conscious thought, joy, gratitude or intention. If looking at your career from where you are now makes you feel like you are not where you want to be, you’ve got an example of the collateral damage drifting through your working life can cause. Dissatisfaction, malaise, anxiety, imposter syndrome and many other energy-sucking feelings arise when you don’t take full accountability for actively managing your career and recognizing your own great potential.
Drift can also make you blind to what is right in front of you. You may be in the best profession, in the best job and in the best company for you to be working in right now and you may not even know it. Take a moment to look around and see (and if you are in the right place, take time to enjoy it). If you know you are not in a place that makes you feel good about yourself in your work, then where would you like to go? Plan from that future point back to the present where you are now. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it means facing potential gaps in knowledge and skills. Yes, it means investing in yourself (or convincing your current employer to invest in you). You are worth it, right? (Hint: the answer is “yes”).
Most of us spend 10 hours or more a day getting ready for, being immersed in, or thinking about, work. That is a lot of life to be living in “meh” because your potential isn’t being engaged. No one else is going to determine your career course with purpose and intent, only you can do this for yourself (and you are worth it). So, how do you want to invest in yourself and your abundant potential?
Are you ready to realize your high potential?
Opportunity knocks when you least expect it. I'm offering a program to professionals that helps realize your highest potential and you are invited! Don't let opportunity slip by you this fall - be ready with a cover letter that gets you noticed for all the right reasons!
To get started book your Career Strategy Session.
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ABOUT MY BLOG
I believe in giving back to others in many tangible ways. When I learn something new, or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website. You can always find my latest blog entries here, on Facebook or Linked In.