Career Advancement – 5 Key ways to Stand Out

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence.”

~ Pearl Buck ~

Client Maria Asks: I’ve been with my company for six years now, and I’ve gone as far as I can go. It’s time to move to a bigger playing field. How can I really set myself apart from the crowd? I know I’m good at what I do, but how do I convey that without overselling myself or looking like an egomaniac?

Coach Joel Answers: You’re smart to be planning ahead in this situation, and you’re in the perfect spot for a career advancement move. There’s a lot you can do to prepare, but I think there are 5 key things that will really make you stand out and gain career advancement.

  • Become a master communicator
  • Make critical thinking a way of life
  • Make their goals your goals
  • Be someone special
  • Tell a good story

Here’s how each of these strategies will work to advance your career. These are not just things to do—they are who you are in the eyes of your next boss and the new job success you want to create.

1. Become a master communicator. Technical knowledge is important. But the #1 skill that employers are looking for today is communication–people who can write and speak impeccably. This means that every bit of written communication between you and any future employer needs to be letter-perfect. This includes emails and texts, not just your resume. It also applies to your profile on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Speaking well is equally important. If you tend to freeze up in presentations or stutter in group meetings, join Toastmasters or take a public speaking seminar.

2. Make critical thinking a way of life. Your future employer values people who can think on their feet. Problem-solving is important, but problem-avoidance is even better. Learn to think ahead about the potential outcomes of your strategies. Never underestimate the Law of Unintended Consequences—the possibility that your actions may produce unexpected results. Fire prevention beats firefighting every time.

3. Make their goals your goals. Working for a company you’re proud to be with is the best of all possible worlds. As you research potential employers, go after only those whose mission and vision you can totally support. Once you’re on the job, that same mindset applies to your boss’s personal goals. She wants to open two new sales territories? You can do that. He wants to be the premier provider of services in your industry? You want the same thing. Align your vision with theirs and you’re both winners.

4. Be someone special. Have a signature skill that enhances your brand, something that you are confident you can do better than almost anyone else. What principles did learn about excellence and winning that you’ll be using on the job? Did you overcome a major personal challenge to get where you are today? Now you can use that experience to meet any challenge your employer throws at you. Which leads us directly to #5:

5. Tell a good story. Every prospective employer has heard the laundry list of the qualities that make a good employee: teamwork, integrity, creativity, dedication. Instead of reciting the expected list, tell a story. Illustrate something you have done that shows your creativity. Talk about leading a team and the results you produced. Your next boss will remember the story, even if he or she forgets the words that started it.

Remember, none of this is done out of ego or overconfidence. Or in the immortal words of Dizzy Dean: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And I’m sure you can do it!

Are you looking for the next big thing? Ready for a dramatic career advancement move? Email Joel today for his suggestions.

Talkback: Have you successfully changed jobs or careers recently? Share your success story here.

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FOMO Sufferer – “Fear of Missing Out”
& Addicted to Technology?

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“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”

~ Alice Kahn ~

Client Rob Asks: The last time we talked, we discussed my urgent need to plan a vacation and I’ve been working on that. However, you also mentioned “unplugging,” getting completely away from my laptop, cell phone etc. I’m just not sure I can do that. Even though I’m on vacation, I owe it to my team to be available if an emergency comes up.

Coach Joel Answers: Rob, you have FOMO. It’s a common condition in our technological society. FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s a real addiction, according to a recent article in World of Psychology. Their definition is: the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what you’re currently doing.

FOMO is why teens text while driving, while having dinner with their parents, and probably while sleeping. Heaven forbid that a friend might be going to a party, a movie, or the mall—and they missed it. You have the same attitude toward your work. You truly believe your job, your boss, and your co-workers can’t get along without you.

The secret, even before you leave on that vacation we discussed, is to practice unplugging. Disconnect, disengage, catch your breath. Some people can do this cold turkey. Others have to take a more measured approach. Start on the weekend. Try to go for 24 hours without answering your phone, checking email, looking at Facebook, or even turning on the TV or the radio. If you can’t take it for 24 hours, start with four and work up from there.

Then when it’s time to actually take that vacation you’re planning, you will be able to unplug completely. A vacation is about rest, relaxation, recovery. It’s a time to recharge your creative batteries. Get completely away from the business with no interruptions. No cell phone, computer, or email. You may be so addicted to being plugged in right now that you can’t go 15 minutes without checking your e-mail. This is neither healthy nor productive. Make sure your boss and your team members understand that you will not be reachable during your time off.

Somewhere along the line you’ve started to believe that you need to be available 24/7 to your boss, your co-workers, probably even your neighbors and friends–because, you know, someone might need something from you and being needed makes you feel important and valued. Unfortunately, technology makes that 24/7 access not only possible to achieve, but almost impossible to escape. It’s time to cut the cord—literally.

Think you might have FOMO? Write down a plan today to begin disengaging from technology. Do what works for you, whether it’s an hour at a time or cold turkey. It will improve both your mental and physical health.

Talkback: Have you unplugged successfully? How did you do it? Share your story here.

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Is Permanently Temp Work
Right for Your Career?

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“They’ve asked me to do this temporarily. I don’t know what temporarily means. Life is temporary.”

~ Bob Schieffer ~

Client Patrick Asks: Does it every make sense to just make a career out of temping? Does this make me look like I can’t hold or don’t want a “real” job—that I lack ambition?

Coach Joel Answers: That depends on your life situation and your personal motivations. For example, if you like the freedom to work when you want and pursue other interests at the same time, temping is ideal. Sometimes temping can give you a higher rate of pay, but it often lacks the benefits and job security of full time employment. You could easily work fewer hours and make more money, so that makes it attractive. And many people like the challenge of getting acquainted with new companies, new people, new responsibilities.

Here are a few more benefits to add into the equation, if you’re considering a long term career as a temp.

  1. Temping enhances your resume. It shows you have a variety of skills, as well as the ability to fit easily into different environments.
  1. Temping enhances your network. You’ll meet a lot more people, get to know them and get them to know you through working temporary assignments. Who knows when the guy in the next cubicle can open the door to a whole new career or even introduce you to your future spouse?
  1. Temping keeps your skill set sharp. You know that sign on the wall at the gym—”Use it or lose it?” The same thing applies to your professional abilities. Often you go into a new assignment wondering how in the world you’ll every figure it out. Then you do, and there’s another win you can tell future employers about.
  1. Temping can facilitate a major career change. Let’s say you’ve spent your life so far in sales but you see a brighter future in IT. Maybe you’ve taken some courses or gotten some volunteer experience, but you’ve got no track record. If you can land yourself a temporary position, even at an entry-level wage, you’ll start building toward the career you really want.

In today’s economy, temping makes a lot of sense from the employer point of view as well. According to research conducted by Forbes, 36 percent of US companies will hire contract or temporary workers this year, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. They are maintaining their productivity while reducing their risk. That presents a tremendous opportunity to someone like you. If temping feels like a good place to be, I’d say go for it.

If you think temping may have potential for you, make a list of five action items you could do this week that would get you started down the temporary path.

Talkback: Are you (or have you been) a successful temp? How did you do it? Share your best advice here.

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Is Your Current Job Interfering
With the Job you REALLY Want?

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“I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”

~ Jonas Salk ~

Client Leanne Asks: I’ve positioned myself well by creating a number of opportunities which can raise my visibility with my firms’ leaders. Now I’m stuck in the middle. I have to execute on all the new work, build and maintain my pipeline of new projects, and do my actual day job besides. My concern is that I don’t have the band-width or energy to do all these things at once. How do I optimize the time I spend on the high visibility items?

Coach Joel Answers: What got you here won’t get you there. Do the job you want, not the job you have. Here’s the way I see it: You put a lot of things out there that you could work on – projects that have high visibility and put you in the public eye as far as your superiors are concerned. You volunteered for a number of things, thinking only one or two would come through, but instead you ended up with three new assignments. Now what?

These are all projects that will help you in your career with the company because you are creating opportunities to interact with people in other departments and show them how talented and how great you are. Your new projects not only have visibility, they also add influence, impact and value to the firm.

Here’s what I would do: Create a three-column chart on your computer. Lay out all your responsibilities and ask yourself what HAS to get done. What do you need to be doing to continue your success at your current baseline level so you don’t throw up any red flags? You might have one third that has to get done on your current job, one third that relates to the job you want to have—that is your visibility stuff, and the last third is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less importance on. This will equate to more time and energy for the things that count. Think about ways you can eliminate work or delegate to someone else.

And here’s the way to approach the delegation piece of it. Present it as a training process—you’re not only moving ahead in the company, you’re training someone else to follow in your footsteps and learn important pieces of your job, so nothing will be left undone when you move to the next level.

In order to keep moving up the ladder as you want to do, you must do three things simultaneously:

  1. You must understand what your superiors need and want, not just from you but for the future of the company. And you must understand where you fit into that plan.
  1. You must empower your subordinates. That’s where the training piece we talked about comes into play.
  1. You must build relationships with your peers. You’re all on the same team, and when you help other people win, you win too.

If you can do those three things, you’ll increase your visibility and reach the next level sooner than you think.

Are you stuck between the job you have and the job you want? Implement our three-part model this week to determine how you can create more high visibility assignments that will move you to the next level.

Talkback: Have you successfully moved to a higher level of your organization? What did you do to increase your visibility with your superiors? Share your experience here.

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Tips on How to Dress for Success
During Your Job Interview

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“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”

~ Zig Ziglar ~

Client Bart Asks: I have a couple of job interviews coming up next week. A friend told me I ought to invest in a whole new wardrobe, including an expensive looking watch. I’m a pretty casual, laid-back guy. I’d feel almost like a phony in a three-piece suit and a Rolex watch. What should I do? Can the wrong clothes truly hurt my chances of getting hired?

Coach Joel Answers: It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a three piece suit and a Rolex. Let’s talk about how you want to be perceived by your interviewers.

Before a job interview, I advise my clients to write down three adjectives to describe how they want to be perceived. For example, one client listed “professional,” “experienced” and “energetic.”

Everything you say or do during the interview should reinforce the adjectives you choose, including every aspect of your appearance. This includes your shoes, your belt, your haircut. And, yes, even your watch.

When the employer meets you, they are judging the first thing they see and that’s your personal appearance. It’s extremely important that you don’t do anything that would undermine how you are perceived. So before you start planning your wardrobe, you need to consider the company and its culture. For example, many high-tech and entertainment companies pride themselves on a dress code that’s casual and laid back. They have an “almost anything goes” rule. That being said, you should still choose something just a cut above what’s customary for that company. If jeans are the order of the day, choose casual slacks and an open collar shirt. A three piece suit and tie would be overkill and would let the interviewer know you hadn’t done your homework.

On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with a bank or a stock brokerage, wear a suit even if you know your job is going to be in a back room somewhere. It’s always easy to scale down after you have the job, but scaling up after that first impression could be difficult.

As you role play the interview in your mind, here are some tips on how to dress for success during your job interview:

  • Start with a smile and a firm handshake. Practice with a friend if you need to.
  • Avoid wearing anything that attracts too much attention. No jangling bracelets or day-glo t-shirts.
  • Men should consider having a clean shaven face.
  • Minimize the amount of skin you’re showing. No tank tops or mini-skirts.
  • Eliminate unusual hairstyles. Avoid pink or green hair dyes.
  • Cover or remove tattoos and extensive body piercings.
  • Leave off cologne or perfume. Many people have allergies to these products and some companies have a policy that prohibits them.
  • Make sure your teeth are brushed and your mouth is fresh, but don’t chew gum or candy during an interview.

Remember, when you go for an interview, you’re marketing a product—that’s you. You are expressing your personal brand, telling your prospective employer who you are and what you’ll bring to the company. You may only be there for a few minutes—make them count.

If you’re in the job market you need an interviewing game plan. Before your next interview, put together a couple of outfits that are both low-key and impressive. Borrow accessories from a friend, if you need to. Dress for success!

Talkback: Have you ever been in an interview situation where you felt you could have been better dressed? Do you think it kept you from being hired? What would you do differently next time? Share your story here.

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