Four Ways to Break Career Stagnation

“I believe ambition is not a dirty work, it’s believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: what would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious. I think the world would change.” ~ Reese Witherspoon ~

Aaron felt like he was stuck. The job just seemed like a treadmill. The same thing over and over. When he took the job 8 years ago, he had visions of promotions and advancement. Now? Not so much.

As Aaron took stock of his career he decided to combat the stagnation. Surely there was a way to get around it. He just couldn’t figure it out on his own. He hired Joel to be his executive coach.

Part of it involved recording exactly what he was doing so he could be prepared and present it as needed.

  1. Sharing accomplishments. Words disappear and can’t always be remembered. Aaron saw the value in sharing his accomplishments through writing. He wrote a weekly message updating management on the projects he was working on.

    He included the challenges he’d overcome and the progress he’d made. The make sure to explain how his work affected the progress of the job. And how the job would impact the company. This gave Aaron confidence his job was valuable and productive
  2. Meeting Preparation. Aaron doesn’t think fast on his feet. He works better when he has a chance to mull over ideas. This is true of most introverts. So Aaron decided to write out notes about what he wanted to say before meetings.

    If you want to say something at a meeting or event, take the time to write it out beforehand. This way you can organize your thoughts, focus on what is essential, and not be fumbling for words when it’s your turn to speak. When you have something prepared, it makes it more likely that you will speak clearly and professionally. And you say what you intended to say.
  3. Prepare for and schedule one-on-one meetings. Again, if you have an agenda you want to cover, writing an outline of the topics can give you confidence going into the meeting. One-on-ones are a great opportunity to talk about your work and how it affects the company.

    This is a great time to discuss your concerns about your career stagnation. Meetings with your boss can help you formulate a plan for your transition into the next step of your career.
  4. Volunteer for committees and events. Participating in a committee or helping to host a conference or charity event translates to an abundance of networking opportunities. Aaron found that committees and events gave him the opportunity to meet new people, talk about his work, and put his name and face in front of people who wouldn’t normally notice him.

After working this program for several months, Aaron feels much more hopeful. He sees his career stagnation breaking apart. His boss is on board with his goals for a promotion. Many more people know of him and his work. He’s received more praise and people are paying more attention to what he says.

“This is what I was looking for,” Aaron said. “Coaching really helped me. I can’t believe how much more excited I am about my job and its potential.”

If you’re feeling stuck and have work stagnation in your position, Joel Garfinkle provides executive coaching. He can give you individualized help and support to move your career to the next level.

Talkback:
How have you pushed back against career stagnation?

Five ways to change negative perceptions at work

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
~ C.G. Jung ~

Cassidy had overheard some snide comments. She knew people were making snap judgements, based on gossip, about her that just weren’t true. How could she change negative work perceptions and get her co-workers to think more positively about her?

She knew she was a good team player and worked hard for the company. What did she need to do to help others see her in this light? In her mind, she reviewed the negative comments.

  1. No backbone. Hadn’t she stood up for the idea in the meeting? But the person who said that wasn’t at the meeting. He had seen her agreeing with the boss on several other positions.

    Cassidy thought of herself as a team player. She collaborated well with others. She decided she would be more visible in both the collaboration and the support she gave others. In her written communications— that would certainly go to her critic— she would be clear with her reasoning both when she agreed and when she disagreed on a topic.
  2. Doesn’t speak up or share. Cassidy recognized that she often was the quiet one at meetings. As an introvert, sometimes it took time to think about an idea. She didn’t want to speak until she’d considered all the angles. By that time, others had already said what she planned to say.

    Again, Cassidy felt her written communications could help change that negative perception. She also decided she could go to meetings better prepared. She could consider possible ideas and processes and come up with opinions she could share to generate the discussion.
  3. Dominates the meetings. On the other hand, Cassidy thought Jerold talked way too much. She didn’t get room to share her ideas. As she considered, she realized those negative feelings weren’t 100% true. Jerold thought he had great ideas… and he did.

    But she would have a better perception of him if he would pause longer and give others a chance to add their voice. Or better yet, if they had a system of going around the table and letting each person add to the discussion.
  4. Doesn’t really add value to the company. That one hurt! Negative perceptions like that could push her out of her job. Cassidy though of herself as modest. She didn’t go around bragging all the time.

    However, she realized she needed to be more open about what she was accomplishing. It was important she let her boss and her co-workers know exactly what she was working on, the effort she was putting into it and the results she was producing.
  5. Narrow perspective. Cassidy had been with the company long enough to know how they wanted things done. Maybe it did look like she didn’t think outside the box. But to her it made sense to stay focused on what had worked successfully in the past.

    Cassidy decided to be more open to looking at other ideas. She could be open to reviewing their merits and see how they meshed with the companies goals.

Cassidy worked hard to change the negative perceptions she’d heard in the office. She was pleased to hear more recently some very positive comments about her work and presence in the company.

If you want to change your perception in your workspace, connect with Joel for his career advancement coaching. He has a proven method for success.

Talkback:
Have you had to deal with negative comments or perceptions? How did you handle it?

Stress free ways to ask for a Promotion

Stress free ways

“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”

~ Jim Rohn ~

Bob wanted to step up. He felt it was time to earn more money. But how should he ask for a promotion? What steps would make it most likely he’d get a “Yes”?

He knew good managers want to see their employees move up the ladder. So he decided to approach his boss. What did he think was necessary for a promotion? Were there things Bob was… or wasn’t doing that would merit that raise?

Bob scheduled a meeting to discuss his performance and his future role with the company. At the same time, Bob decided to assess his value to the company in a specific, factual way. He looked at the projects he’d covered in the past. He checked with co-workers for their assessment of his strengths and weaknesses.

In seeking to quantify his value, he asked himself:

  • What results have I delivered to the company? About how much they were worth?
  • How has my communication improved with the boss? With co-workers? With clients? Can I identify times I’ve helped things run more smoothly or communicated well?
  • What examples can I use to show I’m more efficient than I was in the past? Can I put that in dollars saved the company?
  • How has my insider knowledge of the business translated to a stronger bottom line for the company?
  • What new skills have I developed? How do they bring value to the company?

As Bob worked on this list, he realized his insider knowledge helped him master projects about twice as fast as when he first hired on. He figure out how much that saved the company in employee costs. He noted times when keeping people informed had prevented costly mistakes.

As he went through this process, his confidence grew and his stress level went down. He decided to make a short document of his achievements. That way, if the boss needed to think about his promotion, he’d have some written material to help him decide.

Bob also researched the industry averages for salary— considering his position and location. He realized he was receiving an average pay for an above average skillset. It gave him even more confidence. He emailed his boss that he’d like to discuss a promotion when they met.

Bob planned out how he would ask for the promotion. With this plan, he felt in control and relaxed.

When he sat down in the boss’s office he first asked the boss his views on Bob’s performance. Then Bob asked what it would take for him to move into a higher position.

The boss commented on Bob’s strengths and then mentioned two things he felt Bob needed to improve in order to be ready for the next position. Bob noted those areas and then shared with the boss his list of accomplishments. It was a good conversation, without stress or fear.

He left the document with his boss. At the same time, he asked if they could meet again in a month to review Bob’s progress on mastering those two areas and see if Bob was ready for the promotion.

The next month, when they met, Bob’s boss said, “I reviewed the performance record you gave me. I’d forgotten about the Jones account and how you helped us out of that AGV account snafu. I believe you’re ready to take the next step.”

Later Bob said, “You know, 80% of the promotion effort occurred before I ever got into the boss’s office. It’s not hard to ask for that promotion when you’ve insured your boss is on the same page. It really took away all the stress.”

Want a promotion… but not sure how to get the “Yes”? Contact Joel for expert assistance to put you into the next pay level.

Talkback: How have you reduced stress when you’ve asked for a promotion?

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Why You Need an Advocate at Work

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“I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

~ Maya Angelou ~

Melanie is in a total funk. She’s been supervisor in her high tech company for almost three years now. When she first came on board, she was considered somewhat of a superstar, a high potential, high achieving future leader. Lately, however, she feels she’s been fading into the woodwork. She’s not being asked to take on high profile projects. Sometimes she’s not even invited to brainstorming sessions or brown bag lunches—those informal, off-the-record meetings where a lot of new ideas and strategies are being discussed. What could possibly be wrong?

Melanie unburdens herself to a close pal over lunch. Her friend listens patiently for a few minutes and then interrupts the litany of complaints with this advice: “Girlfriend, what you need is an advocate!”

“What’s that?”

Immediately Melanie begins to research the whole topic of advocates at work. Shortly, she has put together a four-step plan to raise her profile by using advocates. Here’s the plan:

  • Advocate for yourself first
  • Make your boss a partner
  • Look up
  • Look out

1.  Advocate for yourself first. Before you can ask anyone else to speak up on your behalf, which is what advocates do, you need to know your own strengths and your potential for growth. Start by creating a three-column spreadsheet with these headings:

  • What I do well
  • What I like to do
  • What I need to learn

Once you have a clear picture of who you are now and what potential you have, you are ready for Step 2:

2. Make your boss a partner. Almost everyone loves being asked for advice. Maybe you already have a good relationship with your boss, or maybe the relationship needs a little nurturing. Either way, schedule a one-on-one and ask him/her to help you create a personal development plan. This can include new projects or initiatives you’d like to tackle, courses or seminars you want to take—anything related to your professional growth is fair game. Come up with a timeline and begin to implement your plan.

3. Look up. The best place to find your first advocate is probably somewhere on the ladder above you in the company. Begin to notice people whose style and executive presence you admire. Then use the same technique you developed in Step 2—ask for advice. Over a cup of coffee or in some other informal setting, share an idea or project you’re working on. Ask for their input. Then ask for their help. “Joe, I need someone who knows me and can help me raise my profile a bit. Would you be willing to speak up about my accomplishments to some of your colleagues?”

4. Look out. Use the same strategy to find people outside the company who can act as your personal publicist. It may be a client, or someone in a professional organization, or just a friend who has contacts inside your company. Ask for their input on your ideas; then ask them to look for opportunities to speak up for you.

And above all, don’t forget to say “thank you.”

Three months after she began to implement her plan, Melanie landed a couple of high profile assignments and found that she was back on the company radar screen and moving ahead again.

Feeling invisible? Perhaps you could use an advocate or two. Email Joel today, and he will help you put together a plan.

Talkback: Have you successfully recruited advocates to help raise your profile at work? Share your experience here.

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Get Ahead by Speaking Up at Work

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“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

~ Mark Twain ~

Client Mark asks: I’m mostly quiet at meetings. I’ve always thought that if I just do my work, it would speak for itself. But it’s not working. I think I need to speak up more. But what is the best way get my opinion out there?

Coach Joel Answers: Mark, you need to trust that your opinion matters. No one sees the world through your perspective. No one else has your unique blend of experience, knowledge, understanding and skills. In order for your group and organization to perform their best, they need varied input. They need your input.

When you share your opinion you stand out and become recognized. As you do so, you create value and that impact sets you up for promotions.

If you have been a worker-bee, or shy and deflected attention, it may be hard to take the risk of sharing your opinion. But doing so will increase your confidence and help you be more widely known.

Let’s talk about the when, where, why, and how to make your opinion take you to the leadership position you desire.

  • When to share: Good leaders listen first. Take time to process what has already been said. Then see where you can add value. You may want to start sharing your opinion in smaller groups. But ultimately you want your manager’s bosses, and a wide range of people to hear your opinions.
  • What to share: Take an honest look at your level of expertise and your strengths. You really have a lot to offer. Think about what you can add that will move the conversation forward. Of course you don’t want to duplicate what someone else just said. Don’t waste time adding your me-too experiences or examples.

Look for ways your opinions can provide solutions, build consensus, or shed new light on concerns. These kinds of opinions will show others your talents and skills. They will demonstrate what you offer the organization. When others hear your opinions, they can recognize your value, appreciate your contribution to the company, and leverage your talents.

How to Share. Share with confidence. Yes, it feels risky, but it’s important to step up and speak out. Be sure you do not apologize or minimize your contribution. “I just… um… thought…ah… perhaps…” In the beginning you may want to plan out what you’ll say.

  • Share your opinion in in writing. You can take the time to think through how best to express your thoughts. You can write an article, send an email, or a memo. The advantage of written opinions is that it’s easier to share them up and across the leadership chain.
  • Write out what you want to say at meetings. Prior planning can reduce your fear, build your confidence and help you express your thoughts more clearly.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings. You may find it easier to share your opinion with one person at a time at the beginning. Then you can move on to small groups and finally to large meetings.

Why share? Leadership and visibility require each other. If you want to advance, you have to be visible. When you speak out and share your opinions, people will see you as someone with power, influence, authority, and leadership. If you stay silent, you won’t be noticed, and your career will stall out. When you actively add to the conversation with insightful, thought-provoking opinions you stand out. You increase your value to the company.

Is it time for you to speak out and have your opinions heard and respected? Contact Joel and find out how you can maximize your potential.

Talkback: Let me know about a time you spoke up and it changed your career path.

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