What happens when you share your dreams with others?

Yesterday, I shared an elevator with a mentee I haven’t seen in a few weeks. As we exchanged the normal ‘hey, how are you’ banter, I could tell she had news to share. She had a sparkle in her eye and could barely contain her excitement. As the elevator began to move, she thanked me for our last session and then started to catch me up.
During our last session, she had been reluctant and nervous to articulate what she wanted to do next in her career. We discussed her path so far, how she had learned new computer languages on her own – she’s mostly self-taught – and how she was really leaning in a new direction.
She’s got 20 years of industry experience, she’s brilliant and an introvert. She’s always been one to please – and has put herself second all her life.
I encouraged her to get really comfortable and clear with what she wanted to do next – and then share it with some co-workers. I told her to start with the people she felt most comfortable sharing her hopes and dreams for a new role in a parallel field.
She told me – “I finally spoke out loud what I have been thinking about for years. And, my co-workers, they got excited. And started dreaming along with me. So, I got bolder. At that networking event a few weeks ago, I told someone I had just met, what I want to do. We exchanged contact info. And she said she’d keep an eye out.”
And, of course, I wanted to know what happened next. Well, she diverged for a minute and told me she had just returned from a cruise – and a long deserved vacation. And then she said, but I had three interviews on the Friday before I left! She elaborated, as her co-workers and the woman she met at the networking event started sharing her vision, her qualifications and her resume – the emails and phone calls started almost immediately.
She received several offers. And one of them – she’s convinced they wrote the job description and responsibilities – just for her. It’s perfect! And she starts in two weeks!
change is possible
What do you want to do? Who can you share it with? Dare to dream. Say it outloud. Tell it to the right people. And opportunities will come!
Today I saw another friend in the cafeteria who had just returned from maternity leave. She looked great for someone whose position had disappeared while she was out on bed rest. She gave me a quick update. As soon as she was notified her group was being dismantled and she would have to find a new position – she called and e-mailed her network with her current resume and a short list of things she’d like to try next. Those small actions generated lots of interest in her and her skill set. She met with various managers and those conversations generated FIVE offers. Five. Can you imagine? As she raced off to her next meeting, she yelled over her shoulder – why don’t others understand the value of networking? I am so excited for this new role – it’s exactly what I wanted to do next!

Networking, Getting clear on what you want next, it’s all part of Career Development!

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FocuSuccess and Failing to Focus

During a recent Leadership Conference, a new employee asked a panel of veterans for the secret to their success. He asked “What was the pivotal or key decision you made that put you on the path that allowed your growth and development into a leader?” I found one of the veteran employee’s responses to be very thought-provoking.

After a few years at our company, he found himself without a project. The project he had been working on had been cancelled for a variety of reasons. As he looked around at what was available, he couldn’t find anything that fit his skill set or was of interest. He had heard about a start-up project in Oregon that was risky – it was new and bleeding-edge and not quite on the roadmap. He hunted down the leader of the new project and offered himself up as a temporary resource. He explained to the leader what he was good at and said, “I’ll do whatever you need done to make your project successful.” The leader was happy to accommodate and gave the veteran a one-year temporary assignment on the project. The veteran then remembered that he worked on that project with a laser-focus. He poured everything he had into making it successful – most especially in his area of interest. He honed his skills. He focused. After a year, he asked for a permanent assignment to the project team. He was rewarded with a permanent transfer and key position. His career took off from there. You coud say he experienced focusuccess—his focus lead to his success.

A month or so ago, I met with a woman who was fired from her last position. She was depressed and angry. She didn’t understand what went wrong. She asked questions of her supervisors and tried to learn the new position. As we dove into the details of the job, I realized that what she was describing had nothing to do with her interests, passions or strengths. In fact, the more she discussed the issues, the more convinced I was that she and the job were a total mismatch. I asked her why she took the job in the first place. It really boiled down to economics. She needed a job. They were the first to offer so she took it. I asked her about her technique for sourcing and applying for jobs. I realized that her criteria were very broad and very vague. She had applied to anything and everything she could find that she might be able to do.  It was a recipe for disaster. A large part of what makes you successful is your passion and drive to do a great job. If you get hired for a job that is not even close to your interests and you can’t reconcile how you will be interested and devoted to that role – you will fail. Sometimes you fail quickly – sometimes slowly. Her lack of focus lead to failure.

My advice this month – hone your focus! Focus on what makes you happy, passionate, engaged, interested, intrigued, and excited. Get in touch with your feelings and your strengths. When you apply for those jobs that fit your criteria, you will show up excited and energetic without even trying. The interviewer will sense your excitement. Let them see it. Tell them why it the opportunity resonates with you. You will surprise them. They will want you to work for them. Don’t fake it. If you do, they’ll see through you. If you fake it and land the job – you will eventually fail.

Some of us pursue careers and education for the wrong reasons. Reasons include trying to meet our parents’ expectations, trying to make enough money to survive, or because we fool ourselves into believing the career we’ve chosen will provide us with money and security. After years of mentoring and coaching people, I can tell you – this is a recipe for disaster. Yes, I understand that we have to get insurance, make enough money to eat and pay the bills. However, if you don’t understand yourself enough to plan to get to a job where you will tap into your passions and talents; it will be all for naught. Don’t wait. Don’t get distracted by others. Plan it out. Focus! And go for the career you really want.

What will your focus be? How will you find it?

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Career Development: The Value of a Mentor

She posted this without any explanation. As I read it a few times, I felt myself go through a series of emotions. My first thought – ‘wow, that’s cynical’. My second thought was ‘that’s sad – she doesn’t see the value in other people’s advice’. My third thought was ‘I am insulted by that statement.’

As we bantered back and forth, she corrected the quote to say “Free advice is OFTEN over-priced.” That made me be a little more accepting of the statement and I shifted from insulted back to sad. Let me tell you why.

Mentors. That’s why. I am a Mentor and I have Mentors. From what others wrote on her wall, not everyone has had the benefit or the experience of being or having a Mentor.

I have done both. First, some background, as a Mentor. For many years I have participated in the Mentoring Programs at Intel, and there are many! Some are group specific, some are discipline specific and others are ad hoc. Many Intel Employees put themselves out there for others to contact. Some don’t volunteer and are contacted anyway and are happy to help. Usually my Mentees fall into one of these categories: new hires, new managers, finance professionals and women. Our conversations center around Career Development and how they can either set up their careers, learn new things for their new role, or change the seat they are in to better fit their passion and skillsets. We spend an hour every few weeks talking about ways for them to plan or participate in activities for them to ensure they are on the right track and setting and achieving their goals. I enjoy this activity and look forward to it. I do it for FREE. I spend a lot of time listening, especially where there is a deep or complicated issue and then pose questions or give suggestions on things to try so they find their way or get back on track. The best relationships come when the Mentee is open to ideas, follows thru and comes back with feedback and /or additional questions. If the Mentee isn’t willing to try or the Mentor isn’t listening to hear the real problem, it doesn’t work. The Mentor may be disappointed that the Mentee doesn’t try any of the suggestions or the Mentee may become unhappy because they aren’t being heard. The relationship will fizzle and die.

Finding the right Mentor is a lot like dating. You may have to meet with many different people until you find the right one. The Mentor should challenge you, ask questions, open your eyes to new paths forward or force you to deal with issues you have been avoiding. The relationship needs to be built on trust and mutual respect. If your first Mentor isn’t giving you what you need, it’s time to end the relationship and put your effort and time where you’ll get the most help.

As a Mentee, I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to talk to someone about some career choices I needed to make. In my monthly review of my development plan, I realized it was time for new challenges and for me to work more strategically to achieve my goals and have a positive effect on the organization I work in. I had found several opportunities to pursue but was unsure of the path I wanted to take. I called one of my Mentors. I chose her because she was a peer and would be able to provide me with more questions I needed to ask myself and would help me evaluate the options.  And WOW!  Her help was exactly what I needed.  Over three short meetings and several e-mails, she helped me sort through and eliminate some options quickly based on my criteria and her knowledge of the group I was targeting. She asked me some key questions that had me working to understand what my real goal was in making a change at this time.

My advice this month – get involved in Mentoring!

1- Get a Mentor! It might not happen overnight, you may have to ask several people before you find someone you connect with and who will help you. It’s more than okay to have more than one Mentor. You may need one for your field of study, another for job-hunting, another for interviewing and still another for resume writing. It’s rare that you will find someone who fits all of your developmental needs. Keep in mind, some mentoring relationships may be quick and some may be multi-year. Ending a mentoring relationship that no longer is helping you should be like a ‘no fault’ divorce. You thank the person and tell them what you learned and then tell them you’re ready to move on or move in a different direction.

2 – Sign up to be a Mentor. You have something to share with others. Regardless of what you think you don’t know – your questioning and different experience will help someone else evaluate options and plan for the future. You have something to give to others. When you give of your time, your energy, your advice and expertise you will grow and develop and give back to others what you got from your mentors. The best expression for this in English is: ‘Pay it Forward!’

Do you have a mentor who has helped you?  Do you mentor someone?  Are you thinking about starting a mentoring relationship?  Tell me about it below – I would love to read and learn from your experiences!

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Networking – Applying Your Network to Career Development

If you read my last blog, one of the top ten items people wished they could go back and tell themselves was to do more Networking.

When I started out, I never had a plan when it came to Networking.  I went to some events when I had time, walked in and found people I knew, monopolized their time and then left.  Slowly, I started seeing my friends get more interesting jobs, get access to people I had never met, and get invited to places I didn’t even know existed.  As I started asking them how it happened, they told me that they had met a contact at the same place I had been and had leveraged that relationship.  Wow, I was missing out!  I realized that just showing up wasn’t going to get me to where I wanted to go.  I am fortunate in that I find it easy to talk to others – I was just talking to the wrong people about the wrong things.  I needed a plan.  How was I going to get my next big project unstuck?  How was I going to find the next great opportunity for myself?  As a manager, how was I going to help my employees find new opportunities for growth and development?  I needed a different, bigger, more diversified network.  After some trial and error, research and studying networking books, I distilled my process into the following steps.

Step 1: Analyze Your Network.  Categorize your relationships to give yourself a clearer idea of whether your network is extending your abilities or keeping you stuck.  Some suggested categories are those contacts that give you:

  • Information
  • political support and influence
  • personal development
  • personal support and energy
  • a sense of purpose or worth, and
  • work / life balance.

It is important to have people who give each kind of benefit in your network.  Are you heavy in one category?  Are you missing one?  Upon analyzing your network, you’ll see where you have holes and redundancies and which people you depend on too much—or not enough.

Step 2:  Practice the Four R’s to a Better Network.

Review – Review the people in your network.  Write down what you receive when you interface with them.

Reduce – Step away from energy-draining or redundant contacts.

Renew – Look for new folks to add and make sure they have the right attributes:  look for folks with new views, those that give you energy and challenge you.

Realize – Ensure you are using your contacts as best you can – re-kindle or maintain contact with those folks you have put on your revised list.

Step 3: Take “Realize” to the Next Level and Plan for your Next F2F Networking Event.

Who do you want to meet?  Determine some “targets” based on your analysis of your Network and who you need to add to your Network.  It’s okay if you don’t know names, write down job roles or position titles and discuss with your Manager and Mentor(s) to find the name of the person.

Do some research on the people/types of people you want to add.  What can you give them in return for adding them to your network?  Can you give them information (an article or book), or a connection (someone they should meet), or your time (can you do research or a project for them?)

Prepare some questions and notes for the Networking Event.  Go for something deeper than “Tell me about yourself”.  Ask them for their opinion on one of the presentations or show you’re well read on their company and ask them about something specific about policies or work that relates to a project you’re working on.

Dress appropriately – wear something distinctive that folks will remember – “I was the woman with the red scarf” or “I was the man with the bright blue tie”.  You don’t want to be person with the torn jeans, or the see-thru top.  That’s not the way to be remembered!

Check your smile!  I was recently at an event presenting a poster.  I had a women come up and talk to me about Intel and employment opportunities.  The whole time she was talking, I was focused on the spinach from the mini-quiches that was lodged between her teeth.  Needless to say, I don’t remember what she said or wasn’t focused on what I could do for her or what she could do for me.

Bring some business cards to pass along to those folks you really want to reconnect with after the event.  Even if you aren’t working, a card is helpful – I write notes on the back of the ones I collect so I remember the person and why I might want to connect with them again.  Be careful not to be a crazy person passing them out.  Use them judiciously.  I had one person show me the stack they had acquired from an event.  I asked how they were going to follow-up and make connections.  How would they make the notes personal?  They had no idea.

A small notepad and pen will also be helpful for keeping track of promises or questions that need answers.

After the event, sit down and close out any action items you took during the event.  Write out more detailed notes of what you learned about each person – I track these in Outlook in the Contact Notes box.  How many kids, ages, interests, etc. may be helpful information in the future.  Set up coffee for a conversation you want to continue.  Send out links, books or information you promised you’d send.  Connect people via e-mail or phone.  Thank you notes to those that provided you with contacts or help are appreciated.  Connect via LinkedIn with the most promising leads from the event.  Make the LinkedIn notes personal.

My advice now – be deliberate when it comes to building your network.  It will pay off at some point in the future!  Don’t waste the opportunity to connect and network.

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Career Development: Advice to Yourself

I saw the question “If you could go back and tell yourself one thing that would help you with your career, what would that be?” posed on one of my LinkedIn Groups and found it thought-provoking and believed if I posed it to my co-workers, the answers given would be useful to me and to those I help with their Career Development.

Here is a summary of my top 10 favorite responses to the question. I hope you find them useful, regardless of whether you are starting out your career or if you are looking for a change after many years of work.

  1. FIND YOUR PASSION: Pay attention to your gut instincts about what you like to do and what you do well. Don’t follow a path because it is prestigious, it pays the most or because other people will be impressed. Follow your heart and you will notice that you will give 100% naturally. Everything else will fall in line automatically.
  2. PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE:Take a set amount every month and put it into a retirement fund. Every year, increase it by $10. Set up and contribute to your retirement immediately. Get educated about stock options and how to manage them; set a plan for how and when you want to use them.
  3. NETWORKING: Network with everyone you meet in your industry. Nurture and build your personal network and maintain your contact list. If you regularly offer to help others, personally or professionally, good things come back to you!
  4. MENTORS: Always have a mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know something or are struggling with a project, ask for help. People are friendlier than you think.
  5. KEEP LEARNING:Do not be afraid of what you don’t know. It is okay to admit you don’t know or understand something. You cannot learn if you do not ask.  Keep learning – even if it has nothing to do with your current job or project. Expand your horizons by learning about your industry, additional skills, or anything that piques your interest. What seems irrelevant in your resume is simply before its time
  6. POSITIVITY:Protect yourself from negative people, influencers, or stressors by keeping a positive outlook in life.
  7. FOCUS:Focus on what you can change. Understand what is in your control and then ACT on it! Learn to say no to things you do not believe in or have no passion for. Do the thing that you really love.
  8. BALANCE:There’s a lot more to life than your work. Make time or you will never “find” the time for people and causes really important to you. Care for your family and yourself. Have fun.
  9. BE HUMBLE:Lose your ego! Ego prevents leaders from effectively connecting to others and seeing their point of view. Ego alienates you from the world. Humble yourself (no one is always right), reach out and help others first, you will get tenfold in return.
  10. FORGIVENESS: Forgive others and especially learn to forgive yourself. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

Do you have anything you would add to the list?

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What Would You Do for Free? A Career Change Success Story

Today I met with a mentee that first came to me through a referral from a friend in HR back in July of last year.  When I first met “Jane”, she was waiting for me in a conference room.  She was half under a table.  Don’t get me wrong – she was sitting in a chair, however, she was slumped down low, her body language telling me everything I needed to know.

I asked her to tell me a little about herself and what work she was doing at our company.  She said she was an engineer and one of her first comments was “I think I studied the wrong subject in school, I am not sure I should be an engineer.”  Wow.  Powerful statement.  She was questioning everything – even her decision to study engineering.  For about the next 15 minutes, I listened as she told me all the things she didn’t like about her job and I probed to find out why she had made such a powerful declaration.  I let her go on for a while.  When she took a breath, I stopped her.  I asked her to take all the negative, unhappy, unhealthy energy she had just unleashed and put it in a box and slide it under our table and out of sight.  She gave me a questioning look and then I asked her to shift gears and tell me what she did like to do.  After a long pause and some uncomfortable silence, I knew she was stumped.  She had been so focused on what made her unhappy, she had lost sight of figuring out what would make her happy.  We discussed the importance of self-discovery and I asked her to do some journaling.  Before we met again, I wanted her to think about “What would I do for free?” and write whatever popped into her head.  She took on the challenge and left. 

About a month later, her name showed up in my e-mail with a calendar request.  I was happy to meet with her and hear what she had thought about.  This time she was waiting for me, standing in the doorway of the conference room. Her eyes were bright and I could feel her shift in energy and excitement.  She told me that she had found time on an airplane ride/business trip to journal.  She shared the beginning of her notes. 

“What would I do for free?” 

Talk to Joe (the owner) of the Ski Shop
Discuss how his current software is not working for his needs
Work to develop a better software solution for Joe and the Ski shop
…many more pages of words….followed by “HFE!!!!”

I asked Jane – ‘what is HFE?’ and she went on to explain Human Factors Engineering to me.  Her eyes were wide open, she was sitting up straight and leaning toward me across the table.  I could feel the energy and the passion in her voice.  She then asked  “what do I do with this knowledge?”  My reply was  “it’s time for Networking!”  I jumped on-line and looked at my network within our company and picked six people I thought could help us find a Human Factors Engineer.  I shot off an e-mail and asked for willing technical mentors.  We continued talking about other things she could do while we waited for responses. 

To make a long story short – I eventually gave Jane three names.  She called each of them and set up time to talk.  Two of those conversations turned into offers of temporary assignments.  However, it wasn’t the first person she spoke to that offered her the temporary assignment.  She actually started with the name I gave her and then spoke to four more people before the opportunity she wanted came to light.   Jane would say you may need to talk to a few (or many) different people to get to where you want to be.  I would tell you that it’s like pulling a chain of scarves out of the sleeve of the magician.  The first contact leads to another one that then may lead to two more.  You have to keep ‘pulling the scarves’ to find the ‘bouquet’ at the end. 
Jane went back to her manager and asked him for some leeway to explore the possibilities in a new role.  He was fabulous – understanding and supportive.  He gave her one day off a week to pursue her newfound interest.  He understood she was still working for the same company so why not let her grow a new skill.  She took one of the offered assignments.  One day a week she went over to a different building to work on the project they had carved out for her.  Her excitement grew.  She went back to her regular job and brought new energy and excitement with her.  She tackled her existing role with a new appreciation of the learning experiences she was getting from the temporary assignment.  She got her 40 hours of work done in 32 hours and was more efficient, effective and appreciative of what she was doing. 
Flash Forward – today Jane sat with me again.  A HUGE grin on her face and a warm hug preceded her announcement that she had been offered and accepted a full-time position in the new group.  She wanted to thank me for the help and guidance I gave her.  I told her she had done the hard part – I just provided the map and acted as a sounding board and gave her access to my network (the primary roles of a mentor).  I only asked that she ‘pay it forward’ by exiting her current role gracefully, and by mentoring others with what she had learned. 

After celebrating her upcoming transition we spoke about next steps.  Jane is off writing her transition plan to make sure nothing gets dropped as she leaves, ensuring her current manager gets recognized for his risk-taking and support of her growth & development, and planning out her deliverables for success in her new role.   

How well do you know and understand yourself?  Are you unhappy with your work?  Do you wish you were excited and passionate about what you do? Who is your mentor?  How big is your network?  

It may all start with the answer to a disarmingly simple question.  “What would you do for free?”

Posted in Career Development, Job Search, Mentoring, Self Discovery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude – working to instill it in the pre-teen

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed how my pre-teen is having trouble focusing on the positive and that I resulted to negative consequences for each time she said something negative.  That worked for a day or two at most and she was back to her pre-teen moody self. 

New tactic – gratitude journaling.  After the gym on Saturday I went to Target and picked up four journals, stickers, colored pens and glue sticks.  I called a family meeting (yes, dad included) and we sat down while I introduced the concept of gratitude journaling. 

I let them each decorate their journals with their names using glitter stick-on letters and stickers.  Then I explained that each night after dinner we are going to sit as a family and write down at least three things we are grateful for from the day. 

My youngest latched on to the idea immediately.  She loves the focused family time and is reminding us each night that it’s time to journal.  My pre-teen is grudgingly going along and has come up with some good ones so far.  Even my husband is participating and finding some interesting things to write. 

My favorites have been ‘thankful for late snow in March’, ‘thankful for family time at breakfast and the movies’ and ‘thankful I completed a full day of meetings and didn’t yell at anyone.’

What are you grateful for today?  How do you change a negative into a positive?

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