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Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

Guest Post By Katheryn Rivas: The Problems with Professional Brown Nosing: How to Do It the Right Way

I’m sure if you’ve ever worked in any sort of job environment, you’ve encountered co-workers who kiss up to their superiors as if it’s in their job descriptions. From personal experience, there’s always at least one. You know the story—they are grandiose in their irrelevant compliments, they go out of their way to demonstrate competence only when their bosses are watching, they trumpet and promote themselves ad nauseum, and, worst of all, they will go to great lengths to step over others whenever it is in their best interests.

Many of the more cynical people in the job market will tell you that it’s a “dog-eat-dog world” that competition—the cutthroat kind—is an absolute inevitability of the marketplace in an economic climate that is built on competitive advantage. I propose, however, that it is not. Or at least not necessarily.

From my observations in the working world, of course there will always be moments at work when you should promote yourself, but to me, this is only appropriate when you have done something to warrant notice. It is always a good idea to be on good, friendly terms with your employer. However, it’s a good idea to be sincerely friendly with everyone in the office.

I think the biggest thing that is missing in the office environment, generally speaking, is sincerity. Of course, there will be times and places when you won’t always “like” everyone with whom you work. I know that has been the case with me. But if you simply attempt to humanize all your co-workers—both the “important” ones and those who are on the same wrung of the ladder as you, or even, as the case may be, “lower” on the totem pole—then you will find that getting along with all becomes exponentially easier. It’s all about understanding everyone on their own terms.

Although there is value for its own sake in trying to develop solid relationships with everyone in the workplace, the benefits you will reap in addition to simply being liked are various. It will make your work more enjoyable and efficient. And, believe me, the higher-ups will notice if your efforts—both in your immediate work and your personal interactions– are genuine. Nobody likes a fake. Fakery gives birth to various problems, whether or not they are immediately perceived, the worst being excessive gossip. Don’t fall into one of the most common workplace traps. 

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities .  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com .

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Career Success Requires Quantity, As Well As Quality

Recently, I heard from someone who was frustrated that, despite following all of the recommended career advancement strategies (networking, following up, working on her pitch), she was not moving forward. As an example, she referenced a few leads that had grown cold. What is the problem?

Now it could very well be that she is not networking, following up, or positioning herself as well as she says. But even if she is doing all of the steps right, and the quality of activity is there, a handful of leads not working out is not surprising. You also need quantity of activity in your job search and career plans.

Any one lead may not work out regardless of anything you do. There may be no promotion budget any longer. The management opportunity changes in a restructuring. Your company gets bought, and all of your allies and stakeholders get tossed when new management steps in.

Just like your financial investments should be diversified, so should your career investments.

Network inside and outside the company, at different levels, in different industries and functional areas. Follow up is not just about networking contacts but also about following up on different opportunities. Are you considering lateral moves, entrepreneurship (or employee status if you’re an entrepreneur), consulting v. in-house, nascent industries you may not know much about yet? When you position yourself, is it just to a small group of insiders who already know you? Are you blogging, speaking at conferences, getting quoted or publishing?

It is very easy to get swept up in the day-to-day of your job, especially in these times where resources are already stretched thin. But if you focus exclusively on quality of work and don’t expand your reach to a wide enough quantity of audience, you are leaving your career vulnerable. Get yourself out there and not just at the margins but with 100+ networking contacts. If you are in active job search mode, aim for 10+ target companies in play at any one time. If you are in career development mode, have several possibilities outside of your current company that you can move on at all times. Focus on quality, of course, but quantity also matters.

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Tips For The Employed But Underutilized

Recently an experienced entrepreneur turned employee asked me for advice about a new job where there was a lot of down time.

She already asked for more to do but wasn’t assigned anything.

Now what?

Read my advice in my latest post for CNBC.com:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/35985417

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Gratitude As A Career Management Tool

Here’s why gratitude works not just around the holiday table but for your career as well:

Gratitude puts you in a spirit of plenty – of having, instead of lacking.  This leads to confidence, energy and a position of strength that is attractive to the people around you, whether it’s prospective employers or senior management looking for whom to tap for leadership.

Gratitude focuses you on what is working in your life.  Similarly, for good career management and job search, you want to focus on what is working and repeat what works and expand this to other areas.  You don’t want to spend all of your energy troubleshooting problems.  Of course you need to pay attention and fix any strategies or behaviors that aren’t getting the results you desire.  But more importantly focus on what works well and do more.

Gratitude provides the foundation from which you can take risks.  Once you realize all the great things you have accomplished and the strengths that you do have, you have confidence, you have patterns to follow, and you have a base off of which you can try new things.  You can afford to be bold – you’ve achieved so much already.  In this way, gratitude coats you in Teflon, and problems roll off of you more easily.  Try a gratitude journal for a few days or weeks if you can, and see the benefits of gratitude as a career management tool.

This article may be reposted as long as this byline is included in its entirety:  Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters.  Caroline is a co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the upcoming “How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times” due out March 2010; Bascom Hill Books.  Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others.  Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com) and a columnist for CNBC.com, Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Vault.com, Wetfeet.com and TheGlassHammer.com.

Filed under: career coaching, life coaching, Uncategorized, , , ,

Holiday Gift To Our Blog Readers

Happy Holidays!  In appreciation of your readership, we are hosting a free teleclass on Tuesday, Dec. 15, on Top Career Moves For 2010:

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00pm Eastern

FORMAT: Simulcast! (Attend via Phone or Webcast — it’s your choice)

REGISTER NOW: http://bit.ly/8UxSa9   

Presenter:  Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio

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Passive Job Search Strategies

Once people start feeling better about the market, those currently employed will feel braver about considering job alternatives. While the market has not completely recovered, I find more people emboldened about their prospects and planning to look in early 2010. If you are one of those employed jobseekers itching to test the market, here are some strategies for a passive job search:

Shore up your job search foundation. Update your resume. Complete your LinkedIn profile. Send a holiday mailing as a fun way to get your contacts organized. Reach out to references, mentors, and your key stakeholders from past positions to make sure you haven’t lost touch. Do these basic maintenance chores now while you are not busy actively looking.

Take time for internal reflection. If a great opportunity came along, would you recognize it? Do you know what would make you leave? Do you know what you need in your next role to ensure it keeps you on the career path you desire? Are you ready for that next professional challenge or just bored (in which case you might want to start a hobby rather than a search)?

Get yourself known. If a great opportunity opened up, would the hiring company recognize you? Have you published or presented? Are you active in social networks? Are the people who do know you and like you able to describe what you’re good at and what interests you?

If you’re not sure about launching a search but want to test the waters, you need to use these passive job search strategies. Once you master job search strategies and incorporate them into your regular career management, you won’t need to worry about missing that next big thing. You will naturally be in touch with the market and able to pounce on opportunities according to your interest and timetable. That is the ultimately job security.

Filed under: career coaching, , , , , ,

Book Review: Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…And Help Others Do the Same

Get Out of Your Own Way at Work…And Help Others Do the Same by Mark Goulston is a fast, digestible read on a variety of failings that might beset you or a colleague at work.  Procrastination, not taking No for an answer, and staying too long in a job you should leave are just 3 of the 40 items covered in the book.  Each item has an anecdote to give it 3-d clarity, helpful tips, and a quote.  All in all the short chapters provide a good snapshot of what the problem is and some strategies to address it. 

Goulston created a very efficient book and seems to know his stuff.  While I liked the breadth of it, I wanted to go deeper on each, even if it meant leaving some out.  But that’s my preference.  This is a good book for the reference shelf when you find yourself stuck in a work rut or managing a difficult team member.  You can get some quick tips and inspiration here.

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Do You Know Where Your Stakeholders Are

When I was growing up, there was a popular TV public service announcement that would ask, “It’s 10pm.  Do you know where your children are?”  This would presumably remind parents that they should keep tabs on their children.  They’re precious.  Parents are responsible for them.  Of course parents should know where their children are.

If you look at your career, there are stakeholders who are invested in your career.  These people are your precious allies.  They are relying on you so you have a responsibility to them.  But take your nose out of your work for a moment and think:  who are your stakeholders?  Is your boss a stakeholder?  Is it people in the department that you often have to share data with?  Is it senior management, two or three levels above you?  Is it your mentor, from an area of the company that isn’t much related to yours?  Do you know where your stakeholders are? 

Stakeholders are the people who have a vested interest in the success of your career – because it helps their career, because they happen to like you, because what you do makes their job easier.  Whatever reason it may be, you need to have stakeholders because these people will fight for you when plum assignments are given, when raises are decided, when restructuring means someone gets the short end of the stick. 

So your first step is to identify your stakeholders.  Who benefits from your work?  You then need to nourish these relationships.  Figure out why they are invested in you and make sure you play your part.    Finally, you should continually watch your stakeholders’ moves.  If your stakeholders are leaving, you need to know you can replace them or be prepared to follow them out the door.  If your stakeholders are doing well, see how you can move into their expanded sphere of influence. 

Proactive career management means that you pay attention to the benefit you bring to the company and your stakeholders.  Do not just blindly assume that people will notice your good work.  Be specific and deliberate about who you are serving and the value that your work provides.  You cannot be successful all on your own.  You couldn’t possibly know everything that is going on in the company or be at all places at all times to influence all people directly.  You need to cultivate stakeholders who will believe in you and speak up for you when you are not there.  In a market of increased job insecurity, powerful stakeholder relationships are a critical way to recession-proof your job.

Filed under: career coaching, , , , ,

Match Your Work To Your Energy

Take this short energy quiz.  Give yourself 1 point for every Yes and 0 for every No.  How do you score?

I know what time of day I am most productive.

I schedule my most important work for when I am most productive.

I know what time of day my energy tends to sag.

I know what I need to do for a quick but sure energy boost (e.g., eat a snack, take a cat nap, go for a walk).

I know some activities and tasks that I can do even when my concentration tends to wane.

I know how much sleep I need each night.

I wake up without an alarm clock.

So how much do you know about your energy rhythms?  We all experience bouts of time when we can focus extremely well and times when we can’t.  Sometimes this varies based on the activity.  But many times, our productive and unproductive time blocks are consistently around the same times during the day.  We recognize that people are either early risers or night owls because it is a meaningful distinction, and we can empathize with it (I’m an early riser).

I don’t know what makes someone a morning v. evening person, but I do know that whichever you are you need to match your activities accordingly.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that night owls are destined for the graveyard shift.  But it does mean that where there is flexibility in getting things done you may want to schedule your most important work for when you are at your best.  This is one very basic way to match your work to your energy.  Rather than fight against the tide, you account for your internal rhythms as part of how you manage your work.

Similarly, you might reserve more mindless tasks for when you know your energy sags.  Perhaps this is when you return routine phone calls,  make that doctor’s appointment or run some errands.  Perhaps this is when you review previous emails or catch up on regular trade reading.  We all have regular activities that don’t require us to be 100% alert — figure out what these are and bunch accordingly.

Finally, there is a limit to how much we can get done if we merely match our work to our current supply of energy.  Ultimately you want to increase your ability to focus and work at high energy.  Therefore you do want to know how to maintain and increase your energy.  You want to get enough sleep and know how much is enough.  You want to harness and manage your best energy and therefore manage your work to its best.

Filed under: career coaching, life coaching, time management, , ,

Differentiate Yourself In Your New Job / Advice For the First 100 Days

Congratulations on getting that job. But you’re not out of the woods yet. Proactive career management is long-term. So getting the job is just the first of many steps. Here are three areas to manage overall but especially in your first 100 days because what you do here can quickly distinguish you on the job.  Read my advice in my latest post for Vault.com:


Filed under: career coaching, resource recommendation, , , , ,

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