Posts Tagged “work”

My advice as an HR Professional:  Own your career.

Companies/Managers don’t sit around thinking about you, your career, your pay, and your job fit (very much).  After all, they are trying to run a business!

You are the most knowledgeable person at your company about how to manage/reward you.  Share that information with them.  Help them help you.  That isn’t being difficult; that’s being helpful. Own that conversation.

Make your expectations clear.

If you want a promotion, say it (tactfully).  If you want a raise, say how much and why.

The company then has two options (both of which are a positive for you).  a) they can meet your expectations (which is only possible because you explicitly stated them; otherwise the company moves forward with an absence of information, which leaves them guessing). or b) they can explain to you why they did not meet your expectations (which would presumably include a conversation of “how you can get there from here”), which allows you a path forward.

If you think it is “too forward” to ask for what you want explicitly, you likely do not understand a) your value as an employee and/or b) that you are actually helping your employer (why should you be hesitant about helping?).

Your company IS NOT doing you a favor by “giving” you a job.

They don’t “give” it to you.  You are presumably doing something for them that is very useful (otherwise why would they give you money?).  Recognize your value.

Develop unique skills.

If “anyone” could do your job, then at some point they might.

However, just because other people could do your job, they are not.  You are doing it and that is valuable.  Your unique skill might be as simple as “I have very good relationships with a lot of people around here.”.  Think of ways to position yourself uniquely.

Don’t let a company/manager promise you something in the future.

A company/manager cannot promise something in the future, even if they would like to…because business reality changes.  They likely fully intend to do what they have said (e.g. promotion, pay raise); it is just that factors outside their control may change the situation.  That is the reality of business promises.

Get the promise in writing if it is a substantive promise.  If this is not possible (which it may not be), do not weight the promise fully, as they can’t necessarily deliver on their promise even if they would like to.

Understand that you may have to leave.

While you are being helpful by telling them what you want, they will not always be able to help (for whatever reason) and so you must be prepared for what happens if they don’t value you as highly as you would like.  This situation happens and is fine; be prepared to start looking for a job.  (If you are often leaving employers due to differences of opinion of your value/readiness…you might consider which party is more likely correct.)

It is helpful to keep your resume up to date and keep up your network.  For most folks good at their job, a good network comes naturally.

My first inclination is always to stay at my current employer and work it out.  Give them an opportunity to make it right.

Don’t threaten your employer.  Don’t discuss your career if you are currently upset.

Remember, you are trying to help them retain and manage you.

The difference between “I am having a lot of recruiters call me to offer 20 – 30% more than I am currently making.  It is becoming distracting.  Can we re-evaluate where I am versus market pay for my role?  I’d really like to make a commitment to staying here.”  and “You aren’t paying me enough.  I need a raise.” is largely word choice and whether you have a smile on your face when you say it.

Framing matters; choose your words in a way that focuses on helping them help you.

Bottom line:  Far too many people are recipients of their career.  They think they will work hard and be rewarded.  That isn’t wholly false, but it isn’t exactly true either.

Own your career.  Ask explicitly.


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I am traveling a lot for work these days.  Traveling for work is not healthy.

You work very hard all day; after all you were paid to travel to this place to work….so you do it.

You live at a hotel, so there isn’t much to do once you get back…so you work there too (since there is always something to do).  So I would say I am working from sun up to sun down, with breaks to eat.

Ah…eating.  That is one of the few truly pleasurable things I do in a day.  Since the meals are expensed, I do eat well…which means I eat too much.  Then there is the fact of the stress of working all day…I usually drink with dinner (which is expensed as well).

Working all day means you can’t go to the hotel gym.  The stress and a bed that isn’t yours mean you don’t sleep that well.

I always thought it would be somewhat glamorous to travel for work.  It simply isn’t.  “How was Chicago,” you might ask….well I don’t know, unless you count O’Hare airport, a random office building, and/or the Marriott downtown.

Airports are a HUGE waste of time.  You wait in a bunch of lines, can’t do much in the way of work…the only thing good about airports is drinking before you get on the plane (that’s if you make it to the airport in time, since you always work till the last minute).

You might also think it is cool to be at the airport with your fancy clothes and laptop, going to nice hotels, eating out on the client.  No, it isn’t.

You just wish you were sitting in first class instead of trying to cram your carry-on into the overhead bin and sitting next to some smelly (either from cologne or not showering) yahoo that wants to talk to you the whole time and needs to lose 3o pounds (which is fine…unless you are sitting next to them on a cramped plane).

You wish you were waiting for the plane in the Club Room instead of hunting for some greasy seat to park it while you wait for the opportunity to wait again when you finally board the plane (which you could also avoid if you were a Medallion member).  You really just wish you were at home.

So… eat too much, don’t exercise, don’t get to talk to your loved ones much, work too much, drink often, are stressed, and don’t sleep well.

At least I have a job.  For that, I am truly grateful….really.

Its worth it for sure….seeing that I would be living on the streets otherwise.

You don’t even want to hear me complain about that!!!


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Making goals and working towards them is good right? Everyone says so. It is true that the goal oriented “get” more than others…that makes sense. Purposefully going in a direction will more likely get you in that direction that not trying at all. You’ll never accidentally end up with exactly what you’ve always wanted…right?

Well….maybe. It depends on where you want to go. Ever hear “You’re never lost if you don’t care where you are going.”? Travellers used to say that, and it worked quite well for me in those days.

I rarely fretted over how to tackle a new city; I didn’t worry whether I would see everything. In fact, a lot of times I didn’t try to see anything at all. In Paris, it is true I made a point to see the Louvre. But in Valencia, for instance, what exactly do you need to see? Most cities are more like Valencia than Paris.

I usually ate, and drank some coffee and when I felt good I would start walking and talk to people when they looked interesting. I didn’t miss anything in Valencia, because I never knew what there was to see. I just walked down a street and when it ceased to interest me I would turn and go down another street. Years later someone would ask, “Did you see La Catedral de Valencia while you were there?” My reply: “I don’t know. Show me a picture.” I haven’t the slightest idea what I saw and what I didn’t….although I likely saw alot (or maybe not).

So that is one extreme: The “you’re never lost if you don’t care where you’re going” camp.

The other extreme is: A goal achieved necessitates another goal planned….otherwise you have no goals. Ever read the myth of Sisyphus?

That’s the common wisdom: 1) State your goal to everyone that will listen, 2) make a detailed plan with a timeline including beginning, middle, and especially an end, 3) have short term achievable milestones that can be measured, and 4) find people to hold you accountable.

So I did that when I started the corporate life. I said I wanted to work in this Talent/HR Effectiveness consulting group. I told everyone, even the people I currently work with….which was weird to tell you boss and boss’s boss that you don’t really want to do what you’re doing…..but still, I didn’t care. I had a GOAL (which is what I’m supposed to have right?).

I slowly worked toward it, meeting everyone I could in consulting, asking them what kind of experience would help me, asking their story, trying to stay abreast of the business, learning when jobs came open, meeting the right HR people. I didn’t meet my original timeline, nor the next one…but I kept at it.

It is frustrating when most of it was out of my control: I can’t make positions open; I can’t make myself more qualified than the other candidates (since I can’t control what experience they have). In my current role I couldn’t get relevant experience (since the two businesses do very different things). I also cannot go outside the company to get the experience (if they won’t hire me within the company to do it where I know people and have a proven track record, what would make another company hire me without those things?). I was basically asking for a special favor (and businesses don’t often give out favors).

Regardless, I know how goals work. If you stick with them long enough, keep doing something/anything to move towards them, and are sincere in your efforts……something will happen.

And it did. After 3.5 years…..I caught a break. In January I’ll be transferring internally to work in consulting. The story of exactly how it happened after 3.5 years is actually a really good one…but I’ll save it for later, since that isn’t what this post is about.

Very, very few people have made the transition from what I do now (sort of tech project mgt) to HR Effectiveness consulting. Its like being a water treatment expert and wanting to move into politics. Not a logical jump. I had a lot working against me, and pretty much only persistence working for me. Also, I can’t recall ever having a stated goal like this and then it taking so long to achieve.

It should be all the sweeter then right? I overcame signficant obstacles. I’ve been wanting it for a long time. I got a little lucky. I get on a long term career path I think will suit me better.

Uhh…no. Actually, I don’t feel all that much better or different. I feel a bit anxious now that I have to “put up or shut up” so to speak. A lot of people stuck their necks out to get me the job over others who were probably more qualified on paper. I have to return to the bottom of the totem pole, which means working long hours, and getting all the shitty work. I didn’t really get a raise. It was a lateral move in that respect.

I also don’t think I will be any happier in a year or maybe even two. I might be a little happier; however, I could never be sure as I don’t know how happy I would’ve been had I stayed in the other job (I don’t know what the opportunity cost is). I think I will work with some smarter people (smarter in the way I want; I work with smart people now too.) and eventually do more interesting work, but again…there is no way for me to know the opportunity cost of what I left. My new line of business isn’t growing as fast as the one I’m in currently, so there won’t be as many promotional opportunities in my new job…..but its a great transferable skill to be in front of clients and have billable hours (you go from a cost to a profit center).

In short, there are some good things about it….and some bad things. That’s no different than life at most any juncture.

So what good is it to constantly struggle to achieve a goal if it makes you no better off? Well, it does sort of make me better off…in some ways…but what it doesn’t make me is any happier, or any more satisfied. And isn’t that what you’re aiming towards? I think it is.

When people say, “Yeah, but what good is your new car?” even if you answer something vacant like “It will get me hot women,”…the next question is “Ok, why do you want hot women?”…then you can say, “Because it’ll make me look cool (or whatever you want to answer),” then the next question is “Why do you want to look cool?”….the answer is “Because it makes me happy or more satisfied.” Happiness, contentment, satisfaction is at the root of most of your motivations (that don’t have to do with basic needs of food, shelther, etc.).

Happiness is a strange thing though. Everyone knows that I have a fascination with Happiness. I put it in capitals because I mean happiness as a science. My fascination stems from the knowledge that my life is pretty darn good, yet I seem unable to be happy with it….whatever “happy” might mean to me (which I’m not so sure about anymore….maybe I AM happy?). I think I can safely say I know as much about the study of Happiness as all but those who actually do research on it (psychologists, economists, sociologists, etc).

Happiness is circular in many cases. If you think a cool car will make you happy, then it likely will. It doesn’t matter that your motivations are shallow or even incorrect. It is a brain trick. Happiness is whatever you can tell yourself you’re happy with. Otherwise you’re on the hedonic treadmill and always keeping up with the Joneses.

Achievement is the hedonic treadmill. It is Sisyphus pushing his rock.

Humans acclimate very, very quickly to a change in circumstances. On the downside we don’t appreciate our ever improving lives (or even winning the lottery). On the upside, those who are crippled or blinded in adulthood quickly return to their previous average happiness level. Again on the downside, though we don’t really appreciate the incremental improvements all that much, we do become stressed by constant un-improvements.

So what did I enjoy over the last 3.5 years? I enjoyed being good at my job (my current one which I will no longer have). I enjoyed some of the people I worked with (who I will be leaving). I enjoyed playing tennis. I enjoyed food, music, and doing things with my friends. I like ice cream and cheesecake. I like my computer. I like singing.

So is there a point here? Yeah, a little bit.

I remember someone asked me one time in an interview, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” (yes, apparently people really do ask that question).

I said, “I don’t believe in 5 years plans because I don’t think anyone can plan that well. Life has too many variables You limit yourself by focusing too much on one outcome and disregarding other opportunities that may be beneficial.”

He replied, “Do you not have goals then?”

(Of course I did have goals, but that isn’t what I answered.) I said, “I believe in heuristics. Life is more like chess than an engineering project. In chess you know your end game…its checkmate. But when you start the game, you don’t know how you’re going to get there. You make a few moves, and then do whatever is best from that spot based on your rules of thumb: control the middle of the board, attack pinned pieces, don’t attack early with your queen, etc. Life is like that….identify a few useful rules that work for you, and stick with them….always re-evaluating where you are currently based on those rules.”

I repeat the answer now because I think it is the right one: Forget about your long term goals. You will achieve them (and be no happier) or you will not achieve them (and be stressed by your failure). Better to focus on what you like, and what you’re good at….then do more of that. The rest will take care of itself.

Ok, enough of that. I have said all these things before and yet I still make goals, maybe because it makes life more interesting even if not more satisfying. It is also empowering to think I have a say in my future. It will not, however, make me any happier.

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