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Being a Man in the 21st Century (Part 1)

Being a Man in the 21st Century (Part 1)

Being a Man in the 21st Century

    Manhood is changing. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

    Two recent events prompted me to write about manhood today. The first was the release of The Shriver Report, a study of the status of women in the United States. The second was the publication of The Art of Manliness, a book of advice on manhood based on the popular blog of the same name.

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    The Shriver Report‘s most stunning finding is that women now make up half of the American workforce, and are the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in 2/3 of American families. While I think the report goes too far in calling us “a woman’s nation” – for one thing, women still earn much less, both in terms of average annual income and lifetime income, than men – it does highlight a significant change in American culture. People my age and lower will most likely never know a workplace in which men and women don’t figure at least equally.

    The Art of Manliness is one sign of this change. While I haven’t read the book yet, I’ve been following the blog since its inception, and to boil it down to its essence: men are not quite sure how to be anymore.

    Masculinity has been constructed over the last century almost entirely around the idea of men as providers and protectors, and frankly, women don’t need that any more. Already in at least a dozen major metropolitan areas, women earn on average more than men. Women are waiting longer to get married, and are more often the initiators of divorce – with their own incomes, they can afford to be pickier about their spouses, both going into marriage and when deciding whether to continue their relationships.

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    This has all happened in the context of larger social changes that have eliminated a great many jobs that were traditionally the sole province of men – the manufacturing and heavy labor jobs that relied on a powerful physique and a kind of working class swagger, most of which have been either automated or off-shored. At the same time, a new knowledge economy has sprung up, privileging communication, creativity, and self-motivation over brawn and emotional control. While there’s no inherent reason why women should do better in these emerging businesses than men, the fact is that men have largely given over the field while wasting time twiddling our thumbs over the loss of jobs where “men could be men”.

    What do I mean? Well, women now make up the majority of college and grad school students, even in many areas in science and technology traditionally considered to be men’s domains. Boys almost never read – only some 1 out of 5 young adult books are read by boys, who have determined that reading books is for sissies. Boys are more likely to drop out of high school (35% of boys vs 28% of girls in 2003).

    Basically, instead of learning how to be men in a changing world, we’ve been boys, dragged kicking and screaming into a world where women are increasingly equal players. Waaahhhh!

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    Emphasis on “kicking” – instead of figuring out how to do this new thing, we’ve focused most of our energy on simply emphasizing the characteristics that traditionally defined masculinity, namely toughness and physical brawn. Even our toys have been affected! For instance, below are two pictures of Luke Skywalker dolls. On the left is the Luke that I had when I was a boy, right after the first movie came out. On the right is a more recent version of the same character.

    Luke Skywalker figures comparison

      As you can see, the farm boy from Tattooine has been working out quite a bit since his debut in 1977! The same bulking up can be seen in nearly all figures aimed at boys – they’ve become more muscular, conveying a greater impression of raw physical power.

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      This wouldn’t be especially remarkable if not for the fact that physical power is less and less needed in our society – even in the military. These toys embody ideals that are increasingly disconnected with the reality that we live in, a kind of ironic nostalgia for a time when “men were men”. (Ironic because, when we look back at those men, they were quite a bit softer and less physically imposing than we think!)

      In the end, the exaggerated emphasis on toughness and physical strength are misleading – and besides creating a great deal of violence in our society, they are preventing us from thinking in constructive ways about the kind of men we could be in today’s world. And that’s too bad, because the changes we’re living in are largely positive – men are, or could be, much more connected with their families and their partners, women are getting the opportunity to develop identities that aren’t solely defined by motherhood, and the workforce is getting a much larger pool of people to draw talent from. Win-win-win!

      I’ll be back later in the week with a follow-up to this post describing some of the ways I think men can more productively engage the society we live in – without sacrificing some core sense of our identities as men. But before I do that, I wanted to get a sense of what you see as masculine in the new century. Men, how is your life different from your fathers’? Women, what do you want and expect from the men in your lives? Let’s get a discussion going!

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      Last Updated on February 20, 2019

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

      Are you stuck in the same position for too long and don’t really know how to get promoted and advance your career?

      Feeling stuck could be caused by a variety of things:

      • Taking a job for the money
      • Staying with an employer that no longer aligns with your values
      • Realizing that you landed yourself in the wrong career
      • Not feeling valued or feeling underutilized
      • Staying in a role too long out of fear
      • Taking a position without a full understanding of the role

      There are many, many other reasons why you may be feeling this way but let’s focus instead on getting unstuck.

      As in – getting promoted.

      So how to get promoted?

      I’m of the opinion that the best way to get promoted is by showing how you add value to your organization.

      Did you make money, save money, improve a process, or some other amazing thing? How else might you demonstrated added value?

      Let’s dive right in how to get promoted when you feel stuck in your current position:

      1. Be a Mentor

      When I supervised students, I used to warm them – tongue in cheek, of course – about getting really good at their job.

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      “Be careful not to get too good at this, or you’ll never get to do anything else?”

      This was my way of pestering them to take on additional challenges or think outside the box, but there is definitely some reality in doing something so well that your manager doesn’t trust anyone else to do it.

      This can get you stuck.

      Jo Miller of Be Leaderly shares this insight on when your boss thinks you’re too valuable in your current job:[1]

      “Think back to a time when you really enjoyed your current role. I bet there was a time when this job was a stretch for you, and you stepped up to the challenge and performed like a rock star. You became known for doing your job so well that you built up some strong “personal brand” equity, and people know you as the go-to-person for this particular job. That’s what we call “a good problem to have”: you did a really good job of building a positive perception about your suitability for the role, but you may have done “too” good of a job!”

      With this in mind, how do you prove to your employer that you can add value by being promoted?

      In Miller’s insight, she talks about building your personal brand and becoming known for doing a particular job well. So how can you link that work with a position or project that will earn you a promotion?

      Consider leveraging your strengths and skills.

      Let’s say that project you do so well is hiring and training new entry level employees. You have to post the job listing, read and review resumes, schedule interviews, making hiring decisions, and create the training schedules. These tasks require skills such as employee relations, onboarding, human resources software, performance management, teamwork, collaboration, customer service, and project management. That’s a serious amount of skills!

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      Is there anyone else on your team who can perform these skills? Try delegating and training some of your staff or colleagues to learn your job. There are a number of reasons why this is a good idea:

      1. Cross-training helps in any situation in the event that there’s an extended illness and the main performer of a certain task is out for a while.
      2. In becoming a mentor to a supervisee or colleague, you empower then to increase their job skills.
      3. You are already beginning to demonstrate that added value to your employer by encouraging your team or peers to learn your job.

      Now that you’ve trained others to do that work for which you have been so valued, you can see about re-requesting that promotion. Be ready to explain how you have saved the company money, encouraged employees to increase their skills, or reinvented that project of yours.

      2. Work on Your Mindset

      Another reason you may feel stuck in a position is well explained by Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article. Shahl talks about mindset, and says:[2]

      “If you feel stuck at a job you used to love, it’s normally you–not the job–who needs to change. The position you got hired for is probably the exact same one you have now. But if you start to dread the work routine, you’re going to focus on the negatives.”

      In this situation, you should pursue a conversation with your supervisor and share your thoughts and feelings. You can probably get some advice on how to rediscover the aspects of that job you enjoyed, and negotiate either some additional duties or a chance to move up.

      Don’t express frustration. Express a desire for more.

      Share with your supervisor that you want to be challenged and you want to move up. You are seeking more responsibility in order to continue moving the company forward. Focus on how you can do that with the skills you have and will develop with some additional projects and coaching.

      3. Improve Your Soft Skills

      When was the last time you put focus and effort into upping your game with those soft skills? I’m talking about those seemingly intangible things that make you the experienced professional in your specific job skills:

      An article on Levo.com suggests that more than 60 percent of employers look at soft skills when making a hiring decision.[3]

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      You can bone up on these skills and increase your chances of promotion by taking courses or seminars.

      And you don’t necessarily need to request funding from your supervisor, either. There are dozens of online courses being presented by entrepreneurs and authors about these very subjects. Udemy and Creative Live both feature online courses at very reasonable prices. And some come with completion certificates for your portfolio!

      Another way to improve your soft skills is by connecting with an employee at your organization who has the position you are seeking.

      Express your desire to move up in the organization, and ask to shadow that person or see if you can sit in on some of her meetings. Offer to take that individual out for coffee and ask what her secret is! Take copious notes and then immerse yourself in the learning.

      The key here is not to copy your new mentor (think Jennifer Jason Leigh in “Single White Female.” Just kidding). Rather, you want to observe, learn and then adapt according to your strengths. And don’t forget to thank that person for their time.

      4. Develop Your Strategy

      Do you even know specifically WHY you want to be promoted anyway? Do you see a future at this company? Do you have a one year, five year, or ten year plan? How often do you consider your “why” and insure that it aligns with your “what?”

      Sit down and do an old-fashioned Pro and Con list. Two columns:

      Pro’s on one side, Con’s on the other.

      Write down every positive aspect of your current job and then every negative one. Which list is longer? Are there any themes present?

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      Look at your lists and choose the most exciting Pro’s and the most frustrating Con’s. Do those two Pro’s make the Con’s worth it? If you can’t answer that question with a “yes” then getting promoted at your current organization may not be what you really want.

      The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain

      Mel Carson writes about this on Goalcast that many other authors and speakers have written about finding your professional purpose.[4]

      Here are some questions to ask yourself:

      • Why is it that you do what you do?
      • What thrills you about your current job role or career?
      • What does a great day look like?
      • What does success look like beyond the paycheck?
      • What does real success feel like for you?
      • How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

      These questions would be great to reflect on in a journal or with your supervisor in your next one-on-one meeting. Or, bring it up with one of your Vital Work Friends over coffee.

      See, what you might find is that being stuck is your choice. And you can set yourself on the path of moving up where you are, or moving on to something different.

      Because sometimes the real promotion is finding your life’s purpose. And like Mastercard says, that’s Priceless.

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      Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

      Reference

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