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Share Your Small Successes In Your Day to Day Work

Share Your Small Successes In Your Day to Day Work

You know those colleagues who seem to define their work responsibilities by email forwarding and conference call attendance? Their actual contribution to the business is zilch, but they manage to advance their careers, and you hate them for it! But don’t be fooled—they have an important lesson to teach you, and you can take advantage of what they teach without joining them.

These people are generally losers who have found little tricks to manage their “careers”. I call them them hyenas; corporate hyenas, because they hang around the lions and leopards—people who do real work—and live off their kills. Only occasionally will they hunt and kill themselves, and when they get pressured, they may chase off the lions and leopards to get a fresh piece of meat.

How to Spot a Hyena

Corporate hyenas pop up in email threads by forwarding them to new people (they “reach out”) suggesting that they connect and alert higher management of progress on various topics. They also keep busy with meetings and conference calls, listening in what’s being said and then repeat it in “corporate speak”. They are easy to spot if you look for them, but it can be notoriously difficult to call them out.

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They have fully adopted the corporate cynicism of: In corporation, it’s not about what you do, it’s about what you tell people you do.

corporate asshole 1

    This behavior can really only be played out in large corporations; there’s nowhere to hide in small organizations. In companies in general, small and large, the pressure on productivity per employee is increasing. This leads to pressure on managers to deliver results, and people management is de-prioritized in turn. Too often, the regular performance review is reduced to a formal HR requirement, so rather than managers actively engaging in the work their reports perform, they rely on the stories about their reports, the stories they are being told by their reports themselves, and the stories they’re told by their management peers. In a small company, poor performance is quickly brought to light and reflected in the stories. In a large corporation there’s plenty of room to hide behind your stories because there are more people around to live off.

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    Corporate hyenas tell their world how great they are and how they are key to a number of different projects, making sure that they keep reminding colleagues (and in particular their direct and matrix managers) thereof. You and I know that their contribution to these projects is negligible, but they look busy!

    Every now and then, typically when new manager is hired from outside the organization, the corporate hyena gets a wake-up call. They either shape up for the time it takes to lull the new manager into their stories, or they are caught out and make a face plant.

    The One Thing You Must Learn From Them:

    Despite these people being nothing but hyenas in suits, they actually have one important lesson to teach you.

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    They make it easy for people to think well of them because that’s the story they tell!

    With the pressure on productivity and the de-prioritization of people management, it’s not enough to do good ol’ honest work: you must promote your work. I am notoriously bad at this. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, being Swedish with the yoke of the Law of Jante (Don’t think you’re better than us) on my shoulders, but having worked in large American corporations for most of my career, and having met more corporate hyenas than I can remember, I was taught early in my career of two good rules to promote my brand as the guy doing that good ol’ honest work.

    1. Make a habit of sharing your small successes in your day-to-day work.

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    • Keep your manager updated about the work you do and ask for feedback to engage him/her.
    • Add your manager and/or other stakeholder on cc: to updates sent to your team and peers.
    • Reach out proactively to a stakeholder whose business your work is impacting, and ask them for feedback.
    • State and show that you’ve come to meetings prepared .

    2. Dedicate 2% of your time—that’s 3 hours per month—to promoting your brand.

    • Review the work you’ve done in the past month, extract the items where you made a difference, and tell the people who benefited from them in an email.
      Example: Let’s say that last month you prepared an ROI-analysis to help a sales guy pitch your company’s new fancy solution to a customer. You know from talking to the sales guy that your analysis was very well-received by the customer, and he’s expecting an order next month. Write an email to the sales guy with his and your manager on cc, saying something along the lines of: “Hi, I’m just checking in to see if the ROI-analysis I did for [customer] helped you progress the sale and if there’s anything else I can assist with to help you win the deal.”
    • Post work that could be of general interest on the corporate intranet.
      Example: If you spent time reviewing what the press says about your and your competitors’ products to prepare for a presentation at an event, post it—that’s certainly info that other people may find useful, so be sure to share it and make sure it has your name in the on front page, and in the footer.
    • Review the key work tasks you’ll be doing in the next month and think about which tasks are relevant to which stakeholders. Make  note of these so you remember to include them in your day-to-day promotion (point 1 above).

    Finally, what is the best way to deal with the corporate hyenas?  Ignore them. Don’t waste your energy on something you can’t control. Instead, put the two lessons above to use, and fight the corporate hyenas on your terms!

    Featured photo credit: Young gangster smoking a cigar in a luxury studio via Shutterstock

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    How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

    How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

    Turning 50 is a milestone in anyone’s life, after all you are half way to 100! But seriously, turning 50 is often a time in life when people can sit back and take a look at where they’ve been and contemplate what the future holds.

    Can you change careers at 50? It’s not uncommon for people in their 50’s to consider a career change, after all if you’ve spent 20 to 30 years in a career, chances are that some of the bloom is off the rose.

    Often, when we are starting out in our 20’s, we choose a career path based on factors that are no longer relevant to us in our 50’s. Things like our parents’ expectations, a fast paced exciting lifestyle or the lure of making a lot of money can all be motivating factors in our 20’s.

    But in our 50’s, those have given way to other priorities. Things like the desire to spend more time with family and friends, a slower paced less stressful lifestyle, the need to care for a sick spouse or elderly parents can all contribute to wanting a career change in your 50’s.

    Just like any big life changing event, changing careers is scary. The good news is that just like most things we are scared of, the fear is mostly in our own head.

    Understanding how to go about a career change at 50 and what you can expect should help reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

    What are Your Goals for a Career Change?

    As in any endeavor, having properly defined goals will help you to determine the best path to take.

    What are you looking for in a new career? Choosing a slower less stressful position that gives you more time with family and friends may sound ideal, but you’ll often find that you’re giving up some income and job satisfaction in the process.

    Conversely, if your goal is to quit a job that is sucking the life from your soul to pursue a lifelong passion. You might be trading quality time with family and friends for job satisfaction.

    Neither decision is wrong or bad, you just need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of any decision you make.

    Types of Career Changes at 50+

    There are four main types of career changes that people make in their 50’s. Each type has it’s unique set of challenges and will very in the degree of preparation required to make the change.

    Industry Career Change

    In this career change, a person remains in the same field but switches industries.

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    With an industry change, a person takes their set of skills and applies them to an industry that they have no previous experience in.

    An example would be a salesperson in the oil and gas industry becoming a salesperson for a media (advertising) company. They are taking their skill set (selling) and applying it to a different industry (media).

    This type of career change is best accomplished by doing a lot of homework on the industry you want to get into as well as networking within the industry.

    Functional Career Change

    A functional career change would be a change of careers within the same industry.

    For example, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company who changes careers to become a human resources manager. It may or may not be with the same company, but they remain within the pharmaceutical industry. In this case, they are leaving one set of skills behind (accounting) to develop a new set (human resource) within the same industry.

    In a functional career change, new or additional training as well as certifications may be required in order to make the switch. If you are considering a functional career change, you can start by getting any training or certifications needed either online, through trade associations or at your local community college.

    Double Career Change

    This is the most challenging career change of all. A person doing a double career change is switching both a career and an industry.

    An example of a double change would be an airline pilot quitting to pursue their dream of producing rock music. In that case, they are leaving both the aviation industry and a specific skill set (piloting) for a completely unrelated industry and career.

    When considering a double career change, start preparing by getting any needed training or certifications first. Then you can get your foot in the door by taking an apprenticeship or part time job.

    With a double change, it’s not uncommon to have to start out at the bottom as you are asking an employer to take a chance on someone without any experience or work history in the industry.

    Entrepreneurial Career Change

    Probably one of the most common career changes made by people in their 50’s is the entrepreneurial career change.

    After 20 to 30 years of working for “Corporate America”, a lot of people become disillusioned with the monotony, politics and inefficiency of the corporate world. Many of us dream of having our own business and being our own boss.

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    By this time in our life, we have saved some money and the financial pressures we had with young children have passed; so it’s a perfect time to spread our entrepreneurial wings.

    Entrepreneurial career changes can be within the same industry and using your existing knowledge and contacts to start a similar business competing within the same industry. Or it can be completely unrelated to your former industry and based on personal interests, passions or hobbies.

    A good example would be someone who played golf as a hobby starting an affiliate marketing website selling golf clubs. If you are considering an entrepreneurial career change, there are a lot of very good free resources available on the internet. Just be sure to do your homework.

    Practical Tips on Making a Career Change at 50+

    So you’ve decided to take the plunge and make a career switch in your 50’s. No matter what your reasons or what type of a career change you are embarking on, here are some helpful hints to make the transition easier:

    1. Deal with the Fear

    As stated earlier, any big life change comes with both fear and anxiety. Things never seem to go as smoothly as planned, you will always have bumps and roadblocks along the way. By recognizing this and even planning for it, you are less likely to let these issues derail your progress.

    If you find yourself becoming discouraged by all of the stumbling blocks, there are always resources to help. Contacting a career coach is a good place to start, they can help you with an overall strategy for your career change as well as the interview and hiring process, resume writing / updating and more. Just Google “Career Coach” for your options.

    I also recommend using the services of a professional counselor or therapist to help deal with the stress and anxiety of this major life event.

    It’s always good to have an unbiased third party to help you work through the problems that inevitably arise.

    2. Know Your “Why”

    It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the “why” you are making this career change. Is it to have more free time, reduce stress, follow a passion or be your own boss?

    Having a clear understanding of you personal “why” will influence every decision in this process. Knowing your “why” and keeping it in mind also serves as a motivator to help you reach your goals.

    3. Be Realistic

    Take an inventory of both your strengths and weaknesses. Are your organizational skills less than stellar? Then, becoming a wedding planner is probably not a good idea.

    This is an area where having honest outside input can be really helpful. Most of us are not very good at accurately assessing our abilities. It’s a universal human trait to exaggerate our abilities while diminishing our weaknesses.

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    Requesting honest feedback from friends and co-workers is a good place to start, but this is another area where a career coach can come in handy.

    4. Consider an Ad-Vocation

    Sometimes, making a career change all at once is just too big of a change. Issues like a severely reduced income, geography and lack of benefits can all be impediments to your career change. In those cases, you may want to start your new career as an ad-vocation.

    An ad-vocation is a second or ad-on vocation in addition to your primary vocation. Things like a part-time job, consulting or even a side business can all be ad-vocations.

    The benefit of having an ad-vocation is being able to build experience a reputation and contacts in the new field while maintaining all the benefits of your current job.

    5. Update Your Skills

    Whether it means acquiring new certifications or going back to school to get your cosmetology licence, having the right training is the foundation for a successful career change.

    The great thing about changing careers now is that almost any training or certifications needed can be free or at very little cost online. Check with trade associations, industry websites and discussion groups for any requirements you may need.

    Learn How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive.

    6. Start Re-Branding Yourself Now

    Use the internet and social media to change the way you present yourself online.

    Changing your LinkedIn profile is a good way to show prospective employers that you are serious about a career change.

    Joining Facebook groups, trade associations and discussion boards as well as attending conventions is a great way to start building a network while you learn.

    Here’re some Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success.

    7. Overhaul Your Resume

    Most of us have heard the advice to update our resume every six months, and most of us promptly ignore that advice and only update our resume when we need it.

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    When making a career change, updating is not enough; this calls for a complete overhaul of your resume. Chances are that your current resume was designed around your old career which may or may not apply to your new goals.

    Crafting a new resume emphasizing your strengths for the new position your looking for is key. There are many places that will help you craft a resume online and it is a service included with most career coaching services.

    8. Know Your Timeline

    There are a lot of factors when it comes to how long it will take to make the career change.

    Industry and Functional career changes tend to be the easiest to do and therefore can be accomplished in the shortest period of time. While the Double Career Change and the Entrepreneurial Career Change both require more effort and thus time.

    There are also personal factors involved in the time it will take to switch careers.

    Generally speaking the more you are willing to be flexible with both compensation and geography, the shorter time it will take to make the switch.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing careers at anytime can be stressful, but for those of us who are 50 or above, it can seem to be an overwhelming task fraught with pitfalls and self doubt.

    Prospective employers know the benefits that come with more mature employees. Things like a wealth of experience, a proven work history and deeper understanding of corporate culture are all things that older workers bring to the table.

    And while the younger generation may possess better computer or technical skills than us, if you’re willing to learn, there are a ton of free or nearly free resources available to you.

    Deciding on a career change at 50 is a great way to experience life on your own terms.

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    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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