As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley” or, in other words, “sometimes our plans go really wrong.” One situation where that can have repercussions is when your job search collides with a major life event that you couldn’t foresee and might have little or no direct control over.
I’m a big fan of making good plans, whether it’s for a job search or career change or for something more on a personal level. However, as many of you might also have experienced, I’ve found more than once that my plans can get derailed–temporarily, longer term or permanently. Here are just a couple of examples from my own experience that might resonate with you in some way:
- In 1999 my mother passed on unexpectedly. My son and I shared a home with her, and that was where I ran my full-time business. She had also been my chief supporter and cheerleader since I started the business in 1991. Clearly her loss was a major life event that I had no immediate control over. I had to deal with all the related personal issues and responsibilities while doing my best to resume normal business activity as soon as possible–clients were counting on me, of course, but even more important was that my son’s well-being and mine depended on keeping things running. That was 15 years ago, and I’m still here, but of course I had to regroup and change some of my plans to fit the different situation that had come into my life.
- Several months ago my son and I began planning a two-week trip to England to visit some friends of mine and do a lot of sightseeing. That trip occurred in late May and early June of this year. In large part it went as planned. However, since our return, events have not followed the expected pattern, which is why this is my first blog post in about two months! Unforeseen challenges have included ongoing family health issues (not mine), two beloved dogs suffering annual allergy problems, and more. I had to cut myself some slack as a result, prioritizing my business and personal activities to take care of the ones that seemed most critical and putting others on a back burner.
Obviously, this is not one of my “standard” blog posts, but it’s one that comes from the heart. You might find yourself in a situation where you have planned your job search or career change as thoughtfully as you can and put a lot of good energy into it, only to face something that challenges you to rethink or regroup in order to move forward productively. What I’m basically saying is that you can do yourself a favor by allowing for the possibility that things like this can happen, even to those “best-laid plans,” and you don’t have to let them throw you for an absolute loss.
I belong to a small group that has a twice-monthly phone call where we share our experiences and learn great things about how to handle a variety of situations. Usually these are business-related, but there’s often a personal aspect as well. A recent topic was “resilience.” I think it’s a good concept in connection with today’s blog post! When job search and life challenges collide, resilience might be a key factor in your ability to move forward.
Have you ever had a job where you knocked yourself out for the company, putting in a lot of unpaid effort, only to be caught in a subsequent layoff round because your pay level was higher than the employees they kept? If so, you know that company loyalty isn’t always a two-way street.
Company Loyalty as a One-Way Street
Most, if not all, companies expect you to put in considerable effort on their behalf, respect their confidential information, protect their reputation, etc., in return for your regular paycheck. And sometimes the return they receive from you is disproportionately larger than the value of your check.
That’s part of the one-way-street picture. The other part is that too many companies consider employees expendable, a disposable resource if things start getting a little tight. It’s true that sometimes companies don’t have a choice about layoffs and other difficult actions, but that’s certainly not always the case.
Best Companies to Work For
Every year Fortune compiles its “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. While you could argue about some of their choices, based on your personal experience or on information you’ve gained from sources you respect, it’s worthwhile to take a look at the list.
Along with that, Fortune separately breaks out a list of 24 companies that are hiring. Purportedly those companies each expect to hire 1,000 people or more in the coming year.
Again, this is subject to change and to a certain degree of personal interpretation (possibly skewed one direction or another), but worth looking at when you’re planning your next career move.
Company Loyalty as a Two-Way Street
Large, small or somewhere in between, you can probably find a number of companies that respect and value their employees, provide them with a positive work environment, encourage them to grow professionally and don’t take unfair advantage of them “just because they can.”
That’s not to say your search will be easy or that you won’t hit a few bumps in the road along the way. However, I believe it’s essential to start your job search with both a positive attitude and a determination not to settle for less than the best in your employer–for as long as you can.
You will, after all, probably have to live with your choice for a while.
P.S. You might have noticed that my blog posts have been pretty sporadic lately. They’re about to get even more so, because I’m preparing for a long-awaited (and, I believe, well-deserved) vacation from work. I will be away from the computer at least from May 26 through June 9, but I’ll be thinking of you…not :).
Communication. What a vague and potentially meaningless term! Note that this doesn’t mean it’s unimportant–far from it.
Communication comes in two forms, broadly described as written and oral (spoken). For greater success in landing a new position and doing well afterward, you need to have strong skills in both areas.
6 Tips for Effective Communication
Whether in a job search or after you’ve been hired, you need to ensure that what you put in writing reflects not only solid knowledge in your area of expertise but also the ability to communicate critical points clearly to the intended audience. If your purpose includes persuading people to adopt a certain point of view or to take a specific action, your written communications need to present a compelling reason for readers to do that.
3 Tips for Good Written Communication:
- Get to the point. Don’t ramble on and put your readers to sleep.
- Avoid ambiguity. Determine your intent, focus on it and then double-check to make sure you’ve expressed it clearly.
- Know your audience. Use wording and concepts that will speak strongly to them. Otherwise, you risk losing their attention.
3 Tips for Good Oral Communication:
Actually, the previously listed tips for written communication are good here as well! However, here are some that are specific to oral (spoken) communication:
- Watch for body language in your listener that tells you they’re tuning out.
- Maintain a moderate pace as you speak. Remember that people can listen faster than you can (or should) talk, but avoid the temptation to talk too quickly.
- Make sure your voice quality (tone, volume, pacing, etc.) is as “listenable” as possible. Have someone else listen to you speak if you’re not sure how you come across.
Communication Before the Hire vs. On the Job
Before you’re hired, your main concern probably is to convince the company that it should hire you rather than one of your competitors. You’ll be looking at every aspect you can reasonably include that will help you achieve that goal. This includes both written and oral communication methods. Among other things, you’ll want to emphasize the value you can bring to the company in the open position.
On the other hand, once you actually land the job, your focus shifts. Now you need to look at convincing the company that it made a wise decision by hiring you. What you say/write and how you do that will play a big part in the way you are viewed by your boss, his/her boss, your subordinates (if any), colleagues–everyone inside the company that has anything to do with you.
The same obviously applies to your external communications–with customers, vendors, regulatory authorities, whoever you have contact with as part of your job. They could be your valuable supporters or your detractors, depending on how you handle communications with them.
In other words, it’s still about value, but now it’s time to, as the saying goes, “put up or shut up.” In short, don’t just say or write it–prove it.
Final Communication Tip
If you lack confidence at all in your ability to communicate well before the hire or on the job, do something about it! Get help if necessary to identify your most critical “needs improvement” areas (written or oral) and take appropriate action to correct them ASAP. The last thing you want is to have weaknesses in this area hold back your professional growth and career success or to sabotage the new job you worked so hard to capture.
If you need full benefits and/or a substantial salary, the question of part-time or full-time might be easy for you to answer. However, in many cases, it’s not so straightforward.
Part-Time vs Full-Time Trade-Offs
Clearly, you stand to receive more income if you work a full-time position, and the employment package generally includes at least some benefits, such as vacation and health insurance. For those of you who are the sole or primary breadwinner in your household, that’s a key factor to consider.
On the other hand, part-time employment can provide significantly more flexibility regarding your overall schedule and (often, though not always) the location you work from.
Job sharing is one form of part-time employment that’s been around a long time, but I’m not sure (based on what I read and hear) that it’s widely enough accepted to represent a viable option for many of you who might otherwise consider it.
One advantage of part-time employment that’s not always considered is that some of your expenses could be noticeably lower than for full-time employment–for example, commuting (gas, bridge tolls, etc.), wardrobe (fewer suits, etc.), child care if you have young children, and so on.
Part-Time Opportunities–Even for Executives
We used to think of part-time employment as something for the hourly rank-and-file employees; however, it appears that trend might be changing.
In an article titled “Trends in Hiring Executives with Part-Time Schedules” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO/Founder of FlexJobs, references a 2013 story by Alison Maitland called “The Part-Time Executive.” It mentions a study of 50 executives in the United Kingdom who work part-time.
How the executives (most of them women) managed their schedule varied–for example, compressed work-weeks and three-on/four-off (but available). Some of the part-time executives provide services to more than one company, much like a consultant. Typically, of course, they don’t receive benefits.
Can Anyone be a Part-Time Executive?
As Fell’s article indicates, not necessarily. “Lea Paterson of Bank of England says it perfectly: ‘To be a good boss you need to be able to delegate, to recruit good staff, and to trust them to get on and do the work without checking on them every minute.’ Paterson continues: ‘When you’re part-time, you’re forced to do this anyway.’”
You also need to have exceptionally strong skills in areas other than your primary career focus, including organization/time management and communication/relationship-building. These can be a critical factor in helping you overcome the gap caused by not being present all the time.
Who Gets to Choose?
The reality is, of course, that you might not have a choice between part-time or full-time employment. Part-time work might be the only game in town for the kinds of jobs you’re seeking or the locations where you want to work.
Conversely, your field of expertise might consist mainly, if not entirely, of full-time positions–even more than full-time, if they involve typically long hours and you don’t have the option of working fewer hours.
In the end, as with many things, you might have choices to make, based on your particular situation, and the final choice might not be entirely yours. However, it’s to your advantage to consider the pros and cons, the cans and can’ts, and make the best decision you can under the circumstances.