Some people are motivated by money, some by power, some by a compulsion to help others…the list is probably endless or nearly so. Of course, your job performance motivators could also be a combination of influences. Maybe you want to earn really good money but you also would be happy to be the person in charge of a group or organization. Maybe you would like to earn a great salary but you also have a drive to help people less fortunate than you are–which can present a challenge if the organizations who do what you want to do tend to not pay well. Also, your job performance motivators might change at different points in your professional and personal life. We don’t necessarily stay exactly the same people as we started out being.
C-Suite Turnover and Long-Term Incentives
A couple of weeks ago, I read an item from BlueSteps (based on the 2012 Executive Compensation Report) that discussed key job performance motivators for C-level executives. The opening paragraph indicated that “even though turnover in the C-suite is increasingly rapid, 65.4% of global executives, from a survey of 731 executives worldwide, believe long-term incentives do in fact motivate them to higher levels of performance.” Many of those executives commented that the growing lack of such incentives was having a significant effect on the high turnover rate at their level. I found it interesting that the article mentioned well-publicized mammoth salary and compensation packages for some executives and commented that many executives earn more moderate amounts and, at least in some cases, have seen their compensation actually decrease.
Employee Motivation a Complex Issue
Do you understand what motivates you as an employee? Whether you’re a senior executive or much lower down the ranks, you will have at least one factor that motivates you in your job performance–probably more. But do you know what those factors are, and do you have a clear grasp of their relative importance to you?
Countless studies have been made and articles/books written on this subject, and as far as I can see, there’s still a substantial amount of uncertainty and disagreement about the complex issue of employee motivation. For example, an article on Employee Motivation found on the Practical Management website has this to say: “High motivation is a significant contributor to exceptional performance….However, motivating employees is complicated since it depends upon individual needs, aspirations and values.”
Some people believe the factors that motivate performance aren’t so complicated. Thomas Haizlip, an executive coach, is apparently one of them, as indicated in his article on “10 Tips to Boost Job Performance“. The factors he says are “simple to understand, easy to measure” and potentially very valuable to organizations are:
- Interesting work
- Appreciation & recognition
- Feeling involved in the work process
- Job security
- Increased responsibility
- Good wages
- Good working conditions
- Being part of a team
- Help with personal problems
Obviously, there can be exceptions to just about anything, so these could certainly be open to interpretation and argument. However, you might receive some value from reviewing the list and deciding which of these items constitute as least a portion of your job performance motivators. The next step could be to review your current job and career situation and determine whether your key motivators are being met well or seem to lack fulfillment in your present environment. In the latter case, you might want to give serious consideration to mapping out and executing some changes, which could involve either looking for other opportunities with your current employer or seeking an opportunity with a different employer.
What do I mean by positive leadership and active career management? Like many of you, I read extensively in areas that offer potential usefulness for my business and my clients. Two of the people I follow are Jon Gordon and Simon Sinek. They frequently share insights that provoke serious thought and suggest new ways to approach our lives and careers. Today I read something from each of them that I want to share, in hopes these ideas will inspire you and help you to move forward with your job search and/or career management.
First, partly off-topic, I’d like to share with those who are facing Hurricane Sandy something Jon Gordon wrote in 2004 (before a hurricane):
“What do you do when a 140mph hurricane is headed straight for your house, your business, your family and your life? This is the question I am asking myself right now. As my heart races and fear attacks I realize the ultimate truth-that security is an illusion….The reality is that no matter how much our ego clamors for control and security and no matter how much we try to create security in all aspects of our life, true security doesn’t really exist. And when we realize that we are truly vulnerable there is nothing left to do but let go of our ego covered armor and false notions of power and security and tap into the ultimate security and greater power.”
Now for Jon’s perspective on positive leadership (in his weekly newsletter): He addressed a group of middle-school students and asked them what actions a positive leader takes–and received some great answers. His article explores the idea that although kids understand we are all positive leaders, as adults we let life fool us into thinking otherwise.
Jon touches on two aspects of this concept: “Feed Yourself with Positivity” and “Feed Others with Positivity.” He offers several suggestions in both categories for taking action. Here are a few of my favorites:
- It’s important to feed yourself because if you don’t have it, you can’t share it.
- Recognize a few people this week for the good work they are doing.
- Praise three times as much as you criticize.
- Decide to change the world in your own unique way.
I don’t know about you, but I’m motivated to work on Jon’s suggestions this week. If I can implement even one or two, I’m sure I’ll be pleased at the results those positive leadership actions deliver!
Active Career Management
I used to like the word proactive until it got so overused it became meaningless. However, I just read a quote from Simon Sinek (Start With Why) that puts this term in a new light for me: “‘To be proactive’ is a state of being. If it is action we’re looking for, we should stop being proactive and instead proact.” I don’t like “proact” as a verb, although it means “to take action in advance of an expected event,” but I understand Simon’s point. If you consider yourself proactive but haven’t gotten around to implementing active career management, you’re only part of the way there.
Active career management also calls for the positive leadership approach that Jon Gordon advocates. It means to me that you don’t wait for others to make things happen for you; instead, you identify what needs to happen to move your career forward and take the steps needed to achieve that goal. To put it another way, you don’t sit back and hope for the best, even if you see a major obstacle or two looming in your path to success. You scope out the challenges and plan appropriate actions to counter or overcome them–and then you ACT!
So my suggestion is to begin viewing yourself today as expressing positive leadership and active career management and make that view practical in your career and in your life. I see it as a can’t-lose proposition with unlimited potential.
Whether you call them staffing services, employment services or something else, does the use of staffing services in your job search make good sense?
That depends (you knew I was going to say that, right?). In some circumstances, such agencies can be a useful tool when used in conjunction with other, stronger job search techniques. At other times, they can provide more frustration and aggravation than you want to deal with. It might be helpful to take a brief look at what staffing services are and what they do or do not do for job seekers.
What are Staffing Services?
There are at least two types of staffing services, employment services, or whatever term you choose (I use them interchangeably): direct placement and temp or temp-to-hire services. (The latter used to be called temp-to-perm, but I don’t think anyone uses the term “permanent” in relation to employment any more.) They have a lot in common, and for my purposes I’m treating them both the same here. These services do want to place candidates in positions with companies–that’s how they make their money. Consequently you might think your staffing service rep is highly motivated to find you a great opportunity and will work closely with you to achieve that goal. Well, not necessarily.
First, it’s important to understand that employment services don’t make any money until they place someone in a job or temp assignment. They take a pragmatic approach to that, which generally means getting someone into a slot–maybe any slot–as soon as possible while meeting their agency’s revenue objectives.
Second, you need to be aware that you are part of a numbers game and will rarely, if ever, get really close, specialized attention from a staffing representative. You’re not the only candidate he or she is trying to place somewhere.
A Place for Staffing Services in Your Job Search
Although it might sound as if I’m knocking staffing services and their employees, I’m not doing that across the board. I’ve had resume-writing clients in the past who worked for employment services and were dedicated, hard-working people with strong integrity. However, they often didn’t stay with a company any longer than they had to in order to find a better one, because there were so many agencies that rated candidates much lower on the scale than volume and profit. Like any sales person, those clients had quotas to meet, and they were usually expected to do whatever it took to fill their quotas.
What you most need to know about using staffing services in your job search is that they can be worth including if you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time “chasing” them, jumping through hoops for them, or expecting your rep to aggressively pursue an opportunity you either have interviewed for or are hoping to interview for in the near future. If they present you with a good job opportunity you wouldn’t have known about otherwise, you owe it to yourself to spend a reasonable amount of time and effort in pursuing that opportunity. Just understand that it’s their job to sound enthusiastic and get candidates pumped-up about possibilities, but it’s your job to hold realistic expectations about the results the enthusiasm can and will produce.
In other words, don’t let involving staffing services in your job search negatively affect the time and energy you put into more significant areas of that search. Networking and other active job search tools, including diligent research into companies and opportunities that aren’t available through staffing services, still represent your best bet for conducting an effective job search–one that produces a desirable job in the least possible amount of time.
I have talked before about the strength-in-numbers concept. Today I want to look at a different aspect of that concept and its impact on your career advancement. What got me started on this was reading a book titled For Executives Only: Applying Business Techniques to Your Job Search by Bill Belknap and Helene Seiler, executive coaches with The Five O’Clock Club. Although published in 2007, the book contains a wealth of information that is just as relevant and potentially valuable in 2012 as it was then. In particular, I’m focusing on the section about networking and direct contact as job search tools, including the differences between them.
Green-Light, Yellow-Light and Red-Light Modes
The book presents three scenarios for networking, color-coded in terms of urgency. As you might expect, the green-light mode applies when your employment situation is satisfactory, while at the other extreme, you know you need to move out quickly. The authors estimate that in the former situation, you should spend 5-6 hours per month on your networking campaign. In the yellow-light situation, that amount climbs to 5 or 6 hours per week. They don’t give a number for red-light circumstances, but I’d be willing to bet it’s something like “whatever it takes”! If you’re in that situation, you’re either on your way out of your job involuntarily or you strongly suspect the business itself is on its way out.
Difference between Networking and Direct Contact
According to the book’s authors, networking and direct contact are both valid pieces of the job search puzzle, and they define these terms as follows:
- Networking: “Contacting people you know or using someone’s name to connect with someone else. It is not just a technique, but a process…a process of building long-lasting relationships.”
- Direct Contact: “A very powerful tool frequently overlooked and underutilized. It is when you write or call someone you do not know….In the most recent Five O’Clock Club survey we found executives got 30% of their interviews through direct contact.”
Where Strength in Numbers Comes In
If you only have–or think you only have–a handful of people in your network, contacting those few is unlikely to generate much momentum in your job search. Even broadening your scope to include a bit of direct-contact activity probably won’t expand your network by much. While a job search might not be completely a numbers game, it’s likely that both contact quantity and quality are important. Consequently, you might need to consider your network-building options creatively and pursue them with determination.
The book provides some valuable job search tips centered on building a strong network, including eight “Golden Rules of Networking”:
- Be patient….your networking calls are strategic not tactical unless you are in Red-Light mode.
- The key to building a strong long-term network is your ability to develop relationships.
- Maintain contact, at least quarterly, with everyone who has contributed to your learning and growth over the years.
- Ask for advice and support, as opposed to favors.
- Focus on those who have spontaneously given to you.
- Try to always bring a “gift” to the table….
- Graciously let go of any networking relationship where you are the only one giving.
- Become a mentor for at least two people you believe have potential.
Remember, those network numbers won’t build themselves. Your energy, persistence and critical-thinking skills can and will make a big difference. The key is to apply both networking and direct-contact approaches in ways appropriate to your specific job and career circumstances.
Success in any situation can be hard to define. In fact, it can have virtually unlimited definitions, depending on who you are and how you choose to view–and measure–it. In terms of career success, for example, it can vary from gaining a coveted promotion (such as a more exalted position in your company) to making a significantly higher salary than you had before to achieving industry recognition as an influencer or expert who stands out from your peers.
Obviously, then, you can encounter disagreement on what constitutes success. Some people will share your view, while others might adopt one that’s diametrically opposite to it. A possibly more meaningful concept is that of excellence. Let’s see how that might play out.
How Would You Define Excellence?
One definition is “the state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority.” Another is: “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” As background: the word comes from the Latin verb excellere, which meant to surpass. I’m sure you can see a common theme here. The concept of mediocrity or being average obviously doesn’t cut it!
Clearly, if you want to achieve excellence in terms of your career, you need to consider what it will take for you to be much better than good at whatever it is you do or want to do. You will need to hold yourself to a high standard with regard to all the key aspects of your career, including the norm that would be expected in your career field or profession and in your industry as a whole. Meeting that norm is only the first step to achieving excellence, and it will not make you stand out from the crowd. Through research, observation and clear thinking, you will be striving to get a clear picture of how far you have to go to reach excellence and the critical steps required to attain it.
Excellence or Success–Is it an Either/Or Choice?
A recent blog post by Jon Gordon, titled “Excellence or Success,” makes the distinction that “success is often measured by comparison to others. Excellence, on the other hand, is all about being the best we can be and maximizing our gifts, talents and abilities to perform at our highest potential.” In that sense, it appears to be an either/or choice–in other words, you can’t have both. This viewpoint definitely has some validity, and Gordon provides examples from sports (coach John Wooden and pro golfer Jack Nicklaus) and from business (Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad products).
On the other hand, if you define success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” versus “the attainment of popularity or profit,” you might be able to achieve both excellence and success, depending on what your aim or purpose is. For example, if your aim as a Senior Marketing Manager is to recruit, train and inspire a marketing team to position your company and its products as #1 in its market-space, and you/your team achieve that goal by communicating the quality and benefits of the company’s products in a compelling way, you can rightfully claim a combination of excellence and success for your efforts.
A Key Point about Career Success versus Excellence
Remember that success depends on how you define it. Before you can achieve both excellence and success in your career, you need to pin that definition down.
Recently I asked this question–Got the Job Offer: Now What? As you undoubtedly know, even when you accept an offer, that represents only the first step in your progress toward establishing a record of success in that position. You basically have a two-part process: short-term and long-term. Both parts need careful attention if you expect to keep moving forward in the right direction.
Short-term “Got the Job” Steps:
A few steps are critical to meet expectations facing you; others might be nice to do but not so critical. The following are just a few of the critical steps:
- If you haven’t already done so (you should have, if possible), get acquainted with not only those who will report to you (if any) and those to whom you will report, but also your peers in various parts of the company. One way to avoid stepping on an on-the-job landmine is to become knowledgeable about your territory and the other players as soon as possible.
- Make sure you know the short-term goals your boss has in mind for you and your group (again, this ideally should have been done before you accepted the offer, but now is better than later). Begin scoping out the most urgent challenges connected with achieving those goals. Look at them also in terms of how they are likely to fit in with the longer-term goals (more on that in a minute), so you aren’t proceeding in a haphazard manner that could cause disaster.
- Identify the resources you will need to achieve the short-term goals and where those resources exist. If a resource isn’t readily available, start working on finding out where you can tap into it.
Long-term “Got the Job” Steps:
Success in your new job is somewhat like trying to hit a moving target. You can never really say, “I’ve made it! Now I can coast or rest on my laurels.” As with the short-term steps, this stage of your progress depends on taking well-thought-out action on a consistent basis, including the following steps:
- You probably know already that your boss expects you to have an action plan covering more than just the next few months. If that expectation hasn’t been clearly stated, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting with your boss to clarify it and ensure that any actions you decide to take will support his or her expectations. Waiting until your first review to find out that you’ve missed the target is a bad idea!
- Look at the current situation, probable near-term events and possible trends that might be emerging in your company, industry, and so on. Assess those as realistically as you can and take them into account when doing your strategic, long-range planning. It’s impossible to know everything, but being aware of potential roadblocks ahead of time is much better than having them smack you in the face.
- Begin networking within your organization just as you would to land a new job. The more key relationships you can establish internally, the better your prospects should be within the organization in terms of potential career opportunities. At the same time, pay careful attention to pivotal relationships outside your company–existing and potential customers, vendors and partners. Remember: Your next career move could be out rather than up.
Find or Create Opportunities for Career Success
On rare occasions, a good opportunity might seem to just fall into your lap. However, there’s usually a way to trace that back to something you did or didn’t do earlier. Keep that in mind and watch for promising opportunities by seeing potential that others overlook and turning that potential into a resounding success story.
I just returned from an annual professional conference put on by Career Directors International (focused on the careers industry and resume writers/career coaches in particular). The conference has given me a huge amount of potentially valuable information to increase my business effectiveness and enable me to do an even better job of assisting my clients on their success path.
My head is still spinning from all the information that needs to be absorbed, evaluated, prioritized and (possibly) implemented. Thinking about this caused me to consider the topic of professional conferences and their potential impact on your career. The result is this post, which contains ideas for you to consider in your own situation.
5 Reasons to Consider Professional Conferences
Not all industries and professions have conferences, but if yours does and you haven’t attended any, you might want to give serious thought to doing so. Of course, if your industry or professional conference has a reputation for being a time-waster, you might look at other possibilities that could benefit you professionally. Here are just 5 reasons to consider attending at least one professional conference each year:
- Opportunities for learning and growth can abound–not only in the formal sessions and workshops but also in the between-sessions networking that often takes place.
- Active engagement and participation can increase your visibility and credibility as a serious professional in your field.
- Putting into practice even a few of the gold nuggets you glean from a conference can enable you to negotiate higher compensation from your employer or increase your client revenue over time if you’re self-employed.
- You might gain access to potential mentors who would be willing to help you expand your capabilities and advance along your chosen career path more quickly and smoothly than you could do alone.
- Conferences often provide a wealth of information about what’s going on in the industry or profession, as well as outside it–long-term trends, troubling developments that bear watching, promising areas that would be worth investigating, and so on.
Challenges that Could Keep You from Attending Professional Conferences
As a long-time conference attender, I can vouch for the fact that it can get expensive in terms of the direct costs associated with the conference–travel, accommodations, conference registration, etc. It can also pose some challenges with regard to taking the time off to attend.
If you’re self-employed, that means you’ll need to find a way to make the conference pay for itself in the results it enables you to achieve for your business. On the other hand, if you’re employed by a company, you’ll need to make a strong case to your employer for the probable benefit to the company of sending you to the conference. In other words, what’s their likely ROI from paying your expenses and managing without you for the required length of time?
Tip: The opportunity to represent your company in a positive manner to others and make connections that can benefit your organization can serve as a compelling argument. Making connections that will help you advance in your career (possibly outside the company) does not!
You might be tempted to throw a big, impromptu celebration when you receive a job offer–especially if it comes at the end of a long drought (prolonged unemployment). However, although I am generally an optimist, I caution clients to hold off on the celebration until a few key hurdles have been overcome. It really is better (and safer) to wait until then, because sometimes you hit a stumbling-block in what you thought would be a smooth path.
When a Job Offer isn’t an Offer
A phone call telling you that you’re being offered the job you interviewed for is certainly a good first step, but that’s all it is. You need to see the offer in writing–on company letterhead and signed by someone in authority–in order to evaluate what’s being offered and whether, among other things, it’s what you thought you had agreed to. For instance, you might have indicated you would accept a slightly lower salary than you’d really hoped for, with the understanding that you would receive a salary review–not just a performance evaluation–at the six-month mark. However, if that agreement isn’t spelled out in the offer letter, it could be disputed later on. The person who agreed to the arrangement might leave the company in three months, and whoever takes over for that person has no record of such an arrangement and might refuse to honor it.
Having the terms in writing isn’t an ironclad protection, of course. Companies have been known to renege on agreements that were in writing, and unless you’re prepared to pursue the matter legally (which many employees aren’t), you’re out of luck. But if you don’t have it in writing, you have even less of a leg to stand on.
Think Before You Leap to Accept a Job Offer
As I’ve said before, you should probably evaluate the terms of the offer letter carefully to decide whether or not you really want to accept the offer. You also should consider whether you want to try to negotiate any of the terms to gain a little more benefit from them. I’m not talking about being greedy or pushing the envelope so hard that the company decides maybe it can’t justify hiring you after all. On the other hand, if you blindly accept a job offer with one or more shortcomings that will cost you down the road, make you sorry you took the job, etc., that price could be higher than you’d want to pay–if you thought about it carefully beforehand.
If you really like the company and the job they’re offering, it’s okay to let the company know that; however, if you have reservations about the terms of the offer, your message of enthusiasm should be tempered with a note or two of caution. For example: “I’m excited about the prospect of taking on this challenge and helping XYZ company’s sales department achieve record-breaking results. However, I’m a little concerned that the compensation arrangement we discussed in my interview appears to have a significant difference with what the offer letter states. Can we discuss how to take care of this satisfactorily, so I can accept the offer?”
Once you’ve worked out any bugs in the job offer, then you can celebrate!
According to Wikipedia, here is the definition of a value proposition: A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced. A value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services. However, you might not be aware that you, too, need a value proposition when you are planning a job search or fine-tuning your career management. You might not be selling a product or service as such, but in a sense YOU are the product, and the customer (prospective employer) needs to develop a belief that he/she can actually experience the value you have to offer.
Your Unique Personal Value Proposition
As the saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” When the idea for this blog topic came to me, I thought, “I’ll bet other people have already written about it in relation to job searching or career management.” Sure enough, I came across an article by Bill Barnett published in the Harvard Business Review Blog in 2011, titled “Build Your Personal Value Proposition.” In his article, Barnett sets out four steps to creating your own value proposition:
- Set a clear target. The PVP begins with a target, one that needs what you have to offer. You’ll prefer some directions, not others.
- Identify your strengths.
- Tie your strengths to your target position. Don’t leave it up to the employer to figure out how your strengths relate to what she needs.
- Provide evidence and success stories.
I would add to this the comment that your goal is not only to develop your personal value proposition but also to distinguish yourself from your competition. If, on the face of it, you do essentially the same job that many other people do and your resume (or other marketing documents) doesn’t distinguish your value from theirs, you’re missing the mark. For instance, the CEO of Apple Computer and the CEO of Chevron might do many of the same things as leaders of their respective corporations, but you can bet they’re far from being mirror images of each other. By the same token, the CEO of a boutique PR firm would perform differently and bring different value to his/her role than either of them.
Building Blocks of your Value Proposition
Barnett’s article provides some clear ideas about how to develop your value proposition. It’s up to you, of course, to pull together the building blocks of that value proposition and make it both believable and compelling to readers (employers). As an example, if you pulled off a feat that was the corporate equivalent of walking on water, you need to find a way of presenting your accomplishment that won’t make readers say, “Oh, yeah? In your dreams!” More than likely, you had help somewhere along the way–you might have built, motivated and guided the hard-working team that carried out your vision and turned it into reality, earning you the title of “miracle worker.” In your recounting of that success story, then, you want to be sure you give full credit to your team for their contribution.
Actually, your ability to inspire the record-setting achievements of others might turn out to be a core element of your value proposition, especially if the people you inspired weren’t performing at nearly such a stellar level before your arrival on the scene.
Why would employers hire you instead of other well-qualified candidates? When you finish identifying your building blocks and assembling them effectively into your unique value proposition, you’ll have a pretty good answer to that very important question.