Probably most of us want to achieve success in our chosen career. That’s a normal part of human nature, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, if career success at any price is your motivator, you might be barreling along in the wrong direction. After all, you don’t get to go back and do your life over if you mess it up the first time and finish without making a major change in direction.
You and Ebeneezer Scrooge
If you’re familiar with Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” you know that Scrooge was visited by the three Ghosts of Christmas because he had spent his adult life focusing on squeezing every cent he could out of people in his business and ignoring the human relationship factor as irrelevant to successful living. Only when he got a good wake-up call did he make a major change.
Now, I’m not suggesting that those of you reading this are actually like Scrooge! On the other hand, if you’ve been cherishing a vision of your career success that focuses on it to the exclusion of other factors–including those that can’t be measured monetarily, you might want to take some quiet time over the holidays to explore whether that’s really the way you want to pursue success.
Career Success NOT At Any Price
Speaking personally, I was pretty sure when I started my business 20+ years ago that I wouldn’t be one of those people who became multimillionaires or even a millionaire. I also knew that was okay with me, because what I loved then about what I do (and still love) was the immense pleasure and satisfaction of working with clients who needed and valued my expert help. Yes, I wanted to earn a decent living and have, but that’s not what gets me going every morning.
This outlook has kept me moving through many challenges over the years. Along with it is the understanding that I need to do the best I can for everyone in my life–family, friends and clients–as well as for myself, because as I said earlier, I don’t get a chance to go back and re-do it.
To quote a Quaker missionary, Etienne de Grellet (1773-1855), “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
I can live with that!
In terms of your ongoing career success, it’s great to look back over the past–just don’t live there. At this time of year, when so many people are preparing to wind some things down and get ready for the new year, you might want to take a look at what has gone right for you this year and what hasn’t. That’s fine. A periodic career review can provide beneficial insights that enable you to move forward. But your next step should be to think about what that means for the coming year and jettison anything that doesn’t have potential to be useful for your career advancement in the future.
In other words, don’t carry excess baggage into the new year. When you take too much baggage on an airplane, you get dinged $$$ for the excess. With regard to your career, hanging on to memories or experiences that won’t help you progress brings its own penalty. It can keep you focused on the wrong aspects of your career and stall or derail your advancement.
Set Goals, Not New Year’s Resolutions
Resolution: “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”
Goal: “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.”
What I noticed about the definition of “resolution” was that it refers to a decision, not a plan of action, although it’s described as a firm decision. On the other hand, the definition of “goal” indicates that effort is being expended toward the target outcome. That suggests that one possible reason so many New Year’s resolutions fail is that there was no plan and no accompanying effort to achieve them.
What does this mean for you and your year-end career review? For starters, you can focus more on setting goals and matching those with the actions needed to help you get there and less on the “I would love to be [whatever your desired outcome is] next year” (aka wishful thinking, which sometimes masquerades as a resolution).
Career Progress Through Change, Not Chance
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” (Jim Rohn)
While you’re engaged in your year-end career review, you might want to keep Rohn’s quote in mind. If you fall into the trap of living in the past and hoping something will happen to make the next year better, you’re counting on chance, which at best provides uncertain support. Instead, you can create a vision that builds challenging but achievable goals into the picture and develop an action plan to change whatever you have determined needs to change in order for you to achieve real, sustainable career progress.
Now that’s worth doing!
All of us as human beings have biases. Some people just have more or stronger ones than others. That’s not always a problem. However, if you’re engaged in an active job search or planning one, biased interviewers can definitely pose a huge problem.
Ways in Which Biased Interviewers Can Hurt You
An article by Greg Moran on RecruitingTrends.com, “Three Tips for Managing Biases that Destroy the Interview Process,” points out some critical elements of this situation from the perspective of HR and hiring managers, but it’s worth reading as a job seeker.
Moran asks some pertinent questions, such as, “Did you ever feel like you were asked questions that had more to do with the personal interests of each interviewer versus the job itself? Similarly, did you ever sense you were selected to interview not because you had all of the right skills for the job but because the hiring manager liked just one characteristic on your resume…?”
Biased interviewers could keep you from being seriously considered for a position that’s a great match for your qualifications. On the flip side, if they like something about you, they could help you land a position that you really aren’t that well suited for–which is almost sure to end up as a disaster. Either way, the outcome of those interviews hasn’t done you any favors.
What About Your Interview Biases?
Not only do you have to contend with possibly biased interviewers in a job search but also with your own interview biases–or biases that have affected other key aspects of your job search.
As Moran’s article puts it, “For example, candidates may unintentionally overvalue or undervalue their performance accomplishments on a previous job [on the resume or in an interview]. Hence, such miscommunication is likely to inaccurately rank a candidate because the interviewer will either wrongly disqualify or qualify them….”
How to Overcome Interview Biases
Moran offers a few tips for interviewers in this regard:
- Adequately Leverage a Comprehensive and Job-relevant Profile.
- Construct and Utilize Interview Questions that Verify Job-relevant Criteria.
- Organize Data and Verify It to Improve the Decision Making Process.
From your standpoint as the job seeker, I suggest considering at least the following:
- Review posted job requirements as impartially as you can, to make sure you’re not fooling yourself about your chances. If you don’t feel able to do this on your own, consult someone whose opinion and objectivity you respect.
- Conduct the thorough research you should already be doing for companies and positions you want to pursue, but consider the information specifically in the light of the interview process. What kind of questions might the interviewer ask you that you haven’t yet figured out a realistic answer to or that your research hasn’t yet revealed an answer to? How does that play against your personal biases?
- Take advantage of the pre-screening phone interview as an opportunity to gather a little advance information yourself, instead of treating it as a one-way street with the caller asking all the questions. If what you learn sends up a red flag for you, maybe you have a bias you need to be aware of and work around or possibly you will decide not to pursue the position after all.
Is there such a thing as mistake-free career management and job search? In a perfect world, maybe; however, you probably don’t live in a perfect world, so the odds are that you’ll make a mistake here and there throughout your career. That said, you can certainly make a concerted effort to avoid mistakes that have a devastating (or even somewhat disrupting) effect on your professional career progress.
Two Mistakes to Avoid
I could list dozens of career management and job search mistakes that my clients (and I, in a former life) have made over the years. The full list might make for depressing reading, but I do want to mention a few, starting with what I might call the “top two.”
- Assume that you can always be in control–and “manage” your career and jobs from that mindset.
- Assume that you’re never going to be in control–and “manage” your career and jobs from that mindset.
I firmly believe that no one–up to and including senior managers and executives–can control every aspect of his/her career progress and job performance. On the other hand, savvy career managers and job seekers know they can exert substantial impact in those areas. In short: you can and should avoid the two mistakes just mentioned.
Five Other Career Management and Job Search Mistakes to Avoid
- Fail to track your progress toward goals–or fail to establish achievable goals in the first place. That can lead to wandering aimlessly and never reaching the desired outcome.
- Believe that others are responsible for your progress or lack thereof. Undeniably, others can have an impact–sometimes a significant one–but that doesn’t mean you should abdicate your responsibility to manage your own career or job search.
- Ignore warning signs that trouble lies ahead, whether in your group, your company, your industry or the world at large.
- Become complacent when everything seems to be going smoothly. Yes, enjoy the ride while it lasts, but don’t assume it will last indefinitely.
- Put all your eggs in one basket. Just as your company can’t afford the risk of depending on one major customer for its long-term success, so you can’t and shouldn’t depend on your company to provide long-term career success and financial prosperity.
Mistake-Free Career Management and Job Search? Seriously?
As we enter the last month of 2013, consider this: If you want something to change for the better in your job or your career, you need to put serious muscle behind making that happen. So, what are you going to do about that? You can start by avoiding the mistakes I’ve mentioned or identifying others you might have made in the past and taking remedial action to prevent repeating them. You can’t pass the responsibility off to someone else. It’s up to you–Santa isn’t going to put it underneath your Christmas tree!