Your Year-End…Professionally Speaking

New Year in London

Before you break out the party hats and festive beverages for that year-end office celebration, you might want to give some thought to where this year has taken you professionally and what you want next year to look like. While your “wants” won’t necessarily predetermine how the new year plays out, failure to take them into consideration when making your career management plans could leave you with having next year look pretty much like this year.

If this year was great, that’s fine. But what if it wasn’t so hot?

Job Satisfaction and Career Progress

We tend to feel more satisfied with situations in which we have a sense of control, at least to a reasonable degree. A job situation that makes you feel as if you’re at the complete mercy of factors beyond your control will probably leave you with a strong sense of job DIS-satisfaction. If you’ve been stuck in that kind of situation this year, now might be a good time to plan and execute some steps to address the root of your frustration and at least open up some possibilities for forward movement.

Frustration

Job satisfaction and career progress don’t happen through passive endurance of undesirable circumstances on the job. No matter how much you do the “moan and groan” routine, it won’t change (improve) your situation, and waiting for someone else to wave a magic wand and transform your situation simply isn’t productive. In fact, it’s actually counter-productive, because that false hope can fool you into thinking something good is bound to happen, when you’re not doing anything to help it along.

How to Have a Productive Year-End Celebration

Now that you’ve recognized the futility of waiting and crossing your fingers for a better year next year, how do you go about ensuring that you have a productive year-end celebration, one that will leave you feeling much more satisfied than a brief (and maybe disastrous) blow-out at the annual holiday office party?

One key requirement is that you develop a clear sense of purpose, enhanced with a healthy dose of realism. You take the time and make the effort to identify and analyze what didn’t go well this year. Then you assess what needs to be different (i.e., better) next year and how big a gap there is between that point and where you are now.

Celebrate Even if You’re Not Employed?

It might seem a lot easier to plan a year-end celebration that’s satisfying when you’re currently employed and reasonably secure in your position. However, even if you’re not employed, a celebration isn’t impossible and might improve your chances of having a better year ahead. I’m not just talking about positive thinking here, although that can’t hurt. What I’m referring to is looking at your situation from the view that things do need to change and that you can take steps to help make that happen.

As the saying goes, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” That doesn’t preclude you from having help along the way–such help can be invaluable to your job search and ultimate career success. It simply means that you need to be the one who takes charge and begins to plan and implement active job search steps designed to get you unstuck and moving ahead in your professional life. Take a fresh look at what you’ve been doing or not doing–maybe you’re missing something.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before the end of this week, my blog will be moved to my newly renovated resume website. I invite and encourage you to take a look at it there and bookmark it so you can find it again easily.


What Makes You a Satisfied Employee?

Job satisfaction can be hard to measure, and it can fluctuate depending on what’s going on in your work and/or personal life at the time. However, if you’re feeling unsatisfied at work over an extended period, that’s not a good sign!

Companies theoretically worry about this kind of thing. Unsatisfied employees tend to be less productive, have a negative attitude more of the time, jump ship as soon as they can find a “better” opportunity, and so on. However, not all employers take employee job satisfaction as seriously as they should–and as you might like them to.

Employee Development and Employee Satisfaction

One gauge of an employer’s commitment to having satisfied employees is the quality and availability of employee development programs. For example, does your employer offer on-the-job training–that is, actual time-scheduled workshops or other resources during the work-day? Does the company provide reimbursement for off-site/after-hours educational programs that could advance your professional capabilities and value?

In today’s tough economic climate and challenging business conditions, these questions aren’t just rhetorical. A lot of companies have pulled away from offering such programs at all, and even some of the better companies have scaled back their offerings. That might be understandable, but it’s also probably short-sighted in terms of employee retention concerns.

According to an article by Ashlie Turley titled “Employee Development is More Important Than Ever,” a survey by CareerBuilder in January indicated that “32% of businesses lost top talent in 2012 and 39% believe they’ll lose top performers in 2013. The survey also found that 25% of workers expect to change jobs in 2013 or 2014.”

This isn’t news to you if you’re one of those in that 25%. You’re probably already looking for greener pastures or are planning to start in the near future if you don’t have much hope that your current employer will come up with better offerings soon.

So What Would Make You a Satisfied Employee?

I suggest it starts with feeling appreciated/valued by your current employer and seeing potential for career growth and advancement within the company. Turley’s article states that employees, “especially the high achievers, don’t just want an employer who will compensate them for what they already know. They want an employer who will help them learn and achieve something new. Employees realize that remaining stagnant in today’s workforce is career suicide, and they are looking for companies that understand this reality and are prepared to help them grow.”

Career suicide. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. Sounds like something I “preach” to clients a lot! If you can’t grow where you are, but you stay there because you feel stuck or you’re in a rut that has become more comfortable than moving on would be, you will almost certainly end up regretting it eventually. Your marketability to potential employers can decline over time if you can’t point to a career-savvy reason for having stayed where you were for so long.

That being said, when was the last time you took a good, hard look at your satisfaction level in your current position? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just been too busy to pay attention or have been consciously or unconsciously ignoring the situation. Either way, I encourage you to give serious thought to whether or not you are a satisfied employee and, if not, what it would take to make you one–where you are now or somewhere else. Maybe it’s time to dust off your job search skills!


Emotional Intelligence and Job Success

The first time I came across the term “emotional intelligence” (EI) in connection with the work world, I thought, “What?” Shows how much I know–or knew then, anyway. Since that time, I’ve been reading more about the concept and have found it quite interesting and informative. Although there are probably a gazillion articles published about the topic, you can get a good sense of what it involves and what it could mean to your job success by reading just a few of them. I encourage you to spend at least a few minutes doing that in the near future.

Emotional Intelligence Makes Better Leaders

One of the most recent articles I read about emotional intelligence, “Secret Weapon: How to Strengthen the Most Valuable Job Skill” by Amanda Ebokosia, provides some enlightening and potentially useful information about EI. In doing so, Ebokosia also references an analysis conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and mentions Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence. These are good sources of information, but you don’t have to read the full university study or Goleman’s entire book to get some sense of what they’re saying.

How does emotional intelligence make better leaders? You might not plan to be a leader–some people are perfectly happy and well suited to being followers, and after all, leaders need to have followers or they’re not leaders. However, even non-leaders could benefit from learning how emotional intelligence can help with job success.

Here’s what the article has to say about it (based on the VCU study): “For managers or senior executives, high EI usually corresponds with a good job performance. For employees it often leads to better decision-making abilities, job satisfaction and completion of goals….Leaders with good EI gain the benefits of creating a harmonious work environment while boosting job performance among staff.”

What is EI?

Ebokosia references Goleman’s belief that EI consists of five primary domains:

  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulate
  • Social skills
  • Self-awareness

One of these concepts that I found particularly interesting was self-regulate. (The nit-picker in me notes that it should really say self-regulation to fit the noun form of the other four terms.) If you’re a leader or aspiring to be one, this concept could be critical. It’s not enough to behave well when someone is more or less forcing you to do that. You need to be able to control your own behavior–both your thoughts and your actions–and make them work for you in a constructive way.

As the article indicates, while it’s true that good leaders can “buckle under pressure and have breakdowns,” it’s also true that “a person with high EI and control over their emotions can effectively find solutions and operate with clarity.”

Emotional Intelligence Matters to Job Success

Before you dismiss this as “touchy-feely” stuff that doesn’t pertain to you, I urge you to look further into the subject. Emotions and their related actions have long been proven to have a potentially huge impact–positively or negatively–on what you experience and how the things you do affect those around you. EI is certainly relevant in that context. If you understand it and incorporate awareness of it into the steps you take going forward in your job and career, job success could be more certain for you than it has been in the past–at least as certain as anything can be in the world today!


Job Fit: Things You Should Know

How good a fit is the job you have now? The one you’re pursuing or interviewing for? While we’re at it, how good a fit is the company itself–your current employer or the one you’re aiming for next? If you haven’t asked yourself these questions yet, you really should. Failure to identify the answers can lead to failure in the job because it or the company isn’t a good fit for you, or vice-versa.

A few years ago I took training to become a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS). The core training resource was a book called Job Search Magic, by Susan Whitcomb. I’ve used that book and its principles countless times since then to help clients focus their job search effectively. In view of the current challenging economy and changing work world, I thought it was time to revisit some of its ideas that you might not be familiar with.

External “F.I.T.” and Its Relationship to Your Job Fit

According to Job Search Magic, your Career “Master F.I.T.(TM)” consists of two kinds: external and internal. For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to touch on the external kind. Whitcomb presents F.I.T. as standing for Function (what you want and would like to do), Interests or Industry (where and with whom you want to do those things), and Things That Matter (values and priorities that are critical for your best performance).

Looking at this concept in the light of your current job, for instance, does the job require you to spend time doing something you really dislike, such as working more with numbers than people? That probably means that a primary function of your job is not a good fit for you. If you knew that going in, maybe you assumed it wouldn’t be a big enough deal to bother you much, but now you know better. When you plan your next job search, therefore, you’ll want to keep in mind that fairly extensive people interaction is a primary goal for you, and a job that doesn’t offer it is likely to be one you won’t be happy with.

A passionate interest in a particular field or industry might be the motivator you need to pursue certain job opportunities. For example, if you’ve always been a nature lover and care deeply about protecting our wildlife, you might seek a job as a park ranger or game warden. On the other hand, holding a position as a claims adjuster in the auto insurance industry might make you increasingly reluctant to show up for work! The disparity between the field or industry you’re most interested in and the one in which you work is too great for long-term satisfaction.

Finally, if the job you hold or the company where you work involves violating principles that are important to you or doesn’t provide conditions you consider essential, your job fit doesn’t look encouraging. Your job satisfaction will probably decline significantly, and your performance is likely to suffer. That’s a potentially slippery slope to involuntary termination (firing) or impulsive departure (emotionally driven resignation).

How to Maximize Your Job Fit

Think carefully about what you want to do and what you do not want to do. Both are important. Consider what your ideal job and ideal company might look like, if you could have everything you wanted. Then prioritize your “wants.” Finally, get “real” and determine which or how much of those you can realistically shoot for in your next job, based on your strengths, experience and other key factors. That’s your starting-point to evaluate both your current position and the next one you want to target.