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How To Take Control Of Your Career Development In 6 Easy Ways

The DIY concept is not new. We have DIY for home improvements, personal makeovers, self help, and pretty much any every art or creative activity known. There are instructional videos, plugins, plug and play option to do just about anything you can think about and we are so comfortable with this. We don’t think it is strange or unusual at all. In fact by all accounts we love it. We like the idea of learning to do new things and finding our how-to by simply popping the question into a search engine.

But how many of us think about a DIY option for our careers. Research suggests that many people are still leaving this crucial element of our lives in the hands of a manager. Many people are still asking what can you do for me. The truth is the days when“personal development” was treated as a major company initiative is long gone.Organizations today are unknowingly leaving employees with skill gaps and blind spots that can derail their careers and an organizations effectiveness. Managers aren’t helping either because they are too worried about their own hides. Many managers don’t have time or energy or interest to focus on anyone else’s needs.

We are now in the era of do-it-yourself career development. Companies less frequently offer formal training — a trend that has been around for years. This may be because employees change jobs so frequently (job tenure now averages about four years) that firms don’t see the value in investing in people who are likely to leave. Korn Ferry found that when managers rated themselves on 67 managerial skills, “developing others” came in dead last.

Ideally, organizations should do more to foster career development: encourage more-immediate feedback, develop clear performance criteria, deliver developmental feedback with clarity and tact, and provide resources and incentives for managers to make employee development a priority. The reality however, is this burden is on employees. Workers at all levels must learn to identify their weaknesses, uncover their blind spots, and strengthen their skills. Employees must drive their own development within an organisation.

Here are six things you can do to take control of your career development.

Understand what you are evaluated on. What does success look like in your position? What are your job goals and success metrics? It’s best to identify these with your manager, but if that’s not happening, then write down what you understand the goals and key performance indicators to be. Have the discussion with manager and  get their agreement. Engage in an ongoing dialogue to ensure you stay on the right track. Knowing what you will be measured on will keep the guess work out of your performance.

Solve for your own blind spots. Top performers are always learning and adjusting, and routinely seek feedback from their managers, peers, and subordinates. If your manager doesn’t proactively give you feedback, start the conversation yourself. After a presentation or big meeting, state one thing that you think went well, and then ask for advice on one thing you could improve. It’s best to keep it simple; most people can only absorb one area to improve at a time. Listen to and thank your manager for the feedback. Becoming an active participant in your career development will encourage your manage to have progressively more interest in the type of support you may need.

Codify your leanings. You can capture feedback and learning by keeping a journal. List the five to 10 skills or competencies you need to develop in your position.Rate yourself (either on your own or with the help of a trusted adviser) on each. For example, if you’re a brand marketer, you might give yourself an A in advertising development, a B+ in pricing analysis, and a C in trade marketing. Focus on the C’s to close skill gaps. Seeking feedback from someone who previously held your job can speed up your learning. Continuously monitoring your own performance will allow you to recognise your areas of improvement and your areas of expertise.

Increase your visibility with the C-suite. It’s not always possible to get noticed by senior leaders through your direct work.Avail yourself to do some volunteering for initiatives, such as charity work, company events, or other activities in the organisation. This is an easy but often overlooked way to rub elbows with senior people who will see you in action and ideally take notice of your contributions. Remember the people in the C-suite are almost never blissfully oblivious despite the impression they may give. They did not get there by being unaware of what is happening around them.

Become a specialist in an area of increasing importance to your company. Your company may be grappling with a disruption from a new technology such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, or cloud-based computing. Become the go-to person in your department on an emerging issue. Conduct research and literature reviews, attend conferences, or write on the topic. Developing expertise in a nascent area of growing importance can lead to promotions and other career opportunities. Specialists are noticed and because they stand out they have a skill or competence that generalists don’t have. They are also seen as an authority in a field or subject and often the specialists get paid better than the generalists.

Seek good counsel and mentoring. The perspective of a senior person is invaluable, but pouncing on someone — “Will you be my mentor?” — is likely to scare them off. Try to meet in an informal way: in the coffee shop in your company’s lobby, or at the company picnic or golf outing. Know the person’s bio, and be prepared to ask a few good questions related to their area of expertise. If things go well, you’ll hear, “If I can help you, let me know.” A week or so later, you can extend an invitation to “continue the conversation” over coffee. In time, a mentor relationship may develop organically.Generally people who have been around and have the knowledge and experience are only too happy to teach and share their expertise with someone who is willing to learn.

Strong functional skills take time to develop. In most positions, whether it’s enterprise sales, brand marketing, supply chain logistics, or corporate finance, being competent often consists of having deep functional knowledge in four or five key job areas and a good working knowledge in another four or five. Without the willingness to take multiple assignments, or even strategic lateral moves, a well-rounded skill set will be elusive. It takes time and it takes patience.

Your skill set is ultimately your career capital, so take the time to develop your functional skills. Jumping from job to job too quickly (say, in 18-month or two-year increments) won’t allow you to develop the functional expertise you need to advance your career. With time, a lot of patience, a willingness to continuously improve your skills, and by taking the initiative, you are far more likely to thrive in this DIY world. Remember it is your Life, your Career don’t leave it in someone elses hands.

DIY doesn’t not mean you have to do it on your own. It simply means Drive it Yourself.

How Does Career Coaching Work?

Career coaching sounds like a good idea, in theory. We’re familiar with the concept of coaching as most of us have had a sports coach at some point in our lives. Having a personal trainer or workout coach has become a popular trend for many as well. If you’ve ever had a coach, then you know the benefit of having someone there who knows something about your current fitness, your past experiences, your future goals and keeping you on track and focused to achieve those goals.

I don’t know many people who would attempt to get involved in a new sport without the benefit of someone to coach them. Someone who can help them to understand the rules of the game, gain some basic techniques, and understand winning strategies.

However, when it comes to our careers we tend to think or believe  that we can and should go it alone.

At first glance, it may seem that people are too proud, or too confident to ask for help. However, with a little deeper investigation, it’s clear that people don’t really understand what a career coach does, or how a career coach can help their unique situation.

To help clear up some of the confusion, and answer some of the most commonly asked questions, I have answered the top 8 questions for anyone looking for a new job or career transition of any sort.

Q: How exactly does career coaching work?

A. Seeking the advice of a career coach is one of the best ways to lift your job search efforts to the next level, and shorten the time you spend in transition. Whether you’re looking for a new job, or hoping to move up in your current position, career coaches can help you devise the best strategic plan and set actionable goals based on your unique situation, skills, expertise, and career goals.

Q: What can a career coach do that you can’t do on your own?

A: While many of us rely on friends and family to be our sounding board and provide those all important sanity checks these amazing people are not going always able to see us as a hiring manager would. Having an accurate image of yourself in terms of the job market is what a career coach offers you. Coaches are there to see you as hiring managers, recruiters, and your professional networks see you. They provide the advice and guidance you need to establish a professional image and strategy that will get you hired.

Q: How do I find a qualified career coach?

A. Decide what is important for you in terms of what a coach can provide for you. Like many industries there are those who are ‘qualified and certified’. While an alphabet ( CPCC, ACC/PCC/MCC/SHRM/HCRI) of certifications behind ones name is elaborate and impressive the choice should always be based on what you want to get out of a coaching process whether there is an alphabet soup or not. A credible coach is one whose expertise is tailored to your needs.

Ask your potential coach if he or she has experience coaching people through any of these scenarios that are applicable to you:

  • Major career moves
  • Career transitioning
  • Creative retirement
  • Redeployment within a company
  • Joining the gig economy
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Or a situation which you are facing in your career

In addition, look for a career coach that has the industry and functional knowledge that matches your career goals. If you’ve been laid off, or are at a company going through restructuring, you may not necessarily want to find another job in the same industry or in the same role. If you’re ready to transition into something different, be sure your coach has the experience necessary to help you make the change you’re seeking.

Q: Do you have any stories that demonstrate the effectiveness of coaching?

I have so many success stories to share, but here are two that stand out to me.

Carmen’s story: When Carmen started her engagement with one of career coaches she was traumatized and felt that she didn’t have any value. After speaking to her, the coach found out she had several high-revenue wins at her company that simply weren’t valued or acknowledged by management. She consistently made her company several million dollars over five years despite working in the contracts department, which is usually a cost-centre, not a revenue generator. Together, we worked to get her up to speed with her professional image, self-marketing documents, and interviewing skills. In addition to building her self-esteem Jane and her coach worked together for 3 months and she interviewed at six or seven places with multiple rounds, and then received an offer you simply could not refuse.

Christine’s story: When Christine started with her coach, she immediately let her coach know she had very severe environmental allergies and related health issues that literally affected her ability to leave home. She was violently allergic to specific plants and had to use a nebulizer four times a day, which added to her restrictions. In addition she had an immune deficiency which added to and complicated matters significantly. When she had her first call with her coach, she was very concerned and lacked the confidence that she would find an opportunity where she’d have the flexibility to work from home. To start, her coach helped her re-frame her perspective and focus not on her restrictive medical conditions, but on the value she brings an organization. Over the next four weeks, they worked together to create a target company list. Within one month, she was offered her dream job where she works exclusively from home!

My coach provided me the motivation and attitude change I really needed to  effectively search for a job that suited my  needs. She gave me the tools and shared insight and inside knowledge of how company recruiting works so I could modify my approach,” she said.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who has been offered career coaching as part of a severance package?

First, I would say – Accept the help you’re being offered. If your employer has enlisted the help of an outplacement provider who matches you with a career coach, you’ll get the time, support, and expert advice you need to make a successful transition to a new job faster. It’s a mistake to let your emotional reaction to your situation cloud your judgement and ignore this valuable service that is being paid for by your company.

Some organizations may provide you with a coach as part of a structured development and career growth plan. Taking advantage of the opportunity to use a career coach can help you identify growth opportunities and stay on track with a personalized professional growth plan. Your career coach can help you identify professional growth options, such as:

  • Further education
  • Skills development opportunities
  • Openings to expand responsibilities
  • Possible cross-functional duties and projects

Companies that are providing coaching for their employees during workforce transitions may also engage career coaches to provide support related to resiliency. If offered, use your career coach to help you develop the skills you need to process change – whether that change is by choice or by force.

Learning how to deal with change is a skill you can use in many aspects of your life. Companies who do provide coaching and resiliency training understand that when resiliency can be developed as a skill by individuals, the company will benefit.

During a time of transition, your coach can work with you to establish a personal transition plan, set short- and long-term goals for the transition, and identify the benefits and expected outcomes of the transition.

Q: What exactly does a career coach do?

A career coach is there to meet you where you are and move you to the next level in your career or job search. They can provide insightful answers to specific questions, help you address a specific challenge that you’ve identified, such as salary negotiation skills, or give you the advice and guidance you need to polish your job search skills and refine your approach to looking for a job.A qualified career coach will be able to help you boost your image and develop the strategies and skills you need to land a job that best fits your abilities and desires.

Specifically, look to a career coach to provide any of the following:

  • Winning job search strategies
  • Interviewing strategies and troubleshooting
  • Mock interview practice
  • Advice to improve your digital profile
  • Social media image development
  • Networking strategies and advice
  • Salary negotiation skills
  • Career identification
  • Develop a strong personal brand that communicates your value
  • Ascertain opportunities
  • Prioritize options
  • Bring clarity to your myriad of career questions
  • Create a career plan
  • Provide resources and tools to put your plan into action
  • Career goal setting

Everyone needs a coach. A great coach will help you think beyond the limitations you’ve set for yourself and be there to guide you and cheer you on. See yourself as your teammates, recruiters, and hiring mangers see you – through the eyes of a coach who will find the best in you and help you to show your best to others.

The core virtue of career coaching is to help people assess their professional situations with a greater degree of honesty, curiosity, empathy and compassion.

 

Here are the most common misconceptions about career coaching?

 

My top three?

  • That a well-done résumé is all you need to conduct an effective job search.
  • A career coaches will actually find you a job.
  • You only have to attend a single career-coaching session … and your job challenges will be resolved. It actually takes about eight to 10 hours of coaching for the typical client to begin internalizing the key benefits of coaching.

 

Realistic expectations for working with a career coach?

 

 

  • By and large, clients can reasonably expect to gain career confidence, insight, encouragement and inspiration.

  • They should also feel as if the coaching relationship grants them some permission to relax a bit. Job searching can create a fair amount of anxiety, fear and vulnerability in people, and I often work with clients to unwrap those emotions so they can better understand how these factors may be keeping them stuck in the careers they hate.

  • A career coach will hold you accountable to the goals you have set for yourself. You can expect to have a crystal clear, realistic and achievable plan of action to achieve those goals quickly and efficiently when you work with a career coach,

A Bread-Winners Career Change

Women Breadwinners & Career Change: Climb, Transition or Quit? 

Woman breadwinner… Who gave you that role?  Who keeps you in that role?  What could easily erase that role?

One answer: Your job

Maybe it’s your career.  More than likely, it is your profession.  Is it your calling?  Your vision?  Your grandest purpose for your life?  Probably not… And, yet, you do it.  You do it because it pays the bills.  You do it because it feeds, clothes, and provides a roof for your family.  You do it because it’s what you know how to do well and it’s what keeps you in the current lifestyle you’re accustomed to.

But what happens when the job you are doing is killing the dreams you have?

How do you make a decision about changing, altering, or erasing a part of your identity that is the requirement for your family’s survival?

The answer most women breadwinners stuck in a career-rut choose is this:

You don’t.  You stay in the job.  You do what it takes to pay the bills.  You put your big-girl-panties on and keep moving.

That might last until your youngest child graduates from high school however, at some point, when you have done with the  status quo it annihilates your soul. What you discover is that you have hit a breaking point where you can no longer do what you do, be who you are, and still truly thrive.

Your career unhappiness affects EVERYONE around you.  

It hampers every relationship.  It slowly chips away at every dream.  At some point, if your joy is going to be a mainstay in your life, you’re going to have to make a few major decisions about your career (even when you love your career) and, usually, those decisions revolve around one of three options:

Climb? Transition? Quit?

Livelihood, salary, and compensation are critical factors in the life of a woman breadwinner.  If you’re a software engineer earning $250,000 a year and you absolutely hate it, going into work tomorrow and quitting may not be an option.  On the flip side, if you’re a teacher who adores her fifth grade class but your business analyst husband lost his job six months ago and your teacher salary can no longer carry you, your husband and children, something about your income earning potential has got to shift.

No matter what the situation, women breadwinners are far better off making PROACTIVE career decisions than reactive ones.

If you’re at a crossroads in your career, here are three key questions to ask yourself before you choose either of the three alternatives:

ALTERNATIVE 1: Climb (move up within the company)

  1. What career paths are available to you at the company you work for currently?
  2. What steps would you need to take in order to move up the corporate ladder?
  3. Would the time and energy investment you have to make into these steps be worth the outcome?
  4. How can you reality-test your fitness-for-a-different-position?

In other words, can you shadow a person who currently has the role you’d like to take on?  Can you get a mentor who’s already climbed the corporate ladder and meet with him/her thirty minutes fortnightly?  Is there an additional role within the company you can take on to “try out” the position you’d be moving towards?

How financially stable is the company?  If you were to move up in the company and get laid off at a later date, would the experiences you gained in this new role make you more viable to companies outside of your current organization?

ALTERNATIVE 2: Transition (change careers/fields)

  1. How much exposure do you have in the field/profession you are looking at going into?
  2. How can you reality test my fitness-for-a-different-position ?
  3. If you’re  moving from one sector to another, have you interned or volunteered in your new identified sector?
  4. What experiences can you take on before making a massive commitment to completely change gears in your career?
  5. What will be required to fully make this career shift?
  6. Will you need to get an additional degree or certification?  If so, how much will that cost?  How much will you have to pay
  7. How much time will you have to put in to get those things done?
  8. What will it take to get you to the same or a higher salary in this new field?  If you’re a neurosurgeon deciding to become a writer, what’s your plan for making up for the salary lost in the process?  How will you downsize your lifestyle or add additional streams of income to compensate for any lost wages as you make the shift?
  9. How willing are you to start over?
  10. When you jump from one career to a completely different one, it often requires starting from scratch which includes working in an entry level position for entry level pay.
  11. Given your family dynamics and your monthly budget, is this something you can afford to do?

ALTERNATIVE 3: Quit (quit a job you hate, one that is sucking the life out of you)

What has your current job cost you?  Be specific about the tangible costs of staying in your current position.  Have you gotten carpel tunnel syndrome?  Adrenal fatigue? Depression? Anxiety? Has your eye sight gotten worse?  Did you gain 30kgs?

Be clear on what your current job is costing you.

How much longer do you feel you can stay in your current position?  At all costs, you don’t want to get so fed up that you wake up one morning and quit.  Having an exit strategy is always the best way to go.

What is your ideal exit date?  What kind of exit strategies can you start using to make sure you’re out of the company by this day and time?

If you had to stay at this company, what could you do to improve your experience of it?

If you had a choice between staying in your current job or working for a company that paid much less but had a better working environment, what would you do?

 

At the end of the day, the best decision you can make about your career will come from four steps:

  1. Widening your options
  2. Reality test your assumptions
  3. Attaining distance (i.e. give yourself time to reflect and consider)
  4. Prepare to be wrong – knowing that no decision is permanent and that you can choose a different path at any point you choose.

Be sure that you complete each of the four above-mentioned steps and then no analysis paralysis DECIDE AND DO… It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

What does a Life-Coach do?

Have you ever been in one of those conversations with friends or colleagues where they talk about something and just assume that the topic under discussion is common knowledge. You listen to the comments and you get the distinct impression that everyone knows what they are talking about so you feel a little silly asking the obvious question.

I had this happen to me some years ago – some colleagues where sitting together at lunch time and talking about life-coaching and they all seemed to know exactly what a life-coach was and the benefits and services a life-coach offers. I sat there listening to the conversation and felt decidedly out of the loop – I had never really heard abut this thing called Life-Coaching and I certainly didn’t know what the services on offer where or the benefits. If sounded a bit like a watered-down version of therapy and frankly I was unconvinced of its merits. It just sounded too fluffy and touchy-feely for my liking and just a little pie-in-the-sky for my hard-core technical brain. I was nonetheless intrigued and I started doing some cursory reading about this life-coaching stuff because really I wanted to be able to counter the opinions of my colleagues with some well documented counter arguments.

I soon discovered that my thinking on the matter was shifting dramatically and I found myself being progressively more convinced of the value of a coach. The more I read and researched the more I discovered a whole new world of opportunity and options available and was converted from an uninformed nay-sayer to becoming a Coach myself.

So when I read a comment that suggested people don’t really have a good understanding of what a coach really does, my mind was cast back to those early days when I too was not sure about who or what a coach is or does and I could so relate. I remember that feeling of being out-of-the-loop and not having the courage to ask that “so what is this coaching stuff about” question for fear of being embarrassed at being the only one who didn’t know.

So for those who have felt out of that loop and are not sure about what a Coach is or what it is we actually do – maybe this will help.

The definition of a life coach is a bit slippery. Though certification schemes exist—some respected and widely recognized, many not; there is no singular regulator, licensing body, or governing board.

Here is my definition. Does it resonate with your understanding? Life coaching is a interactive relationship between a coach and a client; designed to tap into your full potential. Someone who helps an individual focus on their present life, make necessary adjustments (big or small),to move forward and realize their goals in their personal and professional life.

Just as high performance athletes wouldn’t think of training without the added insight, objective perspective and enthusiastic support of a coach who will push them on those grumpy days, help them course correct as needed, encourage them and hold them accountable. Many of today’s most successful business leaders, professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and CEOs use the services of a coach to take their lives, careers, or businesses to the next level. 

Newsweek describes a coach as “Part consultant, part motivational speaker, part therapist and part rent-a-friend. Coaches work with managers, entrepreneurs, and just plain folks, helping them define and achieve their goals — career, personal, or most often, both.”

Many coaches take a “lead the way” approach. With social media platforms making accessibility so easy many coaches tend to share their lives on these platforms which allows a potential client to get to know them and so by the time they decide to work with a particular coach the client almost feels as though they are already friends with their coach and there is an energetic influence that happens.

It’s hard to estimate how many life coaches practice worldwide. But according to a 2016 study (pdf) by the International Coach Federation (ICF), which is one of the industry’s most recognized accreditation organizations, there are approximately 53,300 professional coach practitioners worldwide.

Do you want a life coach? Or do you want the well-lit and seemingly well-balanced life of a life coach? The more I followed and read and researched, the more I realised I wanted both.

For many people working with a coach is a transformative process which can sometimes be exhausting and is definitely time-consuming. One thing certain with a coach you do make incredible changes in your life.

There’s an ever-increasing demand today for life coaching services because so many people want more out of their lives, and they know that coaching can be a quick and substantial way to move in that direction. Coaching primarily works from the premise that you are the expert in your life. You are the only expert who can recognize what is absolutely best for you. We are simply experts in the coaching process. As your coach, we help you discover what your own personal “best” might be.

Every day we make choices to do or not do many things. These choices may range from profound to trivial and each one has an effect that makes our lives more fulfilling or less fulfilling, more balanced or less balanced, that make our process of living more effective or less effective. Life coaching helps you learn how to make choices that create an effective, balanced and fulfilling life. We help you connect your head and your heart in a way that transforms your passion for your dreams into action for your life.

What Does a Life Coach Do?

We Help You Identify Goals

We Help You Achieve Your Goals

We Guide You Through Changes and Obstacles

We Give You Permission to Follow Your Dreams

We Teach You How to Make the Right Decisions for Yourself

What does a Life Coach NOT Do?

Life coaches do not treat medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, or any other mental illnesses.

A life coach will focus mostly on looking toward your future, rather than dealing primarily with your past.

Many Life Coaches have niche areas so remember not all life coaches focus on every aspect of life all the time. While it is important to note that many Life Coaches can deal with many aspects of an individuals Life many have carved and have become highly specialised in niche areas.

This means that you will need to be selective about the coach you approach to work with. There are a range of questions you can ask to decide on the type of coach you need to work with and many coaches will do an initial pre-qualification or meet and greet session to determine a few crucial aspects – take full advantage of these as they will give you a good sense of whether the coach you have approached is the right fit for your unique needs.

So who hires a Life Coach?

Simply put, people who want more. People who desire growth in their personal or/and professional lives, and people who want that growth to come faster or easier. Anyone in any walk of life can hire a life coach for almost anything they want to improve in their lives.

In general, people who hire a life coach tend to be people that want the following:

  • To achieve their goals and be successful
  • To find happiness
  • To find their life purpose
  • To do what they love
  • To decide on or change their career
  • To be more confident
  • To find love or improve their relationships

Why is Life Coaching becoming so Popular?

A simple reason for this is the mere fact that we all tend to get stuck in certain places in our lives whether it is due to comfort, fear, ignorance or something else. We all tend to need a push and some guidance to get us moving and heading in the right direction again, and this is exactly what life coaching does.

It Works

Life coaching is a very versatile field because there are coaches that can help people and businesses reach a  wide variety of specific  goals. Motivated and unmotivated people alike can benefit from the efficiency and expert direction that a life coach can bring to their lives. Life coaching has been proven to improve work performance by 70%. It is also shown to improve other important factors such as: self-confidence, relationships, communication skills, life/work balance, team effectiveness, time management and more.

Studies have been done on how effective life coaching is and some are based on ROI, some are based on the satisfaction of the client and their willingness to return. Both types of studies have proven the effectiveness of life coaching. Approximately 86% of the companies studied said that they made back what they invested in using life, career development and professional coaches. 99% of the companies and individuals who used life coaching were more than satisfied with the experience and 96% said that they would use a life coach again and recommend using a life coach to a friend.

Bad Career Story

Is your Career Story Good or BAD?

There’s an easy way to check. The number one sign your career story is lacking is if it’s missing key elements — especially, the happy ending.

Now, I’m going to show you what happens when your career story is bad. Not sure if yours is good?

Here’s an example…

Meet Mike: “Poor Me, I Got Fired by an Evil Boss”

I recently spoke a young man named Mike. He had been at a company for 10 years. In the last six months, a new manager took over. Mike says within weeks he knew he was “pegged” as someone the new manager wanted to make an example of. Mike said he tried everything to make the new manager happy, but that each time he tried, it only seemed to make her more angry. He said all his colleagues saw it too and felt bad for him, but nobody would help him fight back. Finally, he was called into a disciplinary meeting and was subsequently put onto a  performance review. Within a week, he had made a mistake, and was let go. He was out of a job with no reference from a place he had worked at for a decade.

“How do I explain leaving there to potential employers? I have no chance. She ruined me,” was Mike’s comment to me. I said, “That’s true if you are going to keep telling the story in that way.”

“How else can I tell it?” Mike replied, “That’s what happened.

I seen the opportunity as a teaching moment and my response was, “No, that’s ONLY your perspective of what happened, and telling it that way makes you sound suspect and your dismissal justified. You aren’t telling a good story. What is worse, you’re telling the wrong story to the wrong audience.”

 

Even if the facts in Mike’s story are true, the way he was telling it wasn’t going to serve him well in his job search. Stories are a creative process. There are many different ways to tell the same career story. I really wanted  Mike to think about how the audience who’d be hearing his story would react to it.

 

Here’s what’s wrong with Mike’s story:

  1. Mike mentions he was made a target. He immediately positions himself as the only person in a large organization being singled out. Most hiring managers will assume there was a good reason for that.
  2. He claims he tried everything to make the manager happy, but nothing worked. This sounds very dramatic and most hiring managers will assume Mike didn’t know what to do to really improve his performace and up his deliverables game. Hence, the reason for the increase in the managers’ frustration with him.
  3. Mike had been at the company 10 years and now a new boss had come in and shaken things up. Most employers will assume the change in management was needed and that Mike was eliminated because he hadn’t been pulling his weight for quite some time, and most likely, the previous management hadn’t done anything about it.
  4. Lastly, and by far the most important, Mike blames his entire situation on one person – The NEW BOSS. Not taking an ounce responsibility for his part in the story. This makes him appear to lack any sense of accountability, which will make hiring managers run in the other direction.

 

Solution: Present a More Objective Account of Events

When I explained this to Mike he was shocked, and frankly, really defensive. I then shared with him what I thought he should say to a prospective employer to consider him for a job. He got the message. It went something like this:

“My last job was a powerful experience. I had 10 wonderful productive years there. I was promoted three times in that period and learned valuable lessons. It was a good organisation to work for and I made friends with many colleagues who still work there.

 

Six months ago however there was a change in  leadership and while that is always good for the organisation it became very clear to me that the new manager and I different views on how the department should operate and despite my tenure there I was not able to get onto the same page. I tried to improve our working relationship as one does however despite my efforts I seemed to only make things worse. In hindsight, I think there are definitely things I could have done differently. However, it finally came to a point that the new manager felt my performance didn’t match what she needed and I felt I could not compromise my position any further and we agreed to part ways.”

And then, I made sure Mike added this (the happy ending):

The truth is leaving an organization I spent ten years in was a really tough ask. I learnt an invaluable lesson from that process itself and I learned and developed incredible skills while I was there which I would really like to apply  someplace new. That’s why I’m excited about your organization. I can see myself being really successful here.”

 

By telling a more balanced story without all the emotional undertones of blame you are able to present a more credible and more optimistic perspective. Most importantly, when he ended it with a positive spin, he proved he knew how to create his own “happy ending” to his career story.

 

What Happened to Mike?

Mike practiced this for a month. He needed time to process his emotions and really allow himself to come to terms with the situation so he could deliver a more objective career story. He had to find a way to say this on his own terms. Eventually, he was ready to answer the dreaded, “Why did you leave your last job question?” in an upcoming interview. Not surprisingly, when the question arose in the phone screen, Mike was actually eager to answer it. He wanted to share his new story. It worked. Mike got through the screening interview and went on to the second interview and was eventually offered the job which he accepted. That was truly a happy ending for both of us.

How would you describe your Career Story?

 

Want to learn how you Develop your Ideal Career and tell a better career story?