Still Falling for the Two Biggest Career Motivators?

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Career Management | Tags: , |

career advancementIn a prior post called “Is Your Career Ruled by Rules,” I talked about the self-imposed structure that many professionals have when it comes to their careers. Within that post, I also touched on how many of our rules come out of what motivates us, consciously or subconsciously.

I work with all kinds of IT and technical professionals on a daily basis, from self-assured to humble to ambitious to cautious to seasoned to entry level, and when we discuss the paths their careers have taken, there are two things that underlie the majority of career decisions they have made.

Number One: Fear

We don’t often like to use the word, so we’ll call it something else: “concern,” “lack of security,” “life changes,” “obstacles,” “challenges,” etc. But at the heart of it is, well, fear. Fear that we will lose our current position, fear that we will be stuck in the same position in 5 years, fear that we will never reach our goals, fear that we aren’t as successful as we thought we would be, fear that our boss or company does not recognize our potential, fear that the job market or economy will cause us to lose our position.

All of these fears are very real and valid.

Number Two: Necessity

Related to fear, necessity is more like the fears realized. The position is terminated, the economy tanks, the boss passes you over. When these things happen, then necessity takes over and we are forced to act.

Now, none of us likes fear, and necessity rarely feels good when it happens, but we can probably all look back on at least some instances in our lives when one or both of these things has occurred, and the motivation they sparked in us resulted in something positive: a better position, a higher pay, etc. In other words, what was meant for bad, turned into something good…even if we didn’t appreciate going through it at the time.

But Fear and Necessity Don’t Have to Be the Only Motivators

I find what really separates most professionals as they move along in their careers, though, are the ones who learn to stay motivated without the need for constant fear and necessity. And unfortunately these people are few and far between. Although most of us know what we “should” be doing to stay on top of our career management, very few of us actually do it because, well, nothing is “forcing” us to do it and we’d rather invest the time and resources into other things.

That’s understandable, right?

Sure, but it’s not necessarily logical. You’ve given yourself an excuse to put it off because you don’t have to do it right now, but you’ve ignored the reason you shouldn’t.

Give Yourself a Reason AND an Excuse

Wisdom comes in using experience to help chart a better course. If you know from experience how difficult that last job search was or how much you really need your current position, then doesn’t it stand to reason that you would be more motivated to stay on top of your career advancement today?

Do you really need to wait until the fear becomes so great and necessity is looming?

So What Should You Be Doing?

  1. Maximize your potential with your current engagement: Are you tracking and building a project highlights portfolio? As I mentioned in an earlier post (“The Era of Promotions Will Return“), internal promotions will be on the rise within the next few years and the competition will be tight. It’s tough to go back and remember. You need to be documenting now.
  2. Position yourself to attract recruiters now BEFORE you need them: Recruiters will not admit it, but they much prefer to chase you rather than the other way around. They like finding hot prospects they can “steal” away from competitors. Remember, you can always turn them down…so why miss out on potential opportunities? Isn’t it nice to be wanted for a change?
  3. Begin building a network pipeline: In the world of online businesses, content marketing is key right now. And “engagement” is the word of the hour. Professionals need to take some tips from this world. Are you referable? If so, does your network show that? And I am not just talking about LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements…have you built a credible online brand? It’s better to consider these things NOW before you need them…because you will need them…the job market is changing, and social recruiting is here.
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Career Disappointment Is Not Devastation

Posted on October 8, 2012. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , |

So it turns out that I have become somewhat obsessed with “The Voice.” You know that show on NBC where people from all walks of life who can sing undergo a blind audition to be on one of four celebrity judges’ teams?

If you haven’t seen it, contestants have to sing with the judges’ backs turned to them and hope/pray that one of them will push his or her button and turn around, granting them a sacred place on that judge’s team (and oh the sweet bliss if more than one judge turns around! Now they have to fight over you!). (Once the teams are full, the contestants then duke it out [musically, that is] to become that season’s “Voice”.)

My obsession with the show has to do with all the back stories they give you about some contestants during the blind auditions. They pick a few participants with each show (undoubtedly the ones with the saddest, most heart-wrenching tales to tell) to highlight BEFORE they go out to sing.

So taking a page right out of the Olympics (you know, right as the athletes are getting ready to compete, suddenly Bob Costas’s voice spurred on by some background music draws you into this back story of the athlete), The Voice does a good job of drawing you in, humanizing these people to the point where you just want to root for them (I mean, after all, this IS their moment, and they DESERVE it!).

Then, just like the Olympics, they go off to the audition to compete, and some make it and some don’t, offering you 60 minutes full of emotional triumphs and agonies (“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”).

That is, of course, if you are a sucker for these back stories like I am 🙂

Like any junkie, however, I knew I had reached rock bottom when not that long ago I was watching with my husband and 8-year-old, and I found myself tearing up over some struggling artist who had moved to Nashville to make it big and had to park cars to get by, just believing that this was his big chance (sadly, though, no one pushed their button for him). He looked so forlorn when the realization hit that his days of parking cars were not quite over.

On the same show, another guy, who grew up on a pig farm and sang so high people often mistook him for a female, belted his falsetto heart out, just hoping for a chance to get away from those pigs, but alas, it also was not meant to be.

I have to admit that I was feeling pretty badly for both of these guys (sniffling, puffy eyes, and everything!) UNTIL I heard my 8-year-old say, “Oh mom, it’s not devastating or anything. They’ll be OK.”

I couldn’t help but smile because (1) she really does listen to me sometimes and (2) she understands what many people don’t: perspective.

As a career pro, I hear this word “devastating” a lot when job seekers are at the end of their rope with a job search. I also heard it several times during the Olympics when someone didn’t medal or didn’t win the gold they so expected.

But disappointment, not matter how severe, is not devastation.

Devastation is a complete wiping out of order, chaos, hopelessness, helplessness. It is complete and utter loss. It is most often associated with the ravages of war or earthquakes/tsunamis or death. Disappointment is, well, disappointing, a sadness that something did not work out as we had hoped. And disappointment, by the way, has many levels, from “ah shucks” to “I’m not getting out of bed for a year.”

It is important to understand the distinction here, especially when it comes to attitude and outlook.

We’ve become so casual in our use of the English language that we often use terms to describe things that are exaggerated and inaccurate (myself included!). And although we often think it is just a matter of semantics, the fact is that our words matter, especially when we reach a crossroads.

Whether it is the pig farmer on “The Voice” or the Olympic athlete who didn’t medal, in both cases, these people have experienced something so rare that many others could only dream about. They obviously have talents that they have been given the opportunity to nurture and develop, and the world has given them a stage to do their best to showcase these talents. For goodness sake’s, you don’t just go to the Olympics because you want to, and not everyone gets an invite to “The Voice.” You really do have to have the goods (not to mention all the competition leading up to this competition)! So although it is disappointing (extremely so) for them (and we can sympathize with them, tears and all) that they fell short of their expectations, it is certainly not devastating (especially when you think about all the things that really are, like war-torn countries, famine, death).

I mean, I wish I had one talent that was even half as good, much less a global venue to show it off! No one ever said to me, “Wow, you’ve got potential. Drop everything and devote yourself to this!” Just think about what a privilege that is! (Uh oh, if I’m not careful, I am going to start to feel “devastated!”)

Instead, like so many of us, I have had to carve a path that has brought wonderful surprises and deep disappointments. It’s just life. It doesn’t always cooperate, but then again, we also don’t always lose. Sometimes we even get amazing things we don’t deserve. (And sometimes, blessedly, we are protected from getting other things we do deserve.)

But once you mistake disappointment for devastation, you will miss all that for it will cloud every decision you make from there on.

I’ve seen too many job seekers go down this path from disappointment to devastation, and it really is, well, disappointing.

See devastation requires a complete rebuilding, if that is even possible, and nothing will every be completely healed because there has been irrevocable loss.

Disappointment, however, still has a chance. Things might have to change, the road might be different than you thought it was going to be, but the chance to salvage something out of it is still there.

Listen. It’s really awesome to dream big and to have high expectations and goals. We all want our children to do that, but disappointment is par for the course. Even if they meet one goal, another one might not work out. It just is what it is.

The difference comes in what you do with it when it comes. Are you prepared? In the end, that is what separates the winners from the losers…

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