Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Come to a Talk I'm Giving: Career Success in Tough Times

The Oakland Public Library has asked me to give another talk: Career success in tough times.  Sorry I'm posting this last-minute but I forgot to do so earlier. It's tomorrow, Weds, Mar 20 at 6 PM at the main branch: 125 14 St.  Admission is free.

I'll try to share a lot of non-obvious but important nuggets. I'll also take questions.

For more info about it, HERE is an article about it in The Examiner.

And here's the handout I'll distribute:

Presentation, Oakland Public Library, Mar. 20, 2013
by Marty Nemko
Up is the not the only way!

Make it fun if possible, but being productive is its own reward. Your life's value may indeed be determined less by how much fun you've had as by how productive you've been. Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
That said, it's often possible to make a task more fun. If you do it the most arduous way, the benefit is usually outweighed by your tending to procrastinate the tasks and overall less contentment with your work life. As you decide what to do and how to do it, keep asking yourself, "What's the fun way?" Usually, you'll find the work gets done faster and, ironically, often better.

Is this a good use of my time? Both what activities to do, and how time-consumingly you're doing a task

Laser focus on being world-class in both goal and project. That IS possible in many if not most pursuits.
Re goal: Be the go-to-guy/gal on something key to your organization: CRM software, on-boarding new employees, selling to Latino teens, whatever. Maybe write an article on that for a trade publication—higher-ups love to see their organization touted externally.
Re  project: remember, my example of Jeffrie at the Children's Hospital talent show.

Think probabilistically: If that doesn't come naturally to you, develop the habit: When you have to make a significant decision, for each of your options, write the chance (from 0 percent to 100 percent) of each of the major positive and negative outcomes occurring. For example, you're deciding whether to accept a new job:
Pros: Higher salary (100 percent), better boss (70 percent,) more learning opportunities (90 percent).
Cons: Longer commute (100 percent), the job is more difficult and thus you could fail (50 percent), management's ethics may be iffy (50 percent).
Then, after considering all that, make your decision on gut feeling.
Of course, no technique will lead to always making correct decisions but  your batting average will improve as will your ability to explain your reasoning. And as time goes on, you'll get better at doing cost-benefit/risk-reward analysis, often on-the-fly.

Keep growing: read articles, webinars, find mentors. Keep a nugget file. Every time you derive an insight that would abet your thinking or thinking skills , keep it in a word-processing file. Review it frequently.

Be trustworthy. That goes well beyond keeping your word. It mainly means that when you get an assignment, it will be done, on time, and well—all the time. Your boss may not balk when you mumble your excuse but your unreliability will remain in memory.

Show initiative. Much more is under your control than you may think. Instead of complaining about a problem, fix it, asking permission only if necessary.

Go beyond. Provide something unexpected that will please your higher-ups. Let's say your boss is all about the bottom line. Write a report for improving it.

Sweat the details. Big-picture thinkers are a dime a dozen and their proposals usually make more work for people. What's mainly needed are people who can execute the boss's vision without much hand-holding.

Be positive. Every workgroup benefits from having one person who focuses on the problems. As Andy Grove, former Intel chairman and CEO, has said, "Only the paranoid survive." But generally, the yes-butter is regarded as a necessary evil rather than an up-and-comer. Unless your boss makes a truly unreasonable demand, be a person who makes it happen. And no bashing the company. If it's really worth bashing, shouldn't you be looking for another job?

Be likeable. It's hard to get ahead if many co-workers, bosses, and customers dislike you. In addition to having a positive bias, look for ways to make your co-workers and customers' lives better. For example, make them look good, help them get ahead, or when someone seems frazzled, ask if there's anything you can do to help. Take something off their plate or simply listen to them vent. The most potent question you can ask, especially of your boss: "Anything I can do to make your life easier?" 

Make lots of moving-toward statements, few moving-away behavior. You may not realize how big a price you make when you make a moving-away behavior: disagreeing, one-upping, shunning. Focus on moving-toward statements: agreement, amplification, anything that makes them feel good about themselves. 

Be low-maintenance. You pay a big price for being high-maintenance. No matter how competent you are, especially in today's busy times, your boss and co-workers are probably on max, so your complaint or even your new idea may not be welcome. If your boss or workgroup's plate is already full, they simply may not be open to adding something else or changing gears. Even asking too many questions can be annoying. Of course the workplace and indeed society would be better if all that weren't true, but alas, it is. In most workplaces, even if you're the boss, it's safest to simply keep on keeping on with a pleasant look on your face. That's true even in your personal life. 

Be a storyteller. Most people are more affected by story than by statistics. Story appeals to the emotion, which is what motivates most people's behavior change. That's why so many articles start with, "Mary Johnson..." and only after the audience is hooked, do they mention statistics, facts, etc. So, have three anecdotes ready to tell at any networking event or even for water-cooler convo. And certainly, pepper your talks with anecdotes, whether it's a two-minute presentation at a meeting, a keynote address, or even a toast at your friend's wedding. 

Never look back. My father, a Holocaust survivor, rarely talked about the experience. When asked why, he said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Never look back, always take the next step forward."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you are correct about being a "yes-person." Your article makes self-employment even more appealing. It appears you can be more authentic if you own the business.


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