The secret to getting things done

Don’t make things bigger than they are by labeling them with big words.

Change the company culture? Do a huge project?
Don’t. Not if you can help it.

Change management at the office

Change at the office | Image HikingArtist

Unless you have exactly the right people who will get things done without blinking. Because they know all the right people, and they know how to get those people to do whatever needs doing, and they definitely ‘know the ropes’. You know the type. It’s the type that’s rapidly approaching their retirement. In their stead, you get ‘really big project experts’. Six foot Sigma. Mean. The Artist Formerly Known As PRINCE2. They’ll get things done, in their own way. Continue reading

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How a blog and a LinkedIn profile add up to a new job

Are you out job hunting, or just wondering if you should be? Here are a few steps that can help you if you want either social media, writing, blogging, or content in any form to be part of your job:

First, start blogging

Blog to find a job that suits you

Finding a job that suits you.
HikingArtist.com via Flickr

Nearly 11 months ago I started this blog with the main aim to start writing because all I’d done was keep a diary about our son for over two years. By that time, I was ready to look for a new challenge.

After writing a couple of posts I started sharing them on Twitter. Then I went a bit crazy and got accounts for nearly everything I could hook up to my blog so I could automate sharing in different places. Blogging and writing are popular with my fellow bloggers on WordPress.com, but the best results in terms of sharing and replies to my ‘business’ posts have been on Twitter and LinkedIn. Continue reading

How your job experience will help you get your ideal career

Do you ever feel you’ve wasted years in all the wrong jobs? The bad news is you can’t get those years back. The good part is it was not all in vain.

What career perspective are you looking at?

Job experience is seldom wasted

If you feel you’ve mindlessly pulled someone else’s plough for years and think you’ve got nothing to show for it but sores, think again. Take writing, for example. Continue reading

Time to update your resume (and find the right job, part 2)

A while ago I wrote about your LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn summary and so on. But what about the old-fashioned resume? Is it gone forever?

Job News On LinkedIn. How's your resume?

My News On LinkedIn Today
[click link to read the article]

Somehow I doubt that. But LinkedIn is a great place to organize your resume if you’ve never bothered to do so – or if it’s been a long time so you feel as though you’re starting from scratch.

If you want to apply for a job using video, it’s worth reviewing your previous activities. In a way, your resume is just a way of keeping score – a means to an end.

It’s worth reviewing your past employments through the eyes of your potential employer. What are they about, and how do you fit into their picture?

Update your resume: mind your language

If you’ve been (un)employed for a long time, getting back into the old resume-making routine (was it ever a routine?) may cause you to create sentences with a vocabulary that was out of fashion well before the 21st century started.

Size up your future employer:

  • What clues does the company website yield about the nature of the organization and its employees, language-wise?
  • Check the LinkedIn profiles of a few employees to enhance the picture.

In very formal organizations, little may have changed over the years. Everywhere else is a different matter. Don’t use the language you would have used twenty years ago.

Resume add-on? Writing your motivational letter

The letter or video to go with your resume should contain as little as possible from your resume. This is where you show your potential employer:

  1. Who you are as a professional and what you’ll bring to the company.
  2. No less important is what you’ll get from the company.

#1: What can they expect in terms of skills, knowledge, and work attitude? Don’t put anything in there that’s not you. I don’t just mean inventing skills you don’t have, but also presenting yourself as more proactive, or more pliable, than you really are.

Tip: being turned down for who you are is bad enough. Don’t get turned down for trying to be like someone else. I’ll admit this sounds like dating advice 😉

Does #2 sound odd? How about getting the chance to do new projects, meeting new people, or making sense of the organizational mess they’ve made? What a company has to offer you is working experience. Lots of it. If it’s the right kind of experience, so much the better. If not, keep the valuable bits of your newly found knowledge and run.

After a friend of mine left a company he said: “That was a complete waste of my time”. It wasn’t. He’ll never, EVER, apply for a job in that branche again, or for that type of job, without being aware of the potential pitfalls. It’s that easy. Next time you’ll know better. Unless you fail to learn.

What have you learned from your previous job?

Why you don’t want this job – and how to get the right job, part 1

My previous ‘career’ post was about leaving your job. On the flip side is getting a new job (hopefully). If you’re looking for a job, hearing me say “you don’t want this job” probably sounds balony. So – is it?

Do your homework, get a job

Your Career: Right Job Or Wrong Job

Right Job Or Wrong Job?
Only you can tell. Hopefully

This is what most of us consider normal nowadays: do some research into your potential employer. View a couple of LinkedIn profiles of people who work there – maybe you’ll find one of them even blogs. You’ll get to know a lot about the people who may become your coworkers. So far, so good.

But what if you’re so good at job interviews you land the wrong job?

Thanks to a comment I got thinking about this. Some of us are just too competitive. Landing a job becomes a sport in itself. Or you’re applying for every job you can think of just to get the money rolling in. Then you get an offer. One offer.

Your future employer maybe made the job sound a bit more glamorous than it really is. This happens to any job that contains a lot of routine work. Employers dial up the interesting bits, and dial down the days and days you’ll spend staring at a screen churning out numbers or client data.

How to get the right job

Start by getting a clear picture of what you want from a job – apart from the money. Even if you feel this isn’t the right time to be getting critical, you need a reference point to tell if a job is 80% your kind of job, 50%, or only 20% (you’ll probably spot that last one effortlessly).

Check if your estimate is right at your job interview. The match determines how fast you’ll be looking for your next job.

Questions to ask yourself:

What do I love to do?

In my case, I wanted to become an archaeologist when I was a kid. Leakey-style. Digging in the sand to unearth the most amazing fossils. As an adult, I dug around in archives and found some beautiful specimens 😉

I still enjoy combing the long beach of the internet for interesting stuff, and building sand castles on my blog. The nature of a specific job doesn’t change what I love to do.

What do you enjoy doing? What’s the common denominator in your life and career?

What do I have to offer to this potential employer?

How can you help this particular organization doing this job? What are your strengths? What knowledge have you already gained? Sometimes you think you have an answer and you’ll find that your future employer has different ideas of what you have to offer.

I was called “over qualified” so I depended on employers who would let me prove I wouldn’t run away screaming after a few weeks. Then one day I ran into an organization where affinity with art actually helped me get a job over several other candidates who had applied before me. And I didn’t know my background had triggered their interest until the job interview.

Tip: be careful what you leave out of your resume.

What does this job have to offer for my career?

Let’s break this one up into a few pieces:

  1. What tasks does this job entail that are part of the career I would like?
  2. How much time will I be able to spend on those tasks?
  3. What new experience will I gain doing all this?
  4. And a tricky one, do I have a specific goal for the next few years?
  5. If the answer to #4 is yes, how long (minimum) do I want to stay?

Tip for #4: At the organization that offered me an archiving job I could also do the research for my part-time study. That saved me an internship that would have meant little income for months. Did I mention this at my interview? Yes.

Tip for #5 (or 4B): Be prepared for this question. Your potential employer wants to know if you’re worth investing time and training – if you’ll stick around for a while after you reach your own goal.

Read more:

An article on Exertusjobs aimed at anyone over 50. But I’d say you can read it if you’re younger.

An earlier career post I wrote on this blog.

You may have gathered I got the job in spite of, or thanks to, my honesty. It was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get deal. It worked for me. What works for you?

How to leave your job in an orderly fashion

Writing as I am at a table in a home in the Netherlands, the abdication by our queen and subsequent coronation of her son is something which makes me wonder how you prepare your successor for a job you’ve had for a long time – possibly decades, although that doesn’t happen very often.

Leave Your Job In An Orderly Fashion

Harvest [click to view image by Vilseskogen on Flickr]

With many jobs, the role remains in some shape where the individuals leave. Unless we run a family business, we don’t (consciously) prepare our children to do our own job – to become our successors.

So how do we prepare our jobs to be taken over by successors we may hardly know?

How to leave your job in an orderly fashion

I’ve left a few jobs behind me over the years, though not one I’d done for 30-odd years. Even so I’ve learned a couple of things so far about handing over your tasks to your successor. Here’s my pick-and-mix harvest:

  1. Don’t postpone documenting your tasks until you can see the exit outlined. Make documenting essential procedures a normal part of your routine. It’ll give you something to refer interns or new coworkers to. If anything changes, you’ll be able to check (and show) quickly where your own tasks are affected.
  2. List every task you can think of and write down everything worth knowing for every task on your list. (check if current procedures are up to date)
  3. Make sure you distinguish between priorities #1 and the rest. Don’t pretend everything you do is equally important.
  4. Don’t believe for a second you’ll be able to document 100% of what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
  5. Don’t believe for a second that nothing will or should change after you leave. You’ll give them a way to keep going without you, until they decide to do things differently.
  6. If you remember why you follow a certain procedure, add your reasons. Those reasons will help your successor understand why a seemingly dull task is important – and if they change anything, they’ll know what to keep or whom to check with before they skip that part.
  7. For preference, have your successor in place before you leave. If you can’t, haul in a coworker who’s not about to leave in the next month or so and have them perform the most essential task from your list. Then improve your documentation accordingly. Including: “If you’re not sure, ask Jake.”
  8. Depending what branch you’re working in (at your next job) give your successor anywhere from 2 days to 1 month to call you if they have any questions.
  9. Leave.

This is all under the assumption that you and your employer are on good terms when you leave.

A royal exit for everyone

Whether or not you were happy at the job you leave behind, don’t make enemies on the way out. If you hated everything about your job, smile on your way to the door. You’re leaving, remember? You can afford to give your ex-colleagues a final royal wave.

How have you left your previous job(s)? Have I left any important bits out?

How improving your learning strategy will help your career

If there’s one thing in my career I’ve regretted it’s not pouring some strategy into my learning processes sooner.

Here’s the thing: I was a fast learning kid. No plodding for me. Sounds great, right?

Career Hurdles and Learning Strategy

Women’s Final of 80 meter hurdles, Olympic Games, London, 1948.
Daily Herald Archive at the National Media Museum [Click to view image on Flickr]

Wrong. The one thing you need to consider – I’m now looking at it as a parent – is that if your kid is (or if you are) very fast on the uptake, part of all that learning capacity should go into the strategy of learning. Don’t wait till your kid is 16 years old.

Questions for your learning strategy

Starting small, explore questions like these:

  1. What is learning?
  2. How can you learn something new?
  3. What different methods of learning are there?
  4. What works for learning different topics?
  5. How can you tell how you should go about a new task or a new subject? It’s ‘meta’ time 🙂

Most importantly, you need to take the whole concept of learning to a level where the task in hand no longer matters. Only when knowing how to perform a specific task is no longer enough does your need to know #5 become apparent.

How can being a fast learner spoil your learning?

That’s easy. My default learning strategy was: “You read it. You read it again. You’re ready.” Sophisticated stuff, I know. It worked for me most of the time.

Oddly enough, it didn’t work with maths after a certain point. Of course now I know that I was trying to memorize everything without understanding any of it.

There’s nothing like a crisis to revise your learning strategy

When did I finally revise my learning ‘strategy’? After I failed big time in my first year at university. I had four exams and failed two. How did that happen? Actually this is a bit embarrassing in retrospect. I failed because I couldn’t read and memorize everything in that foot-high pile of … well, stuff about art 😉

This was an eye-opener. I had skipped maths before my grades reached embarrassing levels. Getting really poor grades for the first time in your life makes it painfully clear you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. It is, as they say, a great learning opportunity. Yay!

It worked. I learned.

How does a learning strategy help you in your career?

Whenever you’re faced with a new task, new job, new career, you’ll find yourself having to figure out what will work best in that particular situation. Doing what you always did will lead to good results in some cases, or it will leave you in a smelly bog wondering what went wrong.

Bringing a strategic approach to your tasks means you will do things like:

  1. come up with a rough guide or plan for a new task,
  2. consciously opt for a general direction that’s most likely to get results,
  3. finetune your actions as you go along.

Take a learning approach to your career – starting today.

More reading:

How do you approach new tasks? Add your thoughts about learning, plodding, career, and school issues in a comment. I will, as always, reply to anything non-spammy 😉