One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
Ever feel like you have a terrific job, but you still don't enjoy your work? I recently met two professionals whose situations exemplify this situation.
Job seeker 1
Sally held a lucrative job at a career development firm. Despite a comfortable salary, plush office, and enviable flex time benefits, she was dragging herself to work every morning. After a few coaching sessions she realized she was in a profession that was in sync with her interests and talents. So, what was missing?
Job seeker 2
Jim was a business analyst at a leading pharmaceutical market research company. He was drawing a comfortable salary and was very content with his work until he realized that, despite all the hard work, he had not grown much in over three years. He knew something wasn't right and immediately embarked on an honest self assessment.
Ever feel the same way? Many individuals approach their work with a need-the-job-to-pay-my-bills attitude — not a winner's strategy. Adhering to employer-laborer dynamics, reminiscent of the nineteenth century, provides very little motivation to the workforce. Work becomes a forced endeavor with such a mindset and there is no desire to make a difference or to go the extra mile. The end results of this approach are minimal professional growth and a lack of satisfaction.
However, what if the perspective were reprogrammed? Here are some tips to shift your outlook:
1. Choose your attitude.
Let's visualize a scenario where the employee is a self-employed independent consultant selling professional services to the employer. The relationship undergoes a dramatic transformation due to the ensuing desire to please the client (employer), outperform the competition (peers), constantly upgrade offerings (professional development), and deliver the best service (performance) possible. Such employees will always find creative solutions to satisfy and benefit the customer (employer) and, thus, themselves.
Sally adopted this attitude and soon found herself energized and motivated. Empowered by her self-imposed promotion, she metamorphosed into an "idea machine" that constantly generated new ways of improving efficiency and profitability. She worked with her superiors to launch several new programs and was soon promoted to a bigger and better role.
2. Establish goals and develop a game plan.
In Jim's case, the first outcome of the goal-setting exercise was the realization that he was not working toward a clear objective. Further work revealed his interests in a brand management position. Once the goals were defined, the next step involved the development of a game plan, a roadmap that entailed volunteering to work extra hours with the brand team and detailing a strategy for developing brand management competencies. He participated in numerous marketing projects and undertook training programs and MBA-level courses. Jim is now interviewing for positions with brand teams, and enjoying his work.
3. Build powerful allies.
Camaraderie is largely undervalued. It's vital to work satisfaction and the job search. It may be lonely at the top but those who reached the apex did not walk alone. Networking is a crucial component of any career development campaign. From growth prospects to new job offers, opportunities always knock at the doors of the well-connected.
Start building alliances within the organization. Supervisors, peers, team members, vendors, customers - all of these are potential networking contacts. Even better, each of these contacts may know many others, and if one were to tap into this pool of "friends of friends," the list of allies could snowball to sizeable proportions within a very short period of time.
In addition to internal networking, opportunities for networking outside the organization are virtually infinite. From subway riders to presidents of industry associations, almost everyone is a potential ally. Serious career warriors recognize this secret and will not lose the opportunity to win friends. They will be omnipresent at networking events.
4. Fire up the PR ammunition.
We all need to feel recognized. Gone are the days when PR strategies were the exclusive domain of commercial enterprises. We live in times where individuals, too, can leverage PR tactics to their advantage.
With a plethora of publishing and speaking opportunities, it is very easy to boost visibility and establish one's image as an expert. Blogs, articles, trade journals, teaching opportunities, seminars, webinars, and conferences - all of these are excellent avenues to showcase professional expertise and to generate some buzz. Get your work noticed.
5. Position effectively.
The tips above are enough to help you stand out, but it's an ongoing challenge. During my MBA program, our marketing professor initiated us into a very powerful mantra: "To be successful, be different." Almost every successful brand follows this advice.
Speaking of brands, ever wonder why popular brands are more successful than their competitors? It is no secret that these brands have worked very hard to position themselves as being unique and a cut above the competition.
Taking pleasure in your work is a point of differentiation in itself. In order to stand out from the crowd of "me too" professionals, really evaluate and understand your signature strengths and leverage them to develop an effective positioning strategy. Success is a carefully planned enterprise where rewards come to those who patiently, but smartly, persevere in the "right direction."