Just like trending hashtags, things are moving very quickly in the world of work these days.
And, if there’s one thing that Covid has taught us, it’s that we can take nothing for granted. So…
…How up-to-date are you?
…How well is your career progressing?
…How satisfied are you with your work and workplace?
It’s more than time to switch from negativity to new, positive emotions about work. Use the eclectic mix of big picture items and practical suggestions below as a starting point to enhance your work happiness and success.
Tip #1: Consider micro-credentials
One of my clients last year faced a huge turning point in his life. As part of a ‘spill and fill’ where he had to apply for his own job, he was offered career support with us. When I met him, I was impressed but also worried. His industry was one for young people where a certain component of physical work made it unlikely to see him through to retirement. It was also all-consuming with the expectation of dropping everything to meet the needs of clients. Even worse, as well as being badly hit by Covid 19 cost cuts, the Universities in Australia were churning out roughly 200 new Master's Graduates in his field EVERY year, with hardly any jobs to go to.
‘Marc’ decided that he wanted to move out of the industry but like many busy people, he couldn’t see a way of fitting in post-graduate study. He had identified that data was one of his key strengths. When I mentioned artificial intelligence as a possible option to investigate, he revealed that he had already dabbled in some online learning in this space. What he had never heard of was micro-credentials – short courses where you pivot/top-up/learn without getting a full degree.
Microcredentials are part of the higher education trend toward modularity and stackability. They involve combining small, individual learning units into broader, cohesive qualifications. In that sense, they live somewhere in the space between single courses and full degrees.
The micro-credential offering has continued to grow and in mid-2021, there were 1500+ micro-credentials. Approximately 75% are in business and technology. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, data science, digital marketing, and business analytics courses have all seen a significant increase in popularity. The classic micro-credentials sites are Coursera and edX with some Australian Universities also getting involved.
Coming back to Marc, he ended up winning his role but he also decided to enrol and get started on his career move.
Tip #2: Meet new people
As part of Marc’s career change, I suggested that he expand his network so that when he was ready to make the move, he had some connections in that space.
Many people find the whole networking concept daunting and worry that they will appear ruthlessly self-interested. The easiest way is to start with fellow workmates. Pick up the phone and ask someone in a different department for a 20-minute meeting. You will increase your knowledge about other parts of the business and you may well pick up allies who prove valuable in the future.
Then, extend this approach to people outside of the organisation. When you attend a training session or a conference, make a point of chatting to strangers. Initially, it feels slightly awkward but it does get easier.
Plan ahead and have a few relevant points of discussion in mind. Offer something of value to the other person and have an opinion. Stay up to date with local and international current affairs. At a minimum, talk about the event itself. The idea is to get the conversation flowing and leave room for future meetups and discussions.
Tip #3: Take a new broom to your job
Many people dread to return to work because they’re bored.
If that’s you, pull out your job description. Rate each key responsibility for both satisfaction and for importance.
Then carefully assess each task with a bad satisfaction score. Perhaps some of the less important jobs no longer need to be done. Of course, eliminating core but unpleasant tasks is a much harder ball game and you will need to get your boss on board with a persuasive business case and a pathway.
If there are too many items on the Dark Side, it’s time for serious action. Plan your escape from the job to a different role either internally or external to the business.
Tip #4: Meet with your boss to clarify aims for the year
Set up a formal meeting with clear agenda items but use a coffee shop as a venue to add a touch of warmth and informality. Refer to appropriate business documents such as the Strategic Plan, your PD or key department milestones.
This can serve two purposes. It sends a strong message to your boss that her needs are important to you. It ensures that you spend your energy and intellect on activities that meet her agenda and (presumably) those of the organisation. And, if there has been any disconnect between you, it helps to re-establish a professional relationship.
Tip #5: Gird your Loins
At a recent session, ‘Hue’ had a bad cold and confessed that he just did not feel like taking charge of his job search. Nothing new there – very few clients tell me that they actually want to tackle the Hidden Job Market (i.e. searching for those roles that are never advertised.)
What did surprise me was that Hue went on to comment that, in the past, he generally hunted out his own jobs, even going so far as doing the dreaded Cold Call. Hue had a strong belief that he had value in the market place and that someone would recognise his ability and offer him a good job. So, he was not afraid to take the lead to identify such people and then approach them.
Hue was interested in learning about ‘proper’ Job Search Networking so we covered off on all the details.
Lo and behold, the next time I saw Hue, he reported back on a string of strategic, well conducted Job Search Networking meetings. He found his next job through a contact made at his previous workplace. And, the location was much closer to home, which was part of his aim.
Hue had both confidence and bravery – an irresistible combination.
Tip #6: Turn the Table on Employers
One of the most vexed questions that all job hunters face is, ’What are my new employers actually like?’
Back in the days when I was an employee, I was always scared about leaving my current job, even though I am generally a bit of a risk taker. I dreaded the getting-to-know-you stage, from mundane concerns like, ‘How does this wretched photocopier actually work’ to more worrying issues such as ‘That person just gave me the brush-off. Is it me or just him?’
As part of my career work, I get to hear quite a lot about the various organisations in my city, Adelaide, but I find that very few of my clients have any insight into their prospective employer. Up until now, this information has been difficult to access and they faced all the risks associated with jumping into the great unknown.
Now, savvy job candidates realise they have more power in the Job Search equation. There are excellent websites which give insight into the employer’s culture, their compensation and pay, and where you can learn about benefits and company policies.
The most famous is Glasshouse and its name really says it all. If you’re vetting a large organisation, you’ll find feedback about it from current and former employees - right from the horse’s mouth. For smaller Australian organisations, Seek.com.au works pretty well.
Failing those organisations, get onto LinkedIn. Find contacts at the organisation or find contacts who have contacts there. Make a few calls and you’ll end up with an informed decision about that new job.
Tip #7: Understand that Coding is the new Orange
The jury is still out about how to protect yourself against AI, as an employee. Even, the so-called experts are at a loss. One piece of advice, however, is compelling.
Programming is becoming a fundamental skill. A hundred years ago, we may have asked ‘Is it important to learn how to write?’
Experts are saying that most future jobs will have a coding component to it. So, if you are under 40 years of age, learn coding. If you’re over 50, cross your fingers and hope you make it through to retirement. Or, if you’re over 50 and really want to sleep at night, learn coding. And, if you are a parent, encourage your kids to enrol in a coding club straight away.
When six-year-old children are learning to code, you know it’s time to jump on board.
Tip #8: Talk to your bosses about options
I was in my last job for four years and I became bored every 12 months. Did I just put up with it? No way! I am the ultimate spoiled brat and have very little tolerance for unpleasant work situations. I went to my boss and told him. He was very receptive and each year, we managed to revamp my activities to give me the challenge and variety I need.
So many people tell me that they really love their place of employment but the work no longer stimulates them. Yet, they just put up with it, letting their mojo seep out day after day until the whole world can see that they are no longer happy.
Or else, they leave.
In most circumstances, there’s absolutely no need to do this. With my clients, we craft an approach to the boss, taking into account relevant information about personality and politics. And off they go to effect change in their lives.
Savvy employees do the same.
New is Hard
I’ve been learning Italian seriously now for quite a while. Sometimes, I tear my hair out at the seemingly arbitrary rules. And I really do struggle to memorise the vocabulary.
I persist because the adventure of experimenting in another language is a fascinating challenge for me. In common terms, the upside is worth the downside.
When it comes to your career, it would be ideal if you relished keeping up with new trends. Regardless, it must be done. Take charge of your future so that you have a future.
Find a place where your thoughts are likely to roam freely – evocative music, great coffee and a lovely outlook. List the top three changes…
Just last week, a very astute client recounted significant changes in all the above areas. She had a clear plan with concrete timelines. It can be done. Plot out the response that you need/wish to make to cope with these changes.
Lose that heavy career weight you’re carrying around
Already this year, I’ve had new clients who want to work through big career decisions.
Whatever you do, don’t let your career changes fall by the wayside, like so many of our New Year resolutions to get fit or lose weight.
Choose the three most relevant items from the tips above. Find a support person to help you identify concrete actions with timelines and KPIs attached.
Then as per Nike, just do it!
And this time, my signature hashtag is 100% apt…
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