Persistence is a big part of success. Whether you're looking for a new job or trying to change careers, it's easy to find negative advice. The Internet is filled with experts who can give countless (bad) reasons why you will fail. However, if you're doing the right thing and you believe in yourself, success is almost always possible (See The Dip by Seth Godin).
Thomas Jefferson captured this idea in these words: "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
“High expectations are everything.”
My most successful clients have been those who believe in themselves. These people are always looking to take the next step in their career. They are not afraid of failing. They don’t let unfair criticism from a boss or co-worker doubt their ability. The first step to being successful is believing in yourself.
Bloomberg recently surveyed economists regarding career advice for new college graduates. I highly recommend that you read this article if you’re a new graduate or someone who cares about one. Every point is well made. I want to focus on two of them.
Be willing and able to relocate: The economy is better than it was in 2009, but it’s still not great. To have the wide range of opportunities and the best chance for an optimal salary, be open to moving. Study the industry you want to work in and identify where it is strongest. I’d recommend looking at 3-5 cities. Find ones you would want to live in where there are opportunities in your field.
“Don’t be a lifer”: Loyalty is a virtue. However, it can kill a career. Staying with the same company for 10 or 20 years sounds like a good thing, but it often limits your earning potential and chances for advancement. As the article demonstrates in a graph, loyalty makes sense for people between the ages of 45-70. It is easier to change jobs and industries early in one’s career. Explore the options that work for you and be open to relocating for new career opportunities.
If you learn to manage your career early rather than just looking for a job, you will earn more money and have more control over your destiny. Again, this article in Bloomberg is a good starting point
I’ve often cautioned readers about one size fits all rules. Too much career advice is based on the words always and never. Here’s another example: Stay at a job at least a year before leaving. In most cases, it’s good to do this. However, there are circumstances when we should leave a job as soon as possible.
Mark (not his real name) is a client who received an offer to work for a company everyone would recognize. During his interview, Mark felt uneasy about the person who would be his supervisor. He talked to his family about not taking the job. They told him that he had to take it because working at this company would look good on his resume.
Mark called me after working at his new job for only four months. In that time, his two co-workers had quit because they could not take the boss’s constant belittling and bullying. Both employees went to HR, but nothing was done to change the way they were treated. Mark was worried about how it would look if he left a job before completing at least a year. I told him that it would be a concern for some employers, but he had to weigh that concern against how he was being treated.
Why should anyone stay in such job? Mark’s challenge will be to explain why he is leaving so soon. We talked about how he can do that in a way that doesn’t bring up his boss or his problem with the job. We also discussed how he can present what he has accomplished in his short tenure. A good employer will look beyond how long Mark stayed at this job to see what he has accomplished at other jobs and in school. The worst thing Mark could do is stay in a job where he is exposed to unprofessional treatment. My advice: Why wait eight months? Start looking now.
This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing 42, the new film about Jackie Robinson. I love baseball and have read much about Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues. The film also had some interesting things to say about work and career.
1. Listen to the boss
To be successful, Robinson had to follow Branch Rickey’s strategy of not fighting back. In turn, Rickey had to understand Robinson’s situation and keep him motivated in standing against racist taunts and physical abuse. The films also shows two other great examples of bosses in control. Rickey tells Robinson’s first manager to treat his new player as he would white players. He then warns the manager that he will be fired if he doesn’t do so. Later in the film, Phillies manager Ben Chapman rained vulgar slurs at Robinson. His team’s executive orders the racist Chapman to pose for a picture with Robinson. Wanting to keep his job, the bigoted manager posed with Jackie Robinson. Moral of the story: want to keep the job? Listen to the boss – or find a new job with a better boss.
2. Be willing to take risks
Both Rickey and Robinson took great risks in going against the long established color code. Rickey bucked the system. Robinson literally put his life on the line. In the end, their risks changed the game and did much to open the eyes of a country. There is still racism in America, but men like Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey changed the game because they were willing to challenge accept wisdom and customs. To achieve our professional goals, we need to be ready to take risks and face our inner fears.
3. Be willing to change
A few of Robinson’s teammates welcomed him. Most did not. However, the film shows them learning to accept him and, more importantly, respect him. From what I’ve read, the transition wasn’t as fast or smooth as the film depicts. But, as Robinson endured, his teammates accepted him. In many work experiences, accepting change is the first step to being successful.
4. Don’t quit
If I were only given one word to describe Jackie Robinson, it would be strength. He faced hate from all angles. His life was threatened. Still, he did not quit. Robinson knew what kind of treatment he would face, and his determination opened the door for other African American players. It made baseball a better game and America a more equal nation. In the end, Robinson’s fame is as much a matter of his mental strength as it is his great accomplishments on the field. Again, he is a role model for any worker who faces obstacles and still achieves a goal.
I don’t mean to make 42 into a simplistic story. It’s not. I strongly recommend the movie as a great biography and as source of inspiration.
In a recent post, I described a client who is being laid off because of a trend to make employees buy their trucks and routes. We could debate this managerial strategy. As I wrote, I’m not a fan of making employees carry most of the risk. However, my client faced a different, more immediate problem. He needed a job.
My client assumed that that all trucking companies were following the same model. Maybe more are, but not all. We quickly identified four companies that pay drivers as employees and do not require that they own their trucks. I also talked to him about other ways he could use his skill as a driver to earn a living.
My client’s initial problem was that he faced a career roadblock without thinking about alternatives, ways to work around a problem. In the face of job loss, most of us go through a similar type of despair or denial.
What should you do if you or a friend are facing a career roadblock? First, analyze the situation calmly and rationally. Ask this question: What kind of employers need my skills? Make a detailed list of your professional skills and start thinking about what kind of industries and companies employee people with those skills
Another good way to get around road blocks is to talk with people you’ve worked with in the past, especially supervisors or managers who appreciated your work. Don’t ask them to help you get a job. That’s a big turn off. Instead, ask them for advice. What skills do they see as your strongest? Where do they think you should look for work? Do they have any insight about how you might change careers? Humans love to give advice (especially bloggers). Take advantage of that resource.
There are other ways around career roadblocks, too many to list here. The key is to recognize that you are stuck and find a way to move forward. Keep a positive attitude and stay open to new ideas. For many successful professionals, a career roadblock offers an opportunity to find a new, better job. The first step is always to believe in yourself and know that you can move forward.
Big Think features a post by blogger (and University of Michigan professor) Jeff DeGraf on how to find a job. I like the advice DeGraf gives because it isn’t clichéd or easy. Following the professional service model, he tells job seekers to know their strengths and sell them the right way. My favorite bit of wisdom is “fish where others aren’t.” Too often job seekers look for the easy way to get hired or the big company where everyone wants to work.
DeGraf finds opportunity in strange places (depressed cities, near bankrupt companies), places most people won’t see as a good potential employer. However, what if the company or city turns around? You can find an opportunity others ignored. Such advice isn’t easy to follow because it requires thoughtful risk taking, a spirit DeGraf links to innovation. This short post should be read by everyone who wants to move past looking for work and build a career. It's advice is solid.
Writing in Huffington Post, Stacy Johnson critiques our culture’s need to create experts. What I like most about Johnson’s argument is that he cuts to the chase: the alleged experts often don’t know what they are talking about. He gives some great examples of how this game works.
In posts over the past few months, I’ve taken on experts who claim
- The only way to get a job is to be employed.
- You should never have an objective on your resume.
- All bullet resumes are easier to read.
These are just three example of silly declarations made by would-be career experts.
I urge readers to test every kind of advice or “truth,” and I don’t exclude my own claims. We only learn when others correct us. The problem with experts (Paul Krugman calls them “Very Serious People”) is that they are never wrong.