Joyce Lain Kennedy
Career Q & A
July 6, 2012
DEAR JOYCE: I graduated from college four years ago with a liberal arts degree. For the past two years, I've worked in a real estate office, but it feels as though I'm stuck in a tar pit: can't get out and going nowhere fast. Advice? -- S.O.S.
DEAR S.O.S. -- Behavioral expert and business adviser Beverly Flaxington is the author of a new book, "Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go" (ATA Pres). When researching her book, Flaxington discovered surveys suggesting that many employees have one of five career-limiting traits.
The fearsome five are: (1) unreliability, (2) responding with "it's not my job," (3) procrastination, (4) resistance to change or (5) protecting a negative attitude. Changing behavior is a tough nut to crack, even if doing so holds the promise of moving you out of a rut ... err, ah, tar pit. Most employers surveyed think there's a fat chance their employees will actually make the behavioral changes needed to boost their careers.
So how can you smile again? How can you move forward? Flaxington suggests five areas of self-introspection when you want to quit wasting your life in a job or career that doesn't fit you, when you're bonkers bored or when you're worried that you're not getting ahead fast enough:
LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING. Write down your desired outcome. State specifically where you want to go next in your career. Give yourself a date by which you want to accomplish this goal. How does your current position support or sabotage your goal?
NAME WHAT'S STOPPING YOU. Write down obstacles in three categories: those within your control, those you may be able to influence and those out of your control. Put a big slash mark through the obstacles that are entirely out of your control. Now brainstorm what you can do to overcome the remaining obstacles. Focusing on what you can do, rather than on what you can't, helps counteract negative feelings and behaviors that are keeping you stuck in a life you don't want.
ADOPT A NEW COMMUNICATION STYLE. Recognize your communication style. Do you talk before you think? Are you assertive? Are you a quiet thinker and planner? Next, pay attention to your boss's style. If your boss is direct and a "get it done" person, but you need time to process information and plan, you may come across as slow, procrastinating or even resistant to feedback or authority. Mirror the boss's style. To the degree that you can, use the same words, tone and approach.
TRY ON A NEW YOU. Talk to outside experts or inside mentors about your options for changing. Ask for advice and feedback. Look around your culture -- who succeeds and why? Like a curious detective, look for clues to get unstuck from your trap and pick up tips all around you. Try a new behavior, such as coming in early or volunteering for a hated task; observe how others react and how it makes you feel.
DON'T BE A DISMAL DRAG. The more you tell yourself how horrible everything is in your workplace, the more you will respond negatively in your behavior. Cut your managers a break. If you can't pull it together, stop making excuses for not reaching your potential where you are and look for another job.
DEAR JOYCE: The last two years have brought me into the sales profession from a previous military career. I could use some help in understanding how to become tops at what I do. Recommendations? -- F.T.
DEAR F.T. -- Kick off your career growth effort by reading the new 2nd edition of "The Accidental Salesperson: How to Take Control of Your Sales Career and Earn the Respect and Income You Deserve" by Chris Lytle (Amacom).
Sales trainer Lytle's book is lively, entertaining and covers new tools -- social media, Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx and more. It also tells you how to sell to people who don't have time to meet, a growing problem in today's "move it! move it!" world.
(E-mail career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at email@example.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)
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