I heard someone say the other day that Oprah has 11 coaches! Well I'm not sure how true that is, but the more you look at the common traits of highly successful people, having some form of life or business coach is a consistent thread.
Steve Jobs once said:
"You can't connect the dots looking forwards, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."
It's always interesting talking to someone who loves what they do in their career and tracing back to see what got them into that space. So it shouldn't have come as a huge surprise to me why I've moved my career into coaching people in their careers, however it did.
I thought it was because ever since I started in the workforce, friends would talk to me about the issues they were having at work, with their boss or a colleague. However recently I realised that once again good old family dynamics were at play.
I had 3 key influencers in my childhood: my dad, my grandad and my mum.
When supply outweighs demand, an organisation will usually narrow their shortlising criteria based on who has relevant industry experience, thinking that it is essential. It sounds logical, but should it be the defining factor?
Are they missing out on other attributes which are not currently within their organisation by looking for more of the same?
At a time when organisations are looking to innovate, perhaps they should be thinking more innovatively when it comes to who they recruit by bringing on people with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective.
So as a candidate how do you increase your chances of a lateral industry move? It’s one thing for you to think you can make the transition, but how do you convince the buyer?
Firstly, acknowledge that this bias is often at play and think about how you can work with it. Draw on the synergies between the industry you have developed experience in, and identify the parallels with the industry you are trying to move into. For example, I’ve seen people successfully transition between defence, construction and mining based on the fact that typically all three environments run large scale projects. There’s also synergy between the wine and manufacturing sector, hospitality and hospitals. Local government is a very diverse environment and can draw on backgrounds from a range of industries outside of local government.
Secondly, don’t try and make two career moves in the one move. Typically if you are looking to enter a new industry sector stay with roles that are close to home with your skill set. So if you are looking to move up from a CFO role into a CEO position in a new sector, you might need to transition across into another CFO role and then move up.
Thirdly, build a compelling case around your skill set and how that will help the organisation deliver against its big picture strategic objectives. In challenging times organisations are doing things they haven’t done before. How will your experience help them get there?
Just remember, when someone is looking through your application, they need to see a connection between what you’ve done and what they are looking to achieve. It needs to make sense to them.
What is a value proposition?
Noun: (in marketing) it's an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product (that's you!) attractive to customers.
Forbes: it's a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you're distinctly better than the alternatives.
Every time I interview someone, I start off by asking them what their value proposition to an organisation is to gain clarity around what they will deliver and how I can position them in a competitive field. It is often surprising how many people give me a blank look and have not thought of their skill set in this way. Yet it is critical to gaining that competitive advantage - if you don't know why you're the person for the job, how will they?
In order to identify your value proposition look at what people naturally gravitate towards you for, what do you enjoy doing, what comes naturally and what skills and experience you have that helps people solve problems. Remember, if anyone is looking to employ someone or engage a service, it's because they have a problem they need solved.
So put yourself in the buyer's seat and identify where you can add value:
•What problem can you solve for them?
•What skills/expertise do you have that would help solve that problem?
•How is your service offering different to your competition?
•What extra value can you bring?
Where's the value?
List the employer's goals and needs then list your skills and expertise and find the crossover. This will require some self reflection and research and may involve speaking to others to gain their perceptions and impressions of your professional profile and achievements.
The clearer you are on what you have to offer and the value you provide the easier it makes it for the buyer to take action!
Ask for it!
There was a point where I needed to transition my career after 20 years in recruitment, and wasn't sure what else I could do! I thought I was stuck.
After realising I needed to take action, I had to make sure I was asking for the role I wanted, rather than simply what I’d done for the past 20 years. Where to start?
I started with a clean slate. Then I wrote down what I actually enjoy doing, and am good at, and left out the tasks I didn’t enjoy. I didn't worry about the logistics of how it’s going to come about, just pictured what I wanted to be doing. The things I thought about were the work environment, the people I wanted to be spending time with on a daily basis, the vibe in the office and the people around me, what I could see myself doing and where, working indoors or outside. I then thought about what did I enjoy about my current role and what would I miss if I couldn’t do it anymore. Once you've done this then dream a little, take it to the next level. No-one’s watching.
It was around this time that my chiropractor introduced me to a process called The Release Technique, which helped me to let go of some of my beliefs around what I thought I deserved and didn’t deserve. I then wrote down what would be my dream job right now. It was a tall order in a market where many organisations were cutting back on sales roles and certainly not investing in pure business development positions. I’d also been involved in recruitment for a long time and was looking for a career change. But I started to reflect on the feedback I'd had from colleagues, clients and candidates around why they enjoyed working with me, and I gained some clarity around my value proposition.
Here’s what I wrote:
Business Development Manager
Ask for it!
I then contacted a range of people in my network with clarity about the type of role I was looking for. It wasn’t long before I mentioned it to one person who pointed me in the direction of my next employer who was looking for a Business Development Manager. Two weeks later I had the job!
So think big, and then think some more.
Before start your job search in this highly competitive market, take a look within your existing environment to whether you can create your dream job where you are.
This week I’ve seen two possibilities where this has occurred. One where a client was about to go to the market to recruit a position until an employee expressed interest in a lateral move. Another where a candidate was about to leave an organisation they loved before realising they could create the opportunity they wanted right where they were.
You may be uninspired in your current role, but enjoy the culture you’re in and the people you work with, so it may be a case of thinking laterally.
Any recruitment need is about solving a problem for a business, so mentally step up into the CEO’s seat and take a look around.
Then reflect on your skill set and where you add value and what gives you a real sense of satisfaction and see if you can write a new job description for yourself. Where do your strengths lie and how can you align them to the organisation’s strategic objectives?
You don’t need to have all the details ironed out, or indeed possess all the skills (there’s always room for professional development as long as you have transferable skills), but you do need to have clarity around what, and be confident that, you can deliver.
If you can build a strong business case demonstrating ROI you’re going to make it very difficult for the organisation to say no!
There is growing recognition that there's a strong connection between health and wellbeing and productivity at work. At a time when organisations are cutting to the bone, companies such as IBM and Westpac still see the importance of investing in wellbeing programs for their staff. Why? Because it contributes to greater productivity, engagement and sustainable careers, therefore they retain their high achievers.
So if you're feeling flat at work, try working out!
I realised seven years ago that there is a strong connection between building physical and mental strength. When I push myself at the gym, it pushes me mentally. When I push myself in one area of my life it cascades into others.
So, how do you go about integrating sustainable change?
The last thing anyone wants to hear when they're trying to make changes in their life is "things don't happen quickly. It takes a long time to achieve change." Although this is absolutely true, it is neither encouraging nor useful when you are in the first phase of your journey.
A more helpful realisation is to notice that change is achieved by taking one step at a time, one day at a time. I know, another platitude, but when you implement one new behaviour, no matter how small, it does have a ripple effect. It either has an immediate impact on another behaviour or another area of your life. It all starts with taking one step in the right direction, and then another. When it comes to building long term, sustainable change it's more effective to implement just a couple of changes at a time, normalise those, then bring in another level of change, normalise that, then do it again and again.
Mind over matter
When you start to push yourself physically, there will initially be some mental resistance (and a lot of whingeing). You are pushing yourself beyond the restraints of your mind, and each time you will be able to go further and further, expanding your comfort zone. This state of mind will also expand into your career. You may find yourself taking more risks, and daring to do things you have hesitated to do in the past.
People who push the boundaries in the gym often have strong self discipline, are able to set goals and map out a strategy to achieve them. All essential skills to be successful at work.
Make a change in one area of your life, and see how it impacts your career!
‘Psychological resilience’ refers to the differences between how people respond and cope with difficult or stressful situations. People who are highly resilient are empowered to act confidently in a stressful situation, are less affected from stress, recover faster and are more open to personal growth from such occurrences.
Would that make a difference to your career?
Now think about this: It is widely acknowledged that mental disorders such as stress and depression have increased in recent years. People are also relying on technology to move less, eat faster and bring ease to their lives.
Could our lack of movement and poor food choices reduce our physical and mental resilience? Therefore, is the opposite also true, could becoming more physically active increase our resilience?
So how does exercise help?
Firstly, exercise not only strengthens our physiological make up but also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals that enhance our mood and self-esteem. Most people talk about what they can’t do but good personal trainers encourage you to focus on what you can do. Quite often, the lessons you learn from personal training enable you to apply these skills to the rest of your life with rewarding results.
Four key principles for being mentally resilient.
Responsibility – We may blame everyone and everything for our issues rather than take active steps to change whatever we are capable of. We choose what we think, how we feel and what we do. Exercise is a strategy to ensure you are responsible. Committing to yourself daily will teach you responsibility for being healthy and taking on the challenge yourself and teaches you to be responsible for your health. If its’ going to be, It’s up to me! In life this quote carries through and your resilience develops.
Adaptability – We may seem mentally healthy when we are suited to our normal conditions, i.e., our jobs, relationships and home etc, however if these conditions change and we are unable to adapt, we may be at risk of poor mental health. Exercise teaches your body and brain to adapt daily. From different classes to to trying something new you are put in a place where you learn and adapt, learn and adapt!
Commitment – A key aspect of commitment is that it provides us with meaning in our lives. If we ask ourselves, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ then our commitments should provide the answer (note: yours should be in various areas, not just one or two i.e., relationships, career, health, home, wealth, leisure). Exercise teaches you to commit to yourself when perhaps you would rather do something else or rationalize in your mind some excuse.
Confidence – Is the belief in your ability to get things done. We may prefer to stay in our comfort zone but eventually everything changes and unless we change our comfort zone, these become comfort traps and can sabotage our happiness! Exercise gets you out of your comfort zone. How do you feel once you have accomplished something you didn't think you could do?
By practicing these steps to building resilience through exercise, you will learn things about yourself that will give you the strength to harness that little voice inside. This voice can be your best friend or worst nightmare.
There is one simple way to tell - how are your senior leaders shaping up???
Are they setting an example which inspires others to want to follow in their footsteps? If the answer is no, then perhaps the change needs to start at the top.
Success is more than a reflection of what's in your bank account.
Are you happy doing what you're doing? Do you have healthy relationships in your life? Do you have time to live life? Are you healthy?
I often see people move into senior roles and when I catch up with them at the 6 month mark, I see visible changes. At 12 months, it's even more telling. The long hours, the after hours functions, the lack of planning for nutrition and exercise all take their toll. On top of this, stress levels start to go through the roof, and there are no coping mechanisms in place. Not a sustainable position to be in.
A corporate wellbeing program is far more than offering flu shots and having a fruit basket in the kitchen. It's about changing a mindset. You need to be the best version of you to have the mental and physical stamina, balance, resilience and mindfulness to thrive, yet where do you see evidence of wellbeing practices in the workplace? Not just the annual 10,000 steps program, but on a daily basis.
So ask yourself some questions:
What is one area you could start working on to make changes? Start with small changes, just make a start. Which area would have the biggest impact if you made changes? It's amazing how getting some small wins can have a cascading effect.
I've worked in the corporate sector for 30 years and have always had a curiosity for people who are successful in business and in life.