💡 Invincible Tip - Career Dos and Don'ts (Issue #448)
What you should be doing and what you should avoid
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I had many more questions than I could answer during the Career Q&A last month. So, I wanted to address one of the questions that I think would be useful for all of you.
The gist of it was, “What are the biggest career dos and don’ts?”
I’m going to share some of the most important ones that may seem obvious to a few people. So, let me include this brief reminder.
“What is common sense isn't common practice.”
— Stephen Covey
In fact, it rarely is. All too often, I’ll share some advice with someone and they’ll say, “Oh, I already know that.”
I respond, “Oh, that’s great! So, you’re already doing it then?”
They’ll often blush and say, “Well, no, not really. I know I should, but I haven’t made time for it, yet.”
So, let this list of dos and don’ts serve double duty. Maybe you will learn something new. But, it’s also a reminder to stop making excuses and start acting on some of these ideas.
Five career dos
The first career do is to find an accountability partner. This could be an individual (e.g., friend, mentor, coach). Or, it could be a group (e.g., my Invincible Career community).
Why do you need one? Well, because you probably are familiar with some of the dos later in this article, but you’re not taking action. Of, you keep starting and stopping. An accountability partner helps you stay on track.
2. Be great at what you do
This seems so obvious. Of course, you should be great at what you do for your profession!
But, let me tell you what I often run into when I talk with some folks. They want that big promotion or a great new job that bumps their title to the next level. But, they simply haven’t put in the time to be amazing at what they do, yet.
No magical resume, interview tricks, or clever networking can overcome a lack of skills and experience. Even if you get some help opening doors for you, the truth will come out during the interview process and you will get rejected for the position.
Put in the time and effort to become great at what you do.
3. Earn your fans
If you work hard and consistently deliver quality, you will accumulate “professional fans.” If you’re reliable and dependable, people will remember. If you’re great to work with, word gets around.
Basically, you will build a great professional reputation in your industry. People always ask around and people talk.
Folks will want to work with you again (e.g., they’ll be happy to share your resume with a hiring manager).
Leaders will want to hire you when they move to a new company (smart leaders bring in talent they trust).
Your name will come up when someone asks for the best talent they know (e.g., “Who is the best iOS app developer you’ve worked with?”).
4. Be visible internally
I’m an introvert, so I like to put my head down, work hard, and be left alone. You know what? That didn’t serve me very well when I was a junior employee. My manager didn’t have a complete picture of what I was doing, so it hurt me during a performance review.
If you want to get ahead at work, you have to be visible. People need to know who you are, what you do, how great you are, etc. Some ways to ensure you are visible at work:
Give brown bag talks on topics you know well.
Step up and help your colleagues when you can.
Check-in and provide updates to your manager frequently enough (i.e., based on their preferences).
Network internally and meet other talented people.
5. Be proactive
Passive people don’t get ahead. It’s a shame, but I’ve seen many talented people’s careers stall simply because they sat back and waited for their manager to take care of them. That often doesn’t happen.
Don’t wait for good things to magically occur. Make things happen for you by being more proactive. For example:
Step up frequently and take on more responsibility (e.g., managers often promote people who are doing things a level above their current role).
Ask your manager how you can help them. What’s on their plate that you could take?
Be clear and proactive about your career goals in the company. If your manager isn’t discussing this with you, bring it up in your meetings (e.g., what’s expected of you, what success looks like, and what performance at the next level looks like).
Pin expectations down quantitatively. Don’t get stuck with fuzzy qualitative goals. For example, if your manager tells you that you need to “be more innovative,” find out what that really means and turn it into a quantitative measurement so that success will be clear.
Five career don’ts
1. Never threaten
I'm not sure where some people learn this “strategy,” but I’ve witnessed way too many people trying to threaten their manager to get what they want. For example:
“If I don’t get the raise I asked for, I’m not going to keep working this hard.”
“If you don’t promote me this cycle, I’m going to quit.”
“If you give that project to someone else, I’m moving to a new team.”
No one likes to be threatened. I’ve had employees try that with me, so I said, “Ok, go ahead and quit. If you’re feeling that way, you’d probably quit after you receive the promotion anyway.”
There are better ways to work with your manager to create a plan for what you need. Collaborate with them, and don’t make them the enemy. If you actually do want to quit and get a better job, just do it. Don’t threaten first.
2. Don’t confront in public
Just recently, I heard about someone confronting their manager in a team meeting. Wow. That’s not smart. Trust me, I did it once and it didn’t turn out well. But, I already had one foot out the door and was feeling frustrated.
Leaders shouldn’t do this to their employees, either. It’s so unprofessional and damaging.
Yes, you can respectfully disagree with someone during a meeting. But, I think we all realize when it reaches a nonproductive point and needs to be “taken offline.” If you push your manager to the wall in front of other employees, don’t be surprised if they try to save face and take you down a notch. It never ends well for anyone involved.
Follow up with people privately and have the conversation one-on-one later.
3. Don’t burn out
It’s ok to ask for help prioritizing work and taking things off your plate so you can succeed. Don’t try to be a “good little trooper” and push yourself to the point of burnout.
A successful career is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and be strategic with your bursts of energy and effort. No one can go 100 MPH every day, every week, and every year.
Also, use your vacation time! You probably recognize when you need a break from work. Don’t wait until you reach the point of burning out and giving up.
4. Don’t stop networking
I always tell people that getting a new job isn’t the finish line they think it is. How many of us expect to retire in the same job we have right now? Almost no one.
You are going to be looking for your next career move sooner or later. Sometimes much sooner than you hope (e.g., layoffs happen, new employees get fired when they don't work out, you may regret taking a job and want to leave immediately, etc.). But, most likely in 2-4 years.
Almost 100% of the people I talk with about networking regret that they let their network cool down after they took a new job. It takes so long to spin things back up later when you need it.
Sure, take a breather during the first six months in a new job. You have your hands full! But, start refreshing and strengthening your external network after you’re settled in.
5. Don’t stop searching
Similarly, don’t stop looking for your next job. I’ve talked with a few clients about this. They found out the hard way that an internal promotion would take way longer than getting bumped to the next level by finding a new job.
Even if things are going well with your employer (e.g., you’re getting big raises and regular promotions), it never hurts to look around. Always keep your eyes open for new opportunities.
You may discover that you have it pretty good in your current job. As you look around, no other employer feels quite right, no one offers you a nice promotion, or the compensation isn’t as good. You don’t have to accept a job offer. Just turn them down. In that case, you’re going to be even happier at work!
But, you might just discover an amazing opportunity to work on something really cool, accelerate your career, and get a nice big raise and promotion to boot. So, instead of waiting years for that to happen internally, you could take the job offer and boost your lifetime earning potential. I know my career grew much more quickly with strategic job hops.
That’s it! I hope you found these career dos and don’ts helpful. If you need an accountability partner to focus on making some of them happen, reach out to me.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your work and life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane.