As we are a week into the season of Lent which, if you’re not familiar with, is when some religions fast, pray and repent for the 40 days before Easter. Typically, one will either give something up that is difficult for them, such as eating candy or smoking, while others will do more, such as donate to charities, volunteer or be nicer to others.
This had me thinking that the premise behind this observance can relate to one’s career (or personal life) and how you can follow your own “lenten” journey. Now would be a good time to stop doing something that is detrimental to your career, such as coming in late or procrastinating on tasks. These types of activities not only hold you back from being a good performer and getting the work done, but they also will get you noticed – and not in a good way. Think of how much better you would feel if you stopped behaviors that have frustrated you (you’ve noticed) and created rituals in order to perform at your best.
On the other hand, why not look to make a commitment to do more, such as to be fully present in your work, to complement others you work with or get to know them better, or even smiling more. Being and doing more sets a different tone (than giving up) but it ultimately leads to bringing out more of your skills, talents and more of who you are, while thinking of others and your relationship to them. In the workplace, these types of actions can create more positive interactions that will ultimately lead to higher performance and more job satisfaction. You can whistle while you work versus feeling miserable.
I challenge you to choose one: give up or do more – for the next 32 days and see your results. Either way, you can’t lose.
As you are going about your daily work-life, are you aware of job activities you do and are you bringing out your best through them? In order to effectively manage your career, you must know what skills, talents, aptitudes, and the like, that you are using, what successes you have achieved, and take ownership of them. The benefits to you are:
- you will be fully aware of what makes you valuable to your employer (or a future employer); you can then keep using them which leads to mastery of these skills
- you become the subject matter expert in your area, making you indispensable, giving you leverage for advancement opportunities
- you will establish your “brand” which increases your worth
- you will gain increased confidence and do your best work
When you work to bring out the best of you the gains are many, no matter if you work in an organization or for yourself. Begin to keep track of what you do on a daily basis, the outcomes, the effect it made on others, the impact on organizational goals, and how you felt. Take ownership for the work you do, meaning that each task you perform is more than just ‘doing my job’ – you are bringing your best to those tasks which enhances and adds to the bottom-line. Added benefits include increased job satisfaction and renewed commitment to always bringing out your best; you will be choosing to use your skills and expertise in positive ways that makes a difference in your daily work-life and to those you come in contact with in your organization.
I find that the majority of clients I work with are not unhappy with the job they do but they are miserable with their organizational life. Work-overload, deadlines, personal problems and worries over potential job loss all impact the workplace environment and can contribute to job dissatisfaction. One can be very involved in the job they do but not in the work environment, and vice-versa, which will affect one’s level of engagement and productivity.
Here is a quick exercise to help you determine your level of organizational satisfaction. Take a piece of paper and rate your level of satisfaction on a scale of 1 (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (totally satisfied); be really honest in your answers:
- Effective Communication – how well information is communicated and received throughout the organization, as well as in work relationships
- Creativity/Innovation – are employees allowed to use their creativity or is this thwarted; does the organization expand and change to adapt to current trends, or are they the innovators
- Fairness/Justice – are employees treated fairly and equally; are policies and procedures followed for all
- Measurable Impact – do assigned tasks have measurable outcomes and recognized, or changed, based on these outcomes; are employees recognized for the work they do that leads to significant outcomes/success
- Professional Team Dynamics – is the work-group structured in a way that all are contributing, using their skills appropriately, aware of the goals to achieve and communicating often and productively
- Effective Conflict Resolution – is the work environment open and allow for freedom of speech to recognize and then resolve conflict; are the policies and procedures clear, known, and followed fairly
- Motivation/Clear Purpose – do you feel you fully understand the job duties and work processes; do you have all the information or resources to do the job; does your manager/leader understand your motivations and provide opportunities
- Work/Home Balance – are you able to self-manage situations in your home life or work life that may cause you stress; do you often feel overwhelmed by the ability to get it all done; do you have outlets for relaxation, time management, support
If any of your answers fall in the lower range, take time to analyze areas or situations that are leading you to feel unhappy or frustrated; see what you can change and then take action. Doing so will help you to feel recharged and can decrease your feelings of stress while giving you a sense of mastery over your worklife. Your level of satisfaction will increase and so will your happiness.
As a Career Coach and Professor or Career Management, I am always in promotion mode for people to always manage their career; that means that one knows what they want for a career path, know what their skill sets are, and are prepared for a job transition if they need one. That being said, the majority of workers are not prepared and do not know what career management is. In this month’s issue of Chief Learning Officer, there is a great article that addresses the topic of career management and what benefit it has for both an individual and for an organization. According to the author, (Sullivan), employees who feel they have greater control over their career and the work they do have higher levels of engagement, which equals to higher levels of productivity and profits.
Some interesting research findings include:
- 60% of 900 workers in North America are dissatisfied with their job and are seeking new opportunities
- 27% are in job-search mode, updating their resume and networking
- 76% of organizations are learning more toward flexible work arrangements as a way to boost employee morale
- 64% of companies believe co-locating work arrangements increases employee retention
Organizations that are paying attention to the trends that are out there and listening to their employees are positioning themselves for continued growth, productivity and loyalty. Considering the generational influence, especially with the Millenials who truly want to define the workplace their way, it will behoove organizations to reframe and refocus the way they operate. Helping employees in their career management journey not only leads to more engaged workers but it also helps to aid in their professional development, job satisfaction, involvement and loyalty which equals to a win-win situation all the way around. Organizations not only get highly developed employees but it aids in keeping the knowledge within the organization and positively affects retention and turnover costs.
How can an organization help its employees to manage their career?
1. Encourage them to take control of their career by providing opportunities for professional development, such as training opportunties, seminars, publications, workshops, or career mapping within the organization
2. Listen to them – employees who feel that they are heard about their wants and the direction they want their career to take feel more empowered and willing to give their best to the work they do, which only benefits the organization as a whole
3. Develop a career management center, where they can access a career coach, assessements, and resources to help them develop their skills and to keep them as high performers, especially for leadership
Helping employees to manage their career will ensure that you have high performing, highly satisfied and engaged workers and that you have the right people in the right roles. With emerging trends that are impacting the world of work, organizations must act now to align their business strategies and goals, to aid in workforce development and retention, and for leadership and succession planning – effective career management is the key.
During self-assessment, which is a crucial step in one’s career management process, an area of importance to understand is one’s values. Values are “the beliefs about the qualities of human life or the types of behavior that an individual wants to attain” (Greenhaus & Callanan, 2006). Values usually develop early on and can be learned behaviors or patterns that one esteems in their life. In regards to a career, values include the preferences one has about the rewards, payoffs, policies, or leadership of their working life. Schwartz (1999) identified the 10 top values that are relevant to the world of work. It is important that you identify the value(s) that are important to you so that your job or profession will meet your value-orientation and help you be more engaged in your work and for higher job satisfaction. See which of these top 10 are important to you:
- Hedonism (pleasure)
- Universalism (applies to all)
- Benevolence (kindness for the good of others)
Do you ever wonder why there are some employees or managers who deal with a high level of daily stress do not burn out? Some researchers have shown that one’s political skills help them deal with stressful situations. Here are some skills that are most useful:
1. Using practical intelligence as opposed to analytical or creative intelligence
2. Being calculated and shrewd about social connections
3. Inspiring trust and confidence
4. Ability to deal with individuals who have a wide variety of backgrounds, styles, and personalities
To summarize, these skills can be learned but need focus and attention in order to adopt these behaviors. When you understand that these skills help you not to react to adverse situations in the workplace, you will be less frustrated or stressed and will feel more positive. This can equate to increased job satisfaction and involvement in your work. Do you possess these skills? Which do you use?