The Ebola Virus and Your Career
You are probably wondering what does Ebola have to do with your career, other than the fact that god forbid you somehow contracted the illness and had to be in quarantine, etc. etc.
No, that is not where we are going with this. Although the Ebola virus in our eyes as human being and victims of the disease is a deadly virus and it reality it is a very smart and calculated being. Here is what we already know about the Ebola Virus:
1. It knows it’s purpose and has done it successfully and consistently since the 70’s
2. It thrives hosted within a familiar and trusted environment
3. It is a national and international sensation and it knows it
4. It knows how to blend in and when to flare up
4. It has great longevity (referring to its ability to sustain itself)
5. It has has upward mobility (currently being the biggest epidemic in history)
Again what does this have to do with your career? As a practicing industrial/organizational psychologist, a coach and a trusted advisor, I have had the pleasure of working with so many professionals and one of the chief complaints I have heard regardless of status, number of years of experience, education, or pay has been “I don’t know where my career is headed”. Beyond the obvious human condition of not having a crystal ball and not being to unfortunately foretell the future, the truth of the matter is that you have more power and control over your career than you may think or willing to admit to. Well, what if you considered your ambitions the Ebola Virus? Not in a negative way, so this exercise takes a bit of reframing your original mind frame. Rather, viewing your career goals as a push forward, “nay” resistant, calculated, has a life of its own creature? Now look at the 5 items above and read them from the perspective of your job and career.
There is a “science” to herding your career and advancing your goals in the work arena. It is true that with the world of globalization, technology and unprecedented layoffs, predictability is definitely not what it used to be. However, risk management applies to money management and finances 10, 20, or even 30 years down the line, so why can’t your career follow suite? But it can. Between emotional intelligence, careful and planned training, and network building we have got you covered. We counsel career professionals, executives and the c-suite on these matters daily, so take a comfortable seat and lend and ear.
1) Find a familiar host and/or trusted environment
It’s true. It’s who you know, not what you have accomplished. Many people do not want to believe this simple but unspoken rule about life and work because it means the hardest working, most creative, most dedicated people are not necessarily going to get the next promotion.
This means that unless you have a good relationship with key people directly or at least indirectly, you will not get ahead no matter how hard you work, no matter what your accomplishments are.
The person who will get the next big promotion or the next big job opportunity will be someone who knows the boss better than you do, someone who has more face time with the boss, and someone who the boss has better chemistry with.
People climb up the ladder and/or get recognized because the boss feels they can be trusted to do the job, to follow thoroughly, and to be a loyal supporter. You may be all of these, but unless you can communicate that clearly, no one will know. Prior accomplishments are often not the main consideration. I have often coached individuals who feel discouraged that they are getting passed on opportunities. After further inquiry I have almost always gotten to know that there is always a counter part who gets recognition after recognition, and promotion after promotion. When I inquire why they believe the other individual keeps getting ahead, their response is “I don’t know, to me it seems that all the person does is a lot of talking”. My response “thank you, I am Sure they are very articulate and very well spoken, but comparing their track record to you, you don’t see all the hoopla? The trust upper management places on an individual is usually not necessarily correlational to the numbers. Given today’s economical conditions, that is usually a requirement rather than a plus. Upper management puts trust on the individual who toots the company’s horn, their team’s horn, and supports the boss’s agenda whether through an added skill(more on this below), or presentation, etc.
2) Be a national and an international sensation and know your worth
On the opposite side, I have worked with individuals who are constantly looking for the next opportunity and pushing the bar against their own self What’s their secret? When I observed these individuals closely, I often notice that they never pass up an opportunity to market themselves. Yet they do it so subtlety, that most people either don’t notice, or are not turned off or annoyed by it.
Whenever there was a large meeting with both peers and superiors, this person would find a way to get everyone’s attention. Then, while discussing the current topic she would ever so slightly mention something what she and her team had just accomplished. However small, she would somehow show a connection between that accomplishment, and the topic at hand. In this way, every accomplishment was highlighted to management.
So the tip here is to make sure upper management, other branches, or locations know what your contributions and accomplishments are, and do it in a subtle way if possible. Don’t rely on your boss to broadcast this, Be your Own Messenger.
3) Know your purpose and stick to it
If you have read any of the material on this web site you know by now how important it is to do the work you were cut out to do. It’s hard to be passionate and committed to doing work that does not utilize your natural talents and your personal competitive advantage. Spend 15 to 20 minutes everyday and take an inventory of your passions and talents and see which ones you are constantly nurturing. A part of our Career Planning Program is the discover y of “what types of work you were truly meant to do”.
4) Know when to blend in and when to “flare up”
Disagreeing with upper management or anyone for a matter of fact in front of other people is simply not smart. Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends clearly states that “no one likes criticism”. No matter how close you and the other individual are and how right you think you are, never disagree with them in public, even if they invite you to. Instead, learn to become a valuable advisor and yes to the boss especially. Here’s how…
If you disagree with the boss, wait until you two have a private moment and then explain your viewpoint. Then, at the end say “Thanks for listening to me. I really appreciate the opportunity to be heard. You are the boss, and I am a loyal soldier so I will do it your way. “
Why? Even the most confident boss will have doubts about himself. So while he / she does not need you undermining his/her credibility, there is an underlying achiever there that will appreciate “Constructive criticism”. Bosses want to see that everyone is in alignment and following them. So doing any dissension is really a disservice to them but ultimately to your career.
If you really want to get ahead, anticipate future issues and possible disagreements and discuss them in private, ahead of time. In this way you become a trusted advisor to the boss. This will build trust and demonstrate loyalty.
I once had an employee who used this skill with me many times. He would come into my office and say something like this: “There is going to be a meeting later today and I expect this issue to come up. I just want to give you a heads up. Here is my perspective… and here is the opposing view…”
Eventually I learned to trust this person and I felt we made a great team. I would frequently seek out his opinion before making critical decisions. So I know first hand that this process does work.
5) Create upward mobility by filling a Gap In a Skill Set
Through observation, research and record keeping you can connect dots in others behaviors and learn how to connect with them . One of the facets of Emotional Intelligence, and also the best way to get close to key people in the organization and to make yourself truly valuable. If done well, this will truly benefit the organization.
All of us have Achilles, some that we recognize and others we might not be aware of. The key is to understand the strengths and challenges of those around us and see if we can somehow fill the gap. I observed this in one organization where the boss was not very strategic, and his position did require that he provide direction and vision to the organization. One astute direct report figured this out and made a point of regularly communicating with the boss and coming to him with strategic ideas, vision and direction. The executive adopted many of these ideas and they became his own and that of the entire organization.
Once you have fulfilled a need missing within a superior and it is noticed, you are branded in their mind, and even the organization if you go about it smartly. That goes beyond all other hard skills you possess.
To understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others, all you need to do is pay attention and observe patterns.
Many of the viruses and diseases of our past have been eradicated by measurement. To eradicate the Ebola virus as well, careful assessment of its patterns of behavior will be key. Through measurement, we will establish a pattern of behavior, and condition the infection to fall on its face.