Tag Archives: Job Hunt

The fast-track from entry-level to management in 5 (sort of) easy steps.

5 steps

Many moons ago, I started my career in business by taking a temp job at a tech company.  I had a degree in Anthropology and a limited background in museum administration.  I needed a job and, although it wasn’t exciting, this basic admin gig paid pretty well.  After a few months as a temp, I was hired on as an AR Specialist, and when I left the company 5 years later, I was an MBA leading a successful team.

Here’s what I learned in those 5 years:

Get good at your core tasks – fast.
Assuming you’re smart and willing to work (and I truly assume that most people are), this isn’t hard to do.  Basic efficiency goes a long way.  Show you can work quickly and effectively, then ask for more challenging tasks.  It helps if you can make a visible impact in some way, even if it seems super basic.  When I took the temp job, my office was in the file room, where mountains of paper was left unfiled, causing everyone to spend way too much time finding what they needed.  I’m a fast worker and I quickly tackled the problem, taking a very visible roadblock out of the my team’s way.  And I was quickly given more interesting things to do.

Join a cross-functional project team.
This introduces you to other areas of the organization and lets you get to know people on other teams.  Representing your area on a project makes you the default subject matter expert.  To use myself as an example again, when the Marketing team or the IT team needed something from AR, they came to me because they knew me from a project.  It’s actually startling how fast you can become the go-to person and subsequently, how rapidly your visibility within the organization increases.

Be a dependable problem-solver.
This is really a component of all the other points but I think it’s worth reiterating.  Being the go-to person on your team means being willing to help everyone.  Be a team player, be accountable and always follow-thru.  You’ll quickly become known as someone who gets things done.

Take a management position, even if you think you’re not ready.
Subject matter experts, who are known company-wide as dependable players, get promoted to team leaders.  Now, from an organizational standpoint, I don’t think this is a great idea.  Being good at what you do doesn’t mean you’ll make a great leader.  Particularly without proper training and mentoring.  But it happens, and as an individual, it’s worth capitalizing on.  Once you’re in the role, do your homework, figure out best practices and help your team achieve.  And help them both as a group and as individuals.  You’ll look extra great if your team members are fast-tracking their careers too.

Continue your education.
I’m often asked if I recommend pursuing an MBA.  My response is always “it depends”.  Should you jump into grad school right after college?  Maybe.  Should you go to grad school if your company is paying for it?  Absolutely.  I got my MBA while working full-time, which was exhausting, but I also had a ton of fun with a bunch of people going through the same thing.  And more importantly, I got more value out of both work and school because I was able to apply what I was learning every day.

The next question is always whether an MBA opens doors.  Again, “it depends”.  It probably won’t get you a job but it might get you an interview.  And if you’re looking to move up at your current company, and you’ve done everything I’ve outlined above, it’s priceless.  You’re already visible across the organization, you’re proving yourself as a leader and you’re working your butt off to get an advanced degree?  People will notice.

 

How about you? I’d love to hear your experiences on the path to management.

 

(Photo by Chris Wightman via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

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How do you survive a job you hate?

Out of Office by Everjean

Being stuck in a job you hate is draining – mentally, physically and emotionally.

You’re unmotivated, unproductive and unhappy. 

How do you get through it?  Here are three tips that have helped me in the past.

And as I wrote this, I started thinking about the flipside of the question:  How do we as managers make sure our employees aren’t stuck in jobs they hate?  Interestingly, the same advice applies in both cases.

Fight negative self-talk

There’s a voice inside your head that narrates as you go about your day, and sometimes it says the same negative thing so often that you don’t even realize it has become your mantra:

“Ugh, I hate this place.”      “I’m trapped.”      “This sucks.”

This inner curmudgeon is hard to ignore and only serves to make you feel even worse about your situation.  But if you can become conscious of your own self-talk, you can stop the voice before it starts.  When you hear your inner dialogue start to take a downward turn, pull up some positive phrases to counteract the negative voice.

“I feel good today.”       “I can do this.”

It won’t change the realities of your job but it will help you feel better as you do it.

The flipside…

As a manager, you obviously can’t change an employee’s inner voice.  But you can insure that your workplace culture doesn’t promote complaining and negative cross-talk.  Keep lines of communication open between you and your staff by creating a space for genuine feedback in your team meetings and one-one discussions.  Encourage your staff to bring their negative opinions into the open so you can actually deal with the underlying issues.  And don’t forget to make sure you’re curbing your own inner critic as well.

Focus on growth

It’s tempting to check out of a job you hate… zoning, surfing the web, napping in your car.  While it seems like focusing on anything other than your job will cheer you up, the reality is that we need to be challenged to be happy.  Simply “doing your time” will make the days even longer and yourself even more unhappy.  So use the time you’re stuck in a bad job to grow your professional skills.  Take on a new project, rework a process or try a new technique.  Challenge yourself to learn something new every day.  The days will go faster and you’ll be beefing up those weak points in your resume to boot.

The flipside…

As a manager, this one is pretty straight forward.  Make sure your team has challenging work and the opportunity to try new tasks.  Cross-training is a great way to keep your employees learning new things while also making your team stronger.  It’s important to encourage your staff to explore projects that are of personal interest as well.  Tune in to your team’s individual career goals and focus on helping them grow.

Tackle big projects in small doses

As much as you hate your current job, you probably need to find a new one before you can move on.  Even if jobs are plentiful and you’re a hiring manager’s dream, job hunting sucks.  When you’re drained and demoralized from 8 hours on the job, the last thing you want to do is spend your free time writing cover letters.  But if you want to find a better job, you’ve got to tackle the process.  If this seems daunting, work in small doses.  Commit to working on the job hunt for 15 minutes every night.  It won’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll be able to get a surprisingly large amount accomplished in a week.

The flipside…

As a manager, make sure you’re paying attention to your team’s workload and let them know they can come to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed.  Coach them on how to approach large tasks and help them find smaller side projects that they enjoy.  This will give them something to focus on when they’re feeling burnt out on their main project.

 

How about you?  How have you gotten through a job you didn’t like?

 

(Photo by Everjean via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)