Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Career Advice from the Trenches

I am an expert by no means. However, I have worked my way up from the bottom. Can you say a temp stuffing envelopes and answering phones? Today, I am proud to say I am a director with my organization. I just want to share what I have learned along the way.

Here are my tips:
  • If you do not ask, often you will not get.

    Many times just letting your management know that you want something or are unhappy about something is enough to get it. Often they just do not know what is important or motivates you. Is it money, benefits, prestige, flextime? Different things motivate different people at different times in their lives. I preface this with be reasonable and you have to be an employee that actual deserves what you are asking for.

    Many managers really are so overworked doing their own jobs and looking out for their own careers that they often neglect their employees’ careers. No excuse, just facts.

    I remember asking for my first promotion, I was so nervous and I remember my boss telling me, “What you’ve been promoted already haven’t you? What is your grade and title? Oh my.” When I said that I had not, she worked hard to get it. I have also been able to get a flex schedule this way. At my company, no one is offered flextime. If you want it, you have to take the lead and ask for it. I work at home one afternoon a week and have one afternoon off. This is great because my little one naps during the one afternoon and the other afternoon I can spend with the boys and do errands that can not be done on the weekends or evenings.

  • Be nice.

    It is so true that you make attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.

    I have made many contacts during my 14 years with my current company. I have certainly learned that you never know whom you may need help from or even who may be your new manager in the latest corporate restructure. People do not forget when someone has been courtesy and helpful, and they especially do not forget when someone has been unfriendly, angry, and hard to work with. Part of being successful is getting the support of not just your manager, but of our coworkers too.

    Few jobs involve sitting in a silo and not interacting with others, even those mysterious, often non-social IT developers need to come out of their caves and work with others sometimes. Senior management does not care how you get things done but that you get it done and if you have not found this out already, it is often about whom you know that helps you get things done. I am not saying that all successful people are nice but I have seen many lose their jobs when a new boss takes over and they use to work with that person. People are just more willing to help someone that is nice. Period.

  • Do not get caught up in the latest fad.

    This goes for business fads and dress fads. Do not wear to work what you would wear out with friends. Even if your work is casual, maintain a professional appearance.

    When it comes to business, there is usually the project of the month that everyone is very excited about at the moment, but next week will be gone and often with it all the employees. Yes, these are the projects that get the highest profile, and “sometimes” get the big promotions. However, do you want to risk your career on that? If I had a $1 for every “hot” project that I have seen come and go through our company (along with the employees working on it), I would not need to be working now.

    I am not saying that if you are directed to work on it, do not. I am saying to not invest everything into it, making it your entire job. Hold on to other secure areas of your job while taking a risk.

    Watch for the solid, business-smart projects that have longevity and work hard to be assigned to them. Back to tip #1, just ask. Worst thing they could say is “no” and your manager will see that you are interested in taking on new projects and responsibilities, which is never a bad thing.

  • Be innovative.

    I think this is really a keystone to my career. You do not have to be in a technology career to be innovative. You can find a quicker way to sort the mail in the mailroom, or a better way to send client letters.

    As you do things more innovatively, two things happen. One, you can accomplish your assigned job responsibilities quicker, which allows you to ask for more interesting ones. Secondly, you become known as a valuable employee. Management likes employees that are always trying to be better and make the company better. If you sit at your desk, doing the same thing, the same way, year after year, what is there to make a manager think, oh so and so deserves a promotion.

  • Embrace change.

    Change is good. By embracing change (not to be confused with the fade of the month), you are being seen as a person who is working to do what is best for the company. Not all change is easy and not without some pain but you need to embrace it and move forward. Try not to look back at the way it was. Look forward and run with it. When the change is something that you feel compromises your values or is something you do not feel you can embrace, it is time to look for a job that you can embrace.

  • Always have your resume polished and be looking for your next opportunity.

    You just never know when you may need that resume with the next corporate restructure. You’ll need to have it ready and know what is out there quickly. In addition, your dream job may be open and if you are not keeping an eye out, you will miss it.

    In the time of cost of living raises being the norm in Corporate America, the only way to get a significant pay increase is to move to another organization. Household expenses are going through the rough and salary increases are just not keeping up. To receive your fair market value, you need to change jobs. The average years in a job now are three years. Gone are the days of starting and retiring with the same company. Many companies are no longer loyal to their employees with layoffs and benefit cuts, and employees are returning the favor by leaving for the new “best” job.

Good luck and take control of your career.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A “New” New Year’s Resolution

The other day after the boys were safely tucked in bed and there was actually quite, I decided to take a little “me” time. It does not happen often but I needed it with all the stresses of life.

I cuddled on the couch with our Jack Russell and read a magazine. Yes, a real magazine and not a parenting one either. It was Cooking with Paula Dean. I cannot tell you how much I admire this woman. She is the most upbeat positive person I have ever seen. She has been through tough emotional and financial times but she just loves life and it exudes from her. As I read the magazine, I could not help but smile and forget the cares of the world as she talks of sweet tea, her new grandbaby, and comfy living.

However, the real thing that hit me is what I found on the last page. Paula talked about making her 2007 New Year’s Resolution. She said she was tired of failing at giving up something and feeling bad for it. This year she was going to resolve to do something instead of not do something. She was going to resolve to do little things to make others happy, even small simple things. That way she and another person would feel good every time she was successful and it would make it much easier to keep.

Paula, I am joining in on your resolution. My resolution for 2007 is to enjoy each day and do little things to make others happy.

Visit Paula Dean at http://www.pauladean.com. Believe me you can’t help but smile just opening the site and seeing that big Paula Dean smile staring back at you.