I believe there’s a list in the universe like the one we believe Santa keeps all year.At his annual retreat with senior elves, Santa wrestles with finite resources he allocates at the end of Q4, among all the good boys and girls. At work, the good get to come back next year, and keep doing what they’ve done. In a metaphysical context, the list of deeds you’ve been racking up becomes a karmic accounting of your character. As such, you’d be worried not about this year or even next, but rather how you’ll fare in the coming lifetimes. If you own a business you’re often basing what you can do in the afternoon, on what you’ve netted in the morning.
So whether your perspective is today, this year, next year or a lifetime from now, it’s a good moment to take stock of yourself. We’re more than half past 2014. We’re just in time to ask whether you see evidence that your stock is worth investing in, or would an objective analyst recommend a sell order.
I am mixing as many metaphors as I can, to help you consider two things.
Thing One: Are you the person you wished you would be, when you made resolutions?
Maybe those resolutions came at the beginning of this year, and maybe they are as old as a decade or more, when you thought a certain career or business would the highest and best use of you. Maybe you never got to do that thing you thought would be amazing, or maybe you did – and now feel like it’s a failure, you’re a failure or the company you keep is failing you.
The only three questions that matter right now are gross measures of success.
- Are you doing as good as you thought you would?
- Are you doing something better?
- Are you the best you can be?
Thing Two: How are you going to approach the balance of this year?
Take advantage of summer doldrums, before the bite of a crisp autumn apple seduces you into believing you’ll get moving after the holidays.
Success never takes a holiday.
It’s never too late or too early to take one hour to review your goals, revise your course and even plan for your next big move. You might do this each week – I do my own “Is this success?” assessment, each Friday at 3 PM PT. This meeting appears on my iCal calendar, permanently. If I have to move it, I get an automated prompt with one of the scariest messages I’ve ever received:
Do you want to change all events in the future?
Sometimes I do. Not just the weekly calendared hour with myself to ask “Is this success?”
Sometimes I want to redefine success entirely. So I do.
Perhaps you need to ask, with a blank paper in front of you:
- What is the best use of me?
- What is the depth of misery?
- What is the height of awesomeness?
You and I grow up a little every day. It pays off to take stock of whether this is the best we can be, or is this just good enough – even when it’s a bit better than the last time we checked.
Kick this day, this week, this year and your career into high gear. Set the best expectations for yourself. Revisit and repeat. Each week let your brain route the shortest, most joyful course to what you want. What you really, really want.
When you take time to see yourself at your best, you’re it.
As a career coach specializing in communication, I’m presented with a wide spectrum of work stories. Some end in, “I don’t know why my boss hates me.” Variations on this are:
- My supervisor hates me
- The project manager hates me
- The recruiter seemed to hate me
- Everybody at work hates me
Of course, hate is an awfully big and painful word. Most often given some details, I realize hate isn’t the appropriate word. It’s more accurate to describe the situation as:
- I get a weird feeling from her
- There’s a lot of tension at the office
- I don’t like the way I’m treated
- I don’t get recognized for doing my job
So it’s not hate, but there are a lot of negative feelings between managers and staff, or business owners and employees. A lot of suspicious, unfriendly recruiters.
Where do these negative feelings come from? What could be the origin of so many employees feeling underappreciated and undervalued?
You probably have never done anything wrong at work, but consider all the people who have come before you. They trained your boss to be skeptical, distrusting, and irritated by the mistakes, waste, slacking and even outright lies some employees dole out.
I got a call on Sunday evening from a business owner as he was getting off the roof of his building, taking care of the endless chores associated with running a physical therapy practice. He had cleaned the exterior of the building, swept out the parking lot, folded towels, put away piles of files that were laying behind the front desk, and was about to take a shower before completing the charts he prepares each evening before he meets clients the next day.
“I pay a lot of people,” he said. “When they’re broke or in trouble, they come to me for loans – and I always say yes. I accommodate their school schedules, friends’ wedding plans that take them off shift, sick days and everything else they feel free to ask of me. They ask me for advice, and I always make time for them.”
“Now, I’m doing maintenance and chores that the cleaning crew left, my staff overlooked and it’s all things my clients see. Some days it’s really clear that no one really cares about me or this company. Maybe a few people do on occasion, but four years is a long time to learn that unless you’re hard on people, they take it easy.”
No, this doesn’t mean YOU take it easy at work. It just means people who can’t avoid being held accountable like a manager or business owner may be worn out by the staff who came before you.
Getting a weird vibe at work? Make a contract with yourself to do a really good job everyday and to look for one more thing to do, that’s outside your specific duties. Let your boss or the recruiter learn that you are that one in a million, the person who really understands that work is more than a paycheck.
My career transition practice is full of amazing people with a huge well of talent, potential and experience. Each person is completely different. And with each person, I’ve identified a specific obstacle they are overcoming, so they can quickly move ahead on their goals. That problem identification and problem solving is the primary focus of our work together.
Typically that obstacle has arisen from a mistake in their understanding of the specific challenge or opportunity they have, and the right way to approach it. Of course, this would be a specific problem to solve in each specific situation.
However, no matter how specific the #1 mistake or obstacle is for each individual, the #2 mistake they’ve been making is pretty much the same. I suspect you are making the same mistake as well. The second biggest mistake people make in a career transition or business is this…
You think you need something else.
You think you need something more than what you have right now at your fingertips.
I hear these things:
- “I need to brush up on my Spanish skills.”
- “I need more ideas. I need new content.”
- “I need a website. I need a new website.”
- “I need a contact management system.”
- “I need a project management app.”
- “I need more recommendations on LinkedIn.”
- “I need to get another certification, MBA, to finish my AA…”
- “I need a partner.”
- “I need an investor.”
- “I need an office.”
- “I need to convince ….”
No. You. Don’t.
You don’t need a business card, location, degree, another degree or anything else. If you are reading this from some device with your own eyes and you understand this content: you have everything you need right now.
Stop yourself from looking for reasons not to succeed. Stop yourself from wasting one more moment.
You have you. That’s what you need. Anyone who ever told you a piece of equipment, the perfect resume or portfolio, or anything else is wrong. Anyone who ever told you that you are not enough is wrong.
Now go tell everyone you know exactly what you do – or want to do. Speak plainly. Then, ask them whom they know among their friends who might need what it is you do. Or, could possibly connect you with someone who might.