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You Are the CEO of Your Career: Take Charge!

CEO or chief executive officer text on black block

As the New Year looms, some people are rethinking their career strategy. Competition, layoffs and uncertainty are forcing them to assess themselves to see how they can take charge of their careers.

A chief operating officer of a financial company and a director at one of the Big Four consulting firms contacted me recently. They were looking for guidance as they plan for the year ahead. The director has already started to lay out her 3 to 5-year plan. She is planning to pursue an EMBA, and has her eyes on a very senior position. Although she has a mentor whom she meets with once per month, she is also looking for a sponsor to help her advance. At the time, I thought to myself: how many people really map out a 3 to 5-year plan in such an unpredictable job market?

The initiative taken by these two individuals is not new. Some people do this, particularly at the start of a new year. But, there are others who invest more time and money on vacation plans than they do on their careers. If your goal in 2016 is to take charge and become the CEO of your career, consider the following:

#1 TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CAREER

“There is one person that has responsibility for your career, and that is YOU.” ~ Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley (@CarlaannHarris)

There are many people who believe that their HR departments or their bosses are the ones responsible for their career progression. Not anymore. Your career trajectory is your responsibility. That’s the reason you must begin to see yourself as a take-charge CEO, and map out a career strategy.

#2 TREAT YOUR CAREER AS A BUSINESS

“Manage your career as if it were a start-up business because traditional job security is a thing of the past.” ~Reid Hoffman, Cofounder of LinkedIn and coauthor of the book, The Start-Up of You. (@ReidHoffman)

Even though you may be an employee, in order for you to compete in the freelance economy, you need to think and act like an entrepreneur. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. Invest your time (and money if necessary), to get your ‘business’ off the ground. Think in terms of the value you could create for your employer. What new skills could you learn that would make you more marketable? Start thinking that you are in the business of marketing and selling product YOU!

#3 BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

More and more HR professionals are turning to the internet to seek out information about candidates, including social media profiles, personal websites and blogs. ~ The Undercover Recruiter (@Undercoverrec)

Social media is an equal opportunity platform, and does not require a PhD to participate. This means anyone can use it to engage in conversations, demonstrate expertise, build credibility and gain visibility. Don’t be left out, especially as online interactions are becoming as meaningful as in real life. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters frequently peruse LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools, to find candidates. It makes sense for you to develop and maintain a robust online presence to make sure you are discovered during these searches.

#4 PREPARE TO ADVANCE ON THE JOB

“Early in my career, I believed that career advancement was based solely on having a strong work ethic and solid performance results. While I still believe that there is no substitute for hard work and strong performance, what I learned over time is that being successful is also highly influenced through the learning that takes place and the exposure to new perspectives gained through mentoring relationships and building your networks.” Arie Ball, Vice President of Sourcing and Talent Acquisition at Sodexo, USA, and contributor to my book Tell Stories, Get Hired. (@Arie_Ball)

Years ago, it was assumed that longevity and hard work meant one would automatically climb the corporate ladder. The world has changed, and the career ladder is no longer a straight line. Sometimes a lateral move, or a step or two down could be steps in the right direction. It could also mean a chance to learn new skills, gain new perspectives change career focus, and become the CEO of your career.

#5 FIND A MENTOR AND A SPONSOR

“Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth…Not only will sponsors and mentors believe in your potential when you are doubting yourself, but they will champion your successes, to open doors for your next big career move.” ~ Louise Pentland, Senior Executive & General Council at PayPal (@PayPal)

Why do you need both a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor gives advice, and can be someone inside or outside your company. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization who puts his or her career on the line for you. He or she can vouch for your work, and more importantly, has a seat at the decision-making table, so they can speak up passionately on your behalf. They can put a word in on why you should get the promotion or that next plum assignment.

“Sponsors are well-connected to the organization, and the industry, and have insider knowledge about opportunities (and threats). They are very much out in the open. They are visible supporters and champions of your career”, said Christine Brown-Quinn, author of Step Aside Super Woman: Career & Family is for Any Woman, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired. (@FemaleCapital). Therefore, if you are interested in career progression, especially to the more senior levels, it’s career sponsorship that’s going to make that defining difference.

#6 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“The key to all successful networking for job search is to build relationships first, ask for assistance second and offer to be of assistance always.” ~Unknown

You cannot avoid networking, no matter how distasteful the word sounds, so reject all its negative labeling. Networking is a series of connected relationships built up over time. It’s making personal connections, not bombarding people with your business card or elevator pitch. It’s getting to know people well enough before you begin asking for favours. Networking is about sharing: sharing of ideas and resources without expecting reciprocity. To become a better networker, get into the habit of scheduling specific time on your calendar to connect with people in your network.

#7 ENGAGE AND NURTURE PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

“Dig your well before you are thirsty.” Harvey MacKay, Author & Leadership Guru. (@HarveyMacKay)

Since it is human nature to gravitate towards people we know, like and trust, you should regularly engage and nurture the professional relationships you have developed. Don’t wait until you are in a rut to connect with them. In fact, it’s not beneficial to contact your network only when you are in need of help. Keep in touch with them frequently, and always ask questions such as, “How can I help you? Who can I introduce to you?” When you nurture your network, you will be on top of their minds for opportunities.

#8 INVESTIGATE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

“Consider volunteering one hour each week to a cause that pulls at your heart strings. Make a habit of volunteering and you will make a world of difference.” Christopher Kai, author of Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities. (@UnleashtheKai)

Many people frown when they hear about volunteering. They believe that because they are not being paid, it is useless work. But, volunteering is one way to take charge of your career. It strengthens your leadership and interpersonal skills. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people, take on high profile assignments, and in general, do excellent work. These days, many corporations encourage volunteerism among their employees. This is beneficial on two fronts. First, the employee is participating in a worthy cause, and second, the company is demonstrating good corporate citizenship.

The above points will help you on your journey of becoming the CEO of your career. Are you ready?

Related posts:

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Is Your Résumé a Reflection of Who You Are, or is it a Fake?

Just in case you haven’t heard the news, the former head of PayPal, and recent CEO of Yahoo! has tendered his resignation five months after assuming the position. He fudged his resume – just a wee bit – by stating that he has a degree in Computer Science and one in Accounting. A vigilant shareholder, apparentlywith his own motives, did some research and found that the CEO does not have a degree in computer science. This is yet another high profile person who has had to resign his job because of inaccuracies in his resume.

Several years ago I wrote an article titled, Lying on Résumés…Alarmingly Common, and it looked at several high profile individuals who had embellished their resumes. A former manager of a professional baseball team had to retract a statement that he was an All American Basketball player, and that he played basketball at UCLA prior to signing with the Dodgers. Another sports executive switched his degree from social work to business administration in an attempt to gain an edge in the purchase of a sports team.

In Canada, a politician had to quit his caucus when it was revealed he never attended law school as he claimed on his résumé. There was also a ‘doctor wannabe’ who practiced medicine in the US and Canada for 10 years before it was found out he never had a medical degree. In 2007, the former dean of admissions at MIT had to resign after she lied about her academic credentials. She said at the time: “I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.

So, whether it’s a degree that one does not have, or skills or duties that are exaggerated, it is obvious that many people feel compelled to beef up their resumes with fake accomplishments. More often than not the perpetrator is someone in a senior role. This leaves one to wonder why people who have been successful on their own merit, feel that they should embellish their qualifications.

Although reference is being made to people at high levels of an organization, it does not mean others with lesser qualifications are not using the same tactics. Surveys show from time to time that a vast number of people – ranging from general office to senior executives – pad their resumes. But as these people have found out it is never a good idea to exaggerate one’s credentials. Sometimes it takes five months to uncover the truth; at other times up to 28 years, but when it happens it can have a devastating impact on one’s career.

Since spring is in the air and the Yahoo story so recent, it may be a good time to review your resume and make sure that every  employer, date of employment, and achievement is correct. No one wants to be caught in embarrassing situations like these.

Own Your Name. Build Your Personal Brand. Up Your Job Search Game

Do you own your name? “Of course, I do”, you say! Last week I hosted a free teleconference for job seekers and professionals to gauge their career plans for 2012, and see if I could help them achieve their goals. I offered some options on how they could up their job search game in the new year, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. A few days later, I had coffee with someone who had missed the call, but who wanted to bring me up-to-date on her next career move. She told me about her plans for the year and about her new website. While discussing the website, I suggested that she claimed her name on the web by registering it as a domain. Her eyes opened widely as in “What do you mean?”

These days whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, one of the first steps to building your personal brand is to claim your name – register your name as a website. I learned this early. You see, actor Jude Law’s former nanny has my name, and I wasn’t aware of it until I heard of the scandal surrounding their alleged affair. Soon after that, I claimed and registered www.daisywright.com and www.daisywright.ca, as domain names through Hostmonster (Affiliate Link). I have since given up the .CA domain.

Why is it important to own your name? The hiring process has changed for job seekers, and personal branding has become very important.  Recruiters and employers don’t rely solely on traditional methods to learn about or evaluate potential employees. They are swamped with résumés, phone calls and emails. It is, therefore, your responsibility to change the way you market your stories and your skills to employers, and raise your visibility because your résumé and cover letter are no longer enough. The same is true for entrepreneurs.

To begin your brand-building process, your first step is to register your name as a domain, if it’s still available.  Use it as a one-stop haven for your social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube (if you’re venturing into videos). When employers and recruiters begin searching for you, or when you need to connect with someone of influence, it’s easy to send them a link to your own website which houses your other profiles.

In a recent Fast Company article, the writer tells a story of how a 16-year old high school student emailed her out of the blue, and asked to join her as a guest on her TV show. He did not send a résumé, but instead included links to his website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and three relevant YouTube clips. This is a 16-year old! He has already learned how to use the web to his advantage–building a strong and positive personal brand before he even reaches his adult years. Twelve months into his brand-building exercise, he is already a well-known regular tech TV expert and blogger–and he’s not even out of high school yet.

What about you? Are you ready to step forward and do something as daring as ‘Mr. 16-year old’? Do you own your name on the web? Are your profiles up-to-date and housed in one place? Have you scoured your Facebook profile to make sure that everything is professional? Do you have blog? If not, are you contributing your expertise to industry blogs? If a recruiter or employer begins searching for someone with your stories and skills, will you stand out from the herd, or will you stay hidden in the crowd?

CEOs, HR Executives and recruiters encourage job seekers to use social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs to improve their chances of getting a job. One CEO stated in a Boston Globe article that, “We often find hires because of their activity in social media and, especially, the blogosphere.”

A recruiter said, “We like to see candidates who have filled in their LinkedIn profile completely. Upload your resume, and if you are a blogger (and it is relevant to your career), post the link to your blog. With respect toTwitter, she said,”We use Twitter directory tools to find candidates whose bios match our hiring needs.”

The field is too competitive these days for you to continue doing what you have always done and expecting different results. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile in bringing visibility to your story. It’s time to up your game, begin building your personal brand and let the job vacancies find you.

Sources:

Five Steps to a Better Brand

Social Media Advice for Job Seekers

 

Monday Rx: Value Has a Value Only if its Value is Valued

The headline for this post is really a tongue-twister, so read it again for clarity.

Today is Labour / Labor Day in Canada and the US, but am still sending  my message, albeit a shortened version. It’s a 30-second speech from Bryan Dyson, the former CEO of Coca Cola.

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. They are Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit, and you are keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you dropped one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.

Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family and friends and have proper rest. Value has a value only if its value is valued.”

Whatever you are doing right now, take a moment to reflect on the message and evaluate your priorities. I am doing just that today!

To your success,

 

Is the Résumé Really Dead?

Every so often I read a blog post or hear comments about the death of the ubiquitous résumé, and I am sometimes tempted to believe it. After all, it draws its competition from the overabundance of social media tools and, to a lesser degree, from individuals with the ‘gift of gab’ who can talk themselves into any job without a résumé.

But, let’s pause for a moment! Probably, the résumé isn’t dead after all. A few days ago, one of my clients was interviewed for a Senior Vice President position by the top three honchos of a company. They were impressed with the content and structure of his résumé because after the interview, he sent me the following note:

The Top Guy stated he had never seen a better résumé and appreciated the time and effort I put into it.  I was straight up and told him I solicited assistance. I said, “No one stands alone but draws on other people’s expertise as required”. He loved that.

Naturally, I was happy for him that things went well, and by the looks of  it, he may be getting an offer soon, but I also reflected on the CEO’s comment. This couldn’t have happened if it was a collaborative effort between the client and me. Before crafting the résumé, I put him to work by having him complete an assessment to uncover his strengths and the work environment in which he strives best. It was a worthwhile exercise for him as he wrote to say, “I want to express how important this process has been for me to re-evaluate my worth and experience. I have a fire I have not had in a while!”

The next step was to delve into his background, unearth his success stories and formulate them into a cohesive value proposition that articulates what he is good at, what he consistently does well, and how he delivers tangible results. He was stunned when he received the draft document and remarked, “To say we are blown away (the wife and I) would be an understatement. This is GOLD!”

Before meeting with company officials, we also discussed interview strategies – what to say, when to say it, and what to hold back.  This brings me back to the question, “Is the résumé really dead as some would have us believe?” Not really! Hiring managers and recruiters usually request one; job postings ask to submit one, and CEOs sometimes want to see one before agreeing to meet a candidate. What is on its way out is the résumé as it used to be. The one devoid of value-based scripts, filled with ‘responsible for…’ statements and does not address the employer’s needs or buying motivators. Such a résumé cannot stand up to the competition and will certainly meet its demise if it hasn’t already. On the other hand, the one that tells stories, focuses on major strengths, and promises value, that’s the résumé that will lead to interviews and then to a job offer.

What are your thoughts? Have your say below.

 

But, let’s pause for a minute! Probably, the résumé isn’t dead after all. One of my clients met the top three honchos of this particular company when he interviewed for a Senior VP position a few days ago. After that meeting, he sent me an email from which I quote:  

The Top Guy stated he had never seen a better resume and appreciated the time and effort I put into it.  I was straight up and told him I solicited assistance.  “No one stands alone but draws on other people’s expertise as required”, I told him. He loved that.

In order to come up with the client’s résumé, I had him complete an assessment. After he had reviewed the results, he said, I want to express how important this process has been for me to re-evaluate my worth and experience. I have a fire I have not had in a while!”

The next step was to delve into his background, unearth his success stories and formulate them into a cohesive value proposition that articulates what he is good at, what he consistently does well, and how he delivers tangible results. All this was necessary to craft the résumé that caught the attention of the CEO. Even the client was stunned when he received the résumé. He said, To say we are blown away (the wife and I) would be an understatement. This is GOLD!”

So, which résumé is dead? The one devoid of value-based scripts, filled with ‘responsible for…’ statements and does not address the employer’s needs. Such a résumé cannot stand up to the competition, and will certainly meet its demise if it hasn’t already. However, the résumé that tells stories; focuses on major strengths and promises value, that’s the résumé that will lead to success.

What are your thoughts? Have your say below.