Tag Archives: Careers

7 reasons why it’s important to keep learning at work

Are you feeling like you’re going through the motions at work? Do you feel like you’ve mastered your role and there’s a lot more to learn? Are you being denied the opportunity to learn? And, worse of all, do you dread Monday mornings and live for the weekends?

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If you have any of these feelings, you’re not alone. Lack of training  and other opportunities to learn is a key reason why employees are unhappy with their job, and the reason why they eventually leave.

If you’re not growing or learning anything new, it might be time to leave, says an article from Forbes.com. “…when you’ve outgrown the position and there is no opportunity for advancement–or you seem to work the same job day in, day out without any opportunity for growth, even though you crave more–it’s time to get out.

Here are seven reasons why learning at work is essential to your happiness.

1. It’s important to stay current in your career to prevent stagnation. Stagnation has killed many a promising career. We are naturally inquisitive beings who require mental stimulation. People who allow stagnation to set in end up hating their job and perhaps making those around them miserable as well. We must avoid stagnation at all costs. here are six reasons why:

2. The landscape of the labor market is changing rapidly. Employers are paring back on apathetic employees and sticking with those who demonstrate an ability to grow with the company. In other words, they’re cutting out the dead wood. They want hungry, lean, ambitious workers. This is simply the trend of the present and future, and it makes complete sense.

3. You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be. Forget for a moment that you don’t make as much as you’d like, or that you find it a bit odd to read work-related literature before bedtime. (Guilty as charged.) Keep in mind that when you stop bettering yourself, you essentially stop reaching the goals you strive to obtain.

4. You’re a role model for your colleagues. The more effectively you work, the more effective your colleagues become; the better the company or organization for which you work becomes. You are concerned with the success of your company. You want your colleagues to feel the same. Success for your colleagues and ultimately the company won’t come unless you are proactive in your quest to become better.

5, You are judged by your expertise and performance. If not by your boss, you’re judged by the customers who depend on your service or products. When you can’t keep up with the demands of your customers, you have become stagnant. You shrink into the shell of self-defeat. Don’t give up on your goal to be the best in your area.

6. When people ask you what you do, you’ll want to tell them with enthusiasm; have a glint in your eye and excitement in your voice, when explaining the job that offers you stimulation and challenge. Some interviewers ask the question, “What did you like most about your last job?” When you can’t answer that question, you come across as someone who wasn’t challenged and motivated to perform. And that’s your fault.

7. The final, and one of the most important,  reasons to learn at work is preparing yourself for future employment. One thing employers are looking for is increased responsibility at your former job. Have you stayed idle, or have you shown the willingness to do more? Think about your future in this precarious economy.


Staying current in your job may not be a priority of your employer. It may require that you read literature on your own, or take a college class on your dime, or reach out to other experts in your field. It may seem implausible at the moment, but if you think about how damaging stagnation can be to your career, you’ll either make the effort…or find a new job.

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The job search one-percent rule

BikingOften times I’ll read a blog post and see a relationship between its message and the job search. Or I’ll take a moment in my life and turn it into a job-search lesson. If you’ve read my posts, you’ll notice I do this with my family or customers.

A post from Paul Drury called Be a Little Better for a Little Longer, in which he writes about the 2012 British Olympic cycling team, got me to thinking about how the team’s quest for gold medals applies to the job search. The job search one percent rule, more specifically.

In his article Paul writes, “The successful British cycling coach Dave Brailsford described it as making a ‘1% improvement in everything that you do.’”

Another line in Paul’s post resonates with me when I think of what makes a job search successful: “Most of the significant things in your life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the times when we chose to do things 1% better or 1% worse.”

When I talk with jobseekers, as well as my kids, they want immediate gratification. (Do you blame them?) But the job search doesn’t work that way.

Rather the way to look at your job search is to determine if you’re going to strive for one percent more or settle for one percent less. The job search is the sum of one percent more or less.

For instance, if there’s a networking event the night after a long day of job seeking, are you going to “suck it up” and go, or are you going to settle for that one inch less and blow it off? We know what the correct answer is; you go.

After you meet someone who can be of mutual assistance your next step is to follow up with a phone call or an email, at the very least. If you fail to follow up, you lose that opportunity; or as I tell my workshop attendees, “You don’t close the deal.” That’s one percent less.

Baby steps, as we call them, are necessary to take in the job search. Failure is something that shouldn’t destroy your resolve. Paul writes in regards to the British Olympic cycling team, “That is where the British success lay. They had a worthy goal (to win the Olympics) and believed in the potential of their system to achieve it.”

In achieving their goal, they experienced letdown and often times failure; but they didn’t give up. This is one encouraging attitude I see in some of my jobseekers; they experience letdown (don’t land the job) but bounce back. I’ll see them a few days later and they’ll have a smile on their face. “Onward,” we’ll say. Onward.

The one percent rule also applies to the interview, where it’s essential you’re prepared with not only your research but also emotionally. Interviewers want people who are enthusiastic about the job and company. It can be hard to pull off this enthusiasm when you’re in a hard place (unemployed).

First impressions play a huge part in the job search. Not only at interviews, but preceding the interviews, as well. I tell my workshop attendees that how they appear in their job search makes a huge difference in the help you’ll receive from others. “Are you more likely to help those who appear positive?” I ask, “Or those who appear negative?” Those abiding by one percent more will appear positive.

Although it’s only one percent we’re talking about, it can be huge. I tell my soccer players that they may be just one step behind the opponent…one inch from winning the ball and then making a play.

Often times we as career advisors talk about the proper job-search techniques, but do we talk enough about effort? Do we venture into that difficult area and address our customers’ attitudes? The answer should be yes, because they’re trying to win a race, just as the 2012 British Olympic bicycling team was.

The 12 types of job-search networkers; the good and the bad

Networking blackWhen you work at an urban career center, you come into contact with many different personalities. The customers that stick in your mind are the ones who not only help themselves, but also look out for others. In other words, they help their peers without being asked.

One gentleman who I speak of often in my workshops is a guy named John who worked at Brooks Automation. He was laid off and attended my workshops. He took it upon himself to create a networking group that grew in popularity, and he ran it like a pro. When he landed his next job, I was happy and sad. Happy that he landed a job; sad that the group eventually dissolved.

John exemplified one type of networker, the Giver. He gave his time and energy to help other jobseekers, knowing what goes around comes around. Here are the 12 types of networkers:

  1. The Outgoing (Good) — Never out of energy and always interacting with others around them, this networker is often popular and a magnet to others. People feel his energy; it gives them energy. (Don’t assume this person is an extravert; introverts can be outgoing, as well.) When he leaves the group, people take notice and wish him a good night.
  2. The Shy (Bad) — On the other hand is the shy person who comes across as a snob or aloof. He’d rather stand in a corner watching others interact. This is not his venue; he won’t stay long. (Don’t assume this person is an introvert; extraverts can be shy, as well.) When he leaves no one notices his departure. He’s a ghost.
  3. The Face-to-Face Person (Good) — She loves personal networking because she enjoys being with people. You’ll see her at every event until she’s landed a job, and she’ll return to the group to talk about her Happy Landing. She also networks in the community with whomever she can, realizing that anyone could offer her a lead.
  4. The Online Person (Bad) — Using LinkedIn exclusively is her idea of networking. She sees connecting with others and sending direct messages as the only way to network, but she’s mistaken. One must also make a personal connection to cement a relationship.
  5. The Giver (Good) — Like John, this person understands the true nature of networking. When he helps someone by providing a lead, he will get help from someone else. He creates good karma for himself. He is a maven, someone who knows about every industry and occupation, and he has contacts at many companies.
  6. The Taker (Bad) — He thinks only of himself and never of others. Just taking is a good way to alienate himself from the people with whom he networks. He doesn’t understand why people stop helping him because he’s wrapping up in his own battle. He expects people to have leads for him but doesn’t think of offering other jobseekers leads.
  7. The Listener (Good) — She is one of the favorite people in the room. Always asking questions and listening intently. She remembers previous conversations and brings them up, making people feel special. She is a great conversationalist. Unfortunately people may take advantage of her good nature and talk “at” her all night.
  8. The Talker (Bad) — This person believes that the room is his stage and those around him are receptacles for his words. People have a hard time getting away from him unless they have an escape plan. He is exhausting and gains few followers. In the community he drives people away from his company, unwilling to listen to people who could help him.
  9. The Doer (Good) — He is someone who will attend networking events despite being tired after a long day of work. The extravert and introvert alike will attend networking events, or meet up with a group of networkers, or connect with people in the community. They are active yet tactful in the way they network.
  10. The Non-Doer (Bad) — You’ll see this person at a few networking events and then he’ll drop off the face of the earth. After trying a few events and not getting immediate gratification, he’ll decide networking is not for him and abandon it. It’s a shame, as he may have potential.
  11. The Finisher (Good) — In soccer we call this a player who puts the ball across the goal line. In networking this person follows up with the people he meets at events and in the community. He keeps business cards and calls the people within 24 hours, 48 hours at the most. And he maintains contact with the people who can be of mutual assistance.
  12. The Buzz Kill (Bad) — We know what a buzz kill is. No more needs to be said. In networking he’s the person who doesn’t follow up with potential connections. Relationships die before they begin. Business cards lie in his drawer, piling up like a deck of playing cards.

In contrast to John, I’ve come across networkers who are in it only for themselves. Although it’s natural to want immediate gratification, it’s far more noble and productive to help your brethren, as your efforts will be returned in due time. There are other types of networkers, such as the positive and negative attitudes. As I say in my workshops, we’re more likely to help those who appear positive than those who appear negative. They all agree.

10 excellent reasons to read other people’s LinkedIn profiles

businesswomanPeople often ask me how they should write their LinkedIn profile. Among other things, I tell them to cruise around LinkedIn and look at tons of profiles to see which ones they like best. And then, without copying, emulate them. As the saying goes, “Imitation is the best form of flattery.”

  1. Notice their photos. Are they tie-and-jacket professional or casual professional?
  2. What about their title? Do they have a branding title–you know the ones that make you say, “WOW”? Or does it make you yawn?
  3. See what keywords they’re using for SEO (search engine optimization). Are their keywords strong enough to catapult them to the top?
  4. What kind of story do they tell in their Summary?
  5. What accomplishments do they tout in their Experience section?

My colleague Laura Smith-Proulx writes about 5 Reasons You Should Research Your Job-Seeking Competition on LinkedIn, in which she advises her clients to study their competition, not only to get an idea of how to begin and craft their profile. Her message is that you must become a student of examining your competition in order to really succeed in the job hunt.

In her article she asks you to look at five points as part of their strategy.

  1. Gaining insights applicable to your own career path.
  2. Forming new networking or career advisory relationships.
  3. Discovering which companies hire experts in your field.
  4. Learning how your skills stack up in the job market.
  5. Getting a close-up view of how to tune your Profile for internal SEO.

Laura goes beyond perusing others’ profiles to gather ideas for content. To build a powerful LinkedIn profile and then use it as Laura suggests, you’ll need to spend time and energy, which is what all the pundits say. Read Laura’s article.