Category: Business

5 Reasons Your Career Is Stalled and How to Get Unstuck

There are moments in our professional lives that give us those delightful shocks of bliss: landing the job, proposing the winning idea, getting the promotion, being publicly recognized … the list goes on.

Those are the moments that deliver endorphins, that keep us going and growing.

But what happens when you look around one day and realize it’s been a hot minute since you’ve been graced with such a moment? Work has been fine; you’ve heard no complaints. But every day is starting to feel the same.

There are moments in our professional lives that give us delightful shocks of bliss. But what happens when you look around one day and realize it’s been a hot minute since you’ve been graced with such a moment?

What do you do if you realize your career may be stalled? And how can you put yourself back on the path to something more?

Before you assume your best days are behind you and it’s all downhill from here, let’s talk about what might be causing this stall. Then, we can figure out how you might break on through to the other side.

1. It’s time to move sideways, not up

When I first entered the workforce, I remember getting advice from people ahead of me on how to climb that corporate ladder. It was up or out.

But a few years into my career, I stumbled onto the idea of a career lattice. Imagine a shape more like a snowflake than a ladder. It represents the idea that careers could—and in many cases should—move in all directions.

When the time to climb arrives, you'll be carrying more tools in your professional toolbox.

At different seasons in our lives, we may need different things. Sometimes explosive upward growth is it. But sometimes it’s about taking a left or a right and learning new and valuable things, instead. It's about expanding our knowledge before we take the next step up. Then, when the time to climb arrives, we'll be carrying more tools in our professional toolbox.

When I worked full-time in human resources, there were essentially two brands of HR professionals. The specialists managed programs. Think talent management, leadership development, and even company-wide compensation. The generalists partnered with and advised individual business units.

My climb had always been up the specialist ladder. I knew that world was a better fit for me. But I came to a point in my career whee I realized that if I was going to keep climbing, I needed some generalist experience. Spending time advising business leaders would only help me design better programming in the future.

The last move I made in my full-time career was this lateral one. For me, it became the springboard into consulting. I felt rounded out and ready.

This business I run today would be considered a specialist one, but my generalist experience absolutely informs the practicality of the solutions I build for my clients.

So now ask yourself: What’s a move I could take laterally that would round out my portfolio of skills and experience and ready me for the next step up?

2. Your personal brand needs some love

Early in your career, you were known as the hard-working, creative superstar who would roll up their sleeves and solve any challenge. But is this still the narrative that follows you? When’s the last time you checked in on how people are experiencing you?

When I spoke with personal branding expert Dorie Clark, she talked of the importance of not just crafting but staying vigilant about the state of your personal brand, the way you’re thought of by those around you.

Make sure your colleagues and professional contacts experience you as the person deserving of that next great move. Optics matter.

Have you been doing great work, but finding that the accolades and opportunities for growth don’t seem to be following? Dorie would advise you to consider a personal branding refresh.

Here are some strategies she might suggest:

  • Be a recognized expert. Ask around to find out how people are thinking of you. Are you just a great worker all around, or are you the go-to on something critical? Strive for the latter.
     
  • Recapture your creativity. In the pursuit of doing great work, have you tried anything interesting, or are you just playing it safe? Push yourself out of the box.
     
  • Play more offense. Have you been waiting for the next great move to find you? It might be time for you to let the world know you’re on the hunt.

Make sure your colleagues and professional contacts experience you as the person deserving of that next great move. Optics matter.

3. Your network has stopped working for you

You know what they say: It’s all about who you know. The question here is, have you been paying attention to your network?

Think back to when you started this job. As an ambitious professional, chances are, you leaned into networking around the company like … well, like it was your job. We start new jobs with energy and enthusiasm. We want to learn, drink it in, meet everyone and learn about what they do.

We start new jobs with energy and enthusiasm. And then we start to settle in.

And then we start to settle in. People we reached out to in the early days have forgotten us, or in many cases have moved on themselves.

Having advocates and sponsors at work absolutely matters, people senior to you who will raise your name when they're discussing a big opportunity.

So ask yourself: When is the last time I was intentional about doing some internal outreach?

Start booking those virtual coffees today.

4. It’s time to bulk up your resume

When you finished school and landed the job, you had everything they were looking for.

But time has passed, and you’ve taken on more. Maybe you’ve had a promotion or two along the way.

It’s possible you’ve hit your ceiling. For the qualifications you have, you’re at the top of your game. So, it may be time to consider adding a qualification.

Amidst the pandemic, I’ve seen friends add coaching certifications, accounting credentials, and advisory licenses to their resumes. I’ve watched people learn coding, web design, and more.

If something about your resume has stopped compelling people, then spruce it up and make them listen!

5. It’s time to move on

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

You’re impressive, you’re hard-working, and you know this company like the back of your hand. Sometimes that last bit about knowing your role and company inside and out is the problem. Companies are looking for fresh blood. They want new perspectives, fresh eyes on old ways of doing things.

Consider all you’ve learned, seen, and achieved at your organization. When you put it all in the blender, what’s the story that emerges?

This isn’t a criticism of you. It just may mean that for the outcome you want, you need to explore options outside of your company.

Maybe it’s your moment to be someone else’s fresh eyes.

Consider all you’ve learned, seen, and achieved at your organization. When you put it all in the blender, what’s the story that emerges?

How will you show up for another organization with exactly the wisdom and perspective they need in the moment?

And there you have it! Don’t let a career stall get you down. Diagnose the problem so you can get busy solving it.

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5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
 

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How to Be Confident but Not Arrogant

In 2007 I had my first baby. I was extraordinarily fortunate to spend a year at home with her. That year was a gift, full stop. But as I learned in 2008 when I returned to the workforce—new job, new company—taking a year off also drained my confidence tank.
 
Pre-baby, I knew what made me shine at work. Post-baby, I felt like I’d lost my mojo.
 
According to Psychology Today:
 
Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly.
 
I knew how essential not only feeling but being able to display confidence was in my professional life. But after taking that year away, I wasn’t sure how to rediscover mine.
 
Previously I’d been a relationship-builder, a talent strategy advisor, and an analyzer of human capital data. Upon re-entry in 2008, I feared I’d lost my edge. And I was determined to show that fear who's boss. So I set my mind to making my mark, showing the world how smart and capable I was.

It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it.

I did this by having something—actually, a lot of somethings—to say in every meeting. I was quick to offer solutions to problems. And when something needed to be done, I had it covered. No help needed. And that strategy went really well for me.
 
Kidding! It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it. I’d been so focused on seeming confident that I’d shown up as arrogant. I will be forever grateful to the boss who gave me that feedback early and counseled me to course-correct.
 
I learned the hard way, but I learned a lot about what distinguishes confidence from arrogance. And today I share the biggest lessons. Here's the feedback my boss gave me, which I ran with. Thirteen years later, I'm delighted to pay it forward.

1. Know what you’re here to do

Arrogance happens when you over-index on you—how you’re showing up and being perceived. Confidence is focusing on the work—the outcomes you’re there to deliver.

The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.

Exuding confidence begins with experiencing confidence internally. The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.
 
Before an important interaction, ask yourself: What’s my role in this, and what am I expected to influence or deliver? Asking and answering those questions will center you. It will allow you to home in on where your voice has power, and where your silence or observation may add more value.
 
In 2008, I was so focused on seeming confident—which I somehow translated into a need for verbal diarrhea—that I lost sight of what I was there to do. I wasn’t hired to seem smart; I was hired to develop talent plans to fuel the business’s success.
 
Early feedback from that wonderful boss reminded me I didn’t need to offer a point of view at every turn. “Have the confidence not to speak up sometimes,” I remember her telling me. And having the poise to listen and observe when that's what's called for makes you seem all the more confident when you do offer an idea or point of view.

2. Listen like you mean it

Arrogance is pausing to give others a turn to speak. Confidence is truly hearing and absorbing what they have to say.

Ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

I was deeply guilty of pausing but not listening. Only when my boss called me out did I realize she was right. I was so focused on what I had to say next that I wasn’t taking in and reflecting on the value that others were bringing to the conversation. The pressure to seem smart led me to overuse my words and underuse my ears. And this backfired, positioning me as more arrogant than wise.
 
RELATED: Listen Up! Not Listening Is Holding Your Career Back
 
Again, that clarity of purpose should light the way. I was there to build a talent plan to help the business achieve its goals. So when the leader was talking about his goals and talent needs, that was my cue to listen. These were the moments that would provide meaningful insight and data to support my work.
 
Feedback from my boss helped me become an active listener. I wasn’t silent, but rather I was using my voice to restate what I had heard, or to ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

3. Let them see the sausage-making

Arrogance is believing the path from start to finish should be paved only with your ideas. Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything and having the humility to recognize that other people's good ideas won’t dull your shine.

Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything.

So as you’re working toward a deliverable, don’t wait for it to be fully baked or polished before you do the big reveal. (That works on HGTV, but not so much in real life.) As you move work along, build check-in points into your process. Let people watch as you make the sausage, and give your peers, your leader, your stakeholders a chance to influence the flavor before it’s fully cooked.
 
It does take confidence to pull back the curtain on an unfinished product. But it will better the outcome every time.

4. Say the bold thing

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear. It will make you a hero just for today. Confidence allows you to say what they need to hear, and it will make you the hero in the long-term, where it really counts.

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear; confidence allows you to say what they need to hear.

Fueled by feedback from my leader, I started finding moments of courage to push back on what my business client, George, believed was best. 
 
George was a salesman. His own climb up the corporate ladder was driven by his excellence in sales, and so he believed finding and growing great sales talent was the key to his business’s success. In our early days, as long as I showed George a plan designed to do just that, he’d praise my genius. 
 
But in time I came to realize this was a short-sighted play. We had great sales talent. The problem wasn’t finding more, but rather, finding ways to enhance collaboration between sales and client management. A stronger partnership between the teams would enhance the customer experience, in turn delivering bigger business results.
 
The first time I suggested this to George, there was no smile. But I'd done my research. I’d compared us with other companies doing the same, and ultimately, I won his support.
 
My recommendation delivered success in the long-run. But it took me time to find the confidence to say the thing he wasn’t ready to hear.
 
2008 was a painful year for me. And yet it delivered some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way about confidence. And as I pass these along to you, I realize there might be a fifth bonus insight: it takes a lot to share your own journey of failure (mine) in service of someone else’s success (yours). I choose to hope that’s a reflection of the confidence I’ve gained along the way.

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How to Cope with Change at Work Without Stressing Out

While each person’s experience in 2020 has been unique, I bet many of you lived through some version of the following:

One day you were in an office, shaking hands, having in-person meetings, and serving a known set of customer needs. And the next day, your home was your office, Zoom was your conference room, handshakes were lethal, and customer needs were being completely reinvented.

Feel familiar?

Change has become our everything. Get ready to be stretched.

Prior to 2020, you could still get by as a great performer at work even if you were a little resistant to change. But now? Not so much. Change has become our everything. And if it’s not something you naturally lean into, then the time has come to fix it. Stat. 

So if you’re someone whose default has been 'I don’t want to learn this new system, process, or way of engaging with customers…', then get ready to be stretched. If you want your career to continue to soar, you’re going to need to be able to roll with change.

Resisting change is natural

If you find it hard to get comfortable with change, you're not alone.

When my kids were babies, getting them to try new foods was an experience. After they spit spoon after spoon of strained peas or carrots back into my face, I talked to my pediatrician. I learned it would take seven to eight experiences with a new food before my baby would begin to like it, or at least stop spitting it at me.

In our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea.

This is due to the mere-exposure effect. While we may like or appreciate some things out of the gate (hello, chocolate fudge sundaes), our natural inclination is often to resist anything that feels different. But more exposure equals more comfort. We're wired to prefer the familiar and comfortable.

But in our work lives, we’re not always offered a grace period of seven to eight exposures to a new idea before we have to adopt it.

So let’s talk about actions you can take to open your mind and expand your comfort zone with change.

1. Scope the change

Sometimes “a change is coming” can sound like “the sky is falling.” But usually, the blue abyss above stays put. So let’s start by putting change into perspective.

Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.

Your boss just told you that you’ll be reporting to a new team. Or you’re switching to a new people-management system, or you’ll be managing a new product or account. Before you panic, check the sky. Is it still there? Phew! You’re OK.

Start by asking yourself what's really changing and what’s staying the same. You may have a new boss or new relationships to manage, but your day-to-day responsibilities aren’t shifting.

You may have a new system to learn, but the data it’s tracking, the reporting it offers—how different will they really be? Your skills will carry over.

So start by putting some boundaries around the change. This should help you take a deep breath. Now, let’s charge ahead!

2. Find your bright spots

When my kids—the spitters of pureed peas and carrots—began remote schooling this year, the change was all kinds of unwelcome. They missed friends. Their new homeroom teacher (yours truly) was highly unqualified. Everything felt messed up.

But I asked them to spend a few minutes finding and focusing on the bright spots. Because every change has bits of sparkle.

Focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.

They came up with extra sleep (don’t we all need it?!), jammies all day, and breakfast and lunch in bed. (Yes, we've let go of the reins a bit here at my house.)

Maybe for you, it’s the opportunity to add fluency in a new system to your resume, or to build your reputation with a new leader, team, or customer base. What’s something you can get excited about?

Big or small, focusing on bright spots helps open your mind, readying it for the change ahead.

3. Acknowledge the pains and challenges of change

Do focus on the upside. But not at the expense of acknowledging and preparing for the challenges. Don’t put your head in the sand.

If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.

We resist change for a reason. There will be growing pains. Transitioning to a new system does provide you with new opportunities. But there will also be a learning curve. It will take time, focus, and effort. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone. If this triggers mild concern or anxiety, don’t push that down. Give it space. Address it.

Part of gaining comfort with change is giving yourself a chance to master it. The only way to master change is to resolve and repair pain points. We can’t resolve what we can’t see, so give yourself the space to list out every single thing, big or small, that scares or challenges you.

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What might live on your list?

  • Finding time to learn a new system
  • Having to build new relationships virtually
  • Feeling like a novice after years of feeling like an expert

4. Identify actions within your locus of control

Part of what makes change feel scary is the sense of losing control.

According to the Harvard Business Review:

Many employees have had to abruptly accept fundamental changes to their work routines. And these changes have been stressful… because [they have] stripped people of their autonomy… [which] is detrimental for employee performance and well-being.

In other words, it’s normal to crave a sense of autonomy, of control. So here is where you focus on what you can control, and you make it happen.

Look at your sources of anxiety or discomfort. Identify tangible actions you can take to close the gap or minimize the pain of change.

When I left the world of full-time employment to start my own business, I was terrified of managing that change, even though I’d been the one to initiate it. But as a taker of my own medicine, I followed this very process. And when I arrived at this step, I identified a series of actions in my control.

Here’s a sampling of what I came up with

  • Invite every small business owner I know to coffee and pick their brain
  • Read one book per month on a relevant topic—consulting, marketing, pricing, etc.
  • Hire a coach to help me learn to build
  • Hire a lawyer to ensure I don’t step off a cliff

You get the idea. I was stepping into the unknown. But by identifying a series of actions designed to get me incrementally closer to known, I was re-establishing a sense of autonomy and control.

Maybe you have to learn a new system and you’re afraid it will be complicated. What steps can you take to close the gap? What can you control?

5. Commit positive change experiences to memory

I reflect on the days of smushed peas and carrots. Mostly, it was gross. But once in a blue moon, a baby would accidentally swallow a mouthful. And I was nothing but jazz hands. 

Turns out, my jazz-hands-enthusiasm was accidental genius because now, baby associated mush with entertaining Mommy gymnastics. For her it became fun. And over time she downed more mush.

And really, that’s kind of your goal. 

When you have your first positive experience with that new system, even if it was an accident, make a note of it. When your first client lights up at the description of that new product feature, capture that.

These winning moments add up over time. And suddenly one day you realize: Hey, these smashed peas and carrots are kinda delish! Who knew?

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