Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Overcome Obstacles in Your Career


Yesterday I guest posted on GL Hoffman's "What Would Dad Say" blog about learning to be more resourceful. I'd like to expand on that and talk about overcoming obstacles at work.

Today, the workplace is a hotbed of stress. There are lots of people worried about their job, and lots of people who feel overworked. The result is often a roadblock: Workers paralyzed when there is a bump in the road.

So, let's look at what you can do to develop some skills that will help you overcome these moments:

* Outline the worst case scenario. By writing down the potential pitfalls or at least verbalizing them, you face your fears. Fear often immobilizes you, so once you face it you can be better equipped to overcome it.

* Be willing to fight. Don't just accept what happens. Ask yourself what else you can do to overcome the problem. Keep thinking of ways to rephrase the questions, come up with new information or bring in other resources. Don't give up the first time the going gets hard. Keep telling yourself that just like lifting weights, you're developing your "resilience" muscle.

* Envision success. Keep your eye on the prize, whether it's nabbing a big contract or winning over a difficult customer. Always make sure it's clear in your mind what the payoff will be once you get past the obstacle.

* Shake it off.
The boss is often watching closely when you're confronted with a problem. This is when you show your determination. By handling it with humor, grace and focus, you can score some real points just by not caving in to defeat.

* Be realistic. While the boss wants to see you keep trying, it's not going to pay off to let him see you be foolish in your strategies. You may need to back off for a bit and reconsider what you're doing. Perhaps you do need more training to get that promotion.

* Get input. You don't always have to take the advice of someone else, but it often helps you clarify your problem if you can get ideas from other people. This doesn't always have to be someone you work with. A lot of successful people rely on friends and family to get another perspective.

* Invest in confidence. Read inspirational books about how others facing adversity overcame it, or attend events that foster well-being and confidence. Spend time with others who have succeeded and ask them to share their stories of how they dealt with the problems.

What other strategies can you use to overcome obstacles?


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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is Your Definition of Success Making You Miserable?


Is your definition of success a fatal mistake?

For some, success is defined in terms of the dollar amount on a paycheck. For others, it's the title on their business card. Others may define success in terms of the accolades and awards they have won.

But the problem with how people define success these days is that when they're forced to change it, they can't. Look at the businessmen who have committed suicide because they have lost fortunes. Consider the workers who are fired and then go back to work, armed with a gun.

Extreme cases, sure. Not everyone considers killing themselves or others when their livelihood is threatened. But it does point out that maybe we need to revisit our own definition of success.

Start by completing this definition: "Success to me is...."

After you complete this sentence, then review it and determine if you're on the path to achieving that success. If you were to lose your job or money tomorrow, would your definition of success still be valid? Or, would you consider yourself a failure?

I remember a job where I worked long, stressful hours and often labored for a boss who had mood swings like a freaking roller coaster. It made for a tense situation, to say the least. One day I was talking to a co-worker and the exhaustion was overwhelming. I felt so dissatisfied, frustrated and even angry. Then it hit me: If I died that day, I didn't want the only thing on my tombstone to be "Always met her deadlines."

Ugh, I remember thinking. I wanted my life to account for more than that. It wasn't until months later that I started making some real changes in my life, changes that I know made me much better able to balance my life and devote time and effort to more than my job.

Right now, times are tough and some of us are beginning to panic. But I think it's a golden opportunity to really think about what is important in your life, and weed out the things that don't really matter.

You are the one who must define what success is to you. One thing I know for sure: You are more than a job title, you are worth more than a number on a paycheck and you are more than an award to hang on your wall. Is the destination you have in mind worth the road you must travel? Only you can answer that.

So, how do you define success?



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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Survival of the Fittest in the Workplace

My oldest son is preparing to take final exams, and so I decided it was time to share with him my secret tip for writing a great essay on any test: Darwin.

Yep, that's it. Darwin, the "survival of the fittest" guy.

"It doesn't matter what subject," I told him. "Always mention Darwin and his theory and you'll score well."

He was a bit skeptical, and my other son wanted to know exactly how Darwin fit into subjects like math. "When you're older, I'll tell you," I said, sagely.

The whole discussion about survival of the fittest got me to thinking about ways that people can survive on the job these days. Things are tough, and it's those people who use all their bag of tricks that may be the the last ones standing. Sure, you should take on tough projects, make sure you're giving great customer service, be organized and efficient, blah, blah, blah.

But let's look at some not-quite-standard ways to impress the boss:

1. Have her over for dinner. Let the boss see you as a human being, not just Joe in accounting. Invite the boss's spouse or significant other. Don't serve anything fancy or she'll think she's paying you too much. Sit at the kitchen table and serve her good, standard food. Be interesting, be polite and don't talk about work too much. This is a chance to make a more personal connection with her.

2. Volunteer at the boss's favorite charity. This gives you a chance to rub elbows with her in a positive setting, and again establish a friendlier relationship -- or at least one where she likes you a bit better. So what if you don't like picking up trash along the highway on a Saturday morning? She cares about the environment, so get on that bright orange vest and start tramping the road right beside her.

3. Become interested in her hobby. If she likes NASCAR, then talk about Carl Edwards' last race. Or, drop off a golf magazine in her mailbox with a note, "Check out the story on page xx...unbelievable!" Maybe she's a big animal lover, so talk about how much you love your dog or how you ride horses.

4. Stand in her shoes. Most bosses are under a great deal of pressure these days and anyone who provides an understanding ear will be appreciated. Don't forget that bosses need a pat on the back, so offer sincere, supportive comments. "It must have been difficult dealing with that customer. You handled it well," you can say. Try to remain upbeat and optimistic, and the boss will gravitate toward your energy.

Maybe you're already taking on tough projects or making sure you're going the extra mile in customer service in order to impress the boss. But the point is that in these tough times, when gas prices are headed through the roof and a bag of potato chips costs $4, you're going to have to pull out all the stops in order to survive. Now, go make Darwin proud.


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