87. Career health check: What to do and what not to do to keep your career healthy over time.
How do you keep your career healthy over time?
It's important to manage your career all the time and not just when you need it. For example, if you leave until the last minute to do a career health check, it may be too late to avoid the areas you have neglected from negatively impacting your success rate. Of course, as a career coach, it's part of my service to reverse and counteract some of these issues. But if I can share some ideas with you on what to watch out for, it will help you and make coaching smoother and more productive.
In this episode of The Job Hunting Podcast, I share a list of things you should be doing and a list of things you need to avoid to have a great career and a smooth transition to another job. These are helpful and practical tips that I think we should be reminded of from time to time. It's easy to let ourselves and others down when we get caught up with a busy lifestyle and stop paying attention.
What to do
1. Start building relationships with your colleagues
We spend so much time at work, but do we know the people we work with? I don’t mean just the person that sits next to you. I'm talking about the person at the reception desk, the people that you deal with in I.T., and so on.
- Connect with people and on a personal level, and not just about work.
- Connect with them on LinkedIn.
It's important to build those relationships and to connect with them. You may be able to help them, and they may one day help you. Listen to the previous episode (number 86), where we talk about reciprocal altruism and how it can help your career.
2. Engage with social activities at work.
These days, there are probably not many social activities happening. But if they are happening, such as Zoom drinks or Zoom trivia night by zoom, or if your colleagues are organizing to get together for lunch after months of lockdown and working from home, don't opt out! Make sure that you connect, listen to their stories, and find out how people are going. Work social activities are not extracurricular. They are part of you being a great colleague, a leader, or a member of the team.
3. Connect with everyone and not just people with status.
I recently had a conversation with one of my clients, a former CEO and a very senior executive. She was concerned that she didn't have a wide network of CEOs. She has kept in touch with people that used to work for her. She asked me if that was detrimental to her career. And I said, absolutely not.
Managing up is important and part of a good career advancement plan. But never forget that opportunities and introductions can arise from the most surprising occasions. And regardless, being a great person to all your colleagues is about being a great human being.
What not to do
Sarcasm can be funny and interesting in a social setting. But at work, it can be very undermining of other people. We live in a diverse community in a diverse world, and people have different ways of understanding others, and sarcasm is probably the hardest one.
Do not joke around during recruitment and selection. Be careful not to fall into a trap during small talk with recruiters and decision-makers. There's no such thing as small talk in an interview setting. And stay away from sarcasm.
I am the first to admit that I have been insubordinate from time to time. Nevertheless, it's a dangerous strategy, and I do not recommend it.
It's hard when there are politics in the work environment. The higher you go up in the organization, the harder it is to manage the politics and to know when you're insubordinate versus an innovative and entrepreneurial leader. Some rules are clear cut, but there are often grey areas, and you may have crossed the line and not even realized it until it's too late.
It's even harder to know when to pull back. So you have to be always in line with your boss in line with the place’s culture, purpose, goals, and strategy of what you're trying to achieve for the organization.
There are many arrogant people in leadership roles. But some are not arrogant but may appear so when they are learning to lead. I have found that it's possible to work with a client to change that perception.
If you have received feedback at work that you come across as arrogant, then there are tools and techniques that you can use to change that perception. And I'd be happy to discuss those with you. So book a time to talk to me about it.
4. Being insensitive about other employees and consultants
We don't know what's happening in other people's lives. So be careful not to judge or be insensitive with a colleague. For example:
- Please don't assume that because somebody is leaving early or coming in late, they are lazy. They may have to do kids' or carers' chores, and they may get to work flexibly to accommodate their work-life balance.
- Please don't assume that because somebody is acting out that they’re aggressive. Something quite serious could happen with that person at home or work that you don't know about.
- Don't judge another team without knowing what they are going through, their budget, priorities, and KPIs. Remember that companies are always changing and chopping and restructuring, and you would be in a challenging situation if you were to be amalgamated with that group.
5. Being Inconsistent with your business dealings
Managing your professional reputation is about being consistent over time. So if you’re inconsistent with your business dealings, you may get stuck in the reference checks during a recruitment and selection process. I have found that reference checks are done formally and informally, which is one reason why people don't get jobs at the tail end of their application process.
6. Taking too long to get back to people
My rule of thumb is if you're at a workplace and somebody emails you, get back to that person in less than 24 hours. I have always rated people as a) those who get back to me straight away and b) those who don't. And I don't think it's surprising that the most successful people I know are great at getting back to people. Either they do it themselves, or they have systems in place.
Maintain a reputation for being the professional who responds, helps, gets stuff done, sorted, resolved, and doesn't shy away from tough conversations.
7. Taking credit for others’ work
Frankly, most commonly, job hunters don't take credit for the work they do. For example, most corporate professionals are reluctant to take credit for a team effort when answering job interview questions.
So many projects are done in teams in the corporate sector that it's challenging to identify what part of the job was your idea and responsibility. On the other hand, you don't want to take credit for someone else's work. It's a thin line at times, but you need to be careful not to cross it.
8. Indulging in office gossip
Even in the new virtual workplace, office gossip is still happening. Some companies are doing fine under covid lockdown restrictions, but others struggle with their new business models and work arrangements. Working from home, including managing teams and projects, can be very new for many, and we are only now finding our feet.
Gossip is one of the ways professionals shared their frustrations with the new ways of working under lockdown. And it's still very easy to get into it. But I recommend that you not get involved and don't initiate or add fire to it.
All of us may have made mistakes. However, the important thing is always to take time to reflect and reset to avoid ongoing issues that may eventually affect your ability to advance in your career.
If you need help with some of the strategies and advice mentioned here, please reach out to me for a private conversation here.
Podcast Episode Timestamps:
- 03:55 - DO: Build relationships with colleagues
- 05:59 - DO: Engage with the social activities at work
- 07:07 - DO: Connect with everyone and not just people with status
- 08:39 - DON'T DO: Sarcasm
- 10:42 - DON'T DO: Insubordination
- 12:04 - DON'T DO: Arrogance
- 13:05 - DON'T DO: Be insensitive about other employees and consultants
- 14:32 - DON'T DO: Be inconsistent in your business dealings
- 16:14 - DON'T DO: Don't take too long to get back to people
- 17:42 - DON'T DO: Take credit for others' work
- 18:32 - DON'T DO: Indulge in office gossip
Links mentioned in this episode: