Begin with the end in mind by Scott Woodard – January 27, 2015

The beginning of the year is a great time for self assessment and the setting of new goals. Often these goals center around improving current jobs and careers or obtaining new jobs and new careers.

Clients come to me at this time of year struggling with these challenges. They’ve taken stock of where they are and have decided they want something different…a promotion within their current employer, a new job with a new employer, a new career altogether.

In our initial discussions, I spend a brief amount of time with their current situation: What do they enjoy most about their current work? What is least appealing? We quickly move on, though, to their aspirations: What would they like to do next? This is where most struggle. They’re just not sure.

So I get them to talk about How they see themselves in their next role. Are they part of a team? Are they leading the team? Are they leading the organization? What type of organization are they working in? Large, small, somewhere in between? What markets or industries are they interested in pursuing?

All these questions are intended to get them thinking ahead. Where do they see themselves next? What do they see themselves doing? Can they develop a mental model of where they would like to be? The idea is that if they can develop that mental model, then their reality will follow.

The late Stephen Covey outlined this concept in his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Begin with the end in mind” was so important that he listed it as the second habit. “If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.”

By looking ahead at what you would like to accomplish; how you would like be seen; you get to set the direction to a better job and career.

So, over to you. Can you visualize where you would like to be in your career? Does that vision set a course for you to follow? Can you begin with the end in mind?

Dare to dream about your life by Barbara Babkirk – January 22, 2015

Do you dream about what you want in your life—new job, different career direction, supportive friends?

If you’ve had dreams that did not materialize, did your disappointment or loss prevent you from daring to imagine other possibilities?

Dreams are part of a complex mix of desires, feelings, beliefs and actions that can eventually result in a physical form.

If you seldom experience dreams becoming real in your life, it might be because you are not consistent or motivated enough to follow through on your ideas. To realize a dream, you need to take action.

German poet Goethe speaks to the active partnership that is essential to making dreams reality:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

You can increase the chances of your dream becoming real by:

  • Putting your attention on your dreams (writing down specific details can be useful and help you to get clear about it)
  • Making a sincere commitment to them
  • Taking consistent action in support of the dream
  • Letting go of how and when your dreams will come true

It’s good to reevaluate your dreams from time to time to see if they fit with your current circumstances. Sometimes you outgrow your dreams or change your mind about them, so tweaking your dreams or shifting to another one altogether keeps your dreaming current and in sync with your life.

Having a vision of what you desire can keep your spirits up and give you hope for the future.

What are your three words for 2015? by Scott Woodard – January 13, 2015

I love this time of year…January is full of possibilities. We make New Year’s resolutions, set goals, make big plans. For many of us, it’s a time to take stock of our careers and think of what we’d like to accomplish in 2015…A new job, more responsibility, more pay, a promotion, or all of the above.

A few years ago, I came across Chris Brogan’s 3 Words for the Year. Since 2006, Brogan has encouraged people to choose three words that will frame their goals and intentions for the year. I’ve done this for the past few years. Last year my three words were client, collaborator, and content.

Client referred to providing superior services to clients…to strengthening my coaching skills to better serve them, and being more responsive to their needs. Collaborator referred to collaborating with both colleagues and clients. I love the idea of collaboration; of Doing It Together (DIT). Content meant identifying differentiating issues that enabled my clients to be better prepared with leading edge tools to meet their goals.

These three words helped me focus my efforts for last year. Did it work? Pretty much. The feedback from clients suggests that I was helpful and attentive to their needs and their goals. They were pleased at my accessibility…that they could reach out to me for advice between appointments and even after our formal coaching time had ended. I would hear that they enjoyed and learned from the blog posts here at the Press Herald and links to articles posted on LinkedIn and the Heart At Work website.

So what are my 3 words for 2015? This year I want to make things happen, to develop new projects that serve our clients. I want to bring people together, both clients and colleagues, to make things happen. And, I want to help both clients and colleagues identify small actions that lead to big changes. My three words, then, are:

●      Launch

●      Convene

●      Trimtab

These words will frame the major activities that I engage in for the year as we develop new services for clients, bring people together to act on key issues and work with them to identify incremental actions that lead to major changes. Stay tuned.

Back to you. What 3 words can you come up with to frame your goals for the year?

What meaning does winter hold for you this year? by Barbara Babkirk – December 30, 2014

It is here again: winter in Maine. The season actually changed on December 21, the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, even though our lack of snow yet this year belies the season.

Whether you enjoy winter or merely put up with it, this season remains a predictable aspect of life in Maine. Understanding the significance of the season that holds both the demise of the old year and the emergence of the new as daylight increases, might give new meaning to your experience of freezing temperatures, snow covered terrain and icy footpaths.

At this time of year when we tend to remain inside much more than during other seasons, we can become closed off to the outside world. During this insular time, we are all invited into the paradox of experiencing the darkness around us in order to find our inner light.

With the backdrop of the winter solstice, consider your life and work at this time of passage from darkness to light. Here are some questions upon which you might reflect to tap your inner knowing and align with the season’s energy:

  • What does the darkness of winter evoke in you?
  • Is there an internal conversation that awaits you in this period of darkness and quiet?
  • Is there a belief or attitude that you might release, strengthen or alter in order to find this time purposeful?
  • Like the seeds deep within the winter ground, what lies dormant within you?
  • As you begin to prepare for increasing daylight, what are you hopeful about in your work and life?
  • What activities, experiences or people keep your hopes for these things alive?

“Without darkness nothing comes to birth,without light nothing flowers.” – May Sarton

Raising the bar for your career in 2015 by Scott Woodard – December 22, 2014

It’s that time of the year…when we take stock of the year winding down and look forward to what improvements we’d like to see in the coming year. One area of self improvement that many examine is advancement in their career — either with their current organization or in someplace new. If you’re looking to make a career change in 2015, you need to ask some key questions that will guide you to success.

As Stephen Covey notes: begin with the end in mind. Visualize where you would like to be at this time next year. Ask yourself “when I’m looking back at the end of 2015, what will success look like for me?” Your criteria for success can be anything you’d like: higher compensation, a bigger title, more responsibility, more meaning to your work. It can be all or some combination. You get to decide.

Once you’ve decided on what success in 2015 looks like, the next question to ask is “am I on track to get there?” Will your current path take you to where you want to be a year from now? If so, great; you’re on your way! If not, what changes need to occur to get you on track? Identifying and executing these changes becomes the challenge for success in the coming year.

Career success begins with knowing your purpose: “What is it I’m meant to do?” The leadership expert Simon Sinek says you should start with your why: the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. Sinek notes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. By knowing your purpose, what inspires you to do your work, you will feel differently about your job. You will be more productive and more creative. You will treat your colleagues and clients and customers better.

Next gain clarity about your work. Ask “what am I really good at? What do I like to do? What do I not like doing?” What is your sweet spot, that thing you do better than anyone else? Your response to this question begins to formulate your value proposition. And yes, there is something you do better than anyone. You just have to explore the issue. Typically, what you do really well, you do intuitively. However, it’s incumbent on you to explain your strengths to others. If you’re having difficulty identifying your unique strengths and value, ask the people around you, those in your professional life and your personal life; get their assessment.

Once you have your purpose identified and clarity around your value, you need to focus on the stories you’re telling — to others and to yourself — about what you do, why you do it and the value you bring. These stories should highlight competence and accomplishments that illustrate your value.

Finally, you need a strategy; a plan of action that gets you to where you want to be. Knowing your purpose, getting clarity around your unique value and being able to articulate your value also requires execution: identifying small actions that lead to big changes. Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the career change you desire. Take small steps that move you forward throughout the year. Enlist the help of others — colleagues, friends and family — who can help you along the way. You don’t have to do all this by yourself.

So, over to you. Are you ready to raise the bar for your career in 2015? Can you take the steps necessary that will get you to where you want to be?

Take charge of your professional life by Barbara Babkirk, December 11, 2014

Far too many people let their careers happen to them.

If you relate to this statement, but hate to admit it, there are steps you can take to shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life.

  • Take stock of what you want from work. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or a job searc
  • Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear might not happen.
  • Understand the professional value you bring to the marketplace and seek out opportunities to communicate it verbally (meetings, performance reviews), virtually (with a great LinkedIn profile) and in writing (effective emails, outstanding resume, crisp cover letters).
  • Stay current with best practices in your field and be innovative in presenting new ideas and practices. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends in interviews or in professional conversations.
  • Consistently attend to your needs. Take time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to seize the next best opportunity.

Defining your impact; articulating your value by Scott Woodard – December 8, 2014

Alice (not her real name) came in perplexed. “I’m a social policy researcher at the university. The group I’ve been affiliated with has lost its funding. I need to figure out how to market myself in a way that appeals to new funders.”

“Great! Let’s talk about what you’ve done.”

“Basically I organized webinars and conferences that brought nationally recognized experts together and defined best practices for practitioners addressing child welfare programs.”

“That’s all?”

“Well, for the most part. Our funder would identify issues and challenges that practitioners in the field were experiencing. It was my job to organize and convene the practitioners and experts to define ways that would mitigate the challenges.”

“And did they?”

“Oh yes; after each webinar or conference the participants noted that they found the event ‘very useful.’”

“Great! So what was your impact? What value did you bring to the effort?”

“Umm, I organized the webinar?”

“No Alice, you did more than that. You organized the event; you identified the subject matter experts and convened them at the scheduled time. But you also framed the issue in such a way that actionable results occurred. People went away from these sessions that you convened with strategies and actions that would make their work more effective.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess I did. I just never thought about it that way.”

“Of course not. Most really experienced people who are good at what they do, work intuitively. They don’t have to think about it. They see the challenges and work to resolve them naturally. Their challenge, and your’s, is to articulate what they do, how they do it, and the impact of their actions. Those impacts, the outcomes of the webinars and conferences you organized, are the real value you provided.”

“So, how do I do that, figure out the impact, my value?”

“One way is to think about what the problem was that precipitated the webinar or conference. Why did the funder need practitioners and experts to convene around those particular issues? Then look at what happened after the conference; what was better as a result of the work you did in bringing these people together? That difference is what you want to focus on. That difference is what made you a valuable asset not only to the funder, but to practitioners and the experts.”

Alice left with a new way of thinking about the value she brings to projects and to potential employers: She convenes experts and users to develop innovative strategies that resolve critical challenges. She has a unique impact on her field. She provides a valuable service.

Over to you. Can you define the impact — the value — you bring to either your current, or a prospective, employer? Can you articulate what makes you unique?

Employers: Key reasons to invest in outplacement services – by Barbara Babkirk, November 25, 2014

Perhaps your company needs to cut costs or the management has decided to go in a different direction—whatever the case may be, the result may call for a layoff.

The news will be painful for those impacted and you want to do the right thing for employees who have worked hard and will lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. In an effort to ease your employees’ transitions, you may offer everyone a severance package, depending on their length of time with your company.

An important part of a severance may include “outplacement services” – assistance provided by career counseling professionals skilled in navigating career transitions. Outplacement services not only help the impacted employee establish a new career direction and professional focus after a layoff, but have also been proven to minimize the risk of a lawsuit. Over 70% of employers include outplacement services as part of a severance. However, only 40% of recipients take advantage of this offering.

As an experienced outplacement provider, I have found that most recipients of outplacement support do not clearly understand the benefit of what they’re offered. Consequently, the generous gift of assistance with a job transition may not benefit anyone in the end.

In order for outplacement services to accomplish what they were intended, employers need to have a plan that addresses all aspects of the services:

  1. Initiate preliminary conversations with one or two outplacement providers to decide on what services and provider would best meet company needs and goals.
  2. Consider how the message about outplacement services will be communicated to the impacted employees (e.g. introductory letter from the provider, plan for the provider to be on-site the day of the layoff, and/or a carefully crafted message from the employer about the intent behind outplacement services).
  3. Clearly identify and communicate the specifics, duration and benefits of the outplacement services offered.
  4. In the severance agreement, introduce the outplacement provider you’ve select with email and phone number and a date by which employees should contact them.

Outplacement services range widely from customized one to one career counseling services, professional branding and LinkedIn workshops and mock interview sessions, to less personal online portals that allow access to job information.
Think about what you want from outplacement services and make sure that the provider you select has the experience, qualifications and up to date knowledge you require for the best possible outcome.

Say yes to outplacement and here’s why…-by Barbara Babkirk, November 18, 2014

A recent study found that roughly 20% of Americans have been laid off from their jobs during the past five years. So, the chances  are high that you or someone you know has been affected by this increasing trend in the marketplace.

When you get the word that you no longer have a job, you’re understandably shaken and in shock, so you’re not necessarily taking in all of the information provided by human resources.

If you are fortunate, you’ll receive a severance package with compensation for years of service as well as assistance in making a transition to new employment—officially referred to as “outplacement services”. Over 75% of employers nationwide offer this benefit.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, only 40% of employees who receive the benefit of outplacement services actually utilize them. Why? I suspect most don’t understand what they are or assume they would be of no use to them.

What are outplacement services and just how can they benefit you in a career transition?

Services broadly range from customized one to one sessions that include a comprehensive plan with experienced career counselors or coaches to access to impersonal on-line portals. The best services include:

  • Career counseling to help you identify a new direction and determine where your competencies, values and interests align with marketplace opportunities.
  • How to communicate your consistent and crisp “career story” .
  • The key elements of your professional brand: resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile.
  • Essential tips in preparing for an interview.
  • Introductions to business and community contacts to extend your job search success.

Ignoring outplacement services is a professional mistake.  Even if you quickly find employment after losing your job, outplacement services with an experienced career counselor can help you effectively transition into your new job and then organize and virtually communicate your new professional brand.

If outplacement services are not included in your severance agreement, request them!

Most employers realize that it promotes goodwill to offer resources to ease the transition during a layoff, so your chances are good that you’ll be granted some type of service.

What’s in it for the employer? My next blog will focus on outplacement services from the employer’s perspective.

Are you at one end of the “I love/hate my job” spectrum? by Barbara Babkirk – November 5, 2014

“I hate my job” and “My job is destroying me” are two powerful statements clients recently made as they gave me their reasons for coming to their first career counseling session.

While not every client expresses such striking disdain for their work, everyone has a story about how it affects them, and that information informs how I will ultimately help them.

Depending on the severity of the impact – e.g. physical signs of stress, shifts in emotions and communication with loved ones – I might decide that quick action is necessary. That may mean a referral to a therapist or physician and/or discussion about an exit strategy that would provide relief to a highly stressful situation.

At other times, having a plan to move forward is enough to shift a person’s perspective, give them a sense of hope and alleviate the feeling of dread that precedes every Monday morning.

In contrast, some clients actually report that they love their jobs, but because of a company re-direction they find themselves reluctantly seeking outplacement services due to a job elimination.

In these instances, it’s important to identify what aspects of the job pleased them so much: using skills they enjoyed, work that focused on topics that engaged them and/or a company mission that aligned with an important value or priority.

The idea is to find a new job that matches all three factors that contribute to job satisfaction.

Where are you on the spectrum? Is it time to reflect on what’s behind the way you feel about your job? Perhaps you’ll discover what’s keeping you or repelling you—in either case, you’ll be the wiser for it.

Heart At Work Associates offers career counseling and outplacement services for your life stage in Portland, Maine and globally.

career counseling • outplacement & career transition services • relocation services • retention programs