It’s Mid-Year Performance Review Time: Are You Halfway To Your Goal

We’re pushing into June, middle of the year and a good time for a performance review. The last newsletter talked about limiting beliefs, encouraging you to break free and think differently. Thinking big and imagining more possibilities is definitely a good practice, yes, but an equally important practice is getting real about what is happening right now. Are you halfway to your goals for the year?

I am only 20% to my weight loss goal. Yikes! I need to hit 80% of my target with only 50% of the year remaining. Are you behind on your goals? (The selfish part of me is saying, “Please say yes!” Misery loves company.) Here are five coaching questions to help you course-correct:

Is it the right target?

Sometimes when you’re stuck or not doing the work, it’s because you really don’t care. Connect back to your Why — your reason for wanting to hit that specific target.

Are you applying the right strategy?

Maybe you are working away diligently, but you’re trying the wrong things. Look back in the year and see what works. How can you do more of that?

Will the calendar work for or against you?

I know for weight loss, the winter months are typically harder – you eat more, you get outside less. Now I have a sense of urgency to protect my summer bandwidth for this particular goal. At the same time, I know sales pick up in the latter part of the year so I can catch up on that goal then. How about your timelines? What should you prioritize when?

What progress do you need to make each and every day?

An interesting study on saving shows that people saved more when their timeline was measured in days rather than years. What is your target goal by day, by week, by month? Chunking it down into micro-targets may make it more accessible.

What actions and activities will you do today, next week, by July, and by September?

Plot out specific steps (or questions to answer if the steps are unclear) for each day going forward. This way you ensure that you don’t leave things till “tomorrow” which is not any day of the week!

The best time to plant a tree…was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. — Chinese Proverb

Whatever happened the first half of the year, celebrate and repeat what worked, and discard the rest. No sense in beating yourself up if you aren’t as far along as you wanted to be. The better way to spend your energy is on acting now.

Did you ever turn around a so-so year and end with a bang? Let us know what has worked for you!

Temp-To-Perm Entrepreneur-Style: How A Single Project Can Lead To Repeat Business

While small business owners don’t necessarily want to join their clients as full-time employees, reliable, repeat business from a client, say a retainer over a long period of time, is a great way to even out the vagaries of cash flow that stymie many small businesses. Reliable, repeat business enables you to plan with a longer timeframe, perhaps go after other big clients with longer sales cycles because you don’t have to worry about immediate cash flow. A reliable source of long-term income enables you to invest in operational improvements – outsourcing more or upgrading technology. Knowing that you can convert a smaller engagement to a larger one also helps you break down the sales cycle – you can sell a smaller, shorter assignment first and be confident that you can turn it into a long-term relationship.

In a recent post for Forbes, I wrote about temp-to-perm conversion strategies for employees – how to turn an internship or contracting assignment to a full-time job. A similar approach can also help entrepreneurs sell larger, ongoing contracts:

Focus on where you are

First and foremost, you have to do the project, however small or introductory, that you were hired for. Your happy client will be a much-needed reference. S’he may introduce you to others within the company. Depending on how visible the project is, others can see your great work for themselves. Before you focus on the next project, remember to complete the one at hand.

And don’t just assume that you’re doing a great job — check in frequently with your client even on shorter assignments. Over-communicate before kick-off to ensure you understand the full scope. Maintain open communicate throughout. Finally, ask for feedback after completion. Ask for a testimonial or recommendation. Ask for introductions. Don’t assume that your client will offer, even if they really liked your work.

Broaden your network within the client

If your work is onsite, reserve time to network in other areas outside your immediate assignment. Get your immediate client’s buy-in and even suggestions. Think about what specific departments might benefit from what you’re doing – if it’s a training module for Sales, maybe Marketing may want to participate.

And don’t assume that the only networking is professional networking. People hire people they like, so don’t be afraid to start relationships on a social basis – as lunch buddies, for example – if you aren’t working with each other directly.

Continue to market

You never want your business to be overly concentrated with one client. A big mistake many solopreneurs and micro businesses make is to get so caught up in executing the current work that they let the pipeline for future work go dry. When you have a juicy client assignment, use that opportunity to market to other clients just like that one. Obviously you don’t share confidential information but because you’ll know so much more about that industry or nice or client type you’ll be better informed and positioned when speaking to their competitors. You want to use the projects you have to get you additional, similar projects.

Have you had success expanding an initial smaller assignment? What worked for you?

 

Eight Limiting Beliefs That Derail Career Success

career management tips

The post a couple of weeks ago referenced limiting beliefs about leadership development – companies assume employees aren’t interested in leadership; and employees aren’t feeling enough support from their companies to grab those leadership roles. Limiting beliefs are prevalent in a lot of different groups or circumstances – erroneous assumptions by hiring managers (and sometimes the job seekers themselves) derail older job seekers; developed countries, it turnsout, are not necessarily more forward-thinking regarding women in management. Do you carry limiting beliefs around your own career success?

Do you assume the next level of success (e.g., a promotion) will mean less work/ life balance?

Do you assume that a higher level of success (promotion or otherwise) should be your next goal?

Do you assume that you need to work harder to get that next level of success?

Do you assume that you can get to that next level by not working hard?

Do you assume you need more time to work on next steps?

career management tips

Do you assume you need more information before you can decide on next steps?

Do you assume that regardless of what you do the deck is stacked against you?

Do you assume that you just need to take care of one more thing before you can move forward?

What assumptions are you making now that are keeping you from moving forward?

It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame. – John Doerr

Limiting beliefs are particularly difficult to change because you already believe them, so many times you don’t even question them. They’re hard to see because you already believe them, so they’re part of your picture inside the frame.

One mental check and balance I use, is the mantra, “Is that true?” I ask myself that when I’m feeling particularly stuck. I rewind my last thought and attach “Is that true?” to whatever I was just thinking. In this way, I try to uncover assumptions that might be tightly embedded into my thinking that are causing me to get stuck in a loop.

Another mental check and balance is to explore the opposite. So if the issue is about pursuing a new job, then you explore deeply the choice of staying put – what does that look like, what would you need to do to ensure that happens, what will your life like be 30, 60, 180, 365 days from that choice? Just forcing yourself to explore something else deeply, even if you “know the answer” already, can help uncover assumptions you are making.

Any other checks and balances you have instituted to ensure you can see the picture while you’re standing in the frame? Let us know what has worked for you!

Career Questions Answered On Getting Promoted, Finding Salary Data and More

In the April episode of the SixFigureStart Career Coaching Radio Show, I answer career questions on getting promoted, job search in your mid-60’s, finding international salary data, breaking into a writing or social media career, and what else to try when you have submitted a resume but haven’t heard back:

Check Out Self Help Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with SixFigureStart on BlogTalkRadio

Yanini asks: I would like some guidance on how to get promoted from my current position as a Senior Business Analyst to Business Analyst Manager , where I get to manage couple of direct reports 

For more information on getting promoted, check out my post on Strategies To Get Noticed For The Next Big Promotion

If you still feel like you need some professional development to get ready, check out 10 Low-Cost Options For Customized Leadership Development

Donna asks: How can you be taken seriously when job-hunting in your mid-60s.?

For more information on job search for the older professional, see Seven Dangerous Assumptions That Derail The Older Job Seeker

Lisa asks: I’m about to start negotiating with a multinational development bank headquartered in DC, for a position in [foreign country] but the only salary information I can find is for their DC office….The only thing my research has yielded is that the company is not known for negotiating….I’ve met a wall as far as gathering market data, do you have any additional suggestions about how to go about this?

For more information on finding salary data, see How To Get Salary Data You Can Really Use

Beti asks: I am interested in opportunities in writing online and social media…. 

For more information on jumpstarting your job search, see Seven Things To Do At The Start Of Your Job Search

If, unlike Beti, you’re still not sure what you want to do, see Want A New Career But Unsure What? Do This First

Jenny asks: I have applied for a job opening via a third party recruiter who reached out to me via Linked In.  I have also submitted my resume the company’s website.  I have not heard back from the company or the recruiter. I happen to know who the hiring manager is…1. The company is looking for certain skills which i did not clearly highlight on my resume that the recruiter submitted on my behalf.  Would it be okay to reach out to the hiring manager on Linked In and communicate my fit (that i have the experience/skills that they are looking for)? 2. If i don’t specifically have some of the experience that they are looking for, would it be okay to show that i have done a lot of research and learning on my own and I just have not had a chance to gain the practical experience?

For more information on reaching out to a prospective hiring manager, see Cold Calling A Potential Business Lead – A 3-Step Guide

Are You Holding Back Your Leadership Aspirations?

Do you have leadership aspirations — to be a C-level executive, run a business, or otherwise get a bigger job? If you answered NO, you fit in with the results of a new study by Saba and WorkplaceTrends.com that shows professionals in all generations opting out of the leadership track. Apparently companies aren’t doing their part to develop leaders either as the survey found only 15% of companies offer helpful training for the next role. That finding inspired my Forbes post which shares 10 low-cost options for getting leadership development on your own. If it’s just a question of readiness, you can solve for that problem!

So which is it – people don’t want to be leaders; or people aren’t developed to be leaders?

Would you dream bigger if you had the resources and support?

If it’s a resources question, might you be opting out too soon? Solving the issue by dialing back rather than be figuring out another way.

I have done this myself too. My very first job was overwhelming so I quit, rather than get an executive coach or move laterally to a different function or try a different variation of a similar job (which by other criteria I loved). I’m happy with how things turned out, but I know I didn’t even consider those options at the time because I didn’t think of them.

Now, when I find myself jumping to one solution, I force myself to think of two other solutions. Then I force myself to think of just two more. If your question is moving into leadership and your initial reaction is “UGH! I would never want that pressure” consider how you might alleviate the pressure before throwing out the whole idea. If it’s a perceived skills gap, consider how to get the skill (or build a team where you can delegate it away). If it’s a fear, such as losing money investing in a new business launch, consider how you can mitigate this (such as by stockpiling a cash reserve or giving yourself a deadline for your experiment).

The important thing is to ask “How can I?” rather than just “Can I?” Assume that you can, and then figure out the particulars.

You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety – Abraham Maslow

In what area of your life, professional or personal, can you think bigger?

How An Unrelated Hobby Can Be A Powerful Sales And Marketing Tool

In the fall of 2010, just two years into our business, I took a comedy class, which became an unexpectedly powerful sales and marketing tool for our business.

Comedy was unrelated to anything in our business plan (except for maybe helping support my writing and creativity). But, it turned out that my comedy shows were so well-attended by my clients and prospects that my comedy side became a sales and marketing tool for us. When I reach out to my network about comedy, it often spurs business talk, including closed deals.

This doesn’t mean you should take up comedy specifically. But you probably have a seemingly unrelated hobby, interest or passion that you can incorporate into your sales and marketing. Here are three ways that comedy has helped my sales and marketing and how you might incorporate a similar strategy:

Stay front of mind

When I perform several times a year, it is another way to get in front of my network and stay front of mind. How can you use personal updates or something other than business talk to stay front of mind?

Show a multifaceted you

As a professional services provider, I consult on serious issues. My comic side is a surprise to my network and provides a whole other side to how my contacts know me. How can you surprise and delight your network?

Walk your talk

People admire well-rounded, balanced leaders who can successfully integrate the professional and personal. The personal wins you share add to your professional credibility.

So while you may not ever want to do stand-up comedy, there is probably a personal hobby, interest, or passion that can spark a different, deeper connection with your professional network. Don’t assume that you need to hide these other important parts of your life! Sharing these unrelated threads may actually bind you closer to your network.

If you want to see me perform firsthand, I am doing a set at Gotham Comedy Club next week – Tuesday, April 21, 7p. Details, including reservation number, are on our Upcoming Events page. Let me know if you’re coming so I can look for you after the show!

Resume Mistakes — How To Avoid Exaggerating Or Underselling On Your Resume

In my latest career advice post for Money and Time, I talk about resume mistakes — specifically exaggerating or underselling the subjective details on your resume. Here is the my original, unedited version:

A resume is a factual document. In fact, it can serve as the outline to a background check. Your employer may check dates of employment, titles of previous jobs, academic degrees received and dates of school attendance as you list them on your resume. So you should assume that everything that can be verified will be verified, and take special care to be 100% accurate here. One candidate I wanted to hire for a media company had listed a bachelor’s degree, which she actually didn’t receive. She had completed all of the credits but was denied the degree due to outstanding library fines. Had she listed her credits on her resume rather than the terminal degree – i.e., completed all 120 credits towards a Bachelor’s Degree – that would have matched the background check information and she would have been fine. But instead she wrote that she received the actual degree, which she did not. It cost her the job.

However, a resume is not 100% objective when it is descriptive — the scope of your responsibilities, your contribution to a result, or even the measure of a specific result (did revenues actually double or almost double, say a 90% increase?). Where there is a chance to be subjective, you might exaggerate (or undersell) your accomplishments. BackgroundChecks.org has produced a fascinating infographic of which areas of the resume tend to contain the most lies. Skills and responsibilities take the top two spots, and these are indeed two subjective areas where the candidate can exaggerate or undersell. The employer has to take the resume at face value and only verify later via the interview and reference check process. This doesn’t give you license to lie! You still need to represent your skills, responsibilities and other resume information accurately. Here are three guidelines to ensure you don’t exaggerate or undersell yourself on your resume:

Show clear examples

If you claim a skill, include an example of when you’ve used it. For example, if HTML programming is listed in your Skills section, include a reference to it in the job where you used it most substantively. If you claim a responsibility, such as management, specify the size of the team or the budget or the project scope that you managed. If you claim a result, such as increasing revenue or decreasing costs, include a specify percentage or dollar amount, only if you know it, and explain how you got that result. The details will give the reader context in which to evaluate your claims and will enable you to keep track of the same supporting details you’ll need in the interview process anyway.

Use specific descriptions over generic titles

I once interviewed a non-profit candidate who listed no title at her current job but listed responsibilities commensurate with a Director of Development – she led fundraising for that organization. As it turns out, she wasn’t the Director of Development, but she was the only development person there (the Director had left and she assumed the role but without the title). So she was factually correct to omit the title – had she put Director of Development and I called her HR office to verify, it would show as a mismatch. But at the same time, she was underselling herself because her lack of title (and little other experience) could lead other resume readers to gloss over her substantive accomplishments. In this case, use a very specific description in lieu of a generic title: Development team of one, in charge of $500k fundraising target; or sole Development staff for $500k fundraising goal. You steer clear of a title you don’t formally have but you still capture the responsibilities and accomplishments that you rightfully earned.

Line up your supporting references and samples

Another check and balance against resume inflation is to collect references and samples that back up your claims. If you want to list Director as your title, verify with HR that they will confirm this exact title in reference checks. If not, but you did lead a team, project, or some other substantive body of work, then line up a senior person in the department who can describe your contributions and confirm you accomplished what you said you did. If you list HTML as a skill, share a sample of your code. Your prospective employer may never verify that specific claim, but you are prepared if they do, and it keeps you from inflating your skills and experience as you create your resume.

You want your resume to promote yourself and put your skills and experience in the best light. But you also want your claims to be accurate. By preparing examples, specific descriptions and references in advance, you ensure a healthy balance of self-promotion and accuracy.

 

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