In this book, Managing Your Career, Sean McPheat gives readers a practical plan on how to go about taking control of their careers, no matter what field they are in. Sean is the Founder and Managing Director of MTD Training. He has asked readers to identify their interests and passions by taking self-tests and other simple exercises. This book is not just a pep-talk but a practical guide on how you can improve your professional life and achieve your goals.
Managing Your Career
|1.1||Your Career Is in Your Control|
|1.2||Your Interests and Passions|
|1.3.||Identifying Our Strengths and Weaknesses|
|1.4||Enhancing Your Skills|
|2||Determining Your Interests and Passions|
|3||Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses|
|3.2||Identifying What a Job Requires|
|3.3||Identifying General Strengths and Weaknesses|
|3.4||Getting Feedback from Others|
|4.1||The Importance of Communication|
|4.2||What Is Communication?|
|4.3||What Are Communication Skills?|
|4.4||The Communication Process|
|4.5||Elements of Communication|
|4.5||Face to Face Communication|
|6.2||Addressing Lack of Confidence|
|6.3||Addressing Lack of Focus|
|6.4||Addressing Lack of Direction|
|7||Emotional Intelligence (EI)|
|7.2||Mixed Model of EI|
Do you have a career path? Do you know exactly what you want in terms of your career? Do you know
what you’ll be best suited to?
All of these questions need answering if you want a happy and fruitful career. You spend a great
proportion of your life at work so it pays to choose and manage your career wisely!
In this textbook you will work through a series of exercises and content so that you will be able to plan and map out a rewarding career for yourself.
Sean McPheat, the Founder and Managing Director of management development specialists, MTD Training is the author of this publication. Sean has been featured on CNN, BBC, ITV, on numerous radio stations and has contributed to many newspapers. He’s been featured in over 250 different
publications as a thought leader within the management development and training industry.
MTD has been working with a wide variety of clients (both large and small) in the UK and internationally for several years.
MTD specialise in providing:
MTD provide a wide range of management training courses and programmes that enable new and
experienced managers to maximise their potential by gaining or refining their management and
Our team of highly skilled and experienced trainers and consultants have all had distinguished careers in senior management roles and bring with them a wealth of practical experience to each course. At MTD Training we will design and deliver a solution that suits your specific needs addressing the issues and requirements from your training brief that best fits your culture, learning style and ways of working.
Our programmes are delivered when and where you need them! We believe that training should be fun, highly interactive and provide “real world” practical techniques and methods that you can use back in the office – and that’s exactly what we provide.
1.1 Your Career Is in Your Control
Each one of us has the ability to control the path that our careers take. It requires that we become truly self-aware so that we can identify what our own interests and passions are – what will truly make us happy in our careers. Then we must be able to fully face our own strengths and weaknesses so that we can ameliorate the ways in which we might be blocking our own career progress. Next, it’s important to hone some skills that are important to career advancement such as communication skills, self-motivation skills and goal-setting, and a relatively modern skill set called Emotional Intelligence. Finally, you’ll need some practical job-search skills, like understanding how to write a resume and how to stand-out in the interview process.
1.2 Your Interests and Passions
Are you truly happy in your current career path? Many of us spend our lives doing work that we don’t truly enjoy. We do it because we need to pay the bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads. But if we are intentional about it, we can discover what type of work will provide for our financial needs and will be fulfilling as well.
1.3. Identifying Our Strengths and Weaknesses
Since no one is perfect, we all have weaknesses as well as strengths. But when you look at your
weaknesses honestly, you transform them into areas that you can work on to improve your own career potential. You’re managing yourself in order to help manage your career. For example, imagine you are unorganized or have issues with time management. You can learn how to become more organized and to become a masterful manager of your time. If you have a hard time working with a certain kind of person- and we all do – what would you normally do about it? Get angry, suffer over it, wish you were somewhere else? What if you could learn to look at that as your own weakness rather than as the other person’s fault, you suddenly have a power to do something about it – something that you didn’t have before. This is all part of an honest inventory of our strengths and weaknesses with an intention of moving our career forward.
1.4 Enhancing Your Skills
In the next few chapters, we’ll examine some skills that are important for managing your career because they will do two things: make you more desirable as a job candidate and keep you in a positive attitude and well-motivated to continue managing your career. Some of these skills are also useful in your everyday life and your relationships outside of work. We’ll look at:
1.5 Job-Search Skills
In order to manage your career, you need to manage which jobs you pursue. Gone are the times when a person would start and end their career with the same company. Instead, people who truly manage their careers are strategic about which jobs they take and why. They look at each position as a rung in a ladder, not as a permanent destination. To be good at changing jobs, you need to be good at getting them. Which is why we’ll examine some techniques to help you in your job search. The more you practice these skills, the easier you will find job hunting to be.
2. Determining Your Interests and Passions
Each of us has activities and areas in life that we are passionate about. Yet few of us are able to spend our careers pursuing something that truly holds our interest. The need to make a living, the desire for security, and the pressures of society often make us choose a career path that is not truly fulfilling. Unfortunately, we can spend a lifetime doing something that we don’t actually enjoy.
Now imagine for a moment that you were able to spend that same career time doing something that you are passionate about. Something that, when you woke up in the morning, you actually looked forward to doing. How would life be different for you? Managing your career should be, at least in part, about finding a career that you truly enjoy. The benefits are manifold. You will be happier, which will make you healthier. Which in turn will make you able to have a generally higher quality of life.
If you don’t know what you are passionate about or what your interests really are, there are all kinds of tests out there that you can take. One famous test you may have taken is the Myers-Briggs. But we’ll do two rather simple exercises to see if you can get a clearer idea of the type of career that will be the best fit for you.
2.1 Exercise One
First, on a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side, list the things in life that are most important to you. List people, things, ideals, activities – whatever it is that is very important to you and to your personal happiness. For example, a list might look like this:
Now on the right-hand side, list your strengths and skills. Think about things you know how to do from a work or knowledge perspective, and that you actually enjoy doing. So your list might look something like this:
Now, take a moment to compare the two lists for some areas that cross-over. For example, if you enjoy working with your hands and are good at training others, and you know that working with children brings you joy, what kind of careers could you follow that would allow you to do all of those things? If you enjoy helping others and you enjoy pursuing better health, what kind of a career could you have that would allow you to do both?
There are no right answers here – this is a brainstorming exercise to get you to start thinking outside of whatever career path you might already find yourself on. It doesn’t mean that you have to change the current career path that you have been following – but it might point you to ways that you could enjoy your current career path more. Perhaps you could focus on developing a new skill set that will allow you to take advantage of the experience you have but apply it to a new role. Just think creatively – how can you combine your passions and your skills into a career you would love?
2.2. Exercise Two
In this exercise, we’re going to look at the kind of personality that you have, and what that tells you about the kind of career that you might enjoy. To do this, we’ll first need to explain the personality quadrant so that you can determine which kind of personality type you have. There are four basic types in this model:
You will not necessarily be entirely one or the other type. But there is usually a dominant personality type that you will recognize as being closest to your own. Let’s start by taking a look at the personality matrix model in Figure 1. This model was developed by Dr. Eileen Russo. Her model uses two dimensions of personality: expressiveness and assertiveness.
Figure 1: The Personality Matrix
Each of the four personality quadrants represents a basic personality style. People can fall anywhere within each quadrant, becoming more uniformly one style over the others as they move further from the center. Notice that the more assertive styles ‘tell’ others what to do. The less assertive styles ‘ask’ others what should be done. The more expressive styles tend to show their emotions in their face, speech, and tone. The less expressive styles will either not express or hide their emotions.
The resulting four basic personality styles are shown in Figure 2.
Low Expressiveness + Low Assertiveness = Systematic
Low Expressiveness + High Assertiveness = Direct
High Expressiveness + High Assertiveness = Spirited
High Expressiveness + Low Assertiveness = Considerate
Figure 2: The Four Basic Personality Styles
Now let’s look at the basic characteristics of each type of personality and the types of careersthat tend to fit these personality types.
People with direct personality styles like to be in charge. They like to take control and get to work – and they’ll work hard. They look for results, are driven to succeed, and are often competitive. They have strong focus and are pragmatic in their outlook. They are assertive, decisive, and have strong opinions. They aren’t afraid to speak their minds or to make the tough decisions. They don’t want to analyze things to death – they want to get in, get it done, and get on to the next project.
For other personality styles, direct styles can come off as overbearing, impatient, stubborn, and autocratic. They may appear as if they don’t want other people’s input, particularly if it’s something that could slow them down from getting the job done. They may not take the time to listen to others or to feel that they need to explain anything to anyone else. They sometimes put results ahead of other people’s feelings.
Some careers that might fit best with a direct personality include:
The spirited personalities are the ‘dreamers’ of the group. They can be like the Pied Piper, generating
enthusiasm and excitement about an idea or project. They are persuasive, visionary types who are
passionate about whatever they are working on and will throw themselves into their work with abandon. They prefer to multitask in order to avoid getting bored or stymied. They aren’t afraid to take risks and can often convince others to do the same.
Spirited styles, while great at getting a project started, are not always that great at getting it finished. They prefer the big picture to getting down to the details of a task and paying attention to minutiae. It’s difficult to keep their attention for long since they prefer to do multiple things at once. Time management may be a problem for spirited people, as they may have a problem determining exactly how long a project will take to complete and so they can tend to commit to more work than they are truly capable of doing. They may have a hard time listening to others, particularly if what the other person says might rain on their parade.
Some possible careers for spirited people include:
Systematic personality types are the analysts among us. They are willing and able to plow through piles of data and still be hungry for more. They excel at identifying and managing details, and logic is their best friend. They are consistent, rational, precise, and are usually very disciplined. They make decisions based on research and analysis rather than feelings. They have patience and are deliberate in their work style. They are business-oriented and not normally apt to share anything about themselves on a personal level. They like predictable processes and precise directions. They stick to the book, and want others to do the same. They value fairness and playing by the rules, no matter what.
However, systematics can sometimes have a hard time making decisions because of the overload of
information they have compiled. They will always want more time for more details, and may get bogged-down in one particular area or on one point instead of seeing the entire picture as a whole. They may fear change and upsets in their usual routine. They may not be able to recognize when rules need to be bent or exceptions need to be made to the rules or policies. Others may see them as cold and uninterested, particularly those who are expressive. They do not do well with conflict, as they tend to prefer avoidance rather than confrontation. They may shut down communication as a way of dealing with discomfort or disappointment.
Systematics may enjoy careers like:
The final personality style is considerate. These are the people-pleasers in your group. They are natural team workers, preferring to work with and support others than to work alone. They are excellent listeners, and seek to connect with others on a personal level. If there is conflict of any kind, they will work to mediate it. They will want everyone to have their turn, to have their say, and to be appreciated for their contribution. They are natural counselors, natural trainers or mentors, and they enjoy helping others. They will encourage others to brainstorm and speak their minds, even if they aren’t inclined to do so themselves.
Of course, niceness can have its downsides as well. Considerate personality styles won’t always stand up for themselves, or point out mistakes that others might have made. They will worry more about other people’s feelings in decision-making rather than the facts. They can be overly emotional and take decisions personally that were not at all personal. They tend to avoid uncomfortable situations such as change or conflict and may do what it takes to be included in the group rather than what is the best decision for a project. Others may take advantage of them, as considerates will often agree to take on more than their share of work in a project in order to make others happy.
Some common careers for considerate personality types include:
3. Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses
It takes an open mind and a bit of humility to be able to truly assess your own strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. However, you cannot effectively manage your career unless you do this work. Managing implies that you have control over something. So the only way to gain that control is to manipulate your skill set to match the career path that you want. In other words, if you want to be a trainer but you are a dreadful public speaker, you need to recognize that fact and take action to change it if you want to be successful as a trainer. If you were able to identify your own personality style in the last section, you will already know some of your potential weaknesses. But there may be some we didn’t identify. An honest self-assessment should be viewed as personal journey that will result in more opportunities for managing your career. Viewed in this light, there is nothing to fear in identifying your own weaknesses.
3.2 Identifying What a Job Requires
Imagine for a moment that you have to hire someone for the position that you want. How would you rate as a candidate? Start by review the job itself, including the competencies and skills that are necessary. When you have this information, then you can begin to determine how you would evaluate yourself as a candidate. Assuming you have a job description or at least a basic understanding of what the job requires, do the following:
Once you have completed this prep work for any position that you are interested in, you can now rate yourself against the ‘ideal candidate’ for a position. This can help you identify any areas where you need to build your job-related skills.
3.3 Identifying General Strengths and Weaknesses
In the last section, we looked at how you would measure up to a specific job. But what about your general skills that would come in handy in any job? Where are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working with others, working on a team, or supervising other people? Here are some tips when identifying your strengths and weaknesses:
1. Make a ‘Strengths’ List
Start a journal where you list your significant achievements. You certainly know some areas where you excel already, and you can get additional areas of strengths from feedback from others like your boss or your co-workers. You can refer to this list from time to time when you need to remind yourself of all the things you are good at. Just be sure to keep it updated
2. Make a ‘Weaknesses’ List
Use this list not to chastise yourself, but as a kind of personal ‘to do’ list. You can use it to track your progress in each area that has needed improvement. Eventually, you may be able to move some of these weaknesses over to your Strengths list. Seeing that you can achieve something you set your mind to will help to build up your confidence.
3. See Failures as Learning Experiences
When you have setbacks or failures, view them as learning opportunities or meaningful challenges. Don’t dwell on them, but instead learn what you can from them and know that you now have that knowledge for the next situation in life.
3.4 Getting Feedback from Others
None of us knows exactly how we are seen by others. Think about someone you work with. You can see them clearly – their strengths, their weaknesses. You see things about them that they don’t seem to know about themselves. So you can assume the same is true of you. There are people who can give you some very valuable feedback on your strengths of weaknesses. You won’t do this with just anyone – you would do it with people that you trust and with whom you have an important relationship. For example, you could ask your spouse, boss, subordinates, children, or close friends. You let them know that you are trying to learn about yourself and how you interact with others and you want them to feel free to say what they really think.
There are two rules to using this tool. First, your main job is to listen. You can ask clarifying questions such as ‘can you tell me more about that?’, or use listening acknowledgements like ‘right’, ‘uh-huh,’ ‘sure.’ You don’t defend, explain, or rebut what is said to you. You have to keep an open mind and listen to the other person with the understanding that what they are saying is how you appeared to them in experiences they have had with you. This is a chance for you to learn about yourself, not an opportunity to justify past behavior.
Two rules to requesting feedback:
That brings us to the second rule – you don’t hold anything said against the person that said it. You need to e able to hear the good and the bad and to appreciate the other person’s candor. You should appreciate that they feel comfortable enough to tell you what might be difficult to hear. This can not only be a very valuable tool for learning about your own strengths and weaknesses, but it can also greatly strengthen your relationship with the person that you do the exercise with – as long as you follow these rules!
4. Communication Skills
4.1 The Importance of Communication
In a survey conducted by the Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh, organizations rated communication skills as the most important factor used in selecting their management staff. The study found that oral and written communication skills were important in predicting job success, as was the ability to communicate well with others in the workplace.
A University of Pittsburgh study found that the most important factor in selecting managers is communication skills.
This makes sense when you think about it. If you can communicate well, you can get your message across to others in an effective way and they then have accurate instructions to complete their assigned tasks. If you are not able to communicate well, the messages you send get lost in translation. Communication breakdowns result in barriers against your ability to develop both professionally and personally. In order to effectively manage your career – no matter what career you choose – having effective communication skills is vital.
4.2 What Is Communication?
When asked to define communication, how would you respond? Most people will relate to the forms of communication – talking or listening. But communication goes beyond that. Communication involves getting information from one person to the other person. Yet even this is not a complete definition because communicating effectively involves having that information relayed while retaining the same in content and context. If I tell you one thing and you hear another, have I communicated?
Communication is the art and process of creating and sharing ideas. Effective
communication depends on the richness of those ideas.
4.3 What Are Communication Skills?
Imagine you are on one side of a wall and the person you want to communicate with is on the other side of the wall. But there’s more than the wall in the way. The wall is surrounded by a moat that is filled with crocodiles and edged by quicksand. These barriers could be things like different cultures, different expectations, different experiences, different perspectives, or different communication styles, to name just a few. You might experience only one of these barriers at a time, or you might find yourself facing them all. Getting your message to the other person requires that you recognize these barriers exist between you, and that you then apply the proper tools, or communication skills, to remove those barriers preventing your message from getting through.
Communication skills are the tools that we use to remove the barriers to
So if we look at communication from another angle, it involves the perception of the information as much as the delivery of that information. In other words, we can define communication as the art and process of creating and sharing ideas. Effective communication depends on the richness of those ideas. In order to be effective at communicating, there are a number of skills that you can rely. Which skill you choose will depend upon your situation, the recipient of your communication, and the information that you need to convey.
Of course, communication is a two-way street. The person on the other side of those barriers will also try to send messages back to you. Your ability to understand them clearly could be left to a dependence on their ability to use communication skills. But that’s leaving the success of the communication to chance. Instead, you can also use your own communication skills to ensure that you receive messages clearly as well.
Finally, there isn’t only one point in your communication with another person at which you have to watch out for barriers. To be successful at communicating, it’s important to recognize that these barriers to communication can occur at multiple points in the communication process.
4.4 The Communication Process
The communication process involves multiple parts and stages. These are:
At each of these stages, there is the potential for barriers to be formed or problems to arise. As we look at ways to limit the barriers to communicating effectively, remember that you may have to apply them at more than one occasion during your communications process. The steps in the process are represented in Figure 1 and explained further in the following information.
The source of the communication is the sender, or for our purposes, you. In order to be a good source, you need to be clear about the message that you are sending. Do you know exactly what it is that you want to communicate? You’ll also want to be sure you know why it is that you are communicating. What result is it that you expect? If you cannot answer these questions, you will be starting the communication process with a high chance of failure.
The message is simply the information that you want to communicate. Without a message, there is no cause for communicating. If you cannot summarize the information that you need to share, you aren’t ready to begin the process of communication.
Encoding is the process of taking your message and transferring it into a format that can be shared with another party. It’s sort of like how messages are sent via a fax. The information on the paper has to be encoded, or prepared, before it can be sent to the other party. It has to be sent in a format that the other party has the ability to decode or the message will not be delivered.
In order to encode a message properly, you have to think about what the other person will need in order to understand, or decode, the message. Are you sharing all the information that is necessary to get the full picture? Have you made assumptions that may not be correct? Are you using the best form of sending it in order to ensure the best chance of the message being properly received? Are there cultural, environmental, or language differences between you and the other party that could cause miscommunication?
Of course, to encode a message properly, you have to know who your audience is. You need to have an understanding of what they know and what they need to know in order to send a complete message. You need to use language they will understand and a context that is familiar. One simple example of how you can do this is being sure to spell out acronyms. We sometimes forget that not everyone is familiar with the acronyms that we may use on a regular basis.
The channel is the method or methods that you use to convey your message. The type of message you have will help to determine the channel that you should use. Channels include face-to-face conversations, telephone calls or videoconferences, and written communication like emails and memos.
Each channel has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, you will find it difficult to give complex, technical information or instructions by using just the telephone. Or you may get bad results if you try to give criticism via email.
Decoding happens when you receive the message that has been sent. The communication skills required to decode a message successfully include the ability to read and comprehend, listen actively, or ask clarifying questions when needed.
If the person you are attempting to communicate with seems to be lacking the skills to decode your message, you will need to either resend it in a different way or assist them in understanding it by supplying clarifying information.
Since you have thought out your message, you’ve certainly also thought about what you want the desired result to be on the part of your listener. But it’s important to realize that each person that receives your message will be listening to it through their own individual expectations, opinions, and perspectives. Their individual experiences will influence how your message is received.
While you can’t always address each person’s individual concerns in a message, part of planning for your communication is to think ahead of time about what some of their thoughts or experiences might be. For example, if you are releasing a new product and want to convince customers to try it, you would want to be certain to address the specific benefits to the customer, or what improvements have been made since the last version was released.
No matter what channel you have used to convey your message, you can use feedback to help determine how successful your communication was. If you are face-to-face with your audience, you can read body language and ask questions to ensure understanding. If you have communicated via writing, you can gauge the success of your communication by the response that you get or by seeing if the result you wanted is delivered.
In any case, feedback is invaluable for helping you to improve your communication skills. You can learn what worked well and what didn’t so that you can be even more efficient the next time you communicate with that person or the next time you need to communicate a similar message.
The context is the situation in which you are communicating. It involves the environment that you are in and that in which your audience is in, the culture of your organization(s), and elements such as the relationship between you and your audience. You communication process will not look the same when you are communicating with your boss as it will when you are communicating with a friend. The context helps determine the tone and style of your communication.
4.5 Elements of Communication
What does it take to communicate with another person? How are we communicating even when we aren’t using words? When you begin studying communication, you’ll find that we communicate with much more than our words. In face-to-face communication, our words are only part of the message.
The balance of the message, and in fact, the largest part of the message that we are sending to others is made up of non-verbal information. It is composed of our body language and our tone of voice. Figure 4 below demonstrates this fact.
Figure 4: Face to Face Communication
4.5 Face to Face Communication
Albert Mehrabian’s work on verbal and non-verbal communication in the 1960’s and early 1970’s is still considered a valid model today. He posed that the non-verbal aspects of communication such as tone of voice and non-verbal gestures communicate a great deal more than the words that are spoken. He also found that people are more likely to believe your non-verbal communication than your verbal communication if the two are contradictory. In other words, you are most believable and most effectively communicating when all three elements of face-to-face communication are aligned with each other.
People are more likely to believe the non-verbal aspects of communication
than the verbal aspects if the two conflict.
4.5.1 Tone of Voice
According to Mehrabian, the tone of voice we use is responsible for about 35-40 percent of the message we are sending. Tone involves the volume you use, the level and type of emotion that you communicate and the emphasis that you place on the words that you choose. To see how this works, try saying the sentences in Figure 5 with the emphasis each time on the word in bold.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
I didn’t say he borrowed my book.
Figure 5 – Impact of Tone of Voice
Notice that the meaning of the sentence changes each time, even though the words are the same. The emphasis you place on the word draws the listener’s attention, indicating that the word is important somehow. In this case, the emphasis indicates that the word is an error. So in the first example, I didn’t say he borrowed my book, the phrase includes the message that someone else said it. The implied information continues to change in each sentence, despite the words remaining the same each time.
4.5.2 Body Language
Over half of the message that we are sending to others is non-verbal, according to Mehrabian. This means that we receive more than half of what a person is communicating through the subconscious messages they are sending with body language.
Examples of body language include:
Basically, body language includes anything they are doing with their body besides speaking. We recognize this communication instinctively, without having to be told what it means.
There is another reason to understand body language besides being able to read what another is saying to you subconsciously. You can use it to communicate intentionally that you are on the same wavelength as another person. Next time you are in a conversation that you are enjoying or with whom it is important to you to make a good impression, notice their body language. Now notice yours. Chances are, you have subconsciously mimicked their body language. If they lean forward, you lean forward. If they cross one foot over their knee, you do the same. This is our automatic response to someone that we want to establish a positive connection with – and it’s one you can use to your advantage.
When you are in a situation where you want to convey your support of another person, you can intentionally mimic their body language. If you are standing in the hallway and they lean to one side, mirror their action. If they sit back and relax, do the same. You are sending subconscious signals that you are on their side, even if the topic that you are discussing is one where there may be disagreement. It reaffirms that you are part of the same team, no matter what else might be going on.
You can also use this tool to gauge whether or not others are buying in on what you are saying. Are they using words that express agreement, but sitting all wound up with crossed arms and legs? Unless they just happen to be cold, chances are that there is some matter still unresolved in their mind. You can use this signal as information to you that you still need to do some explaining or ask some additional questions.
4.5.3 Verbal Communication
The third communication element is verbal communication. Believe it or not, it is actually the least impactful element in face-to-face communication. The old adage is true – it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that counts. Of course, this is a bit simplified. We do want to use verbal communications, the words we choose, to our best advantage. You would definitely make a different impression if you curse during your presentation than if you don’t. Choosing our words carefully is a way to enhance our message, but we should remember that it is not the most important part of the message. We should not neglect to pay attention to the other non-verbal elements.
But what about when we are limited to using only verbal communication? Given that we know that face-to-face communication delivers the most complete message, we know that verbal communication alone can be challenging in creating effective communication. You might think that talking on the telephone or sending off a quick email is an excellent time saver. There are times when this is true. For example, when confirming specific facts or asking simple questions. But for many communication needs, verbal communication only is rarely going to suffice.
4.6 Listening Skills
As we’ve learned, a successful sales relationship today involves the seller being able to help the buyer identify his or his organization’s true needs. The seller helps this process by being able to listen to and understand what the buyer is telling him.
Good listeners are rare these days. Studies have shown that most listeners retain less than 50% of what they hear. Imagine what that means when it comes to a conversation that you might have with your boss, a colleague, or a customer. If you speak for ten minutes, chances are that you have only heard about half of that conversation – and so have they. No wonder miscommunications happen so frequently!
Studies have shown that most listeners retain less than 50% of what they hear.
In order to be a good listener, you should practice active listening skills. There are five key aspects of becoming an active listener. You are probably already employing some of them, but may need to practice others. However, once you are using these tools over time, you will find that they get easier and easier. Plus, you’ll learn so much about your customers and have such better conversations that you will be positively reinforced each time you practice.
1. Pay close attention.
With this step, you learn to give the speaker your undivided attention. But you also let the speaker know that you are listening by using acknowledgements – types of verbal and non-verbal tools that help add proof that you are truly listening.
2. Demonstrate physically that you are listening.
Use non-verbal and verbal signals that you are listening to the speaker attentively.
3. Check for understanding.
It is possible for the other person’s message to get mistranslated or misinterpreted, so that we hear a message that was not intended. Before responding, it’s important to check for understanding using these tools. .
4. Don’t interrupt!
There is nothing good that comes from interrupting the speaker. You will only be limiting your chance of understanding the message because you won’t hear it all – and because the speaker will get frustrated!
5. Respond Appropriately.
When you are actively listening, you are showing your respect for the speaker, as well as gaining the information that you need to form your response. Once you have that information and have clarified it, it’s time to form your reply. When expressing your thoughts:
5. Personal Confidence
We all know someone who radiates self-confidence. Think about one of these people that you know in the workplace. What is it that their self-confidence helps them to achieve? Are they more willing to take on responsibility, at ease around their superiors, and able to admit when they have made a mistake?
Now think about someone at the workplace who does not have a lot of self-confidence. They might be shy, reserved, not willing to get into conversations where they might have to speak to their superiors or speak in front of other people. They might appear unhappy in the workplace, or at least not very excited about what it is that they are doing. Can you see how self-confidence might be important to people in being successful at work?
According to psychological research, there are several theories regarding how a person’s self-confidence is important to their well-being and their ability to function in the world at their fullest potential. If you want to truly manage your career, having self-confidence is a prerequisite. You need confidence not only to take on the new challenges that managing your career will bring, but also to believe in the fact that you can have an influence over how your career progresses.
Self-confidence can be boiled down to the belief that a person has it in their ability to succeed at a task, based on whether or not they have been able to perform the task in the past. However, there are actually two aspects of self-confidence. The first is competence, whether or not you have the necessary skills and abilities to complete a task. The second is self-assurance and whether or not you believe that you have the ability to complete the task.
Think about this for a moment; you might have been trained in interview skills, but you might not feel comfortable in interviews. In this case you would have the competence but lack the self-assurance. On the other hand, you could believe that you have the ability to do something but not have the skills to actually carry it through. In this case you are very self-assured, but you don’t have the competence to do the job. True self-confidence occurs when both competence and self-assurance are in balance with each other.
Self-confidence has been shown to be important in recovery from injury, overcoming setbacks, and moving through negative experiences in life. Someone with self-confidence has a belief that they will be able to recover, move past the negative, and again experience the positive. In the business world, self-confidence functions in much the same way. It enables an employee to recover from setbacks and challenges and continue to move forward.
Self-esteem is the capacity to respect and think well of yourself. It means that you appreciate yourself as a unique individual with your own set of skills, talents, and abilities. David Burns defines self-esteem as “the capacity to experience maximal self-love and joy whether or not you are successful at any point in your life.”
Psychologist Maxine Elliott has researched self-esteem and realized that people’s self-esteem will vary from individual to individual when they are facing a setback. People who have a high level of self-esteem will be able to respond to a damaging event by using their past experience and their coping abilities and will not have much damage to their current level of self-esteem. They will still see themselves as valuable and talented even if the current evidence seems to indicate otherwise.
However, most people will experience some loss of self-esteem when they face a negative situation and unfortunately, those who already have low self-esteem will also experience the largest reduction in what little self-esteem they have. In other words, they will see their failure as further proof that they are incapable of being successful. This type of negative cycle will perpetuate itself each time that a person with low self-esteem faces failure, criticism, or roadblocks.
Albert Bandura is considered an expert on the concept of self-efficacy. He stated that people perceive their own self-efficacy as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances. It is concerned not with the skills one has but with the judgments of what one can do with whatever skills one possesses.” In other words, self-efficacy is an individual’s evaluation of their own ability to be successful in attaining a specific goal.
Bandura stated that the amount of self-efficacy a person has is dependent on their ability to apply coping behaviors, increase their level of effort, and how long they will be able to retain their optimism when facing difficult obstacles and experiences. In addition, he stated that the more a person is tested by facing their fears and stepping outside of their comfort zones, the more they will enhance their sense of self-efficacy.
If a person does not have a base level of self-efficacy, they will be unwilling to attempt a new task or challenge, which could of course hold them back in the workplace. The greater your self-efficacy, the more willing you will be to grow your skills by attempting new challenges -and the less you will be affected if you don’t succeed.
5.4.1 Sources of Self-Efficacy
There are four main sources that allow people to build their self-efficacy. These are:
Let’s look at each one of these individually:
Emotional states – people judge themselves on their emotional reactions to situations as well. If they react with stress and tension, they may interpret those reactions as signs that they are weak or vulnerable. Mood can also affect self-efficacy; a positive mood will enhance it, while a negative mood will diminish it. A work environment that allows opportunities for stress reduction, teaches stress management, and acknowledges stress as a normal part of life rather than a personal weakness will help to foster positive self-efficacy in its employees.
5.4.2 How Self-Efficacy Affects Functioning
There are four major psychological processes that are important when discussing the fact that how a person perceives their self-efficacy can have an impact on their ability to function, perform, and achieve. These four processes are:
Now we’ll look at each of these in detail.
When you are managing your career, you are bound to face setbacks. You won’t get every promotion you want and you won’t always get hired by the company you want to work for. But what will make the difference is whether or not you can maintain your motivation during the process. It’s not always easy to stay motivated. We might start out strong, but somewhere along the way we may falter. Even if external factors cooperate – we have a boss that supports us in reaching for goals and we have colleagues, family, and friends that help to keep us focused, we can still struggle to stay positive and moving forward. It’s part of being human to face anxiety, uncertainty, or even depression. But what separates the truly successful person from the average person in managing your career is the ability to understand why you are feeling de-motivated, respond to that reason, and then keep on moving forward.
There are three main reasons that people tend to lose motivation from time to time. You can refer to these as ‘motivation killers.’ These are:
6.2 Addressing Lack of Confidence
We’ve just spent some time in the last chapter looking at ways to address your self-confidence, but there are a few more pointers to include here. Some additional suggestions include:
6.3 Addressing Lack of Focus
It’s so easy to lose focus on what we are trying to achieve in today’s busy work environment. There is so much going on that we can get anxious, distracted, and lose our ability to focus. We end up suffering from what is called ‘fear-based’ thinking. We are afraid to lose our jobs because we are afraid of being poor. We are afraid to speak our mind in a meeting because we are afraid others won’t like what we have to say and they will hold it against us in our relationship with them. We are afraid of taking a risk at work because we can’t guarantee that the outcome will be positive.
This kind of fear scatters our focus and makes it difficult to achieve anything because we get stopped by the fear. We can spend a great deal of time worrying about all the possible bad things that can happen to us or all the things that could possibly go wrong. The way to defeat your lack of focus is to set goals for yourself that are clear and achievable. The very act of setting goals puts some structure around your random thoughts and gives you something specific to focus on. Instead of worrying about random possible events in the future, you can focus on what you can do at the moment to improve your situation.
6.4 Addressing Lack of Direction
Let’s say that you have developed your goals so that you have something to focus on, and you feel pretty confident that you can achieve the goal. But still you find it difficult to find the direction that you need. You might be procrastinating instead. This motivation-killer can be a difficult one to overcome, but it is not impossible. It requires taking your goal and breaking it down into the daily strategy that you will use to achieve it. You should literally have steps written down in ‘to-do’ lists so that you have specific tasks to focus on each day. When you sit down to work, pull out your to-do list and get started and you will find that you now have a clear direction to move forward in.
6.5 Building Self-Discipline
For some of us, discipline is a dirty word. We conjure up images of a taskmaster cracking his whip or a drill sergeant yelling at his soldiers. But believe it or not, self-discipline actually offers you a sort of freedom. When you have the discipline to continue reaching for your goals despite how you are feeling at the moment, you will enjoy all the results of that effort and the time that it creates for you. If you lack self-discipline, you may be aimless, wandering, starting one thing without finishing it and moving on to something else. You may get frustrated and find that you aren’t able to reach your goals even though it feels like you are trying to do so.
Self-discipline requires the ability to act according to what you are thinking rather than what you are feeling at the time. Sure, we have days when we don’t want to go to work, but we know that if we don’t, there will be consequences. We might lose the day’s pay – or even lose the job – which would have its own consequences. The same is true when we lack self-discipline in reaching for our goals. The consequences are varied, depending on what the goal might be. If I am not practicing the piano, I’m wasting the money I’m spending on lessons and I also have the consequence of not being able to play the instrument. If I am not exercising self-discipline towards a task at work, the consequence may be that I don’t get as high a commission as I had hoped for, or I might not be chosen for that promotion I want.
Self-discipline helps you with things like:
6.6 Goal Setting
Goal setting is a powerful tool that can be used to motivate and challenge yourself further towards meeting your career management goals. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to set goals. Well set goals are clear and you can objectively determine whether or not the goal has been reached. Poorly set goals are not clear and you can’t necessarily tell what it will look like once the goal has been achieved. The result is frustration and lack of effectiveness.
Dr. Edwin Locke published his theory on goal setting in 1968 in an article called “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives.” His theory was that employees were motivated by having a goal to work towards and that reaching that goal improved work performance overall. He showed that people work better when their goals are specific and challenging rather than vague and easy. For example, telling someone to ‘improve customer service’ is not specific. You might know what it means, but will the employee interpret it the same way? Instead, the goal should be clear, such as ‘reduce customer complaints by 50% over a five month period.’
In 1990, Locke and Dr. Gary Latham published “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance” in which they identified five principles that were important in setting goals that will motivate others. These principles are:
We’ll now look at each of these principles individually.
A clear goal is one that can be measured and leaves no room for misunderstanding. Goals should be very explicit regarding what behavior is desired and will be rewarded. Look at the goals listed in Figure 1below to help you understand how to be clearer when setting goals. Continue to ask yourself the question, ‘What will it look like if the goal is completed?’ The answer to the question will help you identify clear goals.
|Unclear Goal||Clear Goal|
|Get better at processing work orders.||Reduce work order errors by 10%.|
|Improve communications within the
|Create a system for ensuring that every
team member is informed of changes in
policy, changes in hours, or other
important information. Include a
component where the employee must
acknowledge having received the
|Increase the diversity of products that
|Increase diversity of product sales so
that no more than 25% of your sales
come from any one department.
|Learn Microsoft Access.||Take Microsoft Access I and II at the
community college by November 30,
Figure 6: Examples of Clear Goals
What would give you a greater sense of accomplishment: achieving an easy goal or achieving one that was a real challenge? We are motivated by the reward that we believe we will receive for completing tasks. So if we know that a goal is a challenge and is also perceived as such by those that assigned it to us, we are more likely to be motivated to achieve it. Of course, there is a balance to be struck with this principle. A goal should be challenging, but must still be achievable. If I don’t believe that I can meet a goal that you’ve given to me, I might not even be motivated to make an attempt. I will dread the goal rather than be motivated by it. You should also be sure that you have identified rewards that are appropriate for the achievement of challenging goals versus normal expectations. By positively rewarding the achievement of challenging goals, you encourage not just the achieving employee, but those other employees who witnessed the reward that was given for the achievement.
In order for goals to be effective, they need to be agreed upon. The goal should be in line with the general, established expectations that you have had for the employee in the past. The employee and employer must both be committed to using the resources needed to complete the goal and should also agree on what the reward will be. This takes more time and energy on both parts, but it prevents an end result where the employee didn’t have what he or she needed to have in order to be successful, or where the employer is frustrated by the employee’s distaste for pursuing the goal.
This doesn’t mean that you have to get an employee’s absolute agreement to every goal that you set for them before setting it. But it does help to gain general agreement if the employee is involved in setting the goals. Allow them to participate in the conversation about what is needed in order to complete the goal, how much time it will take, and any other ways that you can let them participate in decision making about their performance.
You could also ask employees to create their own goals for themselves and then discuss them as a team. You might not be aware that someone wants to improve their skills in a certain area or learn more about a specific process. Letting them take on something that they want to learn and feel challenged by will give them more motivation to do the needed work to achieve their other goals as well.
Goal setting is not going to be effective if there is not an opportunity for feedback. What if the person is halfway to completing the goal but they have a question? What if you suspect that the person is going about the process of completing the goal in the wrong way? Feedback is a chance to correct or clarify before the goal has been reached.
Ideally, feedback is a type of progress reporting. It gives the supervisor the chance to clarify expectations and to adjust the level of difficulty of the goal if it seems it’s too hard or too easy. For the employee, it offers a chance to make sure they are meeting their supervisor’s expectations and to get recognition for what they have achieved up to this point. When the goal has been reached, you can also conduct a formal feedback session so that you can discuss what went well and what could use improvement in the future.
The final principle in Locke and Latham’s goal setting theory is related to the level of complexity of the assigned task. When a role is complex or highly technical, the person in that role is often already highly motivated or else they wouldn’t have reached that level in their organization. However, even the most motivated person can become discouraged if the complexity of the task and the time it would take to complete it wasn’t fully understood. Projects can have the tendency to reveal themselves as being more complex after they have begun, so both the employee and supervisor need to be in communication about how involved a task has become.
Even the most motivated person can become discouraged if the complexity of the task wasn’t fully under0073tood.
In complex or technical work environments, it’s important to make sure that the person has enough time toreach the goal. Unreasonable time expectations will drive a person to overwhelm themselves with work and become less effective as the stress level increases. You may also have to take into account the time necessary to allow for a learning curve or to ramp up their existing skills
7. Emotional Intelligence (El)
The word is out about emotional intelligence. Companies who once focused only on where their new hires went to college have learned that IQ alone isn’t going to make them successful. The way they conduct themselves, the way they express themselves, and the way they interact with others are all as important if not more important than the person’s score on an intelligence test.
Think for a moment about the last time that you faced a difficult challenge at work. How did it make you feel? At first, you may have been excited and energized, but what if there were more problems than expected in getting the work done? Others might have dropped their responsibilities, or the boss stopped supporting you, or despite all your hard work, the product launch was still a disappointment.
Perhaps you were up for a promotion or you expected a raise or a bonus but you didn’t get it. Or maybe you feel you haven’t been treated fairly in the workplace and that others are getting ahead for reasons other than their hard work. Or you just can’t seem to get along with your colleague, no matter what you do.
Can you describe how situations like this made you feel? Better yet, can you understand how those emotions impacted the way that you responded to the situation? How long did it take for you to ‘get past’ the situation and move on to being productive again? Did you or do you understand how the others involved in these situation were feeling?
Companies have realized that IQ alone cannot
predict an individual’s performance or success.
When an individual has not developed their EI, they tend to get stopped by setbacks. They either can’t get past these kinds of situations, or they struggle past it after a long period of time. They may react negatively to the other people involved, which results in increased animosity and difficulty in being productive. They may take things personally that are not meant to be. They may feel like a victim rather than feeling empowered. All in all, these types of situations prevent them from being as successful as possible in the workplace.
Someone who has a highly developed EI still face these types of situations, just like everyone else. Yet the way they react is different. They are able to stop and analyze what they are feeling, and to understand how those feelings are impacting their behavior and their choices. They are able to recognize how other people are feeling and to empathize with them.
They can then choose the behavior and actions that will help them to not just move past a situation, but to resolve it – both within themselves and in relationship to others. And as they practice, they will get faster and faster at recovering from stumbling blocks. At their most emotionally intelligent, they can see setbacks as learning experiences and chances to improve their relationships with others. Then these roadblocks no longer stop them, but rather help them develop their potential.
Even more interesting is the fact that emotional intelligence has been shown to be more important in rising to the top of an organization than IQ, or cognitive competencies. Figure 7 below shows the frequency with which an individual showing EI competencies became president or CEO of a company in comparison to those who were passed over for the top jobs.
Figure 7: Frequency of El Competencies in CEOs and Presidents vs. Others
7.2 Mixed Model of EI
The mixed model of EI was most famously described by Daniel Goleman, and is today the most widely accepted and used model for EI. It involves a range of competencies which are broken down into skill sets and which together form the picture of a person’s level of EI. Figure 8 outlines Goleman’s model.
Goleman’s EI Competencies
Self Awareness: Knowing how we feel in the moment and using our gut feelings to help drive decision making; having a realistic understanding of our own abilities and a strong sense of self-confidence.
Self Management: Handling our own emotions so that they don’t interfere but facilitate; having the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal; recovering well from emotional distress; translating our deepest, truest preferences into action in order to improve and succeed.
Social Awareness: Sensing what others are feeling; being able to understand situations from others’ perspective; cultivating relationships with a diverse range of people.
Social Skills: Handling emotions in respect to relationships with other people; able to read the intricacies of social interactions; able to interact in social situations well; able to use this skill set to influence, persuade, negotiate, and lead.
Figure 8: Goleman’s EI Competencies
What is most important to recognize about Goleman’s model of EI is that these competencies are not considered to be innate. Instead, they must be developed over time in order to develop and improve performance. Unlike IQ, which is believed to be ‘fixed’ by the time we reach adulthood, EI is not. You can continue to develop your emotional intelligence throughout your lifetime.
8. Job-Seeking Skills
You could spend multiple ebooks discussing the various tools and techniques for seeking and acquiring a job. But there are a few skills that can give you a large advantage over your competition if you learn how to use them. It doesn’t hurt to review that point again – the job market is a competitive market. When you are looking for a job, you should evaluate your candidacy in comparison to what other possible candidates will bring to the table. Then you will want to highlight your own strengths for the particular job. We’ll take a look at three main techniques for job-seeking in this chapter:
8.2 Your Resume
The average employer will spend less than 10 seconds reviewing your resume. In that time they will determine whether or not they want to hear more about you. So your resume has to speak to that individual employer and to the individual job that you are applying for. Yes, that means you need to customize your resume every time you apply for a position. Is it extra work? Yes, it is. But if you follow this advice, you will save time and energy as well as enhance your chances for getting past that first glance:
Like it or not, the fact of today’s job market is that most people hire people they know. Or at least someone that someone they know has recommended. Think about it from the hiring manager’s point of view – if you had to hire someone, wouldn’t you rather hire a known entity rather than take a risk on a complete stranger? So one of the best things you can do for yourself if you want to truly manage your career is to make all the effort you can in networking with others. This doesn’t just mean going out for Happy Hour with the people in your office. It means creating network of professionals that you can turn to when you are ready to make your next career move. Think creatively about increasing your network and you will find that there is really no limit to the professional network you can create. Possibilities include:
When you are job-seeking, make sure it’s not a secret in your network. Put out word to your different networks that you are looking for a job, and what kind of job you are looking for. Make proactive phone calls to people that you know in the industry to see if they know of any openings. Ask people if you can send them your resume to pass around to people they know. You never know whose friend will work with a man whose sister needs someone just like you in their organization. Especially in the online environment, it’s amazing how quickly your resume and name can get to people who might be hiring for a job you’d be interested in.
Two warnings about networking. First, remember that it goes both ways. You should be prepared to help others in the network when there are openings you know about in your own organization. And second, if you are actively networking, realize that your current supervisor may very well hear about it if they are in touch with any of the same people or organizations. If you feel comfortable doing so, let your supervisor know that you are exploring your future possibilities but you will be certain to let them know if any real possibilities arise.
8.4 Interview Skills
If you get asked to come to an interview, realize that you have already made it past most other candidates. Then take the interview opportunity as a chance to hone your skills. That way, even if you don’t get the job (or don’t want the job after you’ve heard more about it), you still have had the chance to stay sharp. There are some things that you shouldn’t have to be told about interviewing, but just in case:
Next, be sure that you LISTEN to what the person is asking. If you aren’t paying close attention, you could give them information they weren’t looking for. When you prepare to answer a question, try to use the following format:
As an example, imagine that someone asks you if you have experience with Microsoft Excel. Instead of just saying, “Yes, I do,” you can respond:
See the difference? You’re not just telling them that yes, you can use Excel, you’re also demonstrating a situation in which you used it successfully. You’re giving the employer a great deal more information than just a yes or no answer provides.
Before you go to any interview, you should also do some research on the organization. Look for information on the company’s website like:
When you are in the interview, you can reference what you have learned in your research. It will demonstrate that you are truly interested in the organization and that you are serious enough about the position that you took the time to learn what you could. This will always set you apart from the competition in the interview process.
Blog.wealth-and-wisdom.com. Mastering the Four Personality Styles.
Businessballs.com. Sales and Selling – Training and Techniques.
Crumb, Cheryl. Personality Styles: We’re all Different, Aren’t We? C.E. Biz, May, 2005.
Johnson, Emjae. List of Basic Skills that Every Successful Sales Person Should Have. http://sales.about.com/od/hiringsalespeople/tp/basicsalesskills.htm
Mindtools.com. Communication Skills Articles, various. http://www.mindtools.com/page8.html
MTD Training Academy. Basic Communication Skills. http://www.mtdacademy.com
MTD Training Academy. Motivation. http://www.mtdacademy.com
National Park Service, US Department of the Interior. Goleman’s EI Competencies.
Pickthebrain.com. How to Build Self-discipline.
Wikipedia.org. Emotional Intelligence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence.
Managing Your Career
© 2010 MTD Training & Ventus Publishing ApS
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.