Here’s to a standout year in 2013 where you make HUGE strides in reaching all of your professional and personal goals. I’m looking forward to the journey and hearing all of the stories.
I love working in politics…well, public service or government as I like to call it. And it was totally a pleasant surprise. At no point had I ever prepared for a career in public service, but have realized it is something I had an unknown interest in. In high school, I was on Student Council, and in college, I was a clerk at the Village Hall where I lived. I was also on the Policy Committee for the Student Union. Still, no bells or whistles ever went off. It wasn’t until I interned in my State Representative’s office after law school when I realized I really like government. Here are just a few of my favorite things about this line of work:
1. I meet a lot of people.
Although I am an only child, I am a bit social. I like hosting and meeting people. Through this job, I get to know others who want to get involved and make our surroundings better. I also learn a lot from the lunches shared, events attended, and debates listened to. This field not only gives me the chance to meet lots of different people from different places, but I can also connect with them for the good of where we live…which leads me to my next favorite.
2. I can see the product of my work.
Working in government, particularly on the local level, gives you the chance to see the fruits of your labor—and relatively fast compared to the federal level. I meet constituents who express their concerns and not only can I do something to help, but see the results of our efforts as well. At the same time, I see what things could be done to improve our City and State through a different lens. Being on this side helps me understand the reality of certain requests and how implementation could, or could not, actually take place. This is a great position for helping people and contributing to the world immediately around me.
3. I am using my law degree.
The economy and job market were in terrible places when I graduated from law school. I was leaving my corporate job, after working there during school, and knew using this expensive education was a priority. As I realized I may or may not be practicing the type of law I thought I would 9-5, my priority became– simply using it. I have a great appreciation for my legal training, and I am eager to share it with others. Being a government employee, and working directly with legislation allows me to keep my legal cap on. My role as a legislative counselor not only keeps me in direct contact with state law, but also how to draft it, improve it, watch for unintended consequences, and inform others of all its implications. This is definitely one of my favorite things about my job.
Surely this list could continue…with things like talking local races with colleagues and troubleshooting issues for elected officials. I enjoy my work, and am so glad I have ample reasons to feel this way. This is a great space for learning, and I feel like I learn something new all the time. I didn’t plan to be here, but couldn’t be happier I am.
|This is what everyone sees when you’re on the job right out of college|
One of the big jokes on the project I currently work is that all the analysts that join the firm think they’re coming in to do strategy work, and who can blame them? Strategy practitioners are lifesavers who change the fate of fortune 500 businesses one PowerPoint deck at a time. They get to play by their own rules…
Yes, you’re supposed to dress to the client’s dress code so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb…unless you’re a strategy person, in which case you are never to be seen in public without a blazer on. What they fail to realize, though, is no seasoned executive wants a 22 year old whose breath still smells like Similac. Nobody wants a person working for them that lacks drive and twiddles their thumbs all day either, so what do you do?
Channel Your Workplace Ambition Into Eagerness to Learn and Ask Questions
When you first start a job you should be asking tons of questions good questions. By that I mean do your best not to ask questions that can easily be found on Google or the company website. A good question helps clarify the expectations for you at your position AND someone at the next level. Good questions resolve any ambiguity you might have about a comment that was made so that you don’t have to make any assumptions about the intent later.
When You Ask Questions, Listen to The Answers and Take Notes
I hate to be asked the same question more than once when you could’ve referred to your notes if you were taking any, so take notes. Additionally, the information you get from asking questions up front will give you exactly what you need to set (aggressive) performance objectives to get where you want to go.
Observe How the People Around You Conduct Business
One of the critical things to do when you arrive in a new position is to observe the behaviors of those around you. It gives you a feel for the culture of the organization and who the key players are without having to blatantly ask who’s running the show there. Identifying the influencers and potential mentors early can drastically improve your career trajectory. Even in the most merit-based jobs, politics play a key role in upward mobility.
Wait (Patiently) For Your Opportunity
Or at least appear to do so. Playing your hand too early can cause people to dislike you because you come off as brash or pushy. Or worse, they may see you as a threat and take defensive measures to ensure to keep that threat at bay, which may manifests itself in keeping you from pursuing other opportunities or citing minor incidents as justification for you getting a lower performance rating than expected.
Anticipate the needs of your supervisor and team members and proactively deliver solutions that address those needs. Consistently. Operating at a high level sometimes or even most of the time is not good enough. High ambition requires you hold yourself to the highest of standards to bring your A-game every single day.
Everyone wants to sit at the top of the mountain. The trick is to show you have a well thought out plan to make the climb. Anything less than that would be foolish.
How have you handled a young gun with lofty (but unrealistic) expectations and/or what coaching did people give you when you were in that position?
Hopefully this alternative perspective was helpful to you. If you have additional points on why someone should bypass going to law school, let us know in the comments!
I just was not feeling the preliminary courses law school had to offer. I didn’t want to battle people in court. I was less than impressed with brief writing, and quite honestly, I was concerned. Then came property. This class is one people had warned me about hating, but I loved it—particularly once we got to copyrights. We didn’t spend much time on them, but I knew then, this law thing could work out. I love being a lawyer, am a better writer, and could give endless reasons you should be one, too. For now, here are 5:
1. Cliché, but it’s a noble profession.
2. There will always be work.
3. It will help you help others.
4. You can use a J.D. in so many more ways than you think.
5. You’ll never stop learning.
|Lots of dads work a “second shift” too|
Many people hold the belief that your career can ruin your family life. Particularly in the career of a management consultant, all the time on the road creates a disconnect and possibly resentment from the rest of the family. The spouse harbors some negative feelings as a result of taking care of the kids, and the kids feel like you’re never around. At least that’s some of the thinking I’ve heard shared by others. The problem isn’t the job, though – it’s YOU.
The first issue is the mindset of thinking you have *a* job. Those of us with families, especially if there are children involved, have multiple jobs. Example: when people ask me for one line about myself, I often respond with “my daughter says I’m a good fixer.” Not only is that another job, but one could argue it’s more important than the one that brings in the paycheck. If I don’t do it, who will?
Just last week, we had one of the tougher weeks than we’ve had in a while with me traveling. I didn’t have to travel during the week of Thanksgiving, and the next week I was gone from Monday 4am until 2AM Saturday morning. Did that exempt me from getting up with the little people at 6AM? Nope, because that’s another one of my jobs, but let me go back to being the “fixer” of the house.
|No idea why everything comes in so many pieces these days|
In case you don’t know, Hanukkah is early this year (starts December 8), which means lots of presents. This year, one such present came with “some” assembly required. On Sunday (December 2 if you’re keeping score), my wife informed me that she wanted me to work on our daughter’s first Hanukkah gift in case we needed to order any replacement parts before giving it to her. Extra credit if you know what it is just from the picture! If not, you’ll see when you scroll down. The photo here doesn’t really do the task justice, but you can see there’s a pile of stuff that needed to be meshed together somehow to create . For the curious who may be wondering if I did this alone, the answer depends on what you mean by alone. My wife was in the room, but she strategically placed herself on the bed to listen to the holiday music that was playing..and nothing more. Had she not done that, who else would’ve been able to wait until I spent an hour doing one step before realizing it was WRONG? All kidding aside, it’s true she wasn’t all that helpful but I appreciated just having the time in the same room together because we don’t get it that often.
Six hours later, on a Sunday night (i.e. the day before travel), this monster of a construction project was finally done – a massive Barbie dollhouse.
|Six hours later!|
There are a couple of points I want to make about this situation and how I think a person who’s job “ruined” his/her family would handle it:
- On Saturday morning – I’m too tired to get up with the kids. You deal with them.
- On Sunday evening – I need some time to unwind and get ready for travel this week
Either of these responses more than likely would’ve have resulted in a less-than-desirable discussion with my wife. Both have a key thing in common – I. Neither takes into account the overall benefit to the family. This approach makes no sense because I doubt you can find a person who isn’t happier when his/her family is happy, regardless of how much sleep it costs or how many times you have to re-do the roof of Barbie’s dreamhouse.
|Now we wait|
|Would you want actual puppets working for you? Then don’t treat people like one.|
Have you ever had a job where all you could think is “I can’t wait until I’m the manager so someone else can do this crap work?” No? me either. These situations do exist, though, and in some company cultures this dictator-like behavior becomes so ingrained that the cycle becomes difficult to break, not all that different from hazing at boarding schools or college fraternities and sororities.
As I was setting up to write this post, I stumbled across an article that directly ties to why you need to avoid the manager power trip – “The Real Cost of Bad Bosses.” The stats paint a much uglier picture than what I would’ve expected if you asked me to make a best guest on the majority of the graphics shown. It also touches upon the direct financial costs associated with awful bosses. I’d argue that there are some subtleties between management and leadership that are blended in that particular article, but the overall message remains – people need to change the way they manage, which begins with avoiding the manager power trip.
1. Remember How You Felt On The Receiving End of Overreacting Rants
This one’s simple. If you didn’t like when your manager talked to you in a way that made you feel like hot garbage, don’t do it to the person that follows in your footsteps. Most of us are self-aware to know if patience is our strong suit, and if it isn’t, this needs to be a priority. While “with rank comes privilege” is still alive and well, personal development doesn’t stop once you obtain the title of “manager.” Yes, employees will have to compromise to their manager’s work styles but the fact is that your team will perform at a higher level if you demonstrate some flexibility of your own.
2. Get Your Hands Dirty (i.e. Continue Producing Work Product)
Often once people get to the manager level, there is a certain perception that the details are for the minions that work for them. When managers start thinking that certain tasks are beneath them, especially when the team is pressed for time and the manager clearly isn’t doing anything, that’s when teams fall apart and end up focusing more on “checking the box” than the quality of the end product.
3. Don’t Neglect The Future
Setting the tone with your team where you don’t get in the trenches with them when work is really under the gun establishes the perception that you don’t care about your team, and as you might expect, this feeling will be mutual. Your team will look for the nearest available exit and will do everything in their power not to work with you again. I’ve seen the situation where people would rather quit their job without another lined up instead of working for a manager again. Think about that. At some point, you’re going to run out of resources to burn through, and this is especially true if you work in the consulting world.
4. Focus on Outcomes
One of the most detrimental things you can do to an employee is to micromanage how they execute on certain tasks. The fact is that people have different work styles, so if people that work for you can meet deadlines you establish and produce a quality output doing things their way, you should back off. They’ll be happier and you’ll have more time to “manage” other stuff that needs…managing.
5. Take Time To Teach AND Do It Timely
People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. How you handle them is what will set you apart from other managers. Too often we see people receive “constructive feedback” months after the fact when they’re doing their annual or bi-annual performance reviews. It would be in your best interest and the individual in question to discuss any constructive feedback while events are still fresh. This provides the person an opportunity to remediate the undesired behavior/habit before a formal evaluation and gives you more time with an employee performing at a higher level (potentially) than if you wait to give your feedback. That’s what we in the business call a win-win situation.
What other ways would you recommend for someone not to fall victim to the manager power trip?
|Updating a PowerPoint probably isn’t top priority in this situation…|
Following the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, an interesting thing happened. All of the members of my team were asked to fly back to Boston and work onsite with the client from Wednesday (the day after the storm cleared) through Friday.
This was inconvenient for me in that I’d travel for a short week when I had no client meetings and miss Halloween with the kids, but this wasn’t a battle I needed to fight. The fact of the matter is my wife and kids still had power, so there was really no reason to push back on this request. Two of my colleagues, however, weren’t so lucky.
Coincidentally, these two colleagues of mine had a client workshop with people flying in from all over the world the Thursday following Hurricane Sandy. Both of them were severely impacted by the storm. One of them with a wife and two young kids was without power and the temperature of his home quickly dropping. The other was married with no children but in an area where the damage was so severe he had to be rescued from his home, complete with a FEMA meal. Their car was ruined (possibly floating in the Hudson) and there was so much water on their street that you could see fish swimming in front of their place. Oh, and the closest airport with outbound flights on Wednesday was roughly one hundred miles away in Philadelphia. Both of them made the drive and flew into Boston from Philly for this two day event.
Granted, we’re in the business of client service and scheduling this workshop to begin with was a complete nightmare. Who knows how long it would’ve taken to get this back on the calendar with all of these people? Even so, whether the client insisted, or if this was management decision to take this opportunity for us to show just how dedicated we are to the client’s success, was it the right best decision to make these people come in? How would YOU try to approach a situation like this?
|Less than optimal career management approach|
When I got involved in Accenture’s recruiting process, someone told me something strange that stuck with me but it didn’t really resonate with me until much later. He said, “the best thing about consulting is that you own your career and the worst thing about consulting is that you own your career.”
The first thing I thought was what kind of fortune cookie, aesop’s fables nonsense is this but it actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it, and if we speak about it generally, this dilemma of career ownership isn’t unique to consulting.
On the positive side, asking for something is the easiest way for you to get it because people are not mind reminders. People who know me well know that I’m a big fan of old sayings, so here’s one to think about: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Speaking up in the right way can get you in the front of mind of decision makers and increases the chance of you achieving your desired outcome.
The downside is that “owning” your career is a job in itself. Nobody is going to come up to you in your career and say, “Please relax…I insist that you let me go find you the perfect opportunity for you.” The world just doesn’t work that way. If you can get your foot in the door of your ideal company but not your ideal position, you have to take it upon yourself to influence your fate.
To be clear, this isn’t just about getting promoted but it’s also about getting a job that you want in the field/function that you want. In either case, you want to create a strong brand, establish a network in the area where you want to work , and frequently revisit your plan to get from where you are in your career today to where you want to be tomorrow.
Regardless of your career, the question always comes up: “what should I do to get promoted?” My answer to that question is simple and is the same whether you have a traditional boss or spend all of your time working with clients: make yourself indispensable…and do it without completely sacrificing your personal life.
|It takes a superhero’s effort to balance personal and professional goals|
How does one become indispensable?
- Be the expert in your field – build highly desired skills that few other people in your organization have.
- Clean the proverbial “toilet bowls” – don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty doing the tasks that nobody else wants to do. These are often the opportunities that get you the visibility you need to make the jump to the next level.
- Make your boss’ life easier – what better way to show that you’re ready for promotion to the next level than to take on your boss’ work?
- Make your boss look good in front of his boss – corollary to previous bullet point…when your boss looks good, he can get promoted and bring you along. As the old saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
How does one become indispensable without completely sacrificing your personal life?
This question is a little trickier to answer but here are a few tips:
- Work efficiently – you have to be disciplined, which means less “breaks” during the workday for office gossip, facebook stalking, checking your personal gmail and/or checking up on your 8 fantasy football teams. You have to remain focused on tasks that are going to help you achieve your goals.
- Communicate constantly with your family – I often refer to my family as “the crew.” I view the crew as key “stakeholders” in my career. We have to be on the same page when it comes to demands of the job, financial expectations, etc. The more you communicate and the fewer surprise you have, the more likely it is for your career pursuits will be sustainable over the long-term.
- Set boundaries and KEEP them – nobody knows what’s going to help you withstand the demands of your career better than YOU. If you need to make sure you are able to take 15 min to call home at 5pm every night then make it happen. Maintaining your boundaries that you set (for a reason) will make you a happier, more engaged worker, which ultimately increases your productivity.
- Get creative – making your boss’ life easier requires much time but this can be done creatively. I went to business school part-time during a huge system implementation. I left the office at 5pm and went to class from 6-9pm, but every night during breaks and when I got home (and sometimes during class if things were slow…), I logged on to make sure my extracurricular endeavor was seamless to the people I worked for.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you have to do what works for you and your “crew.” You do that and everything else will fall into place.
If there are other things you’ve found that have helped you on your career progression, leave me a note in the comments!