How to fall in love with your job

Stats show that in general, Americans are relatively satisfied with their jobs. I suppose it could be worse. They could hate their jobs. Why settle for a job you barely tolerate, when it’s possible to fall in love with your job or at least really start to like it. Imagine how you would feel if your significant other told you they were relatively satisfied your relationship. Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to change things?

Like any relationship, you can make real change in how you perceive your job by adjusting your mindset. Want to fall in love with your job? Do these three things.

1. Keep things in perspective

We give the greatest amount of our time to our jobs, so hopefully, it’s a place we like to hang out. Even if you don’t really love or even like your job, it’s important to keep things in perspective, especially on those hard days . The work may be tedious at times, people may steal your lunch out of the fridge and you  may have that one co-worker that gossips all day, but rest assured, things aren’t as bad as we think they are. Still not convinced? Consider the following –

  • You may feel as though you and your boss lack compatibility, but my most inept manager taught me an extremely useful skill at age 21 that I have carried with me throughout my whole career.  This boss, who shall be known as Jerry, was belligerent with employees, misogynistic and arrogant. Nobody liked him and we all dreaded having to work with him. He didn’t know it, but he taught me how to work around my limitations and play to my strengths. Even though he and I clashed, the lessons I learned under his direction have helped me through many workplace challenges.
  • No one is an island onto themselves. We exist to impact the lives of other people. Maybe you’re there to inspire someone to go back to school after a long break, or maybe your health journey will encourage someone who’s been stuck on the couch for years. When we think that we can really make a difference in the lives of the people around us, it will change how we see the workplace. It will no longer just be a place we go to earn money, it will transform into a place where we can build community with other people.
  • You might not be working at your dream job, but unlike a huge portion of Americans and people in other parts of the world, you have a job. Always be thankful for that.
2. Develop a strong relationship with your boss

We all know it’s not appropriate to fraternize with your boss, but if you want to be successful at your job, it’s important to have the support of your superiors. Your boss isn’t a mind reader, so you can’t expect him to know when you’re maxed out because you’re studying for your MBA. Engaging with your boss helps your relationship in many ways. Firstly, when your boss is aware of your job aspirations, she can more readily help you to achieve them. Unless they’re lacking good-will, a good boss will help you with your career progression because they see that you genuinely care about company goals and objectives. Secondly, you are there to help your boss. One of my favorite sayings is “Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back of the shirt.” Spend time thinking of ways to ease your bosses burden. This is something they will never forget, and will more likely think of you first when promotion time comes. If you make your boss look good, you make yourself look good too.

3. Go beyond balance to blend

Millenials get a lot of bad press when it comes to their work ethic, but maybe we can learn from them when it comes to balancing work and personal life. Most generations (Gen X, Boomers) tend to compartmentalize work and home life. We have a hard time integrating these two aspects of our lives. This means that we continue to strive for the elusive “work/life balance”.

We ask ourselves questions like –

  • “What do I have to give up in order to achieve this other thing I really want?”
  • “Can we really have it all?”
  • “Do my children/spouse hate me for spending so much time at work?”

We still don’t have answers because work/life balance doesn’t really exist. Thankfully, things are changing as we see more employers offer flexible working arrangements and we might just have a millennial to thank for this.

I recently heard a story about a young woman who was training for a marathon. She was on a strict schedule which meant she had to eat and train at certain times each day. Her job required her to attend weekly team meetings which happened to interfere with her training schedule. Rather than attending the meetings with her team, she would call into the conference room (which happened to be located directly across from her desk). Her reason? She needed to prepare her green smoothie at a certain time each day, and the noise from her USB blender would interfere with the meeting.

The rest of the team who attended the meeting felt that she should be there too and they voiced this to her boss. In actual fact, her boss didn’t have a problem with her calling in. She was more worried about the optics of the situation. After all, how could she request everyone attend the meeting, but allow one person to call in? A minor stand-off ensued between the employees and the marathon runner. Who won? The marathoner. She reasoned that as she contributed to her overall health, she would become a more effective employee. She also showed that being goal-oriented made her a better employee too and that in order to achieve these results, she would need some flexibility during working hours. She didn’t have to trade off one thing at the expense of the other (which is generally how work-life balance works). Instead, she managed to integrate her work and her personal life without having to sacrifice one thing for another. She blended these two aspects of her life and was on her way to achieving her own work/life bliss.

We’ve all heard the expression “Do what you love”. I wonder how many of us are living our childhood dreams and truly doing what we love. For those of us who aren’t Beyonce, Kobe or Bill Gates, we can still love the job we have by making a few small changes. And with love,  it’s the little things that count.

Goal Setting – When YOU are the Project

Goals are about change. Whether you want to lose those last ten pounds, become a master coder, launch a business or fix a broken marriage, there will have to be some behavior changes in order to get from here to there. Change is good and scary at the same time, but it’s not impossible.

Pro-ject (n) – an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.

Treat your goals like a project. Be systematic and methodical and build in levels of accountability.

Most people fail in their goal-setting efforts because they don’t plan effectively. In order to successfully achieve your goals, you need to take action and have a plan. Simple, right? Easy? Not always.

Recognize the need for change

All projects are borne out of some type of need. Companies may want to develop a new product or new technology. Individuals may want to start a business but the common thread is a need for something new and different. We can keep doing things the way we’ve always done and get the same results or we can attempt something new and see our lives change. Sometimes people are hungry for change. Other times, it can feel like a lucky mistake and other times, it’s thrust upon them. This is the essence of Project Management and Goal Setting.

Goal setting can be applied to a set of best practices loosely based on Project Management principles. Achieving your goals will take careful planning and lots of agility.

Identify the gaps 

In order to get from Point A to Point B, you need to take an honest look at where you are now compared to where you need to be. This is the first and sometimes the hardest step. I recently took an Emotional Intelligence test, and though the results weren’t surprising, they were still hard to see on paper. According to this test, I am very adept when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but almost hopeless when it comes to self-awareness. Below are the things that brought my Self-Awareness score down.

  • Not fully grasping the role you play in creating the difficulties you encounter.
  • Not fully appreciating the impact your behavior has on others.
  • Not spotting when others influence your emotional state.

I knew that there were aspects of my personality that needed work, but I couldn’t really identify them (although my husband had been saying this for years in a less clear way). Once they were identified, I was able to work more effectively toward changing them. The gap is still there, but I’m much less prone to dismiss or downplay my own behavior and I’m also less prone to shift blame.

Assess the risks

All projects come with a certain amount of risk. There is always the chance of failure, but forewarned is forearmed. Risk assessment is always forward-looking. For example, if I’m trying to lose 10 pounds, will my weekly family dinner derail my weight-loss goals? Can I be in the presence of Aunt Dee’s peach cobbler and only eat one piece? That’s a known risk. Another PM best practice is the Pre-mortem. Look ahead proactively at what could go wrong. This sounds a little morbid and it can be. This involves looking at everything that could derail the project, from a vendor giving a wrong quote, to flights being canceled because of bad weather, to a death. It not only involves looking at what could go wrong but also ways that we can be prepared for these small and large disasters. Most PM’s hate this aspect of the job, but I actually like it. I’m a bit of a futurist at heart (and a conspiracy theorist too), so this type of thing excites me. Some people look at this like a “sky is falling” mentality, but it actually encourages innovation and new solutions. It allows for new perspectives to be seen.

Commit to change

One of my husband’s favorite expressions is “Proof of desire is in the pursuit”. Until you move beyond lip-service to real action, then you can’t say you’re pursuing your goals.

  • Commit to giving of your resources. Count the cost in terms of time and money. I’ve been teaching my girls about Opportunity Cost. In order to get one option, you may have to give up another. So, if I’m studying for my MBA, it will likely cut into my Sunday nap time. Am I willing to pay that price?
  • Put it out there – but with one caveat. Some people are motivated by the haters, but most times, haters just demoralize you. When you put your dreams and goals out into the universe, be sure to broadcast it to those who will support you and cheer you on.
  • Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism from your support section. Constructive criticism propels your dreams by helping to remove obstacles and show blind-spots without demoralizing you. That takes trust and maturity.

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates

Make a plan and follow it…unless it’s not working

I’m sure by now, you’ve heard about SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound). Goals need to be measurable and should be tied to some type of achievement. For example, a weight loss goal could be “I want to lose 2.5lbs and 2 inches in 30 days”.  The next thing you will want to do is break down each element of your goal/plan into a specific set of activities and steps. In project management, this is called a WBS or Work Breakdown Structure. It’s a top-down structure that lists the main goal at the top and breaks down each step in greater detail. For example, if you’re studying for an exam, break it down into modules. Study Microeconomics this week and Cost Accounting the following week. Piling all tasks into one huge task will cause you to lose focus and won’t allow you to properly allocate resources.

Once we determine the specifics of your goal, devise your plan. In order for me to lose 2.5lbs and 2 inches in 30 days, I will need to cut out 300 calories/day. This means that I need to cut 100 calories from each of my main meals. What do 100 calories look like in food? Or you can ask yourself, “How long will I have to do a certain activity to burn 100 calories?” Break each step down into smaller, bite-size pieces. The next step is to plan your shopping list and then do you weekly meal prep.

Align Risks with the Plan

Remember how we talked about pro-active risks? Now is the time to align them to your goals. If you know that you have a family dinner every Sunday that brings you 2000 calories past your goal, come up with a contingency plan. I still want to eat Aunt Dee’s peach cobbler, so I can either reduce the serving size and stay on track. Or I can enjoy the same serving size and cut back somewhere else. Another alternative is to go for an hour-long walk after dinner or do 50 weighted squats to offset the calories. Whatever contingency plan you choose, you need to be prepared to execute it OR be prepared to achieve your goals later than expected. Again, this comes back to counting the cost.

Be Agile

Another project management concept that is instrumental in achieving your goals is agility. It’s pretty new on the PM scene, but it’s been transformational to the industry. In a nutshell, agile is about making plans, but not sticking to them too tightly. Traditional Project Management looks ahead to the plan, whereas Agile breaks the goal/project up into smaller, incremental pieces. Instead of setting long-term goals, look at your goals from a daily perspective. What does this look like? You can start by setting daily intentions that tie into your goal. For those studying, this can look something like “I’m required to read 300 pages by next class so I will read 60 pages each day.”

Resilience is key

In order to achieve our goals, we need a plan that we can look at to keep us on track. Have something visual in front of you that will serve as a daily reminder of what your future is going to look like. Download my Goal Setting Worksheet to keep yourself on track.

You would be surprised at how many high profile projects started out as failures. The key is to apply Lessons Learned (a very important Project Management concept) and learn for next time. You have to be able to bounce back and have resilience when you are working toward a goal. Failure is never final.

You have something inside you that is going to serve and help others. You are the answer to someone’s question or problem.  Remember that you are the project.

 

How to take control of your career

In September 2016, the company I work at hosted a Women’s Leadership Conference entitled, “It’s Your Move.” The idea behind the theme was that every person is not only responsible for the direction of their own careers, but they are much more empowered than they might think. With some careful planning and the use of a multitude of resources, each of us can move strategically along the career path of our choosing.

Let me be real, I picked the theme out of a sense of defiance. After hearing story after story of women who were told they couldn’t get a promotion, get a raise, lead a company, break into a certain field and ultimately take control of her own career, I decided that it was time to defy these barriers and false narratives.

Being in control of your career takes boldness. It might mean venturing into an area that you might not be familiar with because there aren’t many role models yet. Being in control of your career takes confidence. It means knowing who you are, knowing your strengths and weaknesses (but focusing on your strengths) and knowing what you want. Inwardly, we need to take the stance of the defiant girl facing off against the Wall Street bull. Being in control of your career will require you to be strategic. It will require to you make the right connections, be seen by the right people and speak up at the right times. It will also mean that you have to make corrections and changes as needed.

Image result for defiant girl statue free photo

There are some things in life that are true mysteries.  Career advancement doesn’t have to be one of them. We still have a long way to go before there is more representation of women in key decision-making positions, but we’re seeing more women entering the C-Suite. It will still take many years to close the wage gap, but more women are learning how to negotiate for fair wages. We are making strides because, in addition to our expertise and training,  we are learning how to use the tools (sponsorship, networking, negotiation) that have always been available.

My career journey will be much different than yours but we all have the same tools at our disposal. What we do with them will make all the difference. When it comes to career advancement, fortune favors the bold, confident and strategic.