Career Planning: The Value of Self-Knowledge on Your Career Path

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For young professionals, self-knowledge makes career planning much easier. Yet even for the experienced self-knowledge can also help prepare for future career steps and make the transition significantly less painful. The key is to know who you are and what you want so that you can identify the type of work and environment that will be fulfilling.

Course of Education

One way self-knowledge helps is that it makes it easier to decide on an educational course. Education can be expensive and time consuming, so it is best to know what you want before committing to a program. Knowing more about your natural strengths, as well as areas where you want to expand and grow, will help clarify a track more quickly. That way you can avoid going down a path that is not a reflection of your authentic self only to have to switch gears further down the road.

Online Presence

Self-knowledge also helps guide you on what to do (or not do) online. Awareness can help you establish healthy boundaries online. It is surprising how many people lose out on job opportunities due to over sharing on social media. People forget that potential employers often check social media for red flags before making hiring decisions. Without a clear sense of self, your resume and professional profiles can also suffer. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you craft a custom resume that is unique and attractive. Hiring managers see so many resumes and LinkedIn profiles that setting yourself apart can give you an advantage.

Authentic Relationships

People who have self-awareness think before they speak and are honest about their feelings. You can build more meaningful relationships with coworkers if you present yourself authentically. Being authentic and vulnerable helps to build a network of professionals with true connections. In time, you will be able to help each other grow and succeed through mutually beneficial engagement.

Whether you are just starting out in your career or you’re looking for a change, self-knowledge can make career planning much smoother. If you know who you are, it becomes easier to determine what you want and how to achieve that.

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Opportunistic Outsourcing: Career Path Advancement for Key Contributors

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Business coach Peter Drucker was known for dispensing some sage advice that still rings true decades later: “Do what you do best and outsource the rest.” What comes to mind when you hear that mantra? An immediate list likely appears of all the tasks you know are not the greatest use of your efforts and energy. In the few seconds you spent thinking about what pops to mind you may already have vowed not to waste time any longer on select mundane projects or responsibilities that fill your plate and don’t leave room for much else. “I really need to hire someone to manage my schedule” or “someone else should be responsible for compiling our weekly reports” are certainly reasonable solutions, but the outsourcing we will cover next is far more strategic.

Instead of viewing outsourcing as a chance to create more time for you, shift instead to think through how outsourcing could actually create an opportunity for others within your team.

The Shift

Stop thinking of outsourcing as the things you no longer want to do and look instead at the opportunities you could create for others. A great leader is always one step ahead of career path advancement for key contributors. Take a moment (or a few hours) to evaluate each direct report you have; who are they each capable of becoming over the next few years and beyond? Now, what do you need to teach each of them to advance their responsibilities and skillsets?

You have now defined your first round of opportunistic outsourcing.

Think less about performance management and think more about professional development. Do you spend the same amount of time talking about where you see a key contributor’s career going as you do talking about how they are doing with deadlines or quotas? Is your coaching equally dedicated to skills that will help them achieve in their current role just as much as prepare them for the next step you believe they could grow into? Do you purposefully put key contributors in situations in which they may fail, but that failure propels growth?

At times, you may need to believe in others a little more than they believe in themselves. The best leaders help their team members discover their genius.

Survivorship Bias

When you focus too heavily on the “survivors” of a given group, you tend to ignore essential qualities about the rest of the population. Take entrepreneurship; we tend to gravitate toward the most successful entrepreneurs in the world when we study examples. Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school; after learning about them many people conclude that a college education is not necessary to succeed.

But for every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands, if not millions, of other entrepreneurs who dropped out of school and failed in business. We just don’t hear about them, and so we don’t take them into account. The misconception is that you should focus on the successful if you wish to become successful.

How does this relate to our topic at hand? Until now, we have been focusing on key contributors – those whom you feel strongly will continue to play an integral role in the success of your organization. What about those who hover just below that line?
One option is certainly to “top grade” and perpetually focus on proactive hiring that improves the strength of your bench, not just hiring that fills empty seats. Spend less time addressing reoccurring performance issues and instead craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team.

An additional option is to opportunistically outsource. Give others the chance to take on tasks and responsibilities they can succeed with and are passionate about. Be sensitive to the skills and interests of individuals; match the dreamer with more creative tasks and the perfectionist with the detail-oriented projects. Just think how much more would get done if people only did jobs for which they had a talent and a passion. Don’t focus only on the already successful individuals within your team but outsource thoughtfully to those to whom you are still trying to uncover their fullest potential.

Just Ask

Not sure what to outsource, and to whom? Challenge yourself to get to know those on your team. Ask questions to assess the present and design the future:

  • When you come to work each day, what things do you look forward to?
  • What are you learning here? What have you not yet been given the chance to take on, that you’d like to?
  • Is this what you want to do?
  • What can I do to make your experience here better?
  • What would you be excited to take on? (projects, responsibilities, clients)
  • When was the last time you feel like you massively over-delivered on something? What was it, and why did you work so hard?
  • What would make you listen to a call you’d get from a recruiter? Be honest; no judgment!
  • What’s on your personal and professional bucket list?
  • Fast-forward a year (two years, five years) from now; what would you be most proud of having accomplished?

Even when individuals are assigned difficult challenges, when they are involved in the decision there is a huge increase in performance. Those who volunteer look at projects as developmental, while those who are assigned regard the task as hard labor. Take the initiative now to truly engage the hearts and minds of your team, so they one day will have the ability to outsource opportunistically to the next generation of future leaders within your firm.

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How to Use Behavior-Based Questions to Gauge Emotional Intelligence in the Interview

By | Hiring Strategies, Interviews | No Comments

One of the goals of an interview is to assess whether the candidate has the emotional intelligence needed to succeed in the job. An emotionally intelligent person demonstrates self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and strong social skills. These tips will help you develop behavior-based questions that can effectively gauge emotional intelligence during the interview.

Facing Challenges

An important aspect of the candidate that should be assessed is how they face challenges. One way to do this is by asking about professional demands they have faced. Have the candidate tell you about past trials they encountered in their job and have them explain how they overcame it. This will give insight into how they approach problems. The focus of this question should be on finding candidates who are excellent problem-solvers and aren’t afraid to take on new challenges. Finding employees who can take a difficult situation and turn it into a positive is essential.

Resilience and Stress Management

The ability to bounce back from adversity is a powerful life skill to have. One way to assess a candidate’s resilience is to ask them about past projects that required them to work under pressure. Have the candidate talk about professional projects they have worked on that were stressful or that ultimately failed. Executive support positions come with a certain amount of stress. There are deadlines and goals that need to be met. It’s important to understand how a candidate behaves under pressure. Do they shut down when things become too tough, or do they push through and make the best of the situation? The goal is to find talent who has the emotional maturity to thrive in intense situations.

Proactive Drive

To ascertain a candidate’s level of drive, ask them whether they have ever assisted in establishing new goals for a company. Allow the interviewee to discuss a time where they helped establish new goals or objectives for a company they worked for. This can reveal a lot about a candidate. Are they proactive? Can they identify shortcomings within the company? If they managed to convince management to implement a new objective, this shows they are persuasive.

Growth and Leadership

In executive support roles, it’s vital that candidates have great leadership skills, adaptability, and a willingness to grow. To get an understanding of their strength in those areas, ask them if they changed the scope of their role in their last job. How did they redefine the position and why did they feel like they needed to? Did other coworkers follow suit and redefine their own roles? It’s helpful to see how well the candidate can adapt and grow. A candidate who is confident enough to take on additional responsibilities and has strong leadership skills will rise to the challenges of a new position.

Behavior-based questions are the most important questions you ask during an interview. These questions allow you to understand how a candidate would perform if they land the job. One of the goals of behavior-based questions is to assess the candidate’s emotional intelligence– how they handle stress, if they are proactive, and if they have the skills to readily adapt to change.

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Professional Attention Deficit Disorder

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foIn the manufacturing economy, time was the currency. Systems were designed for maximum efficiency, and effectiveness was simply how much time could be dedicated to the process. The assembly line is a perfect example! In today’s information environment, directing our attention in the right places for the right amount of time and focus is the key to effectiveness.

Curious if you suffer from Professional ADD? If you have already been distracted at some point during the first paragraph, no assessment is necessary!

  • You are frequently distracted from your current activity, by others, or by your own lack of focus
  • You finish your day and are surprised how little you actually accomplished despite the fact that you felt “busy” all day
  • You have a to-do list of important items but always seem to be distracted with more “urgent” activities
  • You find it difficult to fully focus on another person without thinking of other matters
  • You check and respond to your email, text messages, instant messages, etc. constantly
  • You feel a sense of “information overload” frequently
  • You think you are a great multi-tasker
  • You are addicted to urgency and pride yourself on being the best “fire fighter”
  • You love being in the “zone” but are frustrated by how infrequently you truly find yourself in that place of maximum effectiveness

If you checked the box to most of these then you may be suffering from Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder. The good news is that it is curable, and you can fill your own prescription.

Create Golden Hours

Establish certain times each day when no one can distract you or each other. The only distractions or interruptions should be emergencies; educate your environment when it is best to get with you by phone or in person for activities that are not both urgent and critical.

Loosen your Electronic Leash

At least four times per day, set 45-minute time blocks where email, instant messages, and any other electronic distractions are turned off. Each time block should be dedicated to fully focusing on a specific activity that you have predetermined for that time. Very rarely is anything so urgent and critical that it cannot wait for a reply within an hour; you may even find that issues solve themselves without you having to.

Prioritize Long-Term Projects

Make a list of all your current important projects that are not urgent. Now, assign at least two one-hour slots a week to do them. Keep these appointments with yourself the same way that you would with a client; do not allow yourself to book anything during those times unless it is a true emergency. If you don’t begin to do some of the strategic work now, when will you? An attic is easier cleaned a few boxes a week rather than the entire attic in a weekend.

Minimize Multi-tasking

There are some times when multi-tasking and bouncing from one activity to the next is both unavoidable and necessary. However, the majority of periods you find yourself busy, multi-tasking, and rushed are self-created and counter-productive in the long run. Practice being fully present and engage in one activity at a time. If someone stops by your office while you are typing an email, ask them to send you an email to schedule a meeting so that you can truly focus on their needs when it is mutually convenient.

Create Blocks of Similar Activities

A doctor does not check emails in the middle of surgery, and a lawyer is not accepting incoming calls while the opposing counsel is grilling his client. What makes the critical responsibilities of your role less deserving of your own concentration? We all like diversity and variety but do your best to plan activities in such a way that complementary activities can be done in groups for maximum effectiveness.

Find the Right Work/Life Balance

Just as your time at work should have focus and intensity in each activity, so should your time away from work. Being fully present in all your interactions includes those outside of work. When you find your mind drifting to work related activities while with friends or family, remind yourself to focus back on the people or activity at hand.

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