Sunday, December 04, 2011

You Control More Than You Think

About a year or so ago in addition to the normal phone calls and emails that come on a daily basis I wanted to find a way to make sure that I was continually available and accessible to our members but also to do more in terms of sharing with them some of the lessons I had learned from my stumbling around the world of career management for the last 45+ years.

I don't mean to imply that I haven't been accessible; my email and number is all over the site.  What I mean is that I didn't just want to be there to react to questions or whatever, but rather I wanted to do something that was more proactive, especially in a market that has been and remains so difficult to navigate.

One solution I thought would be to create a weekly forum (live) that members could attend by phone and talk about whatever they wanted.  This would not be something where I was trying to guess what might be of interest to callers, but rather an event where the member could feel totally comfortable to discuss whatever was on their mind, and I would see what suggestions/ideas occurred to me that might be of help.  The scary part, among other things, was (a) not knowing if anyone would show up, and  (b) would they find value?

After some weeks of trial and error the answer to (a) seemed to be yes and (b) people felt the calls were indeed helpful on a number of levels. 

In latter case, there were two main things that callers told me they took away: (1) They got an immediate answer to something that they were dealing with at the present time and (2) it was comforting to learn from the issues raised by others that they were not the only ones experiencing this stuff. 
In terms of what I have learned from the calls, the lessons have been many, but the one in particular that stands out is this:

No matter how the market or technology changes over time, the process of career management has remained fundamentally unchanged which is one of the things that remains a source of big time frustration -particularly to action oriented senior level executives.  People want "answers" (are used to getting them) and they want them sooner not later.

So, it is not surprising that one of the recurring themes on these calls is trying to help listeners understand that when it comes to this matter, there are no "plug and play" answers.  At best there are opinions (and lots of 'em) which sometimes serve more to confuse than clarify, but as they say, "it is what it is," and coming to understand this is helpful knowledge all by itself.

It is partially for this reason that I always try to have a guest join me. A different voice, a different set of experiences, and sometimes a different opinion. The feedback from callers has been that they like this a lot largely because it helps to understand an issue from different perspectives and often will generate different approaches.  (An added benefit, of course, is that they are not subjected to me the whole time, but most are polite enough not to mention that.)

Anyway, in a process where much of the frustration is driven by the fact that people feel (and rightfully so) that they have no real control of so much of what is going on, one thing that can be controlled is expectation level, and managing that has a major impact on the emotional ups and downs, and anyone who has ever been through a job transition (myself included) knows full well what I mean.

The trap that is all to easy to fall into in today's technology driven environment is to think that as long as I keep firing off my resume into the ether it is only a matter of time, and maybe there is a statistical case to be made  for that, I don't know.

What I do know is that results oriented executives don't manage that way and they don't solve problems that way.  They set realistic expectations based on thorough research, plan accordingly, bring the product to market, gauge the reactions and adjust.

For sure there are always going to be those aspects over which they have no control, but as professionals, they know it, expect it, and constantly keep focusing on the things they can control.

It reminds me yet again of the axiom we have all heard many times: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The operative word being preparation.

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