Dear loyal readers:
No, this isn't an April Fool's Day joke. This blog has moved over to BetaBoston.
You'll still be able to access the old content here, but the new stuff going forward will be there.
Special thanks to everyone at Boston.com who has helped to make this possible over the years. Looking forward to a new home with more great content to come!
Are you the person who sees the cup half full or half empty?
This has been an age old question to determine our outlook on life - one of optimism or pessimism. One might say that optimists are always positive, choosing to see the best in all situations, where pessimists are always negative, opting to see the down side in all situations. Of course, it isn't always so clear cut where most people may go back and forth depending on the situation, the people involved as well as how high the stakes may or may not be. Think of the advantages for always having an optimistic outlook!
Preparing for an interview takes much thought, time, diligence and strategy. We only get one shot to make a good impression and to put our best foot forward. So much of our career success relies on our ability to seize opportunities that are presented to us. Whether you are pursuing a new position in a different organization or a growth opportunity within your current organization, taking the time to prepare for the interview is crucial. That means doing a lot of homework on the organization, position for which you are interviewing, as well as people with whom you are interviewing. In addition, start with your own self-exploration and be fully prepared to discuss why you are the ideal candidate for the job!
New Year’s Resolutions – something we all look forward to and get excited to create! But…how serious are we about keeping them and do they truly impact our dreams and aspirations?
Every December or January, most of us reflect on the previous year and think about how we may be able to start fresh and/or consider new approaches with great intention. Some of us write down these thoughts, some create mental checklists, and then many do neither, forgetting all about them within weeks. Creating resolutions at the start of each year is a ritual that we have all practiced, along with breaking our resolutions within a short period of time. I’d like to suggest replacing resolutions with goals.
Each year as we approach the holidays and the end of the year, we all make a list of all the people we would like to thank and show our appreciation for their work and/or support they have shown us. This time of year is a good time to reflect upon our accomplishments, be thankful for and celebrate our own talents. It is equally important to show gratitude to others who have helped us do so. Not just a thank you but truly and selflessly acknowledging the role someone has had in your success and expressing gratitude. Putting other people's interests front and center and reaching out to be of service, initiating without being asked. Most importantly, let’s make this a practice that we engage in throughout the year and not only at the end of the year.
We have all heard how important it is to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally in order to live a long and happy life, correct? Do we always make the correlation to a successful and fulfilling career? Taking care of ourselves is not an option… it truly is a requirement and prerequisite for a successful and fulfilling career.
The 10th Annual Executive Forum "Best Companies, Best Practices: Keeping the Competitive Edge," moderated by Rita B. Allen, co-sponsored by Bentley University, Gatti & Associates and Rita B. Allen Associates, was held on October 24, 2013, at Bentley University. In her welcoming remarks for the tenth anniversary of the event Gloria Larson, President of Bentley University, expressed her enthusiastic support of this forum and emphasized the importance of talent management in organizations. She went on to share many of the accomplishments of Bentley University including the 98% placement rate for its undergraduates (either in jobs or graduate school) and encouraged the HR professionals in the audience to partner with Bentley.
Identify your values and build a strong foundation towards greater personal empowerment. We all make choices every day and follow an internal voice that guides us directly or indirectly…and sometimes creates a tug of war or challenge for us. At times, we may feel this tug but don’t quite understand why and/or cannot identify the source of this struggle. Some of you probably know exactly what I am talking about and some of you are probably thinking, what is she talking about?!FULL ENTRY
When you were a child and someone asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up”, did you have a ready answer to that question? Maybe you did, maybe you did not but perhaps you had many possibilities that seemed so exciting and viable. Fast forward to current day and ask yourself that question framed a little differently. If you could be given your ideal job on a silver platter tomorrow, what would it be? How prepared are you to answer that question without any hesitance or qualifying?
Retaining talent is a critical factor for many organizations in today’s competitive market. Employee engagement requires investment in your people and their development. One common tool used in employee development plans is a 360-degree feedback process, in which employees receive confidential, anonymous and structured feedback from manager(s), peers, direct reports, internal and external clients as well as other appropriate stakeholders.
Storytelling is the most compelling way to communicate an event and specifically its results or impact. Whenever I conduct presentations or workshops, I always use storytelling as a way to get my point across - and inevitably the moment I begin a story, you can hear a pin drop in the room. It's a sure way to get and keep people's attention rather than citing a multitude of facts, figures and details. Think of the people you listen to more readily - are they able to capture your undivided attention due to the storytelling nature of their communications?
I think Ken Kesey, author best known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest says it best (let me say in advance, excuse the French!) - "To hell with facts! We need stories!"
Climbing the corporate ladder is no longer the vision of ultimate success for many individuals today across all demographics. Baby boomers are looking to give back to their communities and professions. Gen Xers desire balance and autonomy in their work. Gen Yers and Millennials have a strong sense of civic responsibility and community. These are just a few motivations that have caused many professionals to intentionally seek work in the non-profit sector and transition to work that is more meaningful and contributes to achieving a very specific cause that betters our health, families, children, women, communities, lives, environment, etc. This has been an on-going trend that has grown considerably over the last decade and continues to at a fast pace.
This article is the fourth in a monthly, five-part series that advocates for living a balanced life in the areas of: Global Citizenship, Local Volunteering, Meaningful Careers, Strong Networks, and an Empowered Self.
Technology has enabled us to easily connect to virtually anyone across the globe. But who, when and why we connect are questions that are not as straightforward. In her article 10 tips for successful networking, Executive Coach Rita B. Allen outlines the many reasons why we network; including: business development, referrals, vendor selection, and perhaps the most famous reason - learning about job opportunities. Another reason we may not consciously realize - is that social interaction has been proven to be good for us. In their book Wellbeing (which included data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®), authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter cite Social Wellbeing as one of five essential elements that contribute to our overall wellbeing over a lifetime.
Yes, another article about networking! Like it or not, the ability to network effectively and consistently remains one of the key ingredients in managing a successful career. Regardless of your field, industry, level or geography, it is essential to embrace networking as a positive, get comfortable with it and truly develop the ‘art of networking’. I call it an ‘art’ because every individual will make it their own and create a landscape that is unique and appropriate for them.
Let me suggest that we even toss out the term ‘networking’ and replace it with ‘building relationships’. Think of it as having meaningful conversations and building productive connections. It is important to approach it as a relationship building process, with the goal of establishing, creating, and nurturing strong long lasting relationships through many venues. ALWAYS keep it real – be genuine, sincere and authentic! Start by engaging in activities that fit your style and are comfortable for you. Take it step by step rather than taking on too much that ends up overwhelming you. Find the right mix that works for you.FULL ENTRY
As we begin the New Year in 2013, getting back to basics and revisiting our goals is an effective way to clarify our vision and set the stage for success. As with everything in life, the foundation for doing so is having a positive and optimistic outlook to moving forward. I believe this quote says it best: “Success doesn't come to you — you go to it,” Marva Collins. During difficult times, it can be easy to lose focus and be distracted by the obstacles that get in our way. It takes a lot of resilience to stay true to ourselves and face the challenges head on. Each individual can have a plan that empowers themselves to initiate their development and take charge of their careers.FULL ENTRY
Everywhere we turn, there seems to be a lot of focus on difficulties, challenges, pressures, demands and basically a lot of negative news. There certainly are many serious problems and events that have occurred with real consequences and hardships to many people. All of us face different kinds of issues and challenges. The one thing I’ve learned in life is we are actually stronger and wiser for having these experiences. Amidst all of the negatives, however, why not emphasize and focus on the positives because there are many! When it comes to our careers, we will yield better results if we leverage our talents and capitalize on the areas that we excel. Celebrate your talents!
Is your career on the track you would like it to be? Do you have a vision and mission for your career as well as specific goals and a well thought out plan for execution? If your answer to both of these questions are no, there is definitely a correlation between the two. To truly be empowered to define and take charge of our career, first we need to own it.
I believe this quote by Marva Collins says it best, “Success doesn’t come to you – you go to it”. We all define success differently, however, how we achieve success is dependent on our ability to own and take charge of our careers. As I like to say, it’s the difference between sitting in the driver’s seat vs. sitting in the back going along for the ride.
Three Commonalities of Successful Professionals
1. Know their value add: what they have to offer
They know their strengths, contributions, and accomplishments and they leverage them in everything they achieve. In addition, they understand how they can truly make a difference and stand apart from their colleagues, what makes them unique as a person and professional. They focus on results and outcomes and the role they played. They do this through stories – the best way to discuss value is to relay it through story telling. What was the challenge or situation, what actions did they take and what were the results? They are authentic and genuine – they are not boastful or egotistical…but matter of fact regarding how they offer value and contribute. There is a great book I suggest by Peggy Klaus as many people struggle with this piece, “Brag – the Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It”.
2. Know what they want: goal-oriented
They know exactly what they want and have a plan to achieve it. Even if they do not have all the specifics identified, they are clear on their options and a plan for how they will pursue and/or investigate each option. Goals are a priority, defining both short term expectations and long term aspirations. Annual goal setting allows them to create plans for execution as well as criteria for accountability. Without goals, we don’t have a vision for where we are going – no direction. Goals are made to be reviewed, evaluated and readjusted continuously to ensure we remain open to unexpected opportunities that may come our way. Without a plan, however, we can grow complacent and/or fall into a rut rather than having a plan with clear direction and driving that plan. Another great quote, “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”, author unknown.
3. Know how to ask for it: articulate their value and aspirations effectively
Their delivery is clear, crisp and concise. Not only do they know how to ask for it but they also know who to ask and when to ask. Keep in mind, when you truly know what you have to offer and what you want, you have already empowered yourself with the right tools to ask for it! Building relationships is so important in our careers and it takes years to do this well. It also requires awareness to your surroundings and to others needs and interests. We don’t want to be a bull in a china shop or self absorbed. There is a time and place for everything. Assessing timing and circumstances accurately is an important ingredient. Understanding how to effectively influence the key stakeholders in a way that meets mutual needs is where we want to focus our delivery. The important part to remember here is to make sure you ask! Fear, rejection, and/or risk are a few common reasons that hold many people back from asking. The worst thing, however, is to not ask and never know what you could have received and achieved! Get comfortable advocating for yourself and embrace this concept as a requirement to successfully manage your career.
Empower yourself, take charge of your career and assure that you are in the driver’s seat and not sitting in the back just going along for the ride. Own your career – know what you have to offer, what you want and ask for it!
Question: I feel I am ready for the next step of my career which would include progressing to another level in management. I have achieved great success and accomplishments in my current role. Although I have not come out and directly stated my interest, I’m assuming my manager should know that is what I want. I don’t want to be pushy but my manager doesn’t seem to be indicating that would be in the short term horizon for me. What do I do?
Answer: Many times we make the common mistake of assuming our managers know that we are ready for and desire to move up in our areas of expertise. Don’t assume he/she knows that you feel confident in your ability to take on additional responsibility now and indeed desire to do so. Do your homework – what is needed to be successful in the position you want? Prepare yourself by making a list of all that you have accomplished that speak to those needs as well as the skills and competencies you possess to do so. Tell relevant stories of how you have made a difference as well as how you will contribute in the new role and how it will benefit your manager and the organization. Also, be prepared to articulate your goals to your manager – short term and long term. Schedule a meeting at a time when you know he/she will not be distracted with other priorities or demands. Go into that meeting confident, prepared and enthusiastic! You are your best advocate - best of luck!
Rita Balian Allen is the President of Rita B. Allen Associates, a provider of career management/talent management consulting and executive coaching services located in Waltham, and the President of ACPI – NE (Association of Career Professionals International – New England).
Have mentors played an essential role in your professional and/or personal development? As you have advanced in your career, have you taken the time to mentor others whom you have worked with and/or managed? Having and being a mentor are two of the major milestones during one’s career and contribute greatly to establishing and building your ‘personal brand’.
The typical image of a mentor is of someone in the workplace but mentors enter our lives from a variety of venues, each offering different learnings that speak to our many needs. Those needs can be quite diverse and filled by a variety of mentors, each offering wisdom and counsel in different ways. In fact, it’s important to search out multiple mentors to address our multiple needs. Be your own advocate and initiate these relationships rather than waiting to be mentored. Find your authentic self and ‘personal brand’ by identifying what value you have to offer as well as what you aspire to achieve. Seek out potential mentors, trusted advisors as well as sponsors for support throughout the different phases of your career. In addition, welcome opportunities to mentor others throughout their careers.
Do you invest the proper amount of time, effort and energy in developing and nurturing relationships at work – both internally within your organization and externally within your field?
As we all do more with less, and barely have enough time and resources to accomplish expected "deliverables", your answer to this question is likely to be “not as much time as I would like”. Have you stopped to think about the cost of not investing in these relationships –such as missed opportunities, underdeveloped resources, unidentified trends, lack of visibility, untapped possibilities, and/or friendships and partnerships that were not enabled to be established.
Throughout our careers, it is our relationships that will preserve our livelihood as much as our professional capabilities. In order to navigate through the peaks and valleys in the course of our professional lives, it is invaluable to build and nurture sustaining, long-lasting relationships with our network of colleagues. In fact, our ability to do so can make or break our career.
We should not confuse collecting several business cards and building our rolodex, as we used to call it, with building relationships. It’s not the number of contacts or friends we have on LinkedIn or Facebook that measures our success, it is the quality of those relationships that makes the difference. So, how do we begin to do this?
Many people find the notion of building relationships to be overwhelming and intimidating especially when they are working so hard to keep up with their daily responsibilities. These feelings are unnecessary and consume energy rather than energizing you in a positive and productive manner.
Try these three easy steps to start unleashing your potential and embrace the concept of relationship building as user-friendly and vital to managing your career.FULL ENTRY
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