Sunday, January 31, 2010

Relaxed, Refreshed, Renewed

Camille and I have returned from our annual Mexico vacation. We’ve found a great little resort, Merece Tus Sueños, in the fishing village of Troncones on the Pacific Coast where we’ve stayed the past two years.

A critical goal of our vacation, of course, is to relax. I take a bunch of novels with me and plow through them. This tends to push out the stressed based work stuff and makes room for new thoughts, ideas and goals. Camille achieves her relaxation by heading to the beach and spending much of the day in the water, body surfing.

Another critical goal for us is to refresh; to begin the process of thinking of new goals – both personal and professional – we want to accomplish in the coming year. We spend a lot of time talking about where we see ourselves a year down the road.

Finally, we look to be renewed; to come out of our 10 to 12 days excited about tackling the goals we’ve decided upon.

As I thought about my goals for 2010, I borrowed a technique from Chris Brogan. Chris is a social media marketing expert, who recently wrote about his annual approach to goal setting. He basically comes up with three words to frame his activities for the year. You can read about his three words for 2010 here.

So, borrowing from Chris, I came up with my own three words to frame my activities for 2010: Partnership, Connection, and Networking. These are relatively interrelated words, meant to frame how I will work with clients and colleagues throughout the year.

Partnership reflects how I see my relationships with clients and colleagues. Rather than a subject matter expert who provides a specialized service, I see myself as a strategic partner whose skills and expertise complements those of my clients and colleagues. I hope to grow that feeling of partnership with those with whom I work. To me, this is the most rewarding aspect of working with people.

Connection relates to how I want to be in the world in which I work. As a partner to clients and colleagues, I want to relate to their needs and desires relative to the projects we’re engaged in. I don’t need to know everything that’s going on in their lives, but I do want to know what’s motivating them regarding the project we’re working on.

Networking is my third word. It refers to the fact that I need to take my own advice and reach out to people. I’ve been so busy working for clients the past year that I’ve neglected my own network. To this end, I will be reaching out to folks who are first degree connections in my network. For this idea, I thank my friend Erika Hanson Brown, networker extraordinaire, who started her own exploration of first degree connections on LinkedIn and has inspired me to do the same. So expect a call or an invitation for coffee over the next few weeks.

So, how are you framing your actions on your 2010 goals – especially those related to your career or job search? Do you have three words around which you can organize your efforts? What three words or concepts can inspire you and renew your energy around your career?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not Your Father’s Career

My father had three careers, but with the same organization. He worked for the federal government, 20 years in the military, another ten as a civilian. In fact, one week after retiring from the Army, he went back to the same group at the same desk as a Department of Defense civilian employee. When he retired from that position, he worked another three years as a Defense contractor.

About a year ago, Dad and I had a conversation about what I do. I explained that I worked with clients, many of whom were looking for their next career and that many of these folks were in their mid 40s to early 60s.

“Shouldn’t these guys be thinking of retirement?” asked my father.

“Dad, you’re 86 years old; hopefully I’ll live at least as long as you, as will many of my clients. Most of them expect to work another 15 to 20 years. How long have you been retired?”

Dad replied, “Geez, about 20 years.”

“That’s a career in itself,” I noted. “How long was your father retired before he died?”

“Just 10 years.”

That conversation showed how, in three generations, the concept of careers and retirement has changed. Both my grandfather and my father worked for one employer their entire career. My grandfather worked for The Phone Company – there was only one then – and lived on his pension for ten years after retirement. My father has enjoyed two retirement pensions – with cost of living allowances – from the federal government. Moreover, he receives pretty good medical benefits (as does my mom) as a retired military officer. Now those benefits, the COLAs and medical, have been subject to changes throughout his retirement, but he and my mother enjoy a good life as senior citizens. They are not burdens to my sisters or me.

I don’t begrudge my father and mother their well being in retirement. I have memories of my dad, as an Army NCO stationed in the Washington, DC area, working a second job to support a growing family. He spent most of his Army career overseas, separated from his aging parents; and a year in Vietnam in the 1960s separated from us. In my mind, he’s definitely earned the benefits he enjoys now.

However, how many people currently working, regardless of their age, feel they can live on their retirements for over 20 years? Not many of us. How many of us can expect to work for one employer throughout our career, one who will provide the pension for us to live on? Again, not many of us. We will experience, if we haven’t already, more than one career with more than one employer throughout our lives. The model of our fathers’ and grandfathers’ careers (and retirements) doesn’t apply any longer.

We need a new model, one that doesn’t yet exist. Moreover, one model will not, most likely, fit everyone. So, in effect, we require new models that can work for people as they progress throughout their careers. In a report last fall, completed for the MetLife Mature Market Institute, entitled “Buddy Can You Spare a Job, researchers noted that Boomers “may both need and want to work longer than previous generations, or longer than they may have anticipated.” The average age workers between 55 and 70 expect to retire is about 70; workers between 66 and 70 expect to retire at 76. So as Boomers, we plan – or need – to work 10 to 15 years longer than our parents did. Our kids may even have to work longer.

How do we plan to remain productive in a rapidly changing economy? How can our past experience provide value to employers? How do we promote our value?

The MetLife report identifies five critical success factors for older job seekers. They are actually great factors for workers of all ages to keep in mind:

1. Realistically assess the changing local employment markets in your region;

2. Translate past experience into future value for a potential employer;

3. Update your technology skills;

4. Keep your network of contacts fresh and active;

5. Manage your ambivalence about work.

My father and grandfather basically did the same thing throughout their careers. They both had clearly defined career paths. They knew what to expect next. We don’t. We can’t rely on the loyalty to an organization or from an organization to support our careers.

The old model doesn’t apply any longer and we need a new one. Any new model will be developed for and by individuals for their particular careers.

What’s your new career model? How will you sustain productivity and value for employers? The five factors outlined above are a good start.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What’s on Your Mind?

Happy New Year! I hope that 2010 is off to a good start for you and your family.

The beginning of the year is frequently a time for reflection. How did the past year play out; what lies ahead in the coming year; what goals need to be developed? Often these occur in the form of New Year’s Resolutions.

There’s no exception here. While I’m not typically big on New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve come up with three for me in 2010. This year I resolve to clean up my Outlook Inbox and keep up with emails: Reply quicker to those that require responses; file those that have been addressed; delete those that are no longer relevant.

I also resolve to keep up with my reading file. I carry a folder in my briefcase of articles, reports and downloaded items that I feel I need to read. Often the briefcase, with the reading file, gets tossed in a corner of my office and gets picked up for the trip home and tossed in a chair in my home office (sense a pattern here?). My resolution is to actually read the material in my file; then file, toss or forward it on.

My final resolution deals with this blog. I resolve to try and write a new post every week. This has been my intention since I started, but I’ve noticed that I’m tending to slip to publishing posts about every other week. My goal in 2010 is to publish weekly.

In order to keep my resolution of publishing weekly posts I’d like your help. I’d like to know what’s on your mind relative to your career transitions. What issues would you like to see covered here that could be of help to you? What conversations could we engage in that would be of interest or assistance to you?

My intention in writing this blog is to be of service to folks in transitions – especially in their careers. My hope is to create a conversation and stimulate thinking about careers and transitions. So I’d like to know your thoughts on the issues of concern to you as we enter a new year, a new decade.

What’s on your mind?

You can let me know in the comments section below or email me at I look forward to hearing from you.