Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: October 2014 Page 1 of 6

3 Signs You are in the Wrong Career

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It’s Thursday morning, and you are getting for work. The process is routine, and if it weren’t for your daughter’s theatre performance, you wouldn’t even know the day of the week. One of the biggest decisions you will make this morning is what to wear.

You promised yourself that you would get out of this career five years ago, but you are still there. You work for a boss who is more interested when in you don’t show up to the office. When you are there as scheduled, he finds reasons why your performance is failing to meet expectations.

You are in the wrong career, but it’s a safety zone. While some close friends are having a tough time finding a job, your automatic draft hits the First National Bank on time, just a few hours after midnight. The rationale for you is that things could be much worse.

Here are three signs you are in the wrong career:

#1: You have zero interest in what you do.

As surprising as this might be, there are many people who don’t like the work they do. I spoke recently to a woman with an HR degree, and she complained that her current job consisted mostly of menial tasks, such as coordinating training sessions, ordering food for the meetings, and running end-of-month reports. She said, “I have an HR degree, and I want to use those skills. What I do right now has nothing to do with my work experience and education.”

Today – two years later, she’s still in the same position. The point here is that she needs to make a decision to become more marketable. It might be necessary to earn a certification, increase her influence network, or anything else that will create opportunities. Her current reactive approach is failing to deliver positive results.

#2: Management considers you an operational-type worker.

Those of you reading this article want to be challenged. You want to get away from the administrative and routine duties, those which even an elementary student could perform, and probably quite well. When your management team perceives you as an operational-type worker, you will receive the mundane tasks, such as coordinating an office move, creating binders for the next meeting, and taking minutes during the weekly webinar with the South Dakota team.

To make a positive move in your career, it’s essential that you become a Theory Y worker who is interested in challenges and seeking meaningful work. If you cannot find these assignments with your current employer, it’s time to look elsewhere.

#3: You get too excited over COLA increases.

The cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) are tied to the cost-of-living index, and have nothing to do with your performance. The increases are generally small, such as 1% or 2% of your salary. Once the standard deductions are applied, the increase is hardly apparent.

To take control of your career, you must find work that allows you to exponentially increase your compensation. Once you are maximizing your skills, you can expect your salary and bonus structure to change accordingly.

Spending even just a month in the wrong job or career is detrimental to your confidence, long-term success, and even to your health. At some point, you have to find the right occupation, one that excites you! This type of work doesn’t require you to set your alarm in the morning. You’re up-and-running before anyone else, constantly focused on the value you are going to create today. In fact, your wardrobe will be the last thing on your mind.

3 Strategies to Making this Year Awesome!

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Are you ready to make this year one of your best? What are you doing to prepare? Instead of limping into the New Year, take charge!. You know that a status quo approach will fail to help you realize your goals. To be something different, you must do something different.

We’ve all heard that the economy is tough, that’s it difficult to find work, and so on. While many people are indeed out of work, or underemployed, you have to take a different mindset. The opportunities exist for those willing to prepare, to take a few risks, and to look for creative ways to generate income.

#1: Determine your baseline.

Before making any career change, you must take inventory of where you are today. How do you measure success? If income is your measuring stick, how much money would you like to make this year? If you are looking for a new career, such as becoming an IT manager, a consultant for a global organization, or a high school biology instructor, you must start taking action to make that occupation a reality.

For many of you, freedom is important. You would like a better balance beterrn work and life. In that case, look for business opportunities that allow you to work on your schedule. Given the advancements in technology, excellent work can be done from anywhere and anytime.

#2: Get the education or training necessary.

For many occupations, especially those paying very well, you must have a specialized skills set. If you wish to manage projects, you may consider earning the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Nearly every career offers a certification, and becoming certified gets you a seat at the table.

You should also seek part-time work in the career of your choosing. The goal here is to earn as much knowledge and training as you can before going full-time. This experience will help you learn the ins-and-outs of the industry, and provide you with terrific network opportunities.

#3: Take action.

The most successful people in our society are different in one important way – they decided to do something to change their environment. They have goals, to be sure, but it’s more than just wishful thinking. These men and women understand that career success largely depends on engaging in activities that incrementally move them toward goal realization.

It’s foolhardy to think that others will do the work for you, or will be there to motivate you. The big goals are only accomplished by your hard work, determination, and undeniable pursuit of excellence.

It’s time to build on the momentum you created in the past. To experience success, write down 10 big goals you wish to accomplish. Even if you meet just half of those goals, your career will improve, and probably more than you think.

Make the decision today that you are going to create your success plan, and align all your resources and energy to meet those goals. You understand that setbacks are part of the process. By staying focused on your long-term plans, you will overcome these obstacles, and you will soon create a career that provides value to your customers and, more importantly, meaning to your life.

How to Manage a Rude Customer

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Image Courtesy – www.kenyanlist.com

Is the customer always right? The general answer I hear is that the customer must be given the benefit of the doubt, and that you should do whatever possible to keep him happy.
Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, stated that his employees were more important than the customers. He described a situation in which a passenger was abusive toward the agent working a busy counter. Kelleher was adamant that his employees should not tolerate this behavior, and it’s better to “fire” that customer. In other words, he should fly a different airline.

I was recently preparing to board a United Airlines flight, and I observed this intense discussion between a passenger and the agent scanning the tickets prior to boarding the aircraft.

Agent: I’m sorry ma’am but we’re only boarding Group 2.

Passenger: The person working the counter said that I could board now.

Agent: Right, ma’am. I understand what you are saying. If you don’t mind, will you please wait for your group number to be called?

Passenger: That guy over there told me I could come straight here and get on the plane. I’m just doing what I was told.

[The passengers waiting in line are becoming a bit frustrated with the delay.]

Agent: I believe he meant for you to wait in line until your time to board.

Passenger: He didn’t say anything like that. He said that I should go straight to the gate.

Agent: I’m sorry ma’am. At this point, we are only calling Group 1, which includes people needing a little more assistance boarding the aircraft, and uniformed military personnel. You are in Group 3, and we’ll call you here in a few minutes.

[Passenger is getting upset, and has no intention of waiting. She is probably upset about a delay in her flight, or because she didn’t qualify for a First Class upgrade.]

Passenger: Look! I don’t see where this makes any difference! I’m not going to get out of line. Why don’t you just scan my ticket, and let me get on my way.

Agent: Ma’am, I’m going to allow you to go through, but please understand the boarding protocol on future flights.

Passenger: You need to talk to your colleague working the counter and learn to communicate with each other. This is not my fault!

Agent: Anyone from Group 1 still waiting to board?

The agent did the best he could to stand his ground, but the passenger was causing too much of a scene. I suppose he could have demanded that she wait her turn, but this was going to cause a bigger issue. She stated that the agent working the counter informed her she could go straight to the gate and board. In all likelihood, she misunderstood the instructions.

Managing a rude customer is tough. The United agent did a good job keeping his composure. The vast majority of passengers are going to follow the instructions given, but some irate individuals are going to test the system. This is one of those situations where the policy is flexible enough to make an exception.

I understand that some might disagree with the agent allowing the rude passenger to board out-of-turn. However, it did calm the situation, and allowed the boarding process to continue.

I suppose this is a case in which we lose the battle, but win the war.

3 Strategies to Impressing Your Boss 

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I remember hearing a business expert say that your direct manager is the person you must work hard to impress. You need to get along with fellow employees, and you should treat the higher-ups with respect, but your boss is the individual who has the most influence over your success.

As people move up the corporate ladder, they soon realize that time is scarce. When they are not preparing for a meeting, they are in the meeting. Bosses are inundated with requests, and often have tight deadlines to meet. When their employees fail to deliver work on time or to the requirements, they are the ones who take the heat.

Surprisingly, impressing your boss is much easier than you think. Getting your work done is only part of the equation.

The best employees are those who keep their boss out of trouble.

#1: Master your job.

You must become great at doing your day-to-day activities. Your boss is too busy to handhold you throughout the day. Write down the steps required for your activities, and keep the notes handy. Seek guidance or direction from a mentor instead of going to your boss.

Your direct manager is available to help you resolve problems. At some point, though, you should take care of your own issues. The sooner you become self-sufficient, the sooner your boss will trust you with bigger projects.

#2: Stop complaining.

Managers have little time for petty stuff. They do not want to hear anyone complain about the difficulty of the work, or the long hours required to get it done. Instead, they are interested in employees who jump in and do the work. Bottom line!

Avoid talking negatively about your co-workers. It’s counterproductive, and business professionals have little patience for this practice. It’s much better for you to get everyone working on the same page and focused on completing the requirements.

#3: Finish the work.

Every task or project has a beginning, middle, and end. You can impress your boss by making sure the work gets done. The top employees are those who make sure the deliverable is completed on time, within budget, and to the customer’s satisfaction.

Stick with the assignment. Make sure the customer is happy, and follow-through with the paperwork necessary to terminate the project. Failing to tie the loose ends often leads to administrative headaches, which catch your boss by surprise.

When you are accountable, good things will happen. Avoid thinking that the problem belongs to your department or your organization. It is much better for you to take ownership of the problem, and make sure is gets fixed before it escalates. Your value increases when you limit the number of issues that reach your boss.

Develop a big picture perspective. Think of how your daily actions affect the entire department, and even the organization. Making a positive and long-lasting impression begins by focusing on doing your job well. Once you are good at what you do, you can help prevent problems before they reach your manager. Your boss will appreciate your proactive approach, and will do whatever possible to improve your standing within the organization.

3 Strategies to Initiating a Career Change 

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Where do you want to be in five years? Do you have a clear idea? What motivates you to climb the corporate ladder? Before making a career change, you must have a clear reason. Second, it’s important that you document where you are today. In project management, this is known as your baseline. In other words, you must know your starting point.

In some cases, people make a change to improve their compensation. For others, pay is just part of the equation. Many people want a better balance between work and life. Surprisingly, some people want bigger challenges. They might be in a rut, and it’s time to head in a different direction. Instead of remaining complacent, they are prepared to make a big leap. While this move might appear risky, these go-getters are interested in the potential for future rewards.

When you are ready to initiate a change, here are some factors to address:

#1: What is your strategy?

Your strategy is composed of your mission and vision. Mission is what defines you. In other words, what do you want to be when you grow up? For many people, their career choice changes as they mature. At one point, you wanted to teach third grade students, but you now want to travel the world. To begin that journey, you are thinking of pursuing an online International Business degree.

Your vision allows you to take a long-term perspective. You are able to take a step back and consider the benefits. You picture yourself managing project teams in Zurich, Switzerland, or in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. By creating goals, your actions become aligned with your vision.

#2:  What is your business case?

The business case is your version of the cost/benefit analysis. In other words, what must you give up to receive the benefits? For those who are leaving an entire industry, this change might require more education, training, or on the job experience.

You must carefully plan how long it will take to get on your feet. This move might mean accepting a salary that is less than what you are making now. Of course, you have done your homework, and understand the impact of delayed gratification.

#3: What is your first action item?

Nothing happens until you create a plan, identify the key action items, and begin working on Activity #1. Taking the first step is always difficult, and you can expect challenges. Some people, even friends and family, will criticize you for pursuing your dreams. You must have the commitment and perseverance to continue with the plan.

It’s important that you seek guidance from professionals in the chosen industry. The more successful these people are, the more they are willing to help. When you demonstrate that you are serious, they will do whatever possible to help you succeed. Finding a mentor can make a huge difference in your transition period.

Many of you know that it’s time to make a change, but you are afraid to get started. In some cases, the fear is real but, most of the time, it is imagined. Regardless, if the career change is important to you, it will take more than fear to stop you from realizing your long-term goals.

3 Things to Avoid When Delivering a Speech 

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Getting in front of people to give a talk is not easy for many. Some even say they fear public speaking more than they fear death. However, speaking in public is easier than you might think, especially if you focus on the strongest subject matter for you. Equally as important is having a clear message, and making sure you keep it to the allowed time.

Over the past few months, I have attended meetings, conferences, commencements, workshops, and seminars. These experiences have provided opportunities to observe speakers in action. Some were excellent, others were mediocre, and a few not so good. To be effective, you must focus both on your message, and the ability to engage your audience. In other words, the audience should dictate your approach.

Here are three things you should avoid when speaking before an audience:

#1: Tell them you were just recently given this speaking assignment.

A big turn-off for the audience is when the speaker says the following: “Okay! I hope this goes well. My boss told me yesterday I had to do this!” While that comment might seem humorous, it’s unprofessional. The audience is excited to hear your message, and it’s your job to step up to the plate.
You might be asked to speak with little lead-time, and it’s your responsibility to deliver an excellent message. You shouldn’t seek sympathy from anyone. Regardless of the time you have to prepare, do the best you can. More important, avoid communicating to the audience that you are unprepared.

#2: Spend too much time reading from the script.

It’s acceptable to have notes when you speak. I usually jot down the key points that will be discussed, and fill in the rest of the talk with personal and professional experiences. I understand there are times when you must read every word from the script, such as an important announcement from a company president. However, most speeches do not require a verbatim delivery.

I’m unsure of the science, but I do know that you lose the audience’s attention when you look down to read your notes. If you read more than a sentence before re-establishing eye contact, it might be a long speech.

#3: The speech turns into a lecture.

I know very few people who want to be told what to do, especially in public. You should also avoid making others feel inferior. The fact is that most people are looking for knowledge and information that will makes them better, and not necessarily for reasons why they have fallen behind.

It’s better to focus on how they can identify and overcome obstacles. The message can be forthright, but the speaker must ensure the delivery is positive, encouraging, and professional. In other words, you don’t want them to feel like losers. You want hope.

There are many options available to improve your public speaking skills, including a university class or Toastmasters International. However, you can make improvements on your own.

Good advice includes speaking about a subject on which you are an expert, using a bullet list to recall main items, maintaining excellent eye contact, meeting the timeframe, and most importantly, making your audience feel important.

3 Tips to Making a Strong Impression During Your First Month at Work

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In the old days, there was time to learn a job. I remember my first employment position out of college was with Shell Oil Company in Houston. In the interview process, I was informed that my mentor would work with me for 30 days to make sure I understood the work. I could go to this person and ask any questions.

I was also told that nothing important was expected from me for at least three months. In other words, I had time to learn the business and my particular work. The first week, my manager said, “Please make sure to spend time reading the policy manual. It’s sort of boring stuff, but some of it actually is important.” The manual had more than 500-pages, so I was going to stay busy for the near future.

What worked in the 1990s is no longer applicable today. When hired today, the employer wants for you to hit the ground running. In fact, you are expected to have major deliverables done in the first week. In some cases, individuals are hired to fill a gap in knowledge or expertise. In essence, the company is looking for the new hire to lead the work effort.

Here are 3 tips during your first month at a new job:

#1: Take a proactive approach.

Your first month at work is important, and you should take a proactive approach. You want to learn fast, and you want to ask as many questions as necessary. Many new employees understand the work, but they need to learn the process, or the corporate culture. Every organization has a specific chain-of-command that needs to be followed.

#2: Avoid acting like a know-it-all.

While you might be a very capable person, you should take a humble or learning approach when starting a new job. The impression you make early on might define you, so it’s best to get off on the right foot.

I know of a senior manager who made the following statement during her first meeting with the team: “We are going to change the way we do things around here. I hear that people are used to doing the bare minimum, and I’m not going to put up with this approach. Those who are unwilling to change will no longer have a place in this organization.”

There was a hush in the room, and I could tell that the veteran employees were not too happy about this approach. During the first year of her employment, these old-timers did everything possible to make her job difficult. They were able to create enough resentment in her policies that she eventually quit. The point here is that diplomatic skills are important when initiating change.

#3: Avoid the petty stuff.

The most successful people in your company are big-picture minded. They avoid the coffee breaks that are used to circulate rumors. Top-notch employees are aware of office politics, and they do whatever possible to work within the system. The key here is to focus on your work and not on the small stuff that distracts you from the requirements.

Most managers will label you within the first 30 days of employment. If you look and behave like a top performer, your chances of succeeding increase. Make sure you are action-oriented, and avoid stepping on other people along the way.

The organizational culture has a current, and you need to get work done within that environment. However, you do have a good level of control regarding the pace of the current, and this is what will set you apart from the rest of the pack.

6 Ways to Earn a Promotion

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I recently heard a colleague talk about his promotion to Technical Manager. While the title was good, the pay hike was $15,000 annually, and she now makes $110,000. Not too bad!

Over the years, I’ve had many discussions with talented managers regarding what it takes to excel in an organization, and I’m providing 6 of the strategies I learned:

#1: Get in the right job.

I understand you can earn a promotion in the wrong job, but that is hardly any fun. Make sure you decide the kind of work you want to do, which means that you select a career. Once you are clear regarding future plans, the promotions will come. You are more energized and happier when you are doing the work that interests you.

#2: Get a healthy level of technical knowledge.

I know several account managers at an IT company who enroll in technical classes, such as Security+, Python, and Apache. The goal here is to improve their technical knowledge. By doing so, they can understand the geek language and share it with upper management. This skill alone can lead to big results.

#3: Focus only on what you can control.

There are far too many people who make excuses for failing to climb the corporate ladder. To progress, you must accept the organizational politics and learn to move within the culture. My experience shows that if you deliver good work on time and keep a proactive attitude, promotions will come.

#4: Make sure to have the education.

There are many careers that are stifled because a college degree is required for advancement. If this is the case where you work, begin your studies right away. Avoid putting of the decision even a week. You can make calls today to find the right degree for you. If you are pressed for time, consider an online degree. By making this commitment, you will improve skills related to problem solving, communication, leadership, and critical thinking. These are the same skills required to earn future promotions.

#5: Seek advice from experienced individuals.

To succeed, you must learn from others. It’s naïve to think that you have the time to learn everything on your own. I recommend befriending someone who has been in the organization for many years. In most cases, these individuals are less-competitive, and they are open to sharing their knowledge. When you meet with these folks, ask questions and take notes. Let me repeat: ask questions and take notes. You are there to learn, not to teach.

#6: Focus on what your boss wants.

It’s too difficult to make everyone happy. The only person that you should work to please is your manager. I recommend meeting with this individual early in the year, and learning the expectations. You want to know how you will be evaluated. Once you have the plan, make it a point to schedule monthly or quarterly meetings with your manager. By taking this approach, you are more likely to hit your targets and make your manager happy.

There is no magic formula that works every time, but the tips noted here have withstood the test of time. To become meaningful, you must have a clear idea regarding your career expectations, and start taking action today to make that future a reality.

10 Tips to Getting Things Done

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Getting things done is much easier than you might think. Develop a plan, test the plan, execute the plan, and follow-up on the plan. All these components are critical success factors (CSFs) of getting things done, which means that the plan is in jeopardy if you fail to do any of them well.

One of my favorite sayings is … Do something! Anything!

The point here is that you have to take action. You cannot expect everything to be perfect before you take action. There are far too many variables, and the unknown element is part of decision-making.

Here are 10 tips to getting things done:

  1. Determine what you want to get done. Do you want to improve the company sales by 10%? Where are you today? What is the baseline? You must know the starting point before taking action.
  2. Identify the people who are going to be on your team. While you can spearhead the plan, it’s important to have competent and energetic people on your team. A team can help you complete work much faster, and at higher quality standards.
  3. Look for risk events before they happen. You can engage the following risk respond methods: avoid, accept, mitigate, or transfer. Whenever possible, take action to prevent risks from derailing your efforts. You must be proactive.
  4. Make a concerted effort to be objective with your actions. Avoid taking sides or playing favorites. Stick with the objectives of the plan, and reinforce the importance of the initiative to your team.
  5. Take a systematic approach to getting the work done. Think like a project manager: your job is to find the right people to do the right work at the right time. While you are task-oriented, you understand the intangibles that can affect your work.
  6. Agility is critical to your success. When an unexpected issue arises, have a contingency plan in place. If you lose a key employee to another company, make sure you have someone else ready to replace this person. If inclement weather prevents equipment from arriving to a work site, ensure that a back-up vendor is ready to provide the service.
  7. Communicate an attitude that shows you are in control, especially when things are not going well. You know that everyone can lead when there is smooth sailing. However, today, you’re faced with many unexpected and urgent events, and you must be prepared to make tough decisions.
  8. Make sure you stay engaged with the customer. The needs and wants of the customer will change, and it’s your job to make sure everyone is on the same page. Keep seeking feedback, and make only necessary changes.
  9. Make sure to be persistent. You can expect others to lose interest in the work, and it’s your job to re-energize the troops. Reinforce the importance of your work.
  10. Make sure to reward your team for good work. Effective feedback is specific in nature. “Amanda, our success with the data warehouse project was largely based on you meeting with the customer each week. This communication was a difference-maker. Good work!”

Getting things done requires strong leadership. To become an effective leader, you must have a plan that provides long-term benefits to the organization. Once the plan is in place, a persistent approach is important to its success.

Bolting From Your Job! The JetBlue Way!

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Image Courtesy – www.entrepreneur.com

We’ve all had the “Jet Blue” feeling! If you have not read the Steven Slater story about getting fed up with an unruly passenger, I think you should take the time to see the chronology of events. While I do not condone the approach Slater took, namely deploying the emergency chute with which he could have killed someone, I do think that many people have merely lingered around in their current jobs hoping that something would change. To his credit, Slater took action, and even remembered to slide down the chute with a couple beers! That is quick thinking!

Until you decide to make the change, you can expect everything to stay the same. Well, not exactly. You will receive raises and perhaps even promotions, but that might not be enough for some of you.

JOB = Just Over Broke

I am not sure where I heard the acronym of JOB translating to Just Over Broke, but it did resonate with me. The point here is that many of you backed-in into your jobs. You began with an hourly rate that you did not particularly like, but you didn’t care because you were in it for the short-term. Before long, though, you received a raise and incurred debt that you could only afford with the upgraded salary.

The money has kept improving over the years, and you are still working at a company that you never liked, but you are used to the paycheck every two weeks. It’s not great money, but it beats being unemployed. Does it?

Comfort Zone Paralysis

When in your comfort zone, you close off opportunities around you. You want something better, and you know that you have the skill and ability to earn significantly more, but you are paralyzed by the fear of losing what you have. In fact, you no longer define yourself. Instead, the work you do at your current job defines you.

For example, “my name is Rob Dante, and I am a Product Development Analyst at Go Media, Inc.” Earlier in your life, before Go Media, Inc., you had a plan for yourself. You were Rob Dante, and you had personal and professional goals. In other words, you were in control. However, after accepting the job offer at Go Media, someone else decided your goals. You now receive a compensation structure from an employer who largely controls the work you do, and the amount of money you are paid. In fact, the employer can map your compensation structure out 20 years. You don’t even have to think anymore.

Making a Change

Launching a business is not for everyone. However, I do think that more people need to consider the opportunity. A mediocre salary can only do so much for you and your family. For those of you who venture out and start a business, the earning potential is only part of the equation. The real reason lies in having the freedom to use your skills and abilities to the maximum. When you are accountable, you will exceed expectations, and that extra effort generates both a bigger income and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Steven Slater did it style. You don’t have to be that bold. Just do it!

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