Digging Yourself Out of Being Typecast On The Job

I’ve noticed a theme lately with my friends, clients and acquaintances. Hell, I’ve even experienced it.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt squished into a box or label of some kind in the workplace, but weren’t quite sure how you got there? And it wasn’t entirely clear how to make your way out of it?

I recently had a friend tell me that at her company she was told, “It’s clear you’re not meant for sales.” One of my clients told me she was given the feedback that she “isn’t assertive enough so she’s never going to get to the next step in her career.” And as a result, it became very difficult to do their jobs and “show up” in a way that made them feel assertive and a productive member of the team. They were not chosen to try out new opportunities and as a result, felt that quicksand effect of being stuck.

It’s not a good feeling. Believe me, I know. When I was going through my own experience being utterly confused by the labeling and scapegoating, I was scared and unhappy. I spent my entire birthday crying so much that I threw up.

Good times.

What I’m here to bring to the table today is twofold: 1) Acknowledge that this ish happens and it ain’t pretty. So, you’re not alone if you’re grappling with something similar. And 2) There’s something you can do about it.

What? Really?

Yes, really. I bet there are some sighs of relief behind those ol’ monitors. So what is there to be done if you’re working through an experience where you’re being typecast, scapegoated, told you’re ‘not enough’ (whatever that means), etc?

1. Breathe and Ask Yourself, “What’s The Worst Possible Outcome Here?”: Seriously, ask yourself that question. Think of the most god-awful scenario that would make the Red Wedding seem tame. What’d ya come up with? Was it ‘leave the company’ or ‘find a new job’? Was it “stay with the company for eternity suspended in a torture like state?” Whatever it was, helping yourself see what the worst case for you would be is a good first step to taking some sort of action.

2. Address The Situation. Go straight to the source. Is your boss the one making these assumptions about you? Set up a meeting (preferably out of the office environment, for lunch perhaps) and try to approach the meeting with a sense of curiosity, rather than confrontation. “So I’m curious- what were some of the factors that led to this assessment of my work?”

3. Listen More Than You Speak. Once you broach the subject with an opening question like the one above, LISTEN. Shhh. No hablo nada. Don’t try to interrupt and if you think of something you’d like to say in response but don’t want to forget it, jot down a key word or phrase on a napkin or piece of paper. One of the biggest reasons our convos can be derailed is because the person ‘listening’ isn’t actually listening. They’re just waiting their turn to interject. This does not a conversation make.

4. It’s OK to Take Your Time Responding. Maybe in that meeting you won’t have your thoughts together from what the person is saying to respond in the way you want. That’s ok. Take yo’ time! “Can I think about what was said and get back to you a little later?” is perfectly appropriate. Hell, it’s even a testament to your even-keeledness and your deliberation.

5. Try to Make an Honest Assessment of What Was Said. Did she have a point? Was she totally out of line? Try to find a nugget of truth no matter how difficult it might seem and start with that. “So with me sometimes missing deadlines- what are some things you think I can do to improve this?” For the items that still seem out of line or untrue, it’s ok to tell her that you disagree and here’s why: <insert some examples of why her assessment might not necessarily be true>. Again, wait for her to respond.

6. Wait it Out and Make A Decision: Set a time frame for yourself to see if the opinions have changed and, where you may need to do the work, get that work done as well. Ask to regroup for a follow up in a month or two and set it in the calendar. Taking control of your professional development shows you care and puts you more in the driver’s seat.

7. It’s Ok To Find Greener Pastures. If you’ve worked through all of the above and then some and it’s still not jivin’ it is ok to leave. You’ll pretty much know when either the tide will be not likely to turn. You may also choose to pursue another opportunity. But you’ll know that you gave it a fair shot and this isn’t the right place for you. Not every workplace is for each person. I think that’s a common misperception. People think, “I’m a human, they’re humans- it’ll be fiiiiine!” Once we admit that we’re not a fit for every workplace and every workplace is not a fit for us, it makes it all a little less harsh, ya dig?

So there’s SO much more to talk about with this topic. So many scenarios I didn’t cover. If you have a question or comment leave it below. And if you want to talk about a situation that’s been sapping your energy for months, let’s chat. Sign up for a complimentary consult here.

 

Spotlight on: Tara Zirker, Founder of 2 Hours Daily: Building Thriving Businesses, Two Hours A Day

Tara’s my first friend from Twitter. (Those who know me well know that I never thought I’d say those words, being a reformed Twitter-phobe.)

Anyway, we connected over some posts I had written when I was looking for a social media consultant, and it turned out that she was going to be visiting NYC around the same time. We met for lunch, and I loved what she had to say about running her own business, her transition away from corporate and her latest project, 2 Hours Daily, which chronicles female entrepreneurs who have created thriving business that over time, take up less of their time daily.

Tara-BW

Here are excerpts from our conversation.

1. Briefly describe your past life and what your journey was like to get from “there” to “here”.

 

Oh gosh. Like many, I fought with my inner creative for years and finally had one of those defining moments where I knew,knew, that I had to go for it. Now I just shake me head and wonder why I waited so long. ;)

2. What would you say to women who have a dream/ambition but are discouraged from reaching for it or are told that ‘it’s going to be difficult.”?

There are a million ways to approach this common challenge, but I’ll answer it with a question. What if you get to the end of your life and realize you only lived it at 50 percent of your potential? Would you care what others said or thought if you knew your dreams would take you to 100 percent?

3.  What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

Work on your business not in it.

4. What is your #1 tip for a healthy lifestyle?

My whole thing is to stop doing work that is bogging you done or keeping you stuck. That will take care of most stress, added weight, and general unease. Work on your soul’s purpose for being here and you’ll be amazed at how much better and awakened you feel. Then exercise and eat effectively to keep your internal systems thriving.

5. Talk about a time in your life where you felt stuck and what you did to stop feeling that way.

I think we all get stuck at some point and at every level. A few things that break me free:

a. Telling myself and God that I’m ready for the next level.

b. Allowing myself to choose myself  and then

c. creating some excitement in my inbox by e-mailing prospects, pitching stories, and communicating with clients about ways we can up-level their success. I may even through in a few opportunities for myself for speaking or attending conferences. 

6. What is the single-most issue facing women in our culture today?

From my perspective? Distraction with the wrong priorities. The wrong men, work, opportunities, and choices. There are really just a few things you need to nail to have an extraordinary life, but those are the things we most often need guidance on, too. Relationships, money, work, and how we spend our extra time are all critical. Choose wisely.

7. Talk about your transition from working full time as an employee to your life now. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them? What, if anything, was easy for you and why do you think so?

I love to create ease. The battle between full-time employment and doing it on my own has always been a tough one for my soul. When I finally gave up the 9 to 5 for good, I just had this feeling that things would work out…and quickly. Within three weeks of quitting my last job with not a lead for new work in sight I actually ended up more than replacing my previous salary by picking up a couple of perfectly-timed clients. Call it kismet or a knack for timing, but one of my gifts is knowing when the next thing is right around the corner. I think everyone has a gift or two, whether it be timing, networking, or just following the intuition. Put those to good use and take good care of them
8. Tell us a little more about 2HoursDaily. What is your mission with this project and how do you see it evolving?
Oh gosh. It is my road. I’m more than drawn to the mission of it, I really feel called to it. So the purpose of 2HoursDaily is to teach women what goes into the ‘messy middle,’ that space between working ourselves to the bones and living the life we’re dreaming of. It provides the framework and mentalities that go into creating a liberated business (and life!). Like, what are the systems that allow me to create a six-figure business that only needs a couple of hours a day to manage. 
 
That kind of thing.

Tara Zirker is a writer and marketing professional who teaches women how to make more and work less. Her latest project, 2HoursDaily, chronicles the experience of female lifestyle entrepreneurs. You can also connect with her on Twitter. You can read her Forbes article on why women make great entrepreneurs here. 

How To Let Go Of Part Of Your Biz- Part 1 of 2

Gahhhh- WHAT?! You want me to let go of part of my business?! But it’s my baby, but I must maintain all control or everything will go to hell in a hand basket, but….

Sound familiar?

For all ya’ll who have your own business or even if you’re thinking of starting one, this may sound like your mantra, your Modus operandi, your no-way-in-heck-am-I-delegating part of your body.

It totally is for me. And for multiple reasons, right? For fear of letting go reasons and that someone won’t do ‘as good of a job as you will’. For money reasons. Dollah Dollah billz don’t grow on trees, I was told once or twice. For confusion reasons. There are so many aspects to a business- how do I know when to delegate and when to soldier on?

I’m sure we can add to this list of “why nots” for awhile, but I’m more interested this morning in the “whys” and “hows”. In today’s post- part one of a two part series- I wanna talk about the benefits of letting go and what I’ve learned so far in the hopes that you can take a nugget away for your own biz. The next post will cover the more tactical implementation of this notion, once you’ve made the conscious decision to ‘let go’ of some part of your business.

(I should also preface this with the fact that I recently went through this process and ultimately outsourced my social media strategy to an expert.)

Be Less Scattered: This, to me, is benefit numero uno. The name of the game for the majority of entrepreneurs is that we have to work a hybrid lifestyle while we get our businesses up to “Fully Rocking It” mode. I work part-time now, but I remember last year when I was working full-time on my business and full-time for a client in event services, I raced around NYC like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Racing home to reopen the computer and begin a whole new day with a whole new skill set (ordering wireless internet at a hotel is a litttttle different than working with clients on their careers!). And you know, even at part-time, some days are still like that. It’s how it is. So I finally got to the point where I said to myself that I can’t change the go-go-go nature of my coaching practice, but I can change how I manage it. And I began to think about what I could outsource.

Have Peace of Mind: Tweets, Pins, Posts, Digg Ins (whatever that is), etc are not my bag. They’re just not, and I was trying to make it my bag. Do I think social media is an amazingly rad way to get the word out there? Yes. Do I see amazing work being done by others on these platforms and can it also be a great way to network? Double yes. Do I like the actual act of crafting the perfect tweet or post? Absolutely not. Why continually try to ram a square hole into a round peg (or is that square peg into a round hole?)?

It took awhile, but I finally started listening to my visceral reaction of ‘meh’ on Sundays as I’d sit down to craft my social media strategy for the week. It took me way too long. My point being maybe for you, that thing is writing marketing copy, or maintaining your schedule/email responses. Whatever it is, it can be mind-shifting to recognize what’s that one (or two, or three) thing you really dread doing. Write it down. We’ll come back to it in part 2 of this series.

Open Yourself Up To Greatness. Not that you’re not already great. But the point here is, what else can you be spending your time doing if you free your time up from <insert your answer above here>. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but since I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve been able to research more, work on developing more programs to serve my clients (which is the whole point of this for me, by the way), go to more events and…be less scattered.

Leave it to the Experts….and See Real Results. As an entrepreneur, solopreneur, or intrapreneur, you have the vision and the drive and the resilience and the passion- all pretty much required for this gig. But nowhere does it say that you need to be the expert in all aspects of your business or that you need to maintain control over everything. I get it- it’s still hard for me as this is definitely a WIP. But leaving something in which you don’t necessarily have domain expertise to someone else has the added benefit of getting your more/better results in that area.

What aspect of your business have you had trouble letting go of and why? You can also answer this if you run a business unit or project team at a company. Leave your comments below!

 

I Want To Do X, But I Don’t Have The Skill Set. Where Do I Start?

If I had to pinpoint the top three things I am asked as a career coach, I’d say in that top three is this very important issue. Essentially it’s summed up as follows: You decide you want to do something different that takes additional skills outside of your current core competencies. How do you do this? I recently was one of the career coaches for my alma mater’s virtual networking hour “Ask The Coach”, where people ‘stood in line’ to meet the coaches for 10 minute chats. This was the most talked about issue in that hour.

 

So, while each career path and skill development path is different depending on the person and the career, below are some general tips that can bring you a long way in terms of that ultimate goal of developing the relevant skills to make your move:

Do Some Research: First things first- does this new skill set entail going back to school and getting an advanced degree? Can it be done through on the job training and learning? Are a few seminars enough to get you started? What internships are out there that could be a part time foray into this new life? Have I overwhelmed you with questions yet? We’ll start to answer some of them below, so don’t worry.

For me, making the leap to coaching from event production did end up necessitating going back to school to become certified. I researched various programs, talked to various people in my network and made the decision to enroll in the right program for me.

 Acknowledge the Power of LinkedIn: Ah yes, Almighty LinkedIn. It’s a powerful tool that can help you see the lay of the land in terms of who’s doing what, what companies are hiring for this area and more. I’ve recommended some of the following for my clients (and myself!)

  • Check 1st degree connections for people you already know with the relevant skill set. Connect with them and ask for a few minutes of their time to understand their career path/skill development ‘journey’
  • Check 2nd degree connections for the desired skill set and ask for e-introductions to have the same sort of conversation as outlined above with your 1st degree connections
  • Join relevant industry groups and send relevant people personal notes asking for a 15-20 minute call or email exchange. You don’t have to be 1st degree connections with someone to message them if you’re both members of the same group
  • Believe it or not, people generally are interested in helping others, especially if they love their career and want to share that passion with others interested in getting into their line of work. I get lots of messages from prospective coaches or coaches in training and I answer every single one.

Connect With People Doing What You Wanna Do: The LinkedIn connecting tips above are valuable, and continue that with live events or other opportunities. Check out your alumni association list for relevant related people and reach out to them. Whether you’re at an industry gathering or meet someone who can help you at a mac ‘n cheese eating contest in Brooklyn, follow up! Show enthusiasm for what they do and make a connection through which you can follow up later.

Ask For Support: If the new role you want to get into is also at your current company, ask if you can shadow someone doing it or be part of a project team working in that area. Chances are your manager/company wants to retain you and may be open to enabling you to develop this new skillset. You’re still working in your current job, getting new skills and getting paid for it. Pretty rad and a pretty good win-win.

Attend Events: Determine whether you want to set aside a budget to attend industry conferences or travel to events where you can hone/gain new skills. Also, don’t underestimate the power of webinars, many of which are free to learn more about your skill area. There are also reasonably priced courses all over the place. Depending on your industry, Skillshare (www.skillshare.com), General Assembly (https://generalassemb.ly) and more offer great, affordable classes and workshops to begin to take your skills to the next level. And if you’re in NYC, I recently discovered Brooklyn Brainery (http://brooklynbrainery.com) where I took a design thinking workshop last week.

Be Patient: Keep in mind above all else that this stuff takes time and you’re taking the first big step to getting there- congrats! With some diligence and tenacity on your part, you can bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. It just takes time, yo.

Give Back: If you’re able to provide something of value to those from whom you are asking for time and insights now, do it! If you can’t and this is just a one-way thing right now, remember that someday you’ll be in the position where someone wants to learn how you got to be doing what you want to do, so remember to try and pay it forward.

What has worked for you in the past when you were trying to break into a new skill set? What was a complete dud? Leave a story or question in the comments below!

The Secret to Successful Follow up

As a career coach, a lot of my clients have come to me for…well, career-related issues. Some are starting their own businesses (yay, entrepreneurs!), some are looking for a new job and some are transitioning into a new career that is more in line with who they really are.

Here’s the thing about all of those cases: they take work. They take persistence and tenacity (which coincidentally are the same thing) and they take a very unique degree of dedication to the task at hand. And they take follow up. 

follow-up

image courtesy of www.automationheroes.com 

People sometimes cringe at the word, and that’s understandable considering how we often equate follow up with pestering. But what if I told you there was another way to look at follow up to make progress in your business, transition more quickly and more painlessly into a new career or secure that new job of your dreams?

For The Biz Owners: It can be intimidating to go out there in the big bad world and do your own thang- believe me, I know! I’ve worked out a few strategic partnerships for my business and some of the no brainers I’ve seen work in this process are as follows:

  • Offer something new with each communication: Sounds simple, yet many people just simply write, “I’m writing to follow up on X and was wondering what you thought….” No! A great general rule here is to offer something new each time you follow up. When I was working on a partnership with a local business to hold health and wellness workshops, my follow up was varied. One communication, for example, was a forwarded email of workshops another neighborhood business was doing. In other words, people want this kind of workshop and others are starting to catch on.
  • Build The Relationship: These things take time, and every time you see the person or owners of a company with whom you want to partner, do yourself a solid and don’t talk about what you’re waiting to hear about from them. I saw said person at a pilates class and we talked about upcoming vacations, her new hair style- basically anything but what you so desperately want to secure an answer about!
  • To Reiterate, These Things Take Time: Just knowing that can help take some of the pressure off yourself. One of the partnerships that is still not finalized has been in the works since the holidays. You don’t know all the ducks they have to get in a row, and that’s ok. A little patience (as I’ve found out) can go a long way.
  • Make the Last Time You Follow Up Count: Ok, let’s face it. Not everything you think should be a partnership will necessarily be felt the same way by the company or group you are courting, and as a result, you might not be getting a response. That’s ok. But if you’re like me and want to effectively close the door (while keeping it a little ajar), a solid final follow up could be, “I’m really excited about the prospect of doing XYZ, as a I think there is a need for something like this. I’d be delighted to partner with you for the reasons ABC. I did want to let you know I plan to approach other businesses with this idea since it’s so important to me, so please let me know if this might work.” You’re being straightforward, sharing why it’s important to you to pursue this (aligning your values in other words) and being clear about next steps, while keeping the door open!

For The Job Seekers: I get a lot of questions regarding appropriate follow up following the submission of an application or following the actual interview. While I don’t believe there is any rule of thumb, per se, here are some of the techniques that have worked well for me and clients:

  • Be Up Front: About your desire to receive feedback or a response to the outcome of the interview process. Ask for an appropriate timeframe for when you should follow up or if they will be responding to you.
  • Build a Relationship with the Hiring Manager: When I was in the hiring manager position, I encouraged people to follow up directly with specific questions and often gave interviewees my business card. If you gauge that the interview is going well, ask for it. Speaking from the perspective of someone who was running around from meeting to meeting all day, the interviewer might not remember because they’re thinking about their next meeting. Then you have the deets and the implicit permission to follow up with your would-be boss directly! Voila!
  • Stick with the Follow Up Plan: Nothing says you mean biznass more than sticking with what you said you were gonna do. If the conversation ended with the company saying  something to the effect of “If you don’t hear from us in a week, feel free to follow up,” then do that! Again, you’ve been given permission to do this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people not follow up because they were fearful of sounding like a pest. If you really think you’re a good fit for the role and would add value, you’re doing the right thing by checking in- you and the company would be a great fit for one another, so go for it! Also, while you may be waiting with baited breath for a response, keep in mind that they’re not.

For The Career Changers: Changing to a whole new career takes a lot of legwork, man. I get it. There will be a significant investment of time making connections with people already in that career and sometimes, those people might not respond to your requests to connect. Some ideas for you awesomely brave Career Changists out there:

  • Offer Something in Return: Check out their LinkedIn profile or web presence ahead of time and see if there’s some skill you have that can potentially help make their job easier. For example, if you’re a social media guru and they have a presence on the web for their business, offer that up at the meeting if appropriate.
  • Suggest Something Specific: At the end of my emails when I was looking to change careers was always something like this, “As a next step, I suggest setting up a X minute call to discuss A, B and C. If that’s something you’re able to do, please let me know a few times in the next 2-3 weeks that work for you, and I’ll make it happen!” In other words, they know exactly what to expect and they also know that you will be flexible in your schedule to accommodate theirs.
  • Make it as Easy as Possible for The Other Party: If meeting for coffee, go to their neighborhood. If a phone convo is in order, a lot of the above can apply.

These are just a couple of tips under some of the various career issues with which I work with my clients. There are many others, of course, and I help them figure out what follow up path works best for them and for their situation. But I’m interested in hearing your follow up success stories! Please include one in the comments section below to share!