Make Room for Our Friend Failure

I love this article and have wanted to share it for a long time.

The article is all about the key ingredient to success: failure.

After you read it, you may wonder what it has to do with career development.  To that, I say everything.

Career transitions, job searches, and promotions only occur if you first have a willingness to fail.  But it’s not just about failures.  There is another key word this article uses that I believe is critical: grit.  Grit is the ability to fail, dust yourself off, and try again.

Fulfilling careers don’t come through the blind bureaucracy of the Internet and they don’t fall into our laps.  They come through hustle, discomfort, failure, trying new things, and having some grit to start all over again.

I hear many of my clients say “I’m a terrible networker” or “I hate promoting myself.”  It doesn’t matter.  While I try to reframe my clients’ thinking on these beliefs, I know the reality is this: if you want that job and career, you have to engage in what is most uncomfortable to you.  Take baby steps or big giant leaps, but make sure you try something out of your comfort zone.  If you fail, then pick yourself back up and try again.

Are you ready to take the plunge?  Go try something new right now.  Join a group, sign up for a networking event, call a contact, ask someone for coffee, or sign up for a training course.  What is the worst thing that can happen?  You’ll get a skinned knee and you’ll watch it heal.

Happy failing.

How Do You Like Your Spaghetti?

How do you prefer your spaghetti, al dente or well done?  Did you know that spaghetti is done cooking when it sticks to the wall?  Go ahead—throw some and see if my theory is correct.  Okay, now throw 99 more pieces.

This is what we do in a career change or a job search.  We throw 100+ pieces of spaghetti and hope that one sticks.  Throw and fall, throw and fall, and so on, until the one piece actually sticks against that wall.

One job application, one new LinkedIn contact, one informational interview, one email to an HR manager, one networking event, for example, all represent those pieces of spaghetti.  It takes many throws, so keep at it!  You never know which one will be the toss that results in your new job.

When you find yourself feeling like that piece of spaghetti stuck against the wall and you don’t know what to do, find a brainstorming partner.  Ask a friend, trusted colleague or family member to help you generate ideas.  Someone who can act as a neutral and supportive party is best.  No naysayers, lollygaggers, or bloviators allowed.

Don’t forget to stretch and warm up.  Then go ahead: throw—and expect many misses.

Remember, you just need one to stick.

Wreck it Ralph

I went to see Wreck it Ralph with my kids the other day.  It is a movie about a guy who wrecks things in a video game at the arcade. He is really tired of always being the bad guy.

The good guy, Fix it Felix, is always getting pies, medals and parties. Wreck it Ralph lives in a dump and eats garbage. So Ralph decides to make a change.

His mission becomes  to change his ways. So he heads out into the world and tries new things: he hops into other games, wins a medal and helps a girl. I won’t give away the entire story in case you are clamoring to see this film.

In the end, Ralph does not change his stripes. He still smashes and breaks things with ease and regularity, but the difference is his intention. He no longer does it intending to be bad. While nothing changes, everything changes.

Ralph is like you. You can’t change your natural stripes. If you feel most comfortable working with variety and thinking big-picture, you are not going to make yourself love administrative work. It just doesn’t work that way.

Instead, you need to find your natural stripes, embrace them whole-heartedly and then go on and find how to best apply them.

So learn your lesson from Wreck It Ralph. Don’t change your stripes; instead, accept them and change your vantage point from there.

If your stripes are not accepted in your career, then make a change. I assure you, those stripes are not turning to spots anytime soon so your best option is to find a place where you are accepted.

What’s Your Midlife Crisis?

Not too long ago, I was at a kid’s birthday party talking with a dad of another child attending the event.  I mentioned that I had heard his family was moving to Maine.  When I asked what prompted the move, he replied, “A midlife crisis.”

As a person who is fascinated by people and what makes them tick, my curiosity was piqued.  I listened eagerly as he explained that he lived in DC for more than 20 years and was a writer at a high-profile magazine for a very long time.  He has dreamed about moving and doing something different for years.

A coach can never resist asking the “big” questions, so I couldn’t help but blurt out, “What held you back all of those years?”  He explained that he was worried about security; job security, health insurance, stability for his children and supporting his family.

Again, the coach in me had to probe some more.  So I asked him, “What changed your mind?”  He said his wife had told him, “If you want to do this, what are you waiting for?  When will the time be right?”  I thought to myself, how lucky he is to have such a wise woman in his life.

When I saw that dad again, the family had found a house to rent in Maine and he had a new job that completely jazzed him.  He was beaming as he told me the news.

So, my question to you is “When will the time be right to make a career move?”

I say, the time is right now.

Does a political negative campaign work…for your career?

In the climate of the election, we are all bombarded with political ads, debates, pundits and the 24-hour news cycle. One of the overarching discussions is attack, defend and go negative. Many candidates assert they will not go negative, in PAC ads or in the debates…and you get the idea. Then all of them do. It is the inevitability of the process. They have to go negative to win.

Politics and reality TV are some of the few places where negativity pays dividends. In the politics of your career, it does not. Negative campaigning, when it comes to interviews, promotions or just office politics, is not a good or viable strategy.

Let me be more specific. I often ask my clients their story. What story do you bring to the table when you talk about your career in an informational or job interview? Many times, people in less-than-ideal job situations define their career in the negative. A client might say, “I found graduate school was not a fit” or “my last boss was not supportive of my work.”

This makes sense for many reasons. They don’t like their job or their career and that negative energy is reflected in their conversations, body language and overall demeanor.

In the world of office politics, it is very easy to get negative. There is a bungled office move, an underdeveloped leadership style, or a bonus freeze, and we understandably get frustrated, complain and commiserate with colleagues.

I get it, but I don’t condone it.

Negativity is like cancer. It spreads and spreads until it consumes you and those around you. I know because I’ve been there. If you are interviewing for a job and you say that your boss did not support you, then a red flag is raised by the employer. If you spread negativity around the office, you are not going to be viewed kindly by leadership, nor are you going to be seen as a leader.

If you find yourself at this place, ask yourself what you can do about it. Is there a neutral angle you can give on your boss? Can you work through your frustrations at work or put that energy into finding another job? What choices do you have? Ultimately, that negativity does not get you a job or win you swing states. All it does is stress you out and create negative ripples extending outward that eventually you can’t control.

So unless your job is to run for office or appear on a reality TV show, stop your negative campaigning now.