For the first time in my whole professional life, I am collecting unemployment benefits. This is a first. I had lost my job back in winter 2000 and was given a severance package but moved from Boston to NY so did not even attempt to file a claim, though I guess I could have. I had a new job by January 2001, anyway, so I did not truly need the extra help unemployment could have given me.
This time around, is different. I had a full time job -my first one in a few years and then I no longer had a full time job anymore. Also, during this time, I was diagnosed with and treated for cancer - find out more about that plot twist here
When I went to the required meeting for unemployment, I was surprised at how I was treated - like a bum. I guess this is "normal" for city agencies that think of you as just a number but these were local employees to my town and they looked at me like I was dirt on their shoes. I do not at all agree with it - everyone finds themselves in tough times and, in my opinion, should always be treated with the same respect that is given, you know? So if I walk by and say, "hello" and "thank you" there should at least be a civil response given back. That is obviously neither here nor there - everyone probably has similar stories about being on the "dole" or needing help to get to their next step. There was a training on how to write a resume and interview, ironic, given I had written books about that...
I am in the shoes of countless of my clients have been before me but this time, a bit different. I had spoken about it at length regarding being a mom or having an illness here transitioning-back-to-the-workforce.html and fI can say I really never thought any of those things would apply to me.
How naive I was. After working part time and running my own semi-successful business for a few years, I was back in the game of a steady paycheck and it was good. It was also good to have a goal, to have something that was just mine. When you run a business, you belong to everyone. You want to find clients and make deals and it is downright exhausting.
I still think one day I will go back to being entrepreneurial again. But not now. For now, I am focused on finding my own next step and thinking about ways I can help others who have been in my shoes - who have had to take a leave or lost their jobs due to cancer and its effects. When your body fails you, it is not your fault. I can help others figure out how to manage their next step, after cancer. But for free.
As a project manager from (almost) birth, I have the tendency to make project plans and to do lists and more on a daily basis. I have been always focused on managing things like “projects” even before I knew that was what I was doing. When I was in college, I would know down to the day count for requirements to finish the class – like “15 days until my paper is due and 22 days until my final” this was how I compartmentalized and studied and prepared.
I took this with me in my career. It started with my graduate assistant position in Italy; there were some real initiatives I helped with in terms of building databases and tracking application processes with the Queens campus and more.
Once I started my career for “real” at Merrill Lynch in Jersey City, I knew that I was interested in building tasks and plans around activities. It was not until I got to Standard & Poor’s in January 2001, though, that I learned enough to put a name on what I was doing as “project management”. By 2003, I was applying to the Project Management Institute to get my certification in Project Management.
There are stages to projects and in order to sit for the test you need to show documented project hours in all of the stages and sometimes just doing the application process for this exam is a project in itself. As I talk in this post about project management skills and why these skills are important for YOU to learn, I have to mention that for those of you who already KNOW this to be true and are interested in achieving the PMP certification that I am offering an intensive course at Wagner College Department for Lifelong Learning to help people prepare for and pass the PMP exam (find out more here http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/pmp-exam-prep/). This course is taught by me and uses my unique learning and teaching style to get you ready to take the exam.
How can being a project manager help with your career?
For those of you who are new to your career and/or have been "typecast" in a certain role and are interested in breaking out and getting more respect, money and/or responsibility in your career, the idea of project management is something that you might want to be taught on by me. I am an expert in Project Management with over 12+ years in Corporate America as a project manager and now as an entrepreneur, I use project management skills and techniques daily to grow my business.
You should register for my upcoming seminar at Wagner College on Project Management (to register, click here http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/). I teach about the ways in which you can use these "project management" skills and how you have already been using these skills, without realizing it. Particularly for the young professional who has found themselves “stuck” in retail or in dead-end admin type jobs, this focus on project management skills training is so important to diversify and become competitive.
These skills allow for you to be a generalist, which is so important in today’s job market, while being able to apply these skills and talents to any job or industry or market. I want to also mention to those who have blank spaces on their resumes (see more here Transitioning Back to the Workforce) having this type of training for the price point we offer it for at Wagner College Department for Lifelong Learning is a great way to kick start your learning process and prepare you for your next step.
My two recent books that I have published (order today on my Amazon Author Page) have chapters dedicated to the skills needed in this job market and for your career planning process and I talk at length about Project Management and how these skills are so important. Why just read the book when you can get lessons from me in real life here on Staten Island?
Would you be interested in learning with me in person this May? Register today here http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/ and happy hunting!
How to be professional goes hand in hand with how to be a great co-worker. I think this is a topic that is a great one to give my lessons about. As a professor, whenever I say we are doing group projects almost everyone groans. People need to realize this being in groups will follow them for their whole lives. So much of our career is spent dealing with other people. Every group project in college is an unmitigated disaster yet I still assign group projects in all of my classes. Why? Because I am a jerk? No, because that is real life. You will graduate and you will be assailed by the same stereotypical group members that you had for your worst ever group project in almost every way at work. Some people do get very lucky and never deal with that dynamic again but think about it – if you have never had a bad experience with a co-worker at work, maybe YOU are the bad co-worker? (I imagine someone sitting there and thinking -- Mind = blown.)
Everyone has a horror story or just wears badges of honor from dealing with political minefields at work. If you really sit and compare your work and your place in the office hierarchy on a daily basis, you will go insane. You cannot do that. You can, however, be the best most professional version of you that you can be. You can focus on your tasks and on motivating those around you to be the best they can be, too. This is not easy.
This is being a project manager – you become responsible for the greater picture and all of a sudden ,even though you hate talking to that person you are now responsible for that person doing their deliverable. This is being in a matrix organization, too, though – you do not even have to consider yourself a project manager (trust me you are one or you can be one if you let me unlock your potential here http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/) you can just be in any modern organization with more than 10 employees. Tasks overlap and what you need done has to be done for your to succeed. Do you know how to motivate someone to do that (blogger note to self: future blog post idea).
A way to be a go-to member on any team is to be a good co-worker. You can do this by:
What do you think about these steps to being a great co-worker? Do you think it is important to be considered a great co-worker? Why or why not? Happy Hunting!
Overview on Importance of Learning
There are many ways to learn; the most important thing is to be open to learning. I think for a lot of people, the idea of new-ness is scary. I get that; I really do. As a Project Manager for my whole career, I know how much change scares people to the point that the defense mechanisms kick in and it becomes an uphill battle from day one to implement something new.
Before I even knew I was a project manager, I observed the launch of a brand new computer system while in university – this was moving from typewriters to computers for the staff of the office and it was one of the most painful things I have ever seen. The staff was predominantly older women and the idea of using a computer literally paralyzed most of them with fear. The old way of doing things was so ingrained for most of them; they had been in their positions an average of 10-15 years per person. This was not just switching a switch or pressing a button this was a radical re-learning and learning curve for brand new processes and steps.
I learned a lot just by observing. I did not understand why the training documentation glossed over the bare minimum of computer technology training that would have helped make the new machines on their desk a little less scary. I got to be a part of the training as it impacted my work, too, and I remember stopping the training and going back one on one with people on general computer know-how overviews.
The launch happened and no one was injured or hurt but the memory remained of the fear which led to stress and issues across the board. I slowly started my career in Project Management and always got rave feedback from teams because I always took the time to tailor the lessons, the training(s), and the launch to the unique needs of my user base. So much of project management is about communication and helping people learn – all of which helps people stop rejecting the change.
Mini-Case Study Review
A big part of my dissertation (drafted a few chapters only) was to be about the impact of learning styles on project success. Or something like that. The question always becomes how can you quantify. You can use Meyers Briggs or some other learning ideal to gauge success / failure rates but I did not get that far.
For what I can tell you is that being a learner will only help your career. I think this goes hand in hand with my previous post about being entrepreneurial in your career because as entrepreneurs, you are always learning. More on that post here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/manage-your-career-like-its-your-own-business-applying-entrepreneurial-traits-to-your-career
Think about how you like to learn and how you learn best; for some of you this might mean thinking back to your school days. However, if you work at a large corporation, you have probably sat through training and/or had to teach yourself something along the way. My plan is to influence you to take on these types of learning methods more often because learning is the key to career growth.
I am using the terms self-directed learning and learning from others as two learning styles to encourage. Ideally, you can and should have a mix of both learning experiences in building and growing your career.
Self Directed Learning
What does this mean? For our purposes, I am calling self directed learning something you can do for yourself. This can be done via online tutorials, reading materials and / or other things that you do on your own. This is a great way to unlock your potential and learn; you can do this at anytime and without relying on someone else to be present and/or online to do it. Also, you can learn at your own pace – if you need to go back and review previous chapters or lessons, you can do so without worrying about “other-itis” or what the other people are doing.
You can do this one on one with a book. Now, some people cringe at the sight of a book; I have never met a book I did not like. I adore reading and cannot stand to listen to an audiobook – maybe you prefer audiobooks. This is great; make the time to identify a skill set you need for your career. Remember the idea of soft skills and hard skills (more on soft skills here http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/improving-your-communication-skills-quick-hacks-to-being-a-good-communicator.
You can do a lot of self-directed learning if you think of the plan and execute on it. A good way to do this is to make a list. Make a list about what skills you are considered excellent at – are you the go to person for numbers on your team? Are you the go-to person for HTML coding on your team? Are you the “research” person; like someone needs to know how X is done in Y country and you find it? Are you natural at languages? Whatever these things are that you are already sharpest at, see if you can continue to improve on them – make yourself “known” in this field – do your research and share it in a blog or other place (post coming soon on building a brand online).
With that list, also add in the things that you are not so good at. Do you struggle with public speaking? Do you cringe when you have to write a report? Is email correspondence something you were asked to improve on? Think back to your performance review (cringe, shudder and move on) – what were you asked to improve on? And think about reviewing my tips on how to handle the performance review here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/how-to-do-your-first-or-50th-performance-review.
Now consider how you can move forward on those items – what books are available, what can you find on the web via YouTube (do not forget my YouTube channel for learning, too) and what can you do on your own to sharpen and improve those skills.
Learning from others
We are by nature sociable people (most of the time) and for some of us learning with others it the only way we stay on task and motivated. Also, it is a whole learning experience to have others taking the steps with you. Of course, as an educator, I am a great person to learn from in person or via my web channels and I am moving towards creating more interactive content and experiences for my followers. There are seminars and training courses you can take that can fit any budget (http://www.thenextstep1234.com/seminars-offered-by-the-next-step-and-wagner-college-office-for-lifelong-learning.html) and there is online and in-person options that can fit your schedule.
Identifying Your Learning Style
For this, you need to know which way is the best way for you to learn. Do you need concrete deliverables the type often found while learning from others? Or are you better working independently?
I have a quick learning story when I was leaving the country, I was 21. I had never spoken Italian – I mean, I took Italian for four years in high school and all I could do was the vowels and a prayer. Now I was moving to Italy and really wanted to learn the language. I could have went there without the language as the classes were all in English but I wanted to get “more” – that is who I am, I am a learner.
So I got a textbook or two and began studying almost every day for a few hours. I also found a tutor who was a friend of the family and went to her house once a week to study more. I literally re-wrote about 2-3 textbooks in memorization. Since this was 1998, there were limited online options for anything in terms of uhm anything so when I got off the plane with my dad I was flabbergasted with the sounds I heard coming out of everyone’s mouths; I thought maybe instead of studying Italian for the past 2-4 months that maybe I studied German by mistake. I then committed myself to doing and learning as much as I could in Italian and by 2 months of immersion living there and doing everything outside of class and studying in Italian, I was dreaming in Italian.
When I think about what I could have done with that lesson plan today with the wealth of information and “course” materials everywhere; I could have been watching Italian movies on Netlfix (still do this), reading Italian news on line (done) and watching YouTube videos, Rosetta Stone and more. Oh, and my tutor would have been someone who was fluent and would only speak to me in Italian… This is just one idea of how to use a mix of self and with others learning to move forward.
How can you use learning to identify and improve your skill sets? What do you think about learning for your career? Consider joining me in person to learn for your career: http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-workshop/ and here on Project Management http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/.
You need to stay ahead of the curve with technology; especially as women. So much that will be changing over the next 4+ years is going to impact jobs that are mainly women- dominated. So how can you prepare for this?
As an educator and a career “guru”, I will tell you that you need to continually learn and get focused on how to be ready for the changes that are coming. The only way to do this is to identify what are your skill sets that cannot be done by technology and how to apply said skills into new roles and new industries. This is not as tricky as it sounds.
A lot of work is project based; even for those who have no idea that it is – for instance, a small company and / or an old fashioned company might not realize that what they are doing with each day is a project based mentality. Even as a teacher, what we do is project based planning lessons, monitoring schedules, assessing people’s performance. The ability to identify, nurture and highlight these skills in project management can be the best way to diversify yourself and your career for your next step.
Identifying the skills around communication, teaching and management can all help propel you onto version 2.0 of your career path. Particularly if you are in the fields identified as being hardest hit by new technologies taking over said roles – those of admin, customer service, banking etc. You are already skilled in details and personality if you hold any of those jobs. However, are you ready to transition if tomorrow (or four years from now) those jobs do not exist any longer?
You need to identify who your “teacher” can be, your “Sherpa” so to speak to help you grow and guide your career. Have you considered taking a seminar with me at Wagner College for only $99 to identify your current skill sets that can be tweaked and moved over into the high demand world of Project Management?
Click here for more information:
Yes, it sounds like a doomsday prophecy but I can see it becoming true – the advances of AI and technology is astounding. There is an app that can be your own personal “concierge” and /or high powered “admin” available already and more are coming. People barely use the phones anymore for calling people and making appointments; things are done virtually via website and/or other methods of communication are used instead of direct contact.
Check out this video I made about project management, below and let me know in the comments or via any of my social media channels what you think about it. Happy Hunting!
The culture of any organization is not always very evident at first glance. It is akin to what happens behind closed doors of any family. Is there a mean person on the floor who acts belligerently (just like a family member or two we all might have) – is there a habit of non-communication regarding big changes or other events happening in the organization?
Anytime you interview somewhere, you are getting the equivalent of a Facebook view into the organization and the people. You are only seeing the “good” but every place has good and bad – the idea is to find a place where the bad is not truly bad but just the norm. For instance, any organization struggles as the needs of the company is to make money and there are maybe hundreds or thousands of employees – across the board, there will be some people who are left feeling upset and/or angry about certain management decisions that impact them. But are there systematic issues with the culture? Is the boss in charge a mean person who enjoys making employees cry? Is there a co-worker who is a little off and maybe tries on your shoes if you walk away from your cubicle (yes, that really happened – but not to me). It is important to take a strong look to see beyond what is presented to you on interviews to really see what an organization is like from the inside.
The best way to do this is to ask questions – not just any questions, but the right questions. It is also important to listen to what is being said and also to what is not being said. Can you use your abilities of listening and questioning to get a good idea of the culture before you agree to join the company?
It is also important to get a sense of the culture of the firm through networking partners –you might not know someone who works there but someone you know might and if you have been a good networking partner, you might get introductions and information from the people who currently work there. I am not saying that people will be honest and tell you the full truth but you can get insights about how things work and the real story just be listening to what is said and of course what is not said.
Recently, there has been some news reports about Rent the Runway and how everyone who worked there now suffers from PTSD due to the "mean girls" atmosphere. Sometimes, where there is smoke there is fire. It is important to read the news about the company you are interested in joining and reading between the lines of said news. Do not let things scare you off but as I have said before in other posts, always go with your gut. Sometimes, the gut or intuition recognizes a potentially bad cultural fit or something else brewing in the environment.
My career began in disaster recovery BEFORE it was called disaster recovery. In 1999, I was back from my yearlong MBA program in Rome, Italy and I was still dreaming in Italian and wondering if I should have stayed – I know it was not my path to have stayed there though for many reasons but man, do I still miss it. I always say it is like I am married to NYC but my mistress is Roma – so hard to be away and it is now 10 years since my last visit when I used to go every 6 months (purtroppo…) but life and family and work definitely put a damper on the long weekends I used to spend in Italy – yes, when I was young and crazy, I would fly to Rome on a Thursday and come back to NYC on a Monday and working again on Tuesday…
Ok, enough of my rambling – so I came back from Italy with an MBA and not real full time work experience and no matter how I packaged my time as a GA it was still only a 20-hour position and so I was over educated for more entry level positions but underqualified for the other positions. I was in a quandary and really wanted to have a real paycheck now that I was 22 and a MBA grad.
I had applied to positions from Rome but it was nascent days of email and Monster.com and I would get lots of postcards sent to my mailbox at Via Santa Maria Mediatrice, 24 with a polite thanks but no thanks sticker on it. There was no technology to do Skype interviews or to really promote myself via any social media so I had to wait until I returned home. As the first kid in my family to get a college degree and by default a lot of blue collar workers in my family, I also did not have contacts or networking people to rely on from my family or their friends.
I found my first role via a head hunter – she was a nice woman and I really had no idea what I was doing so within a month of returning home, I had my first full time job at Merrill Lynch. My department was called, “Policies and Procedures” and our task was to create training manuals that could be used if the employees that ran various trading desks and other functions for Merrill either could not come in or got fired so that someone else could step in and run the functions. It also made reference to the potential for power outages and how to manage the trades via back up power generators and small references to back up locations, as they existed.
Whenever I have talked about this position on interviews for my first step and after 9/11, I have always said that I was doing disaster recovery work before it was considered disaster recovery. I was at Standard & Poor’s during and after 9/11 and that was when I realized that wow our planning was so futile because you can have back up power generators and other policies and procedures but when the destruction and terror occurs, it a) does not really matter compared to what was lost in human life and b) you cannot plan for being able to access your other offices, etc if they are near where the destruction hits. SO now, disaster recovery was about finding non-descript office space in Kansas or Ohio and putting back up operations there…
For me as a small business owner, I to think about disaster recovery. I make backups of my online courses I set up with Wagner College and save the content to the “cloud” via DropBox. I make copies of my website sporadically and archive it as I can. I also backup my “The Next Step” folder that I work out of on my laptop to DropBox and I do this both in case my laptop is destroyed in some way (hello, two kids, lots of potential for laptop destruction) and also so I can access and work on files on the go from my iPad or iPhone.
What do you do for disaster recovery for your business? Happy Hunting!
Kimberly King has great insight on being a change agent and Monster.com's Jon Simmons addresses handling workplace conflict.
The most important thing to remember is managing emotions in the workplace. We are all human and make mistakes, get upset and sometimes even get angry but the most important thing to try to remember is to balance our emotions as evenly as possible. Especially as women, you run the risk of being called "emotional" and/or worse if you show too much at the office. It is a tough balancing act to smile and be professional if you are angry or upset. However, I think it is best to try to be on an even keel each day in the office. Save the reactions for when you are alone, write up a nasty note and then rip it up (I would say draft an email but this is too dangerous - I have heard of many people who have used their email to draft a nasty response or sound off and then accidentally sent it so be careful with the email drafting).
Kimberly King's advice is stellar about being a change agent - I have filled that role before and it is one that is treated by others as the harbinger of death, doom and destruction. Being a great communicator is so important for these types of roles and being a planner because you do have to plan for the worst (and expect the best, definitely, but just plan for the worst). Organizations resist change more than a five year old boy resists bath time - there is so much that is scary about change and people will reject it and /or try to undermine it in the hopes of the change being rejected. However, organizations need change and innovative ideas to survive and thrive. If you are a change agent, be prepared to grow a thick skin, try to handle workplace conflicts with grace and great communication. And definitely keep planning for the worst.
Jon Simmons talks about the 4 most common workplace conflicts and he talks about how NOT to react and he mentions being in 6th grade - as an educator from K-12 in addition to a college-level professor, I can agree with this. Younger students are always honest and reactive with their feelings but as we get to the older groups, there is a general consensus that you cannot yell and scream about what bothers you - there is a way to communicate that does not involve raising your own blood pressure.
A good piece of advice in the article is, âManagers don't like to get involved in workplace drama unless absolutely necessary, so only resort to this if talking to your colleague on your own isn't bringing fruitful results.â Instead, try compromise with those who do not agree with you and see if you can find common ground. For dealing with a competitive teammate, try to learn from them and see how you, too can learn to work faster and/or smarter. This is a big one - dealing with a "lazy" coworker - I agree that you should not take over doing their work because that will lead to resentment. However, this is a tricky one because as project based employees, you might need those pieces done and this is something that maybe should be escalated tactfully especially if you are dependent on that piece being done by said lazy employee before you can do your work.
What do you think about the advice in these articles? Are you a change agent? Have you had workplace conflicts? How did you handle them? Happy Hunting!
Fortune Get Buy In for your Idea
Monster.com How to Handle Most Common Workplace Conflicts
Lisa Vento Nielsen