Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Category: Career Satisfaction

For the happy-hour averse

start right where you are :: INTERNAL NETWORKING

 

A few weeks ago, while prepping for a Genesys Works training session, I was pondering the program: these interns have a stunning opportunity to start building their professional networks while they’re still in high school. They learn new skills, showcase their work ethic & personalities and pre-pave the way to college internships and full time employment. I was thinking that a really savvy intern would do well to leverage the heck out of this opportunity to network.

Considering the internship program got my brain firing (because traditional external networking brings to mind cringey, superficial chats with strangers at noisy happy hours, juggling business cards, hors d’oeuvres and a wineglass):

What if each of us networked inside our own companies intentionally?
Duh! A ready-made common ground + a shared mission.

So.Simple! Find and get to know people at your company who are outside your normal work trajectory. Get to know them via a committee or project, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Soon they’ll be able to vouch for your shining personality / skills / work ethic / impact. They’ll become a part of your true network, far more likely to help you if/when you need it (and hopefully, you’ll do the same for them!).

In a job that demands every second of your day, adding internal networking might be the last thing you’d choose. But I think getting to know others makes work more fun and rewarding. And who knows where those new connections will lead? So it’s a little bit selfish, in a good way.  I’ve heard of folks who brilliantly (and often innocently) landed great new jobs and built amazing careers through internal networking. Maybe you have, too.

things you can do right now
(besides being great at your job, which speaks for itself):
  • Volunteer to help anywhere it’s needed. Join committees of all kinds.
  • Offer to research / document / investigate / figure out and report back.
  • If something is wanted or needed but doesn’t yet exist, figure it out or create it.
  • Invite someone you don’t know well to have coffee, eat lunch or go for a walk.
  • Make introductions ~ help connect others. Inclusivity is IN!

In my first year at TCF Bank, I signed on for (almost) every opportunity that crossed my path: my department’s FUN committee, the IT Hackathon planning committee; IT book club, IT donut club, IT ambassador group, IT & Friends (volunteer) committee. I even launched a new club, the TCF Travel Junkies.

I didn’t think of it as internal networking at first ~ I just wanted to be a better cultural ambassador. I’ve never been part of so many initiatives before.  The benefits? They’re plentiful: getting to know great people outside my department  = more enjoyment! When I need an answer, it’s easier to find. Or when I want to get something done, I have a friendlier ear. I get to reciprocate, which also feels fantastic.  Not to mention enjoying the results of our efforts. As far as stepping out of my comfort zone? It feels a little awkward at first. And then, it’s 100% satisfying.

“Your network is not people you know; your network is the people you know who are willing to help you.”  ~~ Sol Orwell

A communication tool is helpful (we use Slack). A core group of networking-minded people helps — there are many in my company who are committed to fostering a collaborative culture. They generously share their connections and are a huge help & inspiration. But even if your company isn’t similarly inclined, you can (and should) branch out.

When you work alongside someone, you get to know them in a different way than if you’ve just chatted over drinks at some industry event. And since we  (usually) have just one boss and one team of peers at a time, we exponentially increase the number of people who know our work when we work on initiatives and projects outside our our normal scope.

It takes extra time & effort to be involved, but it also saves time: answers come more quickly. Folks with whom I’ve worked on projects are more likely to jump in when I need help. There’s a sense of fun and camaraderie.

There’s still a ways to go before I know everybody, but the gap is narrower than if I just did my job day in and day out.

Some bad news: you’ll still need to occasionally attend external networking happy hours. But with intentional internal networking, you’ll need it less.  So start building meaningful connections where you are. Get out of your office / cube / comfort zone and GET INVOLVED!!

I help mid-career professionals figure out their brand, get connected, and launch rockets of all kinds.
Want to chat?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-strings-attached intro call.

Wait…Job-Hunting is Like DATING?

How to deal with stuck
(because sometimes it feels like it’ll last forever)

Have you ever been doing everything right in a job search and then suddenly and for no apparent reason things came to a screeching halt?

You got your resume & LinkedIn profile all spiffed up, discreetly let a few friends and former co-workers know you were on the market. You found great jobs & applied to them. Had an interview or two, maybe even the promise of an offer. Things were going great. “What’s all the fuss?” you wondered, “This is easy!”

And then, ghosted.

It happens without warming: a search that’s humming along nicely goes silent. Nobody replies to emails (or worse, you get an inane hard-to-interpret reply). Offers are stalled, all activity just STOPS for no reason.

It can be freaky.  Because Waiting is the Worst.

You want to know what you did wrong. Did the market change and now the job’s being done by robots? Naturally, you want to DO something to end the torture and shake things loose.

This probably won’t surprise you, but job hunting is a lot like DATING: it’s designed to rattle you to your core (kidding, not kidding).

But seriously
  1. Don’t take it personally. Stuck happens. Sometimes it has zero to do with you. Hiring is important, but when a company has an ‘all hands on deck’, candidate interviews are the first thing to get pushed back.  So maybe it’s not you, it’s them.
  2. Walk away for a bit. Cosmically, detaching makes you mysterious and alluring. Oh, wait, that’s dating. Well, it’s also true for job-hunting: something magical happens when you stop pushing.
  3. Date around. Give your mission a little time off (you’ll know when you’re ready to get back to it, because your curiosity and enthusiasm will return).
  4. Once you’re not feeling even the slightest bit pissed off or stuck, take a tiny step forward. Do something silly, like applying for a job you’d never consider: zookeeper or barista or dog park attendant.

    See, you have to show yourself it’s not all that heavy and serious. Like “Tag, you’re it”, then you let it go. Forget about it. A playful touch is super important. Like in dating, “I’m interested, but I don’t NEED you.”

  5. Repeat. And keep having fun, staying curious, not being in a rush.
  6. Remind yourself you have valuable skills and that things always work out: yup, even when there seems to be no movement.
    Because you do, and they do.

Those are arugula sprouts, by the way. I love arugula. You know what else? Seeds take time to germinate. Just like the efforts you’re putting into your search (or dating).

We get tons of social cues to push on (damn Puritan work ethic). So it’s not your fault for wanting to muscle through.

But for god’s sake, when you’re stuck, take a break, will you? PS. you’re not really stopping, you’re just pausing. You’re resting a bit to let things unfold in the best possible way.

 

Does your professional brand need some love? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro conversation.

 

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.

 

I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

Is Your Job ‘The One’?

(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.

 

Creating Your Job: an Interview with Laura Frank

(plus some tips for work satisfaction)

The topics of jobs and work satisfaction fascinate me (What do you do for work? How did you get into it? What do you like about it? What do you dislike?).

It’s a good thing I fell into recruiting ~ I get to talk about jobs and work a lot. It also means I’ve had the good fortune to talk with people who inspire me with their career choices. Laura Frank is one of them.

Why? Because she has had the audacity to follow her own inclinations, creating a body of work that both satisfies AND pays her well. She didn’t just go out and look for a job that fit. She created one for herself.

Laura, who studied physics and theatre in college (more theatre, she says), wanted to get into theatre lighting. Her story of custom-designing a career by following her curiosity is fascinating. Today, she’s lighting huge, high-profile events like the Latin Grammy Awards, concerts (Madonna and David Bowie, to name a couple), films and the Olympics.

Early in her career, she deliberately chose gigs that would allow her to pick up the skills she wanted, even when they didn’t pay well or the hours were sucky. Later on in her career, she took that arsenal of skills and reinvented her work. She found new ways to use her experience. She created (and continues to create) her own job.

Now, maybe in corporate America there isn’t quite as much freedom to craft one’s own job (though I have one friend who’s done just that because she is clever and business-savvy as well as being highly entrepreneurial and a fabulous communicator).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Laura (but you’re gonna want to watch the interview ~ it’s only 18 minutes long ~ because I purposely left some out):

  • Be authentic: follow your shiny objects.
  • Have the willingness and the expertise to let your career expand naturally. Your job or career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
  • Apply for jobs for which you’re not 100% qualified70% + some chutzpah will do nicely.
  • Stay challenged. If you start to feel like you’re doing things in your sleep, let that itch to keep learning pull you out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep 6 months’ of living expenses in the bank. Think of it not as money, but as buying yourself time. Need a respite? Need to stop and learn a new skill? This ‘time’ will support you through it.

Even if you’re mid-career and can’t couch-surf through New York following your curiosity, there are plenty of things you can do right now to move in a direction that’s more YOU.

What can I do? you ask.

  • Observe yourself. What draws you? Can you take one of your interests a step farther? For example, a couple of IT directors I know have started on-the-side businesses that feed their entrepreneurial inclinations. Take a class, challenge yourself to create something (write, paint, mentor, program, volunteer), jump the tracks and invest some energy in the direction of your own ‘shiny objects’.
  • Take back some of your time so you can do this. Be honest with yourself if you’re hearing the ‘but how will I find time?’ track in your head. Even 30-60 minutes a day spent following your own path adds up. Get up earlier. Leave the TV off. Say ‘no’ to should’s. Be lovingly firm and insistent with yourself. This is important.
  • Are you in a soul-sucking job? Can you change things about it? Even little tweaks go a long way when you stand up for what you need. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be NO.
  • Realize that, like a friendship or a marriage, unless you’re Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, no job is going be your everything. Don’t expect 100% fulfillment (hope for it, but don’t put the burden of your expectations on it). Find pockets of delight in other places to balance the less-than-delightful aspects.
  • When you try something new and it isn’t what you’d expected, you must still call it a success. You have new information, you took a chance, and that’s a win.

What I’m saying (to myself as much as to you) is, since we need to work, let your work honor your creative abilities. Do your best to find work that you enjoy. Let it be something that pays well enough so you don’t have to do it ALL of your waking hours. Choose to regard your work as a craft. Learn new skills, add new tools, and experiment along the way. Don’t sleepwalk through or clench your teeth and endure your work.

As much as I would’ve liked to be an heiress or a trust fund baby, my work has given me at least as much as I’ve given it. Way, way more than just the pay.

How do you think about your job? Do you think of it as your craft? Or is it just a means to an end?

In the end, I think work happiness begins inside. And that’s whether we’re solopreneurs, contractors, or fully employed. I think it’s a decision. Choose your work.

And enjoy the interview.

Kryptonite Thinking

Maybe you just need to change your mind

There are times when life flows: appointments synch up, green lights beckon, bank accounts balance perfectly, and interactions with people of all kinds are a delight.

And then BAM! the rose-colored glasses fall away. What was flowing smoothly becomes an oozy quagmire. Interactions are jarring, sleep is disrupted, nothing seems to connect.

What happened?

Everything, and nothing. To paraphrase Max Ehrmann, author of “Desiderata”, “…no doubt the Universe is progessing exactly as it should.”

But if you have more jarring cycles than gentle ones,
the problem could be in your thinking.

What do I mean by ‘kryptonite thinking’? It’s the kind of thought that weakens resolve, rattles confidence, erodes happiness, encourages self-doubt.

Some examples:

  • Self talk: your inner voice loops on things you were told as a child: “You’re not good enough.” “You never finish things.” “Your butt is too big!” Or you’re frequently reviewing things you said/should have said/didn’t say and finding yourself falling short. OR (or!) you’re telling yourself how hard life is, struggle being a measure of worthiness (“I worked SO HARD for all this!”). Sigh.
  • Judgment track:  a running negative internal commentary on what others look like, do, or say.
  • Complaining: do you (even jokingly) natter on: about the weather, the traffic, the government, bad people, things you “hate”?
  • Comparing: looking at “what is” and finding it lacking: your salary should be higher. The house needs work. The expensive vacation was disappointing. Your butt’s still too big, even after all the dieting and exercise.

Here’s the thing:
Do any of these thoughts make you feel good?
Of course not. THIS IS KRYPTONITE THINKING.
It’s toxic. Stop it.

Stop it for two really good reasons: 1) feeling good is better than feeling bad; and 2) what you think about tends to show up.

A short explanation of how our thinking affects “reality”:

  1. All matter is composed of tiny packets of energy. These show up in either wave or particle form.
  2. Experiments have shown that these energy packets respond to observers’ expectations.
  3. When the observer anticipates the location and form of the energy packet, it obeys, converting itself from wave to particle.

They also act in surprising and random ways, sometimes even showing up in two places at once.

Weird but True: human thought affects the world.
= YOUR thought affects YOUR world.

Thankfully it takes a substantial amount of focused thinking + intentional, inspired action to change things here on Earth. But everything begins with thought.

“But won’t the world run amok if I don’t comment / judge / push back?” you ask. No, friend, it won’t. But you’ll feel awful.

The most insidious part is, once you decide how something is, you’re collapsing the quantum field (you know, the part where waves become particles). Instead of limitless possibilities, there is only the thing you decided on, and found lacking.

It’s easy to know when you’re doing kryptonite thinking:  you can tell by how you feel.

When you’re feeling glum and hopeless, or crunchy and judgmental, your thinking is out of synch with possibility. If you’re feeling neutral, at least you’re keeping the quantum field fluid. When you’re feeling happy (especially for no apparent reason), you’re in alignment with creative forces.

So talk nicely to yourself, like you’d speak to your kid or a friend. Watch your habitual word tracks: stop complaining, and if you can’t think of something nice to say… don’t. Pay attention to the ease we enjoy (electricity, heat, available food, water, freedom) and the beauty all around. Say thank you. Make a game of only noticing + commenting on the good.

Feeling happy ALL the time for fear of disrupting the creative cycle of the Universe is NOT required. It’s normal for feelings to oscillate a little.

But to uplevel your native inner state to a more harmonious one, all it takes is a decision to look at the bright side + a little (okay, maybe a lot of) practice. Declutter your thinking the way you’d clear out a closet.

Check in with your feelings.
Does this thought feel good? Yes? Keep it.
If it doesn’t serve, banish it.

Want more? Check out Pam Grout’s amazing bestseller, “E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality”.

You can change your life by changing your mind. I guarantee it.

I help mid-career professionals better tell their story.
I also offer 1:1 “Ask Me Anything” coaching calls.
Curious? Let’s chat.
Here’s a link to my calendar to schedule a free 15-minute intro conversation.

“I hate talking about myself!”

some non-cringey tips for easing into the spotlight

Little kids announce their accomplishments so easily and charmingly (maybe because they’re so dang cute). They’re matter-of-fact and completely unselfconscious.

Most grownups, on the other hand, shun the spotlight . “Oh, it wasn’t just ME, it was a team effort.” “Interviews make me so nervous – I just hate talking about myself.” “Lead a training session? That’s WAY outside my comfort zone!” (= all real-life quotes)

Is this a Minnesota thing? A gender thing? In “Rebel Talent”, Francesca Gino says, “As we climb the corporate ladder, our ego inflates, and we tend to feel even more threatened by information that proves us wrong.”

Voicing an unpopular opinion in a meeting (especially a tense one) can be unnerving. Being the focus of attention ~ giving a speech, teaching a group of strangers or trying something new (like Improv) — alarms most of us.

But a job interview carries a multi-threaded threat: we’re talking about ourselves, with strangers, hoping for a job we really want and we’re the sole focus of attention.

Talk about anxiety! It’s enough to bring out the heart-pounding, stammering, I-can’t-think-straight version of ourselves that we don’t want anyone to see.

 But consider this: if you don’t tell (or show) us, how else will we know?

You could even say it’s a little selfish to keep us in the dark. Your perspective, your path and your skills are unique. So  for the good of all of us, step out of the shadows. It’s cringe-y (but-critical) to show up and help us understand.

It could be a job you’re interviewing for. Or it could be a project you’re about to lead. A new client you’re starting to work with. Or a LinkedIn article you’re about to publish. I know — the spotlight feels alarmingly bright.

Some suggestions:
  1. Reframe it: you’re not asking (for approval, for a job, for the sale, for the audience’s attention) you’re advising (your skills are relevant, you’re the right person for this task, you’re sharing your perspective).
  2. You’re the authority: No one else knows your experience, your point of view, the way you do. You’re the best one to tell this story.
  3.  Get comfortable: you know that person who matter-of-factly talks about their  accomplishments? They do it without apology, which puts everyone else at ease. Be more like them. And (my favorite) most people think about us far less than we believe they do.
What? Get comfortable in the spotlight? HOW??

First, get clear. List your accomplishments. Something like, “I untangled the billing process and decreased my company’s reconciliation from 2 weeks to 2 days”. “I led the charge to consolidate my company’s backup tools from 8 to 1, saving $4.5 gazillion” (I made these up, but you get the idea). When I review work histories with professional branding clients,  they’re often shocked at how much they’ve done, what they know, and the impact they’ve had. You know what you know. Own that.

Side note: in a job search, highlight accomplishments where you enjoyed doing the work.

Second, add context.  Remember how we had to add facts to flesh out a persuasive speech in school? Do that here: add the details. ROI, time / cost savings, measurable impact on customers, improved scores, increased $ revenue. Make it real.

Third, practice. If you’re prepping for an interview, say your accomplishments out loud until they flow.  Tell a mirror. Talk to your dog. Say them to your smartphone, on video. Sing them.  And when you do trot them out in real life, remember to tell a (short) story or give details.

As you speak, watch for social cues. Has the data landed? If  you’re getting a blank look, ask “Does that make sense?” or “Do you need more information?” If they’re good, stop talking.

Think less about your discomfort and more about being a good steward of the data you’re sharing. When you shift focus AWAY from your angst at “bragging” (or being the focus of everyone’s attention) and TOWARD helping your audience better-grasp your message, you’ll find your nervousness falling away.

Some clarity + a little practice will make stepping into the spotlight easier. It’s okay to slip up a little. Be prepared, but give yourself permission to be imperfect.

Don’t you just love hearing different perspectives & stories? All the more when the speaker admits to being a tad nervous or unsure?

It’s what makes work (and life) interesting. So play it loud and proud! We’re all ears.

I help mid-career professionals better-tell their story. Need some help crafting yours?
Click here to schedule a no-strings-attached intro call.

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