General Career Coaching

How to Figure Out the Work You’re Wired For

The world of work, at its most fundamental level, boils down to four focus areas: Working with peopleideasthings, and data. Most people are oriented to more than one.

The first step in discovering what you’re wired to do best is decide which of these resonate most with you.

PEOPLE FOCUS (leading, caring, supporting, serving, selling)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a people focus:

  • Entertain a Child
  • Listen to a friend’s personal problem
  • Teach someone how to do something
  • Help someone who is sick
  • Lead a group or club activity
  • Run for an office
  • Work with the public


DATA FOCUS 
(numbers, facts, filing, procedures, inspecting)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a data focus:

  • Research a topic of interest to you
  • Be a treasurer of a club
  • Work with scientific experiments
  • Work with numbers/statistics
  • Figure out a car’s gas mileage
  • Balance a bank statement
  • Write a computer program


IDEA FOCUS
 (knowledge, theories, creativity, insights) 

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have an idea focus:

  • Decorate a room
  • Write poems or stories
  • Publish a newsletter
  • Write lyrics
  • Perform or act in a play
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Invent a new product


THINGS FOCUS
 (machines, tools, animals, natural resources, creating items)

 If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a things focus:

  • Bake a cake
  • Repair a car/machinery
  • Sew or make crafts
  • Build something from wood
  • Take care of animals
  • Do landscaping or lawn care
  • Operate camera or video equipment


As you combine categories, it starts to reveal interesting information.

For example, if you like things, such as computers and software, and ideas, then a more creative endeavor would be in order, such as graphic design to develop creative digital content using computers and software.

Alternatively, if you like people as your secondary area of focus to your primarythings focus (using the computer example), then a desk side support technician where you’re working with computers and going to people’s workstations all day, would be more appropriate.

See how the secondary work focus preference changes the primary interest considerably? 

When you combine these four areas of work focus, you end up with six kinds of job content. They are:

Realistic,  Investigative, Conventional, Artistic, Social, and Enterprising jobs.

  • realistic job is where you work with your hands or outdoors (e.g. firefighter, mechanic, contractor).
  • An investigative job is where you solve puzzles, research, detect, or experiment (e.g. police work, scientific research, laboratory technician).
  • An artistic job involves being creative, such as writing, photography, graphic artistry, architecture, or interior decorating.
  • social job involves serving society, such as teaching, social work, counseling, health care, or a minister.
  • An enterprising job is where you would make, sell, and manage a product or service.
  • conventional job is in an office such as management, financial transactions, information technology, etc.

After you’ve identified areas of focus, you can leverage  a tool called the World of Work Map to select job families that fall within your areas of focus to gain ideas of work that’s likely to be most appealing to you. This interactive World of Work Map graphically illustrates how occupations relate to each other based on work tasks.

Here’s an example from the map. I chose the Engineering & Technologiesoption under Ideas and Things:

Once you find options of interest, you can research jobs using O*Net Online, which provides comprehensive information on what those jobs entail, from salary, education required, daily tasks, and much more. In addition, you can speak to people in that line of work to get their assessment of how they spend their day-to-day at work.

For career exploration, I use a tool called the SchoolPlace Big Five Career Guider for students 14 – 22 years of age, and WorkPlace Big Five Career Guider for adults, in conjunction with a StrengthsFinder assessment.

I hope this manual exercise I’ve put together is somewhat helpful to you, particularly to early careerists, or those in career transition.

Wait! Before You Accept That Job Offer!

When you’re seeking a new job, the last thing you want is to accept a position that’s worse than one you left, or that you’d rather be unemployed than have.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to decrease that chance. Here are some things to consider:

  • Does market research reveal the salary is within fair market value for the responsibilities? Not the title — the actual responsibilities you’ll have.
  • Have they communicated all benefits? If not, hold on acceptance until you know the full picture.
  • Do you have an offer in writing? I once accepted a verbal counteroffer of promotion from my employer and turned down the other job that was two pay grades higher. The promotion had been promised without first seeking higher up approval. I never received it.
  • Have you discussed the offer with a trusted adviser? Our judgment can be impaired when we’re eager to move from a current role, or move on from being unemployed. Seek counsel from an objective person.
  • Is the salary too high? Inflated salary can be a red flag. Years ago I accepted a job that was paying $20,000 above other comparable jobs in the area. Two words: crazy town. Don’t be afraid to ask why the salary is higher than other positions to see how they answer. Also, talk to people who work there and research the culture on glassdoor.com. Yes, you have to take some online reviews with a grain of salt, but you want to look for recurring themes.
  • Are the responsibilities of the job something you can picture yourself doing every day without it putting a grimace on your face?
  • Is your partner supportive of you accepting the position?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of the reporting relationships, hours of work required each week, amount of travel, dress code, ability to telecommute, schedule flexibility, and the culture and personality of your manager and key people you’ll be working closely with?
  • Is the position a dead end, or is there a career path?
  • Is the company and position aligned to your values? Working in an environment that goes against your values will be soul-crushing.
  • Will the position harm your resume? e.g. Is it a step down from your last role? If so, you’ll have to provide a plausible reason why you opted for this role in your next job search. Or, is the reputation of the company one that could reflect poorly on you?
  • Did you have any bad vibes about the hiring manager or team members? Don’t ignore your instincts. Bad co-workers or managers can make your daily work life unbearable. If they aren’t putting their best foot forward in the interview process, it’s not going to get better once you’re on the team.
  • How well does the position match your overall needs?
  • How well do you truly match the overall needs of the employer?

If after going through this process you determine the answer is “no” you’ll want to be quick to communicate your decision.  You should be sincere and to the point. Here’s an example:

Dear Niam,                                                      

Thank you for extending an offer for the Project Manager position at Acme company. After going through the process, I’ve become aware the position will not afford the direct contact with external clients I am seeking. Perhaps another opportunity that is a strong fit for us both will surface in the future. I appreciate your time investment.

Best regards,

Kristin

Declining an offer can be hard, but if it’s not right you’ll be looking for a new job in no time, either by your hand, or your employer’s.

All the best to you!​

How to Handle People Who Reject Feedback

Giving feedback is hard for many people. And it’s frustrating to have your feedback met with resistance or hostility.

​The good news is you can do a lot to make it harder for someone to respond negatively to feedback, through preparation and delivery.

Reflect on the following before you ever say a word:

  • Have I made my expectations clear? When my oldest son reached a certain age we had different expectations around level of freedom while living at home. One weekend our expectations didn’t align and I realized I hadn’t done a good job setting forth expectations up front, or seek to understand his. Once I did, we had smoother sailing.
  • Are my expectations realistic? Ask two trusted and reasonable people if they have an alternate perspective for you to consider.
  • Am I being too sensitive? Give yourself a cooling off period to consider other perspectives. Announcing “I’m offended” is akin to saying I’m not able to manage my emotions. Yes, people say and do offensive things, but there is a space between something that happens to me, and my reaction to it. Within that space lies choice. I’m a big believer the world would be a much better place if we all had thicker skins.
  • What is my motive? Are you giving feedback out of genuine care and concern for the relationship, or with their best interest in mind? Be honest with yourself. What does your head say? What does your heart say? What does your gut say? If all three are aligned on pure motive, proceed with confidence.
  • Am I making assumptions? Things aren’t always as they seem. I recall many times I assumed and was wrong. The late, great Dale Carnegie wisely compels us to “assume the nobler motive” in others. To guard against assumptions become curious, asking questions in a neutral tone. “I think I might be interpreting what you said in a way you didn’t intend. Can we talk so I can better understand your perspective?”
  • Is this an appropriate time/place/medium for feedback? Feedback should be given privately, at a fitting time, in person. Use the phone if face-to-face is impossible. Dive-bomb feedback given before someone is about to deliver an important presentation, or when fighting a fire for a customer is ill-planned. Feedback shouldn’t be given in email or text messages. It will be misunderstood, and things will go sideways in a New York minute.

Give neutral, objective feedback.

  • It’s crucial to omit assumptive statements in feedback. You’re trying to do this, or You did this because…, or, I know you think/feel, etc. Unless you’re a mind reader, stay far away from assumptions and reference observablebehavior only. Example:

NO: “It really bothered me when you reassigned my project to Ellen. It concerns me you don’t trust me to do my job.”  ASSUMPTION ALERT!
YES“Reassigning the Acme project without providing the rationale has left me wondering if I’ve done something to lose your trust. Can you help me understand the reason behind the decision?”

  • No hyperbole, please. Magnifications and over statements such as You neverdo this, or You always do that are a problem. First, they aren’t true; they’re an exaggeration. Second, they’re inflammatory, setting the stage for our feedback to be ignored because people know they don’t always or never do anything, which weakens credibility of the feedback.

Calmly handle resistance

If you’ve provided objective verbal feedback, at an appropriate time and place, with pure motive, on observable behavior only, in a calm, neutral tone, it’s harder for someone to respond poorly. However, if it is met with rejection I recommend this approach:

  • Explain providing feedback was difficult, you reflected on the situation prior to coming to them, and you’re concerned their reaction will make it harder to come to them and have open communication in the future. You might add that positive communication and conflict resolution is critical to your collective success.
  • Remain silent. Maintain eye contact. Wait for a response.
  • If they respond favorably and soften, success! 
  • If they continue defensively, explain perception of the situation remains. Ask for their opinion on how the situation should be resolved. Remain silent. Maintain eye contact. Wait for a response.
  • If they continue to operate from a negative place, simply thank them for their time and part company.
  • Immediately document the conversation, its outcome, including their response to the suggested resolution question. Use exact phrases if possible.
  • Follow up a couple of days later and ask them if they’ve had time to reflect on the discussion, and if anything has changed. You want to allow them time to come around if they were having a bad day, or going through something you were unaware of.
  • If the original situation was serious (e.g. you were giving feedback about inappropriate behavior) and their stance has not changed, consider escalating to Human Resources or the person’s manager, along with your documentation of the conversation (which, in their own words, will demonstrate their unwillingness to resolve conflict).

Some people cannot admit their mistakes. You may have to cut your losses with these people, but don’t assume they aren’t coachable until you try. Unwillingness to accept feedback will catch up to them eventually. Congratulations, you should now be a feedback ninja!

All the best to you!

How to Get Along with Anyone

Life would be easy if it weren’t for the people…

Why do you connect with some people more easily than others? Personality.

  • 90% of problems at work are people problems.
  • A significant cause of terminations are personality issues.
  • A difficult co-worker can negatively impact satisfaction in the workplace.
  • A personality conflict with a manager can make you dread going to work.

There are always going to be people you struggle to get along with.

The most common coping mechanisms people use for personality conflict are avoidance, passive aggressive behavior, and permanently leaving the situation. The challenge with these strategies is avoidance and passive aggressive behavior worsen the relationship, and there will likely be people you don’t click with in your next environment.

A more effective strategy is learning to read and understand people, and adapting your approach to give others what they need and ultimately get your needs met in the process.

My exposure and work with the DiSC personality assessment is a significant factor in having a rock-solid marriage, and the ability to get along with just about everyone. Understanding your own personality is the first step in working more effectively with others.

First, determine if you tend to be more fast-paced and outspoken OR cautious and reflective.

Then, determine if you also tend to be more questioning and skeptical OR accepting and warm. Finally, combine the tendencies together to discover your style:

D – Dominance: direct, results-oriented, firm, strong-willed, forceful.

I – Influence: outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, lively.

S – Steadiness: even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble, tactful.

C – Conscientiousness: analytical, reserved, precise, private, systematic.

Each of these four personality types have different priorities. When you know the priorities of others, you can give them what they need to influence a better partnership.

D styles prioritize:

  • Getting results
  • Taking Action
  • Offering Challenge (e.g. challenging others with tough questions)

I styles prioritize:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Taking Action
  • Collaboration

S styles prioritize:

  • Providing support
  • Stability
  • Collaboration

C styles prioritize:

  • Accuracy
  • Stability
  • Offering Challenge (e.g. openly questioning ideas)

You’ll notice some of the styles share similar priorities. For example, I’s and S’sboth prioritize collaboration, so this is common ground they can use to get along better. D’s and C’s both prioritize challenge, and I’s and D’s both prioritize action. D’s and S’s do not have common ground on their priorities, and neither do I’s and C’s, so these personality combinations tend to have the greatest friction points.

Strategies to increase your effectiveness

To connect better with the D style:

  • Address issues quickly and directly. They will respect you for it.
  • Resist the urge to give into their demands just to regain harmony.
  • Realize that the relationship is less important than the task.
  • Avoid taking bluntness personally. It’s not personal.
  • Focus on the big picture.
  • Expect candor.
  • Make efficient use of their time: Be brief and be gone.

To connect better with I style:

  • Be open to collaboration.
  • Recognize the value of their energy and enthusiasm.
  • Find ways to recognize them so they feel liked and appreciated.
  • Expect spontaneity.
  • Show them you’re open to creative solutions.
  • Remain optimistic while considering all potential issues.
  • Let them know your relationship is solid despite differences.
  • Avoid personal attacks.
  • Acknowledge their feelings.

To connect better with S style:

  • Show warmth and concern for their feelings.
  • Address the situation directly, but avoid being confrontational.
  • Offer your point of view, but take an easy-going approach.
  • Work collaboratively with them.
  • Respect their cautious pace.
  • Set a timeline that fits everyone’s needs.
  • Avoid forceful tactics.
  • Show them you sincerely care about resolving the issues.

To connect better with C style:

  • Allow them time for careful analysis.
  • Talk to them about objective, fact-based aspects of ideas and projects.
  • Support your opinions with logic and facts.
  • Avoid using forceful or emotional tactics.
  • Give them space to process a situation before confronting the issues.
  • Show appreciation for their logic.
  • Expect skepticism.
  • Avoid pressuring them for an immediate decision.

Developing the ability to read and understand people, discover their needs and priorities, and adapting your approach to them will lead to greater effectiveness with people in every area of your life.

If you’re interested in learning more about taking a DiSC assessment and receiving coaching around your personality, motivators, stressors, and strategies for increasing effectiveness with others, please contact me through my website below.

All the best to you!​

5 Ways to Stand out at Work

The people I’ve admired most at work, and there have only been a handful, stood head and shoulders above the crowd. They were different, and I took notice. So did everyone else, and they experienced professional success. More importantly, they built a reputation that went before them.

These are the kinds of people everyone wants as a mentor. They have a “secret sauce”, so to speak.

Why do they stand out? What are they doing that everyone else isn’t? When thinking of this handful of people that influenced my operating principles, I’ve identified five relatively rare behaviors.

Sure, I’ll lend you that book…When I get around to it.

I once had a manager who stood out for being someone who took action–especially following through on things that came up in conversation. She stood out because I realized few people are truly proactive. Here’s an example: I would have a conversation with her and she’d mention some great book she’d read that was related to our topic of conversation. The next morning, that very book would be sitting on my desk with a personal note written on a post-it inviting me to read and enjoy.  Proactive people don’t procrastinate. They see opportunities, and act.

Bottom line: Be proactive. Follow through. Look for chances to be thoughtful.

Can someone help me edit this proposal? Anyone? Anyone?

Think about a time you’ve sent an email asking for review or feedback. And…Silence.

Responsive people make time for other people. Instead of operating in reactive mode, they carve out time to add value to their own day, as well as those around them. Set aside time each day to be responsive to people who ask for assistance. If you genuinely can’t provide what’s being asked for, be responsive in saying so. Don’t disregard their email. Consider offering some alternate form of assistance that you can reasonably provide.

Bottom line: Make time to be helpful and responsive.

If you don’t like me, you can go to hell.

Some of the most impressive people I’ve worked with who really stood out know who they are, and adapt their style to others. Yet, they don’t expect everyone to adapt to them, and they realize the impact they have on others when they open their mouth.

These people take time to discover the needs and priorities of their co-workers, which enables them to work more effectively with them. They appreciate the differences in others. They don’t say things like, “I don’t have to like you, I just have to work with you.” Yuck. What a low bar to set for yourself.

Some people value results and action, others prioritize enthusiasm, stability, accuracy, collaboration, or support. These self-aware and adaptive people take the time to discover what their co-workers and customers value, and adapt to meet those needs.

Bottom line: Know yourself, your impact, and also adapt to others’ needs.

I’m only like this because that’s what my boss expects.

Those who’ve left a lasting impression on me in my 20+ year career have been people who accept feedback gracefully, and truly have a desire to take a critical look at themselves based on the feedback of others. Not only were they open to feedback, but they thanked me for it, and their behavior would change in response to it.

These people had a non-defensive reaction to constructive feedback and didn’t make excuses for themselves. They understand they aren’t perfect, and have an attitude of continuous personal improvement that reflects tremendous maturity.

Bottom line: Listen, and be open to feedback.

If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

An attitude of scarcity is just plain insecure. Those who operate with a mentality of abundance, however, reap abundance in return. When my mother started her executive coaching firm, she would often teach other aspiring consultants how to go into business for themselves, sharing her tools, resources, and ideas. I remember asking her why she was training people to compete with her. I’ll never forget her response: “Kristin, my reputation speaks for itself. I have an attitude of abundance, and I don’t ever need to feel threatened.”

Wow. That attitude has pervaded my thinking thanks to her powerful example. As the saying goes, “Clenched fists can’t receive a blessing.” 

Bottom line: Share what you know, and invest in others.

What behaviors, attitudes, or traits did that person who left a strong impression on you possess?

All the best to you!