Why Making Big Career Mistakes Is a Good Thing

job mistakes for the better

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I’m sure the title of this blog post alone has you wondering if I’ve lost my mind. But trust me, BIG mistakes on the job can actually be very positive for your career.

Part of growing your career is being willing to challenge yourself. Having a big goal – even if you blow it up on your way to get there – also allows you to learn along the journey. You’ll be enlightened by things you would have never learned if you didn’t put yourself out there.

Making big mistakes is actually one of Marilyn H. Tam‘s four life and work principles that guided her to success. In this article, she breaks down the difference between little and big mistakes, and why big mistakes are actually better for your reputation and career in the long run:

“Small mistakes are the thoughtless things we all do when we’re not paying attention… On the other hand, big, planned, highly organized mistakes are valuable… Making big mistakes is the occasional byproduct of making big strides. Big mistakes can only occur when you’ve planned and thought things through. If your carefully laid plan turns out to be a mistake, it may cost you. But it will also give you exactly the information you need to modify your strategy or change your course. You learn, you adjust, and you come back with a stronger, more impactful strategy that works. In the long run, big mistakes are the best feedback we ever get. The most successful people in life are those who make the best use of their mistakes.”

So there you have it. Have ambition. Aim high. And realize that failure IS acceptable if you make the most of it and move on.

Have you ever made a big career mistake that taught you something that ultimately was good for your career?

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Why “Just Getting Your Foot in The Door” Isn’t Good For Your Career

job search advice

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When looking for a new career opportunity, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is this: “Where do I get energy throughout the day’s work – and why?”

Uncovering what inspires you in a job is key to activating your career – because I promise, no one wants to hire someone who says, “I just want to get my foot in the door.”

Here’s an analogy. When companies are pitching against each other for a big new business win, would any of them ever plan on winning the account by saying, “We just want to get our foot in the door.”? No! They’d explain exactly what they can uniquely deliver, setting themselves apart from the competition.

In my book, From Roadkill To Roadmap, I explain how to separate the duties that give you energy and those that drain the life out of you (be careful – you may discover that not everything you do well gives you energy). I introduce the concept of Key Success Patterns, supporting clear and concise examples that you can use to support your statements in an interview. The strategies you will learn and implement will position you as a valuable contributor – not a beggar.

I then break down how to draft, refine, and find the answer to the question that prospective employers will no doubt be asking themselves about you: “Why should I hire him/her?” The key is in doing so without making you sound like a robot, spitting out resume jargon just like everyone else.

In short, this book will help you clear your mind and focus on what’s important. Find out for yourself.

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Many Companies Are Lowering Career Development Benefits

Companies Lower Benefits Like Education Reimbursement

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Whether you’re in HR or looking to advance in your career, the findings in this article are rather alarming:

Between 2010 and 2014, fewer organizations offered dependent care flexible spending accounts, undergraduate educational assistance, incentive bonus plans for executives and 529 college savings plans, according to the 2014 Employee Benefits report.

Why is this? As the article points out, healthcare and other benefit rates are increasing at a rate where companies simply can’t keep up.

What does this mean if you’re in HR?

You have to openly communicate to your company’s workforce why rates are dropping (or benefits are simply going away) clearly. If your company is impacted by such numbers, there’s no question workplace morale will be in jeopardy. Explain what your company is trying to do to combat these trends, and empower them with other opportunities they can consider individually.

What does this mean if you’re a job seeker?

Just because a company doesn’t offer company-wide benefits doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate them into your offer. If you seek advanced education or certification in your field, don’t tiptoe around it during the negotiation process. Make your desires known, and the employer may include these benefits as a part of your individual offer.

Regardless, this isn’t a trend anyone is happy about. It’s how you handle this change and take control of it to the best of your ability that will determine how it impacts your career.


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My Latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch Career Column

How To Reach Your Career Goals

My latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch career column is focused around career goals – particularly how to identify the relationship between career goals, strategies and tactics.

How do you define and distinguish among these three things? Read an excerpt of the column below, or find out by reading the whole column.


Have you ever found yourself looking back at the career goals your manager set for you 6 to 12 months ago, only to realize you are caught up in day-to-day tasks that aren’t getting you any closer to what you really want in your career?

A Career Coaching client and I recently concluded her entire career journey has never been directed by her, but by her boss and organization. While she wants to have more significance in her career, she feels stuck in support duties that don’t get her any closer to the decision-making table.

She needed a goal that was truly hers — and to reach that goal, she needed a strategy — and to bring that strategy to life, she needed tactics.

In my client’s mind, she couldn’t distinguish between her “goal” or “strategy.” She thought getting her MBA (which she did several years ago) was her goal and strategy in-one. But in reality, “getting an MBA” was a tactic. Understanding the difference is essential in reaching career success. Here’s how I recommend looking at your career goal arc. READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN HERE.

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The Problem of Routine in a Job Search

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So many of us rely on routine. It’s what makes us feel comfortable in our daily lives, knowing what to expect and giving us a sense of control in life.

But when you find yourself facing a job search, your routine gets rocked. Here’s the funny thing, though: we then find a NEW routine within that job search!

So many of us wake up, check emails, follow through with contacts, browse LinkedIn for new contact opportunities, review the resume, check email again, etc.

In a time of major change, establishing a mini-routine can help us feel good about our situation. But is it really helping?

Per this article referencing Deepok Chopra, routine can in fact become an obstacle to the way we work. How? Here are the topline answers the article gives:

  1. You miss simple mistakes.
  2. You become lazy.
  3. You stop being proactive.
  4. You’re not living in the moment.

I recommend you read the article for tips on how not to fall into the trap of routine. It’s also important to have others who will hold you accountable to your job search strategy – be it mentors, peers or a career coach – ensuring routine doesn’t ruin your search!

What has your experience been with routine in a job search?

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What “Velocity” Means in a Job Search

job search, advice, career, velocity

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There are many approaches to a job search.

But one thing people too often overlook is the speed at which they should attack their job hunt. That, in and of itself, is basically a strategy of its own!

David Dirks, the author of “Job Search Marketing: Finding Job Opportunities in Any Economy“, describes this as velocity:

In the context of a job search, velocity is the speed at which you move along the path to researching, networking, uncovering and applying for job opportunities. Job search velocity is a measure of how quickly we act on information. Whether it’s a job lead or a networking contact — speed is the key.

Why is velocity important? Dirks explains:

Velocity is a distinct advantage for no other reason than that much of your competition will be slow to react. Your ability to move on information will not only reflect your ability to make things happen, but give you the “speed to market” edge.

He gives many more insightful reasons on why velocity is key in a job search in this article, which I highly recommend you read!

How have you seen velocity play into your job searches?


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Strange Job Requests – and What HR Can Learn From Them

Insane Job Requests

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According to this article and CareerBuilder, 22% of workers have been asked to do things outside of their job description.

But what was most insightful was that many of these requests weren’t little workplace add-ons. Some of these requests are downright ridiculous!

Things like:

  • “LIKE” the boss’ Facebook videos.
  • Fire another employee – and then drive the terminated coworker home.
  • Coach another coworker on how to pass a drug test.
  • Taking a detour on the way to court to have a voodoo priest ritually bless the case.

The article has even more examples!

So what’s an HR executive to do about requests like this? For one, you can’t let it continue. Communication will be key, and the tone in which it’s delivered (especially if the culprit is the boss) must be wise.

Simply stating that some coworkers have made complaints about being asked to do things outside of their job description is a great place to start. From there, remind the person how these kinds of requests can lead to lawsuits – if that doesn’t get your boss’s attention, I don’t know what will!

But again, keep things professional, and gauge how the requests range in the context of your corporate culture.

Any other advice from you HR pros out there?


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3 Phases of the Career Transition Process

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When career change hits, you need to understand exactly where you are in the career transition process to better understand HOW to approach your next step of networking. Are you in the exploration phase, validation phase, or the positioning phase?

The Exploration Phase

You must know what your target is…eventually. If you don’t know what your target is, don’t worry! It just means that you’re in the exploration phase. Explore in detail the possible careers/jobs that you’re attracted to. Measure each one against the question, “Does this fit what I do best?” Or more importantly, “Is this a job that would give me energy and where I can showcase my passion?” Never measure against the question, “Are there any openings?” or “Do I have the abilities to do the job?”  Explore industries to see what fits YOU, your skills, culture, energy and maybe even a new passion you’ve recently discovered.  How should you explore? By asking friends you know in industries that are relevant to what you’re interested in. Ask them who they recommend you talk to, and set up a meeting for coffee.

The Validation Phase

If you feel pretty confident you know your strengths and have chosen a clear career target to investigate, then you’re in the validation phase. The key here is finding more information about your target by further reaching out to people currently doing the job you want to have. Again, you’re still trying to answer any questions you may have about the industry. But at the same time, you’re building a foundation of people you can later reach out to if you come across a position.  You’ll be in their mind if they expand their department, or the next time they hear of an opportunity!

The Positioning Phase

This stage helps us get real. For example, you may determine the niche you think you’ve carved out doesn’t have a lot of potential. Once you’ve picked a target, you need to identify company targets and see how many positions each target company has in the geographic area you seek. For example, if you want to be a graphic designer in St. Louis and there are only 50 graphic designers in the city, then positioning yourself successfully in this field – realistically – may take pretty long. But if there are 200 graphic designers in the area, there’s going to be a lot more movement. More re-organizations. More turnover. More opportunities for you. In this phase you will meet with the hiring Manager/Director/VP/CEO and position yourself as the expert – the one who can be the aspirin to their headache.

If you’d like to read more about the career transition process and similar insights, check out my book, From Fish Story to Success Story.


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Networking Secrets Everyone Should Learn in Their 20s

career advice, networking in your 20s

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Not in your 20s? Don’t stop reading!

Even if you’re well into your career, networking is no doubt still integral into your future – and it NEVER hurts to go back to some basics.

I came across a Business Insider article about “7 Networking Secrets” for people in their 20s, and it got me thinking that while everyone SHOULD learn these secrets when their starting their career, many of us never did.

The point here is not to look back and say, “Oh, if I had only known this earlier!” The point is to realize how some very simple, foundational networking principles can apply to your at any point in your career.

Here’s a taste of Business Insider’s tips:

  1. Effective networking involves focus, attention and strategy.
  2. There is a direct relationship between networking strategically and increased income.
  3. Keeping in touch with former alums and colleagues is money in the bank.
  4. Paying it forward pays off.
  5. Collecting business cards is better than handing them out.
  6. Forget the elevator pitch. Find commonality.
  7. Don’t just network with people you like and people like you.

Check out the article for more insight into each of these tips, and let me know what you wish YOU would have learned about networking early in YOUR career!



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7 Tips For HR Managers Implementing Change

change ideas for human resources

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I’ve often blogged about how you can manage change in your career individually, and how managers can effectively implement it within their team.

But what about the Human Resources Manager whose job is to assist other workplace managers in directing change through the organization? HR often plays a very big role in change implementation, and how the approach it must be unique.

This article does a good job of listing 7 pieces of advice HR managers should pass on for success in the area of workplace change:

1. Acquire broad-based support. Change programs often lack buy-in from those affected by them. Sharing responsibility during the change process generates the involvement needed to ensure success. The more involved others are in the change effort, the more supportive they will be.

2. Ask employees for solutions to problems. One of the biggest complaints employees have is that they feel they do not have input into decisions that affect them. Present the problem to employees and seek their input into potential solutions, rather than issuing top-down directives.

3. Build a mandate for change. Leaders need to encourage others to accept change and help them understand its benefits and advantages to the organization as well as to them. Outline where everyone fits into the implementation of the change.

4. Lead by example. Changes, especially ones that may be painful for employees, will be more successful when management leads by example and shows how they are also being affected.

5. Manage the impact of change on others. Change requires patience and a willingness to give it the time it requires to succeed. Managers must deal with a wide range of others’ emotional reactions to change.

6. Communicate fully and frequently. Much of the fear surrounding change is fear of the unknown. Both the benefits and any possible disadvantages of change programs must be communicated to all employees.

7. Provide a forum for reaction. Employees need an opportunity to share information with each other and management, to ask questions, and to discuss issues of concern. Employees’ comfort level with change rises when information is shared, questions are answered, and concerns are addressed.

If you work in HR, what other ideas do you think should be included here?

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