Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Career Advice Part 1: Don’t Settle

I’m going to veer a little bit from the primary mission of this blog (leadership development) and offer a 5 part series of career advice posts.

I do this with some hesitation. There are hundreds of career advice blogs out there already. For a good sample, start with Alltop’s collection of career blogs. I’d also recommend signing up for the new SmartBrief on Your Career free daily newsletter.

The point is, I can’t even begin to compete with some of my favorites like Anita Bruzzese, so I won’t even try. I humbly bow to their expertise.

However, I have picked up a few strategies that have worked for me over the last 30 years, and I love to give advice and help others. So I guess that sort of qualifies me.

Here’s part 1 of 5 – I hope you enjoy.

Career Advice Part 1: Don’t Settle
This last December, I was in my office with my nose to the grindstone cranking out new ways to develop leaders for the coming year. I heard a horrible noise coming from the lobby and went out to investigate. It was a rag-tag collection of employees with Santa hats singing Christmas carols in the lobby of our corporate headquarters. There were a couple Vice-Presidents in the chorus, children of some of our employees, and anyone else they could round up that could carry a tune.

I’m kidding about the horrible noise – they were actually pretty good. I looked down below on the first floor and saw the buffet tables and carving stations being set up for the annual employee holiday lunch. These lavish spreads are set up in every one of our major facilities. Santa Clause was going around with a cart handing out cookies.
As I leaned against the wall with my co-workers and took it all in, a warm feeling came over me. Could it have been heartburn – or heartfelt emotion?

I realized how far I had come since I quit my last job to join this company. At my last company, the holidays meant layoff season. I would have been firing employees as a manager or HR manager, watching my co-workers walk out, or worrying about losing my own job. No Santa Claus, no cookies, no carols.

It was at that moment that I realized what an impact a job can have on who you are. It affects your attitude, your values, your relationships, your self-esteem – just about everything that matters. I realized that I had changed significantly – very gradually without even realizing it. I had become a better person, and a much better leader.

At the time I left, I didn’t realize how much that job was affecting me. The primary reason I left was due to a lack of *support for training. Looking back, I now realize I had become hardened, cynical, mis-trusting, and somewhat selfish as a leader. Thanks God I made the decision to get out. It was a tough decision at the time – I left a high profile job and was making good money. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

So here’s my career advice to all of you: Don’t settle for a job that’s making you miserable. Because it’s not just a job – it’s a huge part of your life, and unless you’re coated with Teflon, a bad job could turn you into a bad person. Life’s too short – no job is worth selling your soul.

Yes, I do realize there’s double-digit unemployment right now, so many of you are lying low and waiting for the economy to improve. That may be a wise strategy for now, however, the 22 Best Companies to Work for currently have at least 500 opening each, totaling more than 87,750 jobs!

Who knows – maybe one of those is hiring managers is looking for you.

If this Careerbuilder commercial from last year's Super Bowl reminds you of your job… then maybe it's time.

I can’t wait to see this year’s Super Bowl ad. You can vote for your favorite here. I like Job Fairy.

* Happy ending note: I’m proud to say I’ve found a company that very much supports training. I’ll be going to San Diego next week to the Training 2010 Conference to accept our Training Top 125 award. We don’t know where we’ve placed yet, but we’re usually in the top 50. Know any good restaurants? (-:

Stay tuned for Career Advice parts 2-5 in the upcoming weeks.


Lisa Rosendahl said...

It's ok to stray - looking forward to parts 2-5 and learning from your experiences Dan.

DC Jobs said...

Obviously, right now, many job seekers would be happy just to find a job. But for the long term, I agree with your advice. Life is to short to put up with a job that eats away at you.

Duncan Brodie said...

Excellent post and really enjoying getting your content.

Always really insightful posts with vluable hints and tips.

Keep up the great work.

Duncan Brodie
Goals and Achievements

Aaron Windeler said...

Great story.

I hadn't really thought about it until this post, but having the right job is a major part of Buddhism. "Right Work" is one of the eight parts of the "Eight-fold Path" which is supposed to lead one to Nirvana.

It is amazing how little thought (beyond pay level) most of us give to our work - where we spend 40+ hours per week

Anonymous said...

This really resonated for me and reminds me of 8 years i spent with a company in a toxic environment. Why did i stay 8 years? Because i couldn't see that the person i had become needed to get out but i did know i was under huge stress. Eventually "to thine ownself be true" gave me a wake up call when i realised i was so stressed because what i was becoming was so against my core values. Best decison i ever made and now run a very successful company of my own, and always remembering what not to do.

Thanks for this post. Generally love your blogs but this one in particular stimulated me to post this comment. Great indeed. Marisa

Unknown said...

Dear Dan,
I read your article with great interest. Gives a glimpse of hope (at least to some of us) in these rather gloomy (job-wise I mean) times. I got a couple of questions, though:
1) How come with all your expertise you found yourself working a job you ended up hating so much?
2) How can one research beforehand what kind of Co. he/she is getting him/herself into?
Looking forward to the next installment of your series.

Peter Zuev

Dan McCarthy said...

Lisa -
Just a little detour. Thanks.

DC jobs -
Right, we all need to "settle" now and then out of necessity - I sure have.

Duncan -

Aaron -
I just looked up "eight-fold path" and read it - pretty interesting. Thanks.

Marisa -
Thanks, I'm glad you decided to leave your first comment. And what a great story - thanks for sharing.

Peter -
Good questions.
1)Take a look at Marisa's comment - she's been there.
I have to say I never really HATED my job. In many ways it was a great company - it just fell on hard times (and disruptive technology). There were parts that I loved - global responsibility and travel, cool products, and some really awesome people and brillant leaders.
It's kind of like the frog in the boiling water parable - it happends so gradulally, you adjust, and don't even realize how bad it's getting.
2)With the internet, there are so many ways to look before you leap. Do your homework, and talk to a few employees if you can.

Anonymous said...

I have always expected to get as much out of my "job" as it gets out of me. I express myself and give fully of myself in everything I do, work included!It is challenging to live by this standard when my workplace and I aren't a good fit. Overall satisfaction with my work environment is a priority, so I always select where I work with care. Thank you for bringing up the idea that organizations don't just choose their employees, employees get to choose them, too!

Marne Stillwell

Unknown said...

Very inspirational. Thanks I'll send this to my fiance. She's been trying real hard to get where she wants to be and keeps ending up in grinder jobs.

More importantly on your last request: Dining in San Diego...

There are many great local establishments and it really depends on your tastes and budget.

High rollers can eat at fancy restaurants in La Jolla such as George's or in Del Mar at Pamplemousse Grille.

You may be stuck downtown near the Gaslamp. Morton's is great for steaks. The Field is a nice Irish Pub. Nicky Rottens has good burgers. Fred's Mexican has great margaritas. Try to steer clear of the fancy restaurants on 5th not listed - most are overpriced and mediocre.

If you like beer, venture out to a place called Hamilton's in the South Park area or it's cousin in the University Heights area called Small Bar. Small serves only grass-fed happy cows - good burgers.

If you like charcuterie, go to The Linkery in North Park.

If you like Chinese go to Convoy - the street and check out Jasmine or China Max. They're both great. Again across from Jasmine is another beer bar with an awesome "Stilton Burger" - place is called O'Brian's.

If you prefer there are several locations called "WineSteals". Great atmosphere, good wine selection, and great flatbreads and cheeses and goot NY pizza.

For the best pizza in town go to "Bronx Pizza" in Hillcrest on University.

For the best - and largest - breakfast - go to Hillcrest and eat at Hash House. That place is amazing. Get there early because people will line up for 2 hours to get in there - at least on the weekends.

Last but not least, Mexican Food and San Diego Baja style:
Go to Ocean Beach and eat at the end of Newport at this bar called ... - Best fish tacos ever.

For the best soups - chicken tortilla and many others - La Especial Norte on the Coast 101 Hwy in Encinitas - neighborhood called Leucadia. It's a real cool neighborhood with character.

That's all I have time for - I just finished lunch and I'm hungry again.



geekcoach said...

Good post! Life is too short to spend so much time in a company you hate or even in one that is just okay. Work can be inspiring and challenging and fun if you enjoy what you do and where you do it. Sometimes folks need help to figure out what they want for their career. I recently posted about career assessments (some free and some not) that can help people learn more about themselves and get insight into good career choices. The posts are aimed at geeks, but could work for anyone.

Geek Coach

Dan McCarthy said...

Marne -
Sounds like a good code to manage your career by.

Cory -
Wow, that's awesome! Thanks so much for the list. I printed a copy and will take it with me. How did you know all my favorite foods? (-:

Geek Coach -
Thanks. So how do I know if I'm a geek? Or if I had to ask does that answer my question? ([: said...

Nice post, Dan. Can't wait to read the next four.
best, GL HOFFMAN the job search engine ONLY jobs from company websites/career portals

Anonymous said...

Dear Dan,

I cannot agree more that your job is a huge part of your life. Frankly, I've been stuck at a company when Christmas time comes around it's literally lay off time. Heck, I worked extra 20 hours a week during this past holiday season. I am actively looking for better opportunities but given the recent downturn I had no luck. Any suggestion besides using Career Builder and other similar websites to locate probable positions? Great post by the way, I can't wait for part 2.

Best Regards,

Dan McCarthy said...

GL -
Thanks. #2 coming today.

Jason -
About the best advice I could give you is to network - that's how most jobs are found. I wish you all the best!

Jessica said...

This is a great article. I think sometimes we all get stuck in a rut and forget that this is our life and we shouldn't settle. It is a great reminder especially in hard economic times like this that just because things get tough doesn't mean we have to settle and let the negative flow into our own lives. I did work for a company that made me miserable or I should say allowed me to let myself be miserable. It was not until I left that company and now am part of an amazing company that I saw how much a negative attitude in your career can affect the rest of your life.

Thanks for sharing your experiences Dan I cannot wait to read the rest of the series!