A Career Smarts MUST: Complete Your Career Reality Scorecard!
Blog series #OwnYourGrowth with live Q&A based on the book:
Career Smarts - A Guide to Getting Career Utopia
This is the 2nd blog from my book Career Smarts. As always, I will attempt to cover some of the key take-aways in owning your growth and getting the Career you want in this upcoming blog series including:
Secret Get-Ahead Skills Every Employee Needs
Insider Tricks and Career Hacks from the Placement Expert
Real Life Examples & Practical Dialogues To imitate
Bonus Chapter, Your Manager’s Perspective
Feel free to read along with us as we explore and discuss upcoming chapters and case studies of how to use these practical tools and applications. Up next, what's holding you back.
As always, I will be answering questions from the social media audience as we go! Got a question before we start? LetsChat@Quaintance.co or post it in your comments below!
Take Inventory: Career Reality Check
I have one question for you: how do you feel about your career?
Are you stoked each day to head into the office and give it your all? Maybe you’re a bit more ambivalent – not truly passionate about your job, but you do what you have to do and it pays the bills. After all, it’s not that bad to simply go through the motions … right? Or, perhaps things are a bit worse and you absolutely dread going to work. Just be honest. If the answer is yes, don’t feel too badly. You’re not alone.
Your job pays the bills. You don’t want to rock the boat. Sometimes it’s just easier to follow the expected path, staying the course and not questioning the rules. Get up, go to work, go home, feed the kids, check email, throw out the junk mail, go to bed and do it all again tomorrow. You’re pretty positive you can’t really change anything anyways. And you don’t have time to stop and think about it, or your work won’t get done, right? Well, all of this might be true. Or … it might be nothing but a bunch of excuses. Either way, it seems pretty harmless to ask yourself: how do I know I’m achieving what I want?
Don’t worry, this is not the point where I tell you to pull out a blank sheet of paper and draw your Career Utopia. “What do I want?” is a loaded question with a fuzzy answer for most of us. (Heads up, I do ask you to that in Chapter 3, but by then you’ll feel much more prepared. I promise.) Figuring out what you want – whether it be in a relationship or your career – can feel overwhelming.
Let’s be honest, we don’t normally stop to reflect on what makes us happy unless something derails our path or throws us off our hamster wheel. Becoming a parent, losing a loved one, confronting an unexpected life event – these things make us stop. Rarely do we choose the time or the place. Hitting the pause button to consider how we’re feeling just isn’t on the schedule.
Maybe you think that work is work and doesn’t define the rest of your life. But the fact that you picked up this book means there’s some part of you that wants to pause. And taking a moment to think about your happiness as it relates to work, the thing that consumes nearly 40 percent of your day, is something that shouldn’t wait until a major life trauma.
The answer to “Am I getting what I want?” isn’t going to fall out of the sky into your lap. But there is an answer, and a process to get to it. Step one to breaking through your perceived career limitations is to look carefully at where you are today.
Let’s get started by identifying the things about your job that are really important to you … things you may have pushed down or shoved out of the way for various reasons. Going through this exercise, you will identify what’s making you happy and what’s leaving you dissatisfied at work.
If you think this is going to be too hard, take hours of your time or be an all-around pain in the you-know-what, you’re wrong. I’m talking about reading 10 statements and giving each one a 1 out of 10 rating. It’s quick. I call it your Career Reality Check and the key here is to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s the only way to take inventory of where you are in your career right now. I promise you – it’s worth it!
Here’s what to do. Look at the following 10 statements and assign each one a rating of 1 to 10. A rating of 1 means the statement is completely false for you. A rating of 10 means the statement is 100% true – not even a sliver of wiggle room. Be honest with yourself. If you read the statement and feel even the slightest bit of hesitation, don’t rank it a 10. Let’s get started.
There are some important rules to follow as you take inventory. When you think about how you will rank each statement above:
• Make sure you are not comparing yourself to anyone else. Remember; think only about how true the statement is compared to what YOU want, if you could have it YOUR way.
• Ask yourself: Am I 100% sure this statement is true for me based on my desire(s)? Or am I being influenced by what I know and follow as “the company policy”?
• Don’t confuse a belief that something is not changeable with the belief that it is true. Being Career Smart will show you that everything about your career is changeable, once you have the right tools, which I’m happily about to teach you.
Your Career Reality Checklist
1. I have the work-life balance I need. Not just free time for myself and enough time with family/friends, but a life with no guilt to do the things I need to do, like pick my kids up from school, take a day to go to the dentist or hit the gym at a reasonable hour.
2. I feel emotionally satisfied in my work. Not just in the sense that I am proud of my results, but I am satisfied at the core in my current position in the company and my responsibilities. The feelings you have about your job when your head hits the pillow at night.
3. When I talk to people about my job, I feel proud. On the contrary to number 2, this is more of a bigger picture thinking. Not just how I feel on my portion of work, as in “I did a project that was recognized!” but about the holistic thinking, for example, “I am a civil rights attorney!” or “I am the 5th generation GM of ABC company!” or “I am a part of the clean-tech industry!”)
4. I chose the job I have today; it is part of my career plan. I didn’t land here accidentally or as part of someone else’s plan. Was I referred into this role or did I really proactively seek it out? Did I look at and compare alternatives? The majority of candidates I worked with had stories that got them their current roles that had nothing to do with their original desires.
5. I feel intellectually challenged/stimulated in my work. Have you settled to getting your mental stimulation from outside work activities? Are you one of the many that think “work is work” and that it can’t provide you more pleasure than just the monetary benefits and therefore you’ve settled to not expect to have your passions be satisfied by your career?
6. I like my boss (or my partner), and feel inspired by him/her and can see myself feeling that way for the foreseeable future. Does my boss have my best interests in their mind as far as my future goals? Are they looking out for me in helping my career or are they just trying to keep me stay put? Are they flexible with the traits I’ve identified as my career utopia?
7. I have opportunities to advance/grow in my job (or to grow my business) to the level I want to achieve. Does my current company have a career path available for me in the organization structure? Or have I reached the top of the potential here? Do they have the resources or are they willing to invest in my growth (eg. pay for a business school, send me to technical trainings)? What’s the realistic timeline for a promotion or change?
8. I am happy with my compensation. Am I happy with my salary, bonus potential, benefits, other perks? Am I only thinking in what my company has presented me as the ‘salary range’? Do I know what my skills really warrant in today’s market? Am I aware of all the structures of total compensation? Am I aware that several business objectives can result in actual bonuses as they are met? Am I agreeing to KPIs (key performance indicators)/business results without attaching compensation to them for further incentive?
9. I enjoy the organization’s culture. Do I respect the people I work with, their attitudes, the general environment? Do the company values reflect my own? Am I even aware or encouraged to care? Do I like the day to day overall rules (business hours, dress code, time off policy, pet policy, diversity policy, flexibility to work remotely, sabbaticals) Is management willing to change and keep up with more innovative, cutting edge ways to keep employees happy (i.e. sabbaticals, business school opportunities, egg-freezing, free food cafeterias, remote positions, temporary geographical rotations*)?
10. I am happy with my exit strategy. Do I have a plan to be able to stop working (retirement plan, 401K benefit, opportunity to sell the company, etc.)? Is it realistic and am I satisfied with the timeframe?
The Power of Taking Inventory
Why are you doing this again? Taking inventory will help you see if there’s anything missing in your career. You may rank something an 8 or 9, and feel pretty good about it. But there’s something that would make it a 10, right? You should know what that something is, and whether it’s possible to attain.
Many people say they’re satisfied where they are because they’re on track with “the company path.” The company says you’re eligible for a promotion every five years, and it’s only been three years, so you’re on track. It’s not time to rock the boat and ask for more, right? Think again! This is a trick companies play to keep you from asking for more until they’re ready to give it to you. The real question is whether the track you are following is the one you would choose for yourself.
Manager’s Note: If you’re a manager reading this, don’t worry. These questions will empower your employee to have a deeper respect for their current role or make an inevitable change faster saving you time and money in the long run, and making your organization more efficient. These exercises help close the communication gap between how an employee feels they are doing and how the company sees it.
Organizations keep people in line by telling them “this is the policy” and “these are the rules.” And that’s good enough for 95% of people. But 5% will challenge the policies and rules. And here’s a little known secret: they often succeed!
You don’t have to be a maverick or create uproar in your organization to go after what you want and to achieve your Career Utopia. I want to show you how you can find the loopholes and opportunities in the very same company policies you may be scared to question by having Career Smarts. But, I can only promise results if you actually do the work. If you’ve been doing average work, don’t expect to be treated like an “A player” employee. There aren’t tricks for skirting the system. However; if you’re willing to do say “extra”ordinary work, then you can ask to be paid to be “extraordinarily” for example. Another example might be that a company has never let anyone come in past 8 o’clock, but given that you’re consistently overachieving on your results and really need this flexibility to take your kid to school in the mornings, the truth is they would most likely indulge you if presented in the right way versus lose you. Time and time again, I came across people who left because they assumed the status quo couldn’t be changed before trying, meanwhile I was successfully negotiating these items left and right with clients.
Rules are Meant to be Broken
The “A players” and top 5% of workers do not accept the company rules at face value. They realize everything is up for negotiation – as long as you’re perceived as a top talent. These individuals have the Career Smarts to determine what it is they want and need, go after it and, when armed with the right tools, get it. You’ll soon know everything they do.
We’ll talk later on in this book about how to make sure you are seen as an “A player” within your organization by doing your very own personal PR. You need to know how you’re perceived before you ask for things, and you will learn the ropes of how to position yourself as an “A player” employee in Chapter 5.
But first, you have to figure out where you are today and what it is you want. I would not have founded and become President and CEO of Fillmore Search Group, a highly recognized, independent staffing firm with multi-million dollar revenues, had I not gone through this process myself.
Previously, I was one of the 95% ... going to work and not questioning the things I thought I could not change.
From the Trenches: My Story
As a Managing Director at one of the top staffing firms in the world with 90 offices in the U.S., I was in charge of one territory with one physical branch. My team and I were killing it – bringing in twenty times more revenue than any other market by covering a much broader region than defined by the boundaries of our physical location. Once our bottom line growth was undeniable and I had results so high that the company didn’t even have an applicable bracket built out in their compensation plan, I brought up the idea of a promotion and raise with my boss.
But the company policy was: if you are only managing one physical branch then you CANNOT be moved up to Regional Manager. Period. My boss told me I was a top performer, was the most successful Managing Director in the company, and that I was being paid in the top of my salary range. I couldn’t argue with him and felt proud about everything he said. I was happy with my accomplishments. If my friends and family asked, I would find myself sounding like a walking sound byte of my boss: “I’m at the top of my game, making the most anyone in my role makes!” That is, until my mentor challenged me to “take inventory” of my compensation.
That’s when I extrapolated this concept to include the 9 other key criteria I felt I needed to address. When I decided to try ranking the same 10 statements I’ve asked you to rank, and got to statements number 7 (opportunity for advancement) and 8 (compensation), I ranked them both 8s. After all, I was making great money for a managing director. But when I really thought about it, something bugged me. For two years, I had been doing the work of a regional managing director, whose compensation range was 20-30% higher than my own and with opportunities that were even higher.
In fact, I was driving all over the region and servicing a much larger geographic area than defined by my job description. I was actually saving the firm money by doing the work of two physical offices with the budget of one! In my previous role at a private staffing company, we had four offices to handle this very same size territory. Here I was saving the company three rents and sets of operating expenses, while delivering the revenues of four branches combined.
But I wasn’t being rewarded for it. After I forced myself to be truly honest, I realized what I first thought was satisfaction with believing I was “at the top of my game” was really a passive acceptance of the company policy. I had shrugged it off as an 8 or 8 1/2, but it was really a 6! And if I really dug deep about how I felt – maybe it was even a 3!
Once I acknowledged that, I knew I had to take action. Using the tools of the Career Smarts book, I was able to negotiate myself a raise and a title promotion and truly turn my 3 into a 10.
This is something that people do every single day in organizations around the world, and you can do it, too. But, the first step is to be thoughtful and honest with yourself about where you are today with regard to the most important elements of your career, and how you feel about them.
In Career Smarts, I’ll ask you to go back and re-examine each of your rankings to determine what you can or can’t change about them. What matters more than the number you rank each statement is whether you want to make it a 10, or whether you’re willing to accept it as is.
It’s Time To Move Forward
Early on in my career, I was more willing to accept 7s, 8s and 9s because I didn’t believe they could be changed, or, I wasn’t equipped with the tools to transform them.
At this point you may be thinking: “I could never change anything at my company,” or, “This would never work for me.” There are a few key reasons why you and 95% of the working world feel this way.
A Career Coach can help you understand what’s behind those feelings. Once you see what’s holding you back, you can learn how to move forward. There are secret weapons and I have armed thousands of candidates in every industry with them. You’re going to get your hands on everything they know and you will be able to achieve your Career Utopia the way it is defined for you and by you!
Career Reality Scorecard Worksheet
Ranking of 1 through 10
(1 = completely false / 10 = 100% accurate)
I have the work-life balance I need.
I feel emotionally satisfied in my work.
When I talk to people about my job, I feel proud.
I chose the job I have today; it was part of my plan.
I feel intellectually challenged/stimulated at work.
I like and feel inspired by my boss.
I have opportunities to grow in my job.
I am happy with my compensation.
I enjoy the organization’s culture.
I am happy with my exit strategy.
Decoding Your Rankings: Once you’ve completed this scorecard, it’s time to take a closer look at the numbers. If you’ve given a statement a 9 or 10, then things are clearly going well in that area – you’re happy and satisfied. But, if you’ve ranked something an 8 or lower, you need to give this area more thought. That’s right. There’s simply no reason to settle for anything but 9s or 10s. At first glance, you might think an 8, 7 or even a 6 is a decent ranking – it’s above average after all. In reality an 8, 7 or 6 is just a number or two away from being average … or worse yet, below average. Which means anything below a 9 must be evaluated further.
If you think about how companies are mandated to act when their Net Promoter Score, or NPS®3, which is the global standard for organizations to measure, understand, and improve their customer experience, is anything less than a 9, then you should pay the same respect to your personal career.
CEO, The Quaintance Consulting Group & Fillmore Search Group
Author, Career Smarts
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The Quaintance Consulting Group is a boutique firm specializing in teams development, executive coaching, consulting and leadership training and performance. Run by Aisha Quaintance, an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker and performance coach with expertise in recruiting, leadership, sales, performance and retention.
Aisha's style has been known to be not only motivating but she prides herself of helping people implement effective tools and take away practical solutions through her Team, Growth & Leadership Performance Programs to solve today's business challenges through engagement and performance.
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