Living Up to Expectations

Sometimes you have to fight for what you want in life. That fight might mean living up to expectations – your own or other’s.

Last week, I met a remarkable young woman. In fact, she brought tears to my eyes. She contacted me about career coaching and we met at a local coffee shop.

We began our discussion with a mini coaching session where she talked about her big dream of working in a career that she was passionate about. She had an idea about what industry it might be in but had faced a challenge along the way.

As we spoke, she confided that she had a learning disability that reared its ugly head in her senior year in college – so much so she changed her major to graduate. Her new major landed her in a position where the pay was dramatically different (under $10/hr.) from what she would have earned.

Clearly, she was unsettled and wanted more in her life. Challenges were just that…they were not barriers. She had big dreams and determination to fight for what she wants.

It gives me pause to think about what makes you give up and what makes you fight for the big dream that you have. Is it an internal drive or is it living up to expectations that may be influenced by family or other important people in your life? Is one stronger than the other?

When I asked her about what drives her, she talked about what her siblings had accomplished and that she wanted to be just as productive and successful. How many times has that standard played in your head?

As the oldest of three kids, I was the trail blazer so I did not measure myself against older siblings. However, I did hold a standard determined by my father’s accomplishments.

I recall feeling like I needed to measure up and did everything I could to excel in my career. The barometer was clear and at every promotion or career move I made, I looked for confirmation that I was on the right track.

It was not until many years later that I told my parents about the expectations that I had set for myself believing that was what they wanted. Their response: “They wanted me to be happy in whatever I did”.

I have no doubt that the young woman I met will be successful in what she does – because she is living up to expectations of herself and not letting anything stop her from getting it.

The Secret to Making a Career Leap: Mastering the Trapeze

What’s stopping you from making the leap in your career? Are you too comfortable at your current employer and the thought of taking a risk to go somewhere else or do something else is just plain scary? Perhaps you are in the job market because of a layoff and you feel stuck. Here’s a funny thing about both of those situations, lack of action can be a comfortable state.

No matter how difficult your current situation is – you have probably adapted to it. You may not like it. You may want to change it, but the fear of what you do not know or the fear of what you think you know may be stopping you from moving forward.

Think of a trapeze. Let’s suppose you are flying in the air and you have someone on the other end that is willing to catch you – but to do so you have to let go.  Becoming comfortable with a trapeze doesn’t happen quickly. First you practice with a safety net and when you master it you may advance to not using a net.

Letting go in your career means you will be airborne – without the support and comfort of what you do know (no matter how bad it is). You are banking that the risk you take will pay off with a new start, big promotion or change in career direction. It’s a big risk to take that career leap because it means you may have to try new things or approaches because what you are doing today keeps you grounded in the comfort zone.

How Can You Take a Career Leap?

There are a couple of things you can do to prepare yourself for making that career leap.

When you fly through the air without knowing where you are headed – that means you’ll be using the safety net a lot. It’s OK to gather some data and to do some exploration before you start trying to fly. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is it you specifically want?
  • Who do you want to work for?
  • What role do you aspire to?
  • What will you get from it when you are there?
  • What are you willing to do to make it work?

Career changers might use an assessment such as the Strong Interest Inventory to rediscover where their passion lies. Career advancers and fast trackers may find interpersonal and/or hard skills training the avenue for upping their game. Job hunters may find that they fall flat when interviewing or networking. Whatever it is, do it before you start to fly.

When you trust that you can do what you set your mind to do and stay focused on the outcome, letting go becomes less scary if you are prepared. Lack of preparation makes letting go more difficult to do because you don’t have the confidence needed to move forward. Remember when you get to the other side, you will feel the sense of accomplishment.

One Secret to Career Success: Not Knowing it All

One of the fallacies about careers is that to get ahead you have to be the expert. While being an expert in some fields is the ticket to success, the truth is I have seen other people who are not experts in their areas rise quickly too. What sets them apart?

First, they know when they don’t have the answer and realize it is a gap. Second, they are not bashful about getting an expert or some other outside help. Third, they can do more with more resources.

Not Knowing it All

Some experts have a difficult time admitting they don’t know something – after all they are the experts or at the very least they should be able to figure it out! In fact, some will take lots of time to figure something out when the most expedient or effective way was to leave it in the hands of someone else.

Letting go of knowing it all opens up the possibilities for someone to work in tangent or separately on your behalf. Knowing you need the help is the first step. Deciding to something about it is the next step.

Get the Right Help

Having a broad network of people with different expertise will serve your career well. Tap into your network before you need them. Establish a relationship where you can call upon them when situations arise and you’ll feel comfortable picking up the phone. Don’t be afraid to spend your or your company’s money to get the right help in to solve a problem.

Here’s an example of where spending money was smart.

In this company there were several VP HRs, each of them approached their position differently. One VP was cost conscious and always looked for ways to cut the budget and how her department could carry out their goals internally.

Another VP HR spent money bringing in consultants to help with the initiatives he was supporting. The first VP’s approach was limited by her staff’s ability. The second VP sought out other opinions and skills to enhance the expertise he had internally. Who do you think lasted longer in this company?


Bottom line, we all are looking for results. When you understand what you don’t know (the gaps), do an inventory on what skills and abilities you have inside yourself or others. What is missing? What do you need to make that decision or project be a success? What would happen if you don’t deal with the gaps? Are you willing to accept those results?

Are you a High Potential Employee?

High potential (hi-pots) employees are identified in succession planning or organizational development processes as the future leaders within the organization.

Not all organizations identify high potential employees simply because developing bench strength is not important they or the size of the organization does not call for the investment.  Even in large organizations there are limited high potential employees in the development cycle because it requires significant financial and management investment.

Whether or not an individual knows they are a high potential within their organization varies by company philosophy however, there is always once clear sign – you are on the fast track.

Being on the fast track means that you have sponsors, mentors or human resources executives in the organization that help manage or recommend specific career moves. You will be tested in a variety of experiences to decide if you are the leader they want to continue grooming.

Often these career moves or assignments come in rapid progression with short durations of one year or less. Expect to move often because you go to where the experience is and not wait in your current location for something to materialize. This is one of the key characteristics that set high potentials apart from others –their development timing is compressed.

 Types of High Potential Employee Assignments

When someone is selected to be in a high potential program, the organization designs a series of challenges to decide if you are creative, resourceful, flexible and have the emotional and intellectual capacity to develop into an executive.

The internal career moves high potentials make test abilities in countless ways, such as:

  •  Depth of knowledge
  • Breadth of responsibilities
  • Functional ability
  • Generalist application
  • Effectively managing business cycles – start-up, growth, stable, cash cow, decline, transformational
  • People skills
  • Leadership and management skills
  • High stress
  • Ambiguity
  • Resources scarce

Being a part of a high potential program lasts about 3-4 years. Once exposed to the fast track, expect to be placed into a position for a couple of years. Your first “regular” assignment or career move gives you the opportunity to own the results in that position.

While on the fast track, the intent is exposure and short-term results and less about measuring long-term results. Now is the time to put into practice everything you learned to show how you excel in that role.



25 Networking Tips that Work

If you are not comfortable with networking, here are 25 networking tips that will help you connect with people proactively. While you may be on a mission to get a job, new client or some other goal, networking is about making a genuine connection with others.

Sandy Leary is a resume writer who composes memorable resumes and cover letter and she shared her list of 25 networking tips that will help you be more successful.

  1. Start BEFORE you need it!
  2. Learn about people’s goals
  3. Connect people you do know
  4. Give MORE than you expect to receive
  5. Be genuinely interested
  6. ALWAYS follow up
  7. Know people in different worlds
  9. Be authentic
  10. Take the initiative
  11. Always stay in touch
  12. Be personal
  13. Be humble
  14. ALWAYS say thanks
  15. Do your homework
  16. Express your enthusiasm
  17. Promote your purpose more than yourself
  18. Join associations
  19. Attend conferences
  20. Leverage the networks of others
  21. Act with integrity
  22. Build close relationships
  23. Ask for what you want
  24. Create a personal board of advisors
  25. Write things down

Don’t let this list of networking tips overwhelm you. Prioritize the ones that you want to work on first and then slowly make your way through the list. If you are located in Rochester, NY – here’s a list of networking events that you may find helpful.

And remember the first tip – start before you need it!

Getting Ahead in your Career

Getting ahead in your career takes work – that’s the secret. You can’t coast your way to success. Your focus varies throughout your life or career. Career growth depends on the intensity and commitment you have to your personal and professional development.

The types of development experiences you engage in influence your personal and professional growth.

Intensity of Career Development

Intensity of Career Development

For our purposes, think of personal and professional development being assessed at three intensity anchor points:

  • Passive
  • Active
  • Transformative

Passive experiences require little action on your part and the rate of development acceleration is low.

Development through action requires demonstration of experience, skill and knowledge through specific assignments.

Transformative development promotes or tests skill and knowledge application in unfamiliar assignments or situations.

As you may surmise, the higher the level of intensity, your development is more impactful.

It can be difficult to pinpoint where specific experiences fall on the continuum. Factors such as timing, personal tolerances and receptivity impact individual development.

Take a moment and think about the experiences that made an impact in your career. Write them down. Where would you place those experiences along the continuum? Think about these questions if you are getting stuck:

  • What experiences were pivotal – where you had the Ah-Ha moment?
  • List the experiences did that represented smaller directional steps in your career.
  • What assignments stretched your capabilities? Why did they stretch you?
  • Have you volunteered for new assignments or jobs?
  • Have you changed careers or employers by choice?
  • Did you have significant increase in responsibilities within your current role?
  • Do you invest in educational development through local colleges, certification or training programs?
  • How do you view life learning experiences? Are you traveling to new places to experience new cultures and customs?
  • Have you relocated within your company or to another new company where you knew no one?
  • What was the toughest project or assignment you were given – why was it so difficult?
  • Have you ever failed?

Now that you have your list of experiences, are you happy with how your career is progressing? If not, think about what you can do to change it. Having a good career takes work.

Applying for a new job? What do you tell your manager?

Should I approach my manager if I have applied for a new job? It is a question that you may face sometime in your career. There is no one right answer. Let’s discuss what you should be thinking about before telling your manager that you want to transfer to another part of the company or you want to change companies.

The New Job is Inside your Company

If the new position you want is within your current company, then talking to your boss may be a good decision. However, there are organizational cultures where initiating career movement is not welcome. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, a career coaching client came to me because he wanted to make move from the Engineering organization into a business role. When he approached his manager about supporting his career change, the manager could not believe he wanted to leave the Engineering organization! The engineer languished in the department for a few years until he was finally able to make the career move. If his manager was supportive, the career move would have been much quicker.

There are managers who support upward mobility within an organization or company. The conversation you have is just as important and should be carefully thought through before you approach them.

Many companies have formal Human Resources policies about inter-company moves. Review what the proper procedure is in your organization. Let’s say your company has a job posting system where employees are free to apply to internal jobs. In this case, you will want to discuss your career goals with your manager and ask for their support in the process. The reason I suggest this approach is that your manager may be informed by Human Resources about your application activity and it is better that they hear it from you first.

Applying to a Position outside your Company

Perhaps your boss is blocking your promotion or you believe there are no other career opportunities in your current organization. When you want to leave a company for a new position, carefully consider if you should discuss it with your manager. As soon as you tip your manager off that you may leave, expect your manager will treat you differently.

Managers reward company loyalty and when you are actively looking for a new job, they will question your loyalty. Your manager will tell their boss that you are actively searching for a new job and that’s when your credibility and power in the organization deteriorates.

If you think your boss is one of those rare managers who will not treat you differently, it’s time to reflect on why you believe their loyalty is with you and not the company.  There are managers – albeit very few – that have your interests at heart more than the company’s.

“I Need my Manager’s Reference” is Not a Good Reason

Are you thinking you need to talk to your manager because you think you need a reference? Most companies who try to recruit you from another company realize that asking for a reference within your current organization is not practical. Think of other people who can serve as a reference that have left the company and do not put your current employment situation at risk.

In general, I don’t recommend you talk to your manager about leaving until you have a job offer when you are leaving your organization.