Saturday, January 24, 2015

So You Want to Get Ahead?

By Steven M. Worth, President at Plexus Consulting Group, LLC

Those who want to get ahead in their careers would be wise to take note that a recent survey showed that a challenging and satisfying work environment — or the lack thereof — was the primary reason why a someone joined or left an employer.

These findings are significant because turnover rates continue to be high. Labor statistics indicate that today's college graduate will have more than 8 employers during his or her working life — not just jobs, mind you, but different employers!

A certain amount of employment change is indicative of a healthy, flexible economy, and this is good. But too much job change is due to dashed hopes and misplaced expectations on the part of both employers and employees. Anyone who has been through such change knows it is not fun. There is a reason why psychiatrists place job change up there as one of the top-3 most stressful life events!

So, how do you avoid such unpleasantness? Better yet, how can you find a career that is right for you? In the box are the portraits of 3 possible staffers. Do they resemble anyone you know? Ross is proud of the fact that "he has a life!" Surrounded by workaholics, 12-hour workdays are not for him. Ross is proud of his work skills, but sees a job as something he does to earn money. He prefers to define himself more by what he does outside of work. So a flexible, limited, un-stressful work schedule is what he wants. As soon as things become too intense, he is out of there! All things considered, he would prefer not to change jobs, but it never fails that over time things become too involved and too messy and interfere too much with his life outside of work.

Rachel is a Type A personality. Money and status are important to her, and she is not afraid to put in the effort to achieve them. "Getting ahead is what it's all about, and you do what you have to get there!" If the person above her is in the way of her advancement, that person is to be stepped over, on or pushed aside altogether. And if none of this is possible or if this just takes too much time and effort, then there are always greener pastures waiting elsewhere!

Monica is slightly unsure, although she might not show it. She knows what she likes and is not afraid to work hard, but she is also very aware of all she doesn't know. Her lack of experience is a little frightening, but she is smart and hardworking, and she knows it! And she is looking for a place where she can be challenged and where she can learn and grow professionally. Given learning opportunities, guidance and a lot of challenges she will be happy to stay with an employer indefinitely, or at least until the growth and challenges stop.

All 3 employee types represent personalities that have been around for a long time and probably will always exist. But from a manager's point of view, what better employee could you have than Monica? She is seeking a stimulating and satisfying work environment, and she will be dedicated and loyal to the employer who gives this to her.

More associations have been created, merged or disbanded in the past decade than ever before. The marketplace stresses that have inflicted these changes have not gone away. If anything they have gotten worse. In such a highly unstable environment, Ross is not likely to survive for long in any one job, and if he does, he will be disgruntled and will under-perform. Rachel certainly does not help managers through these difficult, uncharted times. Her ambition and lack of respect for those above her only add to the instability.

The reality is that each of us have in us aspects of all 3 personality types. Today's market trends indicate it might behoove us — managers and staffers — as we change and grow as people, to cultivate those aspects found in Monica.

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