Connectivity: The Antidote to Career Myopia
by Wendy Alfus-Rothman, Executive Career Coach
Career myopia refers to the blinders we wear at work in order to tune out extraneous “noise” and stay focused on achieving our goals. Who hasn’t grappled with an unreasonable boss, a toxic colleague, cranky clients, difficult vendors, demanding board members, challenging deadlines and confusing priorities? It takes a great deal of attentiveness to stay on task.
A myopic view may remove distractions in our peripheral vision, but it can undermine us when our road changes or shifts. We miss alternate routes, speeding past detours only to reach the end of our road, look up and wonder what on earth we are to do next. When change inevitably comes, we can only react to it. We feel behind the eight ball, scrambling to reconnect with old acquaintances and urgently looking for solid ground.
Career management is about expanding your vision so that you can create options before you need them. It is about seeing changes coming and responding to them proactively, without sacrificing your current performance. That means you need help: you need to be connected to others who can alert you to the changes ahead.Here are ten rules to get you started:
1. Connect to Learn. Expand your knowledge base by learning more about your own industry: the areas of growth; the companies, people, associations and technologies that serve it. You will discover opportunities you have never considered as you learn what you don’t know. One CFO established monthly informational meetings with other CFO’s in the six local divisions of her company. When she was offered a promotion that required an undesired move overseas, she was able to negotiate an alternative, local promotion to a position that she learned of through those monthly meetings.
2. Connect for the Long Term. Don’t expect to establish a meaningful connection in one meeting. Find a few people that you have something in common with and stay in touch with them. It’s far better to have a few people with whom you share a depth of knowledge instead of collecting hundreds of business cards from people you know nothing about.
3. Connect with Sincerity. Ask people about their background, how they feel about what they do and how they got into it. Be sincerely interested, instead of worrying about being interesting. You will be amazed at the circuitous route everyone’s career takes, and you will see opportunities for yourself you may have never considered.
4. Connect with Preparation. Do some research to prepare for your conversations. That way you can have an intelligent dialogue and really be interested.
5. Connect…and Stay Connected. Try to determine what the other person is interested in and then share news they might care about. Use a clipping service to help you find the information.
6. Connect Unexpectedly. Don’t just focus on people who are like you. Connect with someone of a different age, nationality, or point of view to expand your own vision immeasurably.
7. Connect with Interest. Connect in an area you care about. A client worked as a headhunter for technology companies but had a passion for art. She took an art class and met people who shared her interest. Two years later, she is a retained search professional for museums and art galleries.
8. Connect Outside Your Comfort Zone. Don’t forget to connect with people in industries related to yours. If you work for a financial services firm, attend programs with the companies that service your firm. This is how a corporate development professional in investment banking made the move to sales director for an international marketing and PR firm.
9. Connect with Reciprocity. If someone helps you in any way, let them know. And find a way to reciprocate.
10. Connect with Self-Awareness. You can gather all the information in the world, but if you don’t know your own skills or the kinds of problems you like to solve, you will get lost in a morass of data.
In conclusion… DO NOT WAIT TO GET CONNECTED! Change is inevitable—for industries (think dot-bomb), companies (think consolidations and rightsizings), and people (when the thrill is gone, move on). You may as well be the one to chart your own course. Remove the blinders, and go create the professional destiny you want!
Wendy Alfus-Rothman is the founder of The Wenroth Group (www.wenrothgroup.com), a consortium of Business Psychologists specializing in leadership development and executive coaching. Wendy will apply her business experience and her professional expertise in undertaking the role of career columnist for the Alumni Career E-Newsletter. Please see her message below.