Still figuring it out? You are NOT alone.

I must’ve asked the same question several different times during the course of this week, “What are your plans after you get your degree?” Many people didn’t have an answer. Some fumbled with their response. Others provided canned statements around wanting to pursue a terminal degree. A couple of them gave me an answer that didn’t justify the need to get the degree but whatever. I guess the one thing that we all had in common was that no one, not even me, ever really gave an answer as to what their plans were for the degree that they worked so hard for, whether it be a Master’s or a Ph.D. I was bewildered. Here I thought that I was the only one in the room that didn’t have my life figured out and come to find out, I’m one of many.

I believe that we as people have a hard time saying, “I don’t know what my plans are.” or “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.” Meanwhile, we’re all feeling it in some way, shape, or form. We don’t do well with being vulnerable, with letting people know that we don’t have it all together which ultimately leads to everyone thinking that they must have it all figured out. Which is sad. Sometimes it’s OK to say, I liked the topic, I felt a connection with the subject but I’m not sure what I am going to do with the information just yet. Or even better, I need the letters or the degree to prove credibility within the field. How much of a relief would that be, eh?

I think the purpose of this post is to say that the people that are walking around, doing “things” with their lives- the ones who you believe have it all figured out – the majority of them don’t. They are out here brainstorming with their life, throwing ideas on the wall to see if it sticks, trying new things and identifying what they like, meeting new people and conversing about whatever comes to mind. I had a full fledged discussion with a group of I/O Psychologists about Vegas and how one lived in Louisiana and have never visited New Orleans – we don’t have it all figured out.

The only difference between you and them is that they are doing. That’s it. I’m currently in Alabama on a trip that might be a waste of time and that’s OK. I had a guy ask me if anything that I’d learned on this trip would be useful to me in the future. I told him that what I’ve come to find is that I can use any and everything that I learn. Maybe not in the near future but possibly in the distant. Even if it’s only to stir up a commonality between me and another person, even if it’s just to make that connection, to be able to relate, to speak with experience – it’ll be something that I use.

I sat with a group of ladies who were talking about submitting to symposiums and writing their thesis. One wanted to write on diversity in leadership and the selection process, the other on bias around online degrees and you know what? It was beautiful. I was sitting amongst potential game changers in the field of IO Psychology and here they were – “figuring it out”. Lol. No one had a concrete plan of action, where pivots were accounted for and purposeful decisions were made. That’s not how it worked. We had a direction and possibly a mode of transportation but the route, the pit stops had not been thoroughly mapped out.

People are still figuring it out. Don’t think you’re behind the curve or that you can’t do what you want to do because life happened. Life is going to happen. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that life is… life is hard and confusing. It’s tempting and troubling. It’s angry and upsetting but it’s also beautiful and sympathetic and forgiving and compassionate and hopeful. Life gives you chance after chance to do, to be.

Take advantage of it and figure it out!

XOXO

Finding your North Star: What are your guiding principles?

The North Star is the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation and is commonly referred to as the “Pole Star”. Without GPS, travelers would locate the North Star and use it to guide them to their destination.  This is why we call guiding principles, the North Star. When you have nothing else, it is what will guide you and assist you with completing your goals. When all else fails, you can defer to your guiding principles to help you make decisions in your life.

As a follow up to my blog, Establishing a Baseline for Yourself, I wanted to provide insight into how to create goals that will excite and guide you into the next phase of your life. However, as I was writing, I quickly realized that in order to complete any goal, regardless of how great it is, you would first need to understand your reasons for wanting to complete that goal.

So how did I define my North Star? 
Years ago, I felt like I was in a fight of my life. I was going through a nasty custody battle for my son and during that time, there were people placed in my life that I felt had no boundaries as to how far they would go to hurt me or my son. I knew that for me personally, I feared the wrath of God and established spiritual boundaries that provided limits on how far I would act on my hurt, pain and even vengeance. Over time, those boundaries became more and more rigid. There were things that I would not do and there were things that I would not say in an effort to hurt or cause pain to someone else. I would learn to recognize when people were treating me wrong and force myself to elevate above them – that became my North Star. My North Star is to have enough discipline to rise above those who seek to oppress me or bring negativity in my life.

With this defined, I was able to move forward with establishing goals that were exciting and aligned to my North Star, my guiding principles.

So how do you define your North Star?

Think of a time that you would prefer not to repeat. A time, that sits with you, that was life altering – where YOU had the power to do something and didn’t. It’s a feeling that stirs in the pit of your stomach or the center of your torso; it reminds you that you should’ve done something differently. You didn’t like the person that you were at that time. It pissed you off. It upset you. It embarrassed you.  That moment in your life was life altering and shifted the way that you thought about things, the way that you thought about yourself. That moment defines your North Star.

  • Maybe you saw someone in the street struggling and you didn’t stop to ask them if they needed help. The feeling stayed with you.
  • Maybe you lost your temper over something minimal and you felt like a jerk about it.
  • Maybe you let someone get under your skin and you were embarrassed by the way that you reacted.

These moments define your North Star. It’s the promises that you made to yourself that would prevent or at the very least decrease the likelihood of you ever feeling whatever way you hated feeling ever again.

Taking the examples above, write your North Star in a declarative format:

  • I will do my best to make time to help those who may need an extra hand or those who are unable to help themselves.
  • I will identify what irritates me and understand why it irritates me.
  • I will not allow others to control me. I will not allow others to disturb my peace.

Keep in mind, that you may have several guiding principles and that is ok. Your guiding principles may change over time and that is ok, too.  Write them down and keep them at the forefront of your mind. Your North Star serves as a compass as you try to define and work towards your goals. It is what recalibrates you if you veer off track; it serves as your conscience and it should resonate with you to the point where you respect it above all else.

 

Before you say “Yes” – Compatibility with the Hiring Manager

In this day in age, there’s so much competition in the workforce that sometimes you’re just happy to get a callback. You chat it up with the recruiter and the phone screen goes off without a hitch, the next thing you know they’re scheduling your next round of interviews. You’re excited and nervous but prepared to take this next step. You walk into your interview to a panel of people, everyone is asking questions and you are nailing them; growing even more confident. This job is yours! They ask if you have any questions, and you rattle off a couple of rehearsed items before bidding your farewell. You send a thank you email and the next day – BAM – you get an offer letter and you accept! Sounds pretty awesome, right?

So tell me, who will you be working for? What’s their management style? Does it sync with yours?

Marcel Schwantes, a speaker, leadership coach, advisor, and syndicated columnist, wrote a story for Inc.com titled, Why Do People Quit Their Jobs, Exactly? Here’s the Entire Reason, Summed Up in 1 Sentence, and in it, he refers to a study conducted by Gallup that surveyed 7,272 U.S. adults about reasons for leaving a company and 50% stated: “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

This reason is real. Every time I’ve thought about leaving a company that I’ve worked for, it was because of the management style of a boss or boss of a boss. Just listen to the water cooler conversations, they are riddled with people complaining about the micro management, the “laissez faire” attitude or the down right nastiness of their boss.

Here are some things that you can do prior to taking the job, that can help you assess compatibility between you and your potential manager.

1. Know what you need from your manager in order to be successful. It was through having a bad manager that I became aware of what I needed from my manager in order to be successful early in my career: protect my scope, run my cover, and give me the runway to do my job. In summary, don’t allow everyone to task me with any and everything, have my back by being my ally, don’t micro-manage me.

Maybe you need someone with a true “open door policy” or a person who takes the time to walk through a situation with you. Maybe you need a person who is loyal and defends the decisions of their people. Like any relationship, you have to first understand what are the key enablers and destabilizers to your success. Being micro managed or talked down to, could be destabilizing traits that can be demotivating to you as an employee. Think about your supervisors or maybe a matrixed manager, the good and the bad, and hone in on the elements that motivated and demotivated you. You have to know your hard limits before you interview for your next position.

2. Speak to the hiring manager prior to accepting the position. This should be a no brainer but never accept a position without first having a conversation with the person you’ll be working for. Maybe they are on vacation or out sick – wait for them to come back into the office before making your decision. You should be able to ask questions and gain an understanding of high-level expectations in their words. If the company is willing to hire you without input from the hiring manager, then that says a lot about the organization and its culture.

3. Ask tactful questions. I once interviewed a person who made me feel like I was the one being assessed for fit and guess what? I hired them. Their approach was tactful, sincere, and purposeful. Sure, I answered their questions but through the exchange, I was also able to analyze their approach, ask counter questions and gain insight. If the hiring manager is offended by questions related to their management style, then that should definitely send off some red flags.

4. Go with your gut. I know. I know. It’s cliche’ but it’s real. Short and to the point – If something doesn’t seem right, if you’re not getting a good vibe, then move on. It could be your dream job but with the wrong manager can turn into your worst nightmare.

Keep in mind, that even if you come across a good manager, it doesn’t mean that they are a good manager for you. Know what you need in a manager first, and then assess the manager against those needs. This is the best way to measure the future compatibility between you and your potential boss!

XOXO