You and a colleague are on a conference call. On the other end is your boss and other managers. You chime in intermittently and are mostly listening. Because you’re seldom interjecting you forget they can hear you. Someone on the call says something you think is ridiculous. This is where the UH OH happens...
Your turn to your colleague and say “They’re a bunch of clowns and have no idea what the hell they’re doing. These meetings are a complete waste of everyone’s time but we have to sit through this sh_t and participate in this a_s kissing, circle jerk and pretend like we’re interested.” Your colleague points at the phone and mouths “THEY CAN HEAR YOU!!”. You immediately hit the “mute” button and the symptoms of disaster implementation consume you. Sweaty palms, a watermelon size pit in your stomach, dry mouth, heart doing a drumroll and beads of sweat on your forehead. Your mind is racing as you close your eyes while leaning your head back trying to process what just happened. You say to yourself “WTF did I just do?”. You don’t contribute much more, if anything, to the call and hang up wondering if you’re going to be fired by the end of the week. How can you recover from this catastrophic screw up?
First of all, don’t panic. Though they may not admit it, others on the call may feel the same way you do about the waste of time but that’s not overly comforting. Because you didn’t name anyone specific you have a chance to recover and minimize the damage. Try to recall exactly what you said and who (if not everyone) might have been offended. Your next conversation should be with someone you trust and can confide in. A spouse, a family member, a mentor or a friend can be a calming voice. Find a secluded place to talk in privacy and don’t be ashamed or afraid to let your emotions out. Tell them exactly what happened and seek their advice. Release as much tension as possible before the inevitable meeting with your boss. If possible delay the call/meeting until the following day to give yourself time to collect your thoughts.
When you have the meeting with your boss, let them start the conversation and gauge their tone and temperament. If you have a great relationship you might as well admit that what you said was obviously inappropriate but that you feel that there are more productive ways to invest everyone’s time. Your boss needs to be assured that you weren’t referring to him/her. Apologize for the unprofessional behavior but there’s no point in trying to deny how you feel. Discuss that while you do feel that way to a certain extent it was an exaggeration of your feelings. Discuss the positive aspects of the meeting(s) and give a suggestion for how they could be improved by either adding segments in for more useful information or shortening them to allow attendees to get back to work and increase productivity. Convey that your frustration comes from your passion about what you do and desire to see the company succeed.
Mistakes will (and do) happen but they need not be fatal with adept handling. Put this behind you as quickly as possible and get back to work with vigor and enthusiasm. Consider sending an email to each attendee (if possible) with an apology to let them know that while your comments were inappropriate they come from a place of passion about the company and your dedication to wanting to see everyone succeed. Then remember to NOT make any derogatory comments until AFTER the meeting has concluded and you’re certain the phone has disconnected.
Having someone looking out for your career is valuable and fortunate. You feel confident that your position within the company is secure. This is typically a person of authority within an organization. They are a trusted advisor and professional advocate. They are aware of your circumstances and aspirations and help you navigate the terrain and find jobs while avoiding landmines.
While their involvement in your career is comforting you also need to know their standing within the organization. When their position is at risk by extension so is yours. This is especially important for more seasoned workers (Baby Boomers) who may be at an age where finding another job may be difficult due to salary and age.
Don’t be overconfident and assume your champion’s position of influence is permanent. There are many internal or external factors that can affect their ability to support you:
1. A change in management at the company, bringing in new leaders that have their own circle of confidants not including your influencer/sponsor.
2. They take a different role or leave the company.
3. They or their position is eliminated or mitigated.
Actively seek additional internal and external relationships. If they leave the company, pay attention to how people characterize them. Are people happy they’re gone or complimentary of them? People often have an agenda aimed to advance their own career that could require them to sabotage you. Some of their motives and moves are apparent and some happen surreptitiously. If you’re a candidate for your boss’s old job, make your value known by offering to take on some of the work in the interim.
Stay in touch with them and offer your assistance in helping them secure another position if the departure was involuntary. Take the initiative to reach out to them on LinkedIn, email or phone to offer assistance. You can make introductions to people in your network, offer to proofread their resumé or any other support they need. It’s possible their next position could present an opportunity for you. If you have constructive thoughts about what led to their termination, share them. Be honest but respectful. Helpful feedback from someone they know and trust will benefit them in their next job and they’ll remember who was there when they needed support. Don’t get involved in relaying “who said what” about them because you never know if something you convey will get back to the person who said it. Protect your own interests and don’t betray the trust someone has by repeating information that may have been said to you in confidence (or in a group setting for that matter).
Stay above the fray and demonstrate your value through your willingness to take on additional work or projects until the vacancy is filled. It presents an opportunity for you to show your employer you’re ready to lead while strengthening your relationship with your departed mentor by assisting in their time of need.
When your boss delivers the terrible news, “your position is being phased out in (x) days (or months)”, it comes as a shock to your system. You try to compose yourself and remain professional but your mind immediately begins to race about your future. You are concerned with losing your income and your medical benefits. Few things create more anxiety and instability in your life. However, you still have to be composed to prepare. In addition to making sure you have a current copy of the employee handbook here are 5 steps to take to make your transition as smooth as possible:
1. Immediately Jot Down Notes Of Things You Remember From The Meeting
Your mind and pulse are racing and details of the conversation may be difficult to recall. Take out a notepad or use your phone or computer’s notepad and write down information details about the conversation. If you can’t write out complete sentences to document the discussion write down bullet points you can refer back to when you’re in an emotional space where you can collect your thoughts and begin developing your plan for your next move.
You won’t have the presence of mind to ask all of the questions that are important in the moment. Don’t let that concern you, write them down as they come to you so you don’t forget. Things such as:
- Who was involved in making the decision?
- Are other positions available within the company that you can pursue?
- Will you be allowed time during working hours to job search and interview?
- Are they willing to give you a positive reference?
- What services are available to you in your job search?
Send your list of questions to your boss in an email so you have a record of it. The idea is not to create a paper trail for litigation or hostile environment but to document the information so there is no misinterpretation of your questions or the responses.
2. Update your resumé and LinkedIn profile
Immediately update your resumé and synchronize it with your LinkedIn profile. Go to your LinkedIn profile’s home page then click “jobs”. You’ll see job suggestions from LinkedIn that you can apply to directly from your profile. Read the job description and see LinkedIn’s suggested job searches and posted jobs based on your experience. LinkedIn also tells you the top skills required for the position and how you rank versus other potential applicants. This is keyword matching. Look at the skills required by the position and include them in your profile, if applicable, to increase your ranking against other candidates. Complete the “career interests” section to let recruiters know how flexible you are in your job search preferences.
Your resumé should be a dynamic document updated for each position you apply to. Don’t send out the same generic resumé for each position. Tailor your resumé’s summary of qualifications, areas of expertise, skills and employment history sections to include the keywords listed in the job description. Do this for every position you apply for whether using LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, Glassdoor, company websites or any other job site.
3. Welcome Positive Reinforcement and Support
It’s easy to be consumed with negative emotions. It can manifest itself in your treatment of co-workers and reticence to perform your duties. Actively seek assistance from co-workers about open positions and recommendations for people who may be able to assist in your job search. There may be meetings that you’re not included in but don’t let that deter you from performing your job. Be a professional and continue giving attention to your duties. There may be functions or activities you can pass off to co-workers to free up more time to dedicate to your job search. Be careful about passing off everything and not being professional as you may need a reference, especially if you have the opportunity to transfer internally to another department.
Remember those that are there to offer their assistance and support in your job search and thank them for their assistance no matter the outcome. You never know how or where your paths may cross again professionally, particularly if you’re in a small or well-connected industry.
4. Know What Is Negotiable As Part Of A Separation Package
Severance packages are not required by law but some companies offer them to employees. If you make a counteroffer to a package it’s possible they can reject it and withdraw the offer. Some companies have employment contracts that outline the conditions of severance. For upper level managers there may be extended benefits and salary as well as professional assistance in finding your next job. Severance packages may be offered when you’re told that your services will no longer be required, at the final (exit) meeting or they can arrive after separation in the mail.
If you receive an offer that’s too low or otherwise unacceptable refer to your employee handbook for a review of the company’s policies about termination and severance. In most cases severance packages are not a legal requirement for employers so they can usually dictate the terms. If there is a provision in the employee handbook or you have an employment contract with a severance agreement you may consider consulting an attorney to review the contracts. There are additional requirements for companies with more than 100 employees and workers over 40. Carefully read over all severance documents to ensure you’re not relinquishing valuable rights such as non-disclosure or non-compete clauses or giving up your right to seek legal remedies, if warranted. If you are being asked to give up your rights you may be able to negotiate a higher payout and/or extended benefits. Make your request reasonable because it is unlikely there will be a negotiation with many iterations.
5. Backup Your Personal Files and Non-Proprietary Work
Use a thumb drive, cloud storage or other means to secure your files. Non-proprietary work samples may be valuable to include with your resumé. Employers may request samples of your work or you may decide to take the initiative and provide it as evidence of your ability. Any personal files should be removed from the company’s devices prior to your separation. If you are uncertain about what content you want to use in your job search, ask your employer for their permission.
Though it may be difficult be professional and continue doing your job to the best of your ability. Treating your boss or co-worker harshly won’t benefit you in your job search. You’ll learn who your friends are as you go through the transition. People will come up and give you tips about positions and names of people you should connect with and offer to make introductions. Some will offer to circulate your resumé to their network of contacts. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. We all need each other.
Finding and utilizing a mentor can be invaluable for professional and personal development and growth. Having a trusted advisor to guide you through the peaks and valleys that inevitably arise. It takes a designed methodical approach to identify, approach and attract a good mentor.
Start by writing down your short-term (one year or less) and long-term goals. Think about the career growth you want to achieve. Once you’ve written out your goals it’s time to begin looking for a suitable mentor to help guide you. Start with your network and begin building a list of people you’d like to contact. They should be people that are on the track that you want to pursue or have a successful background in their profession or role. Initiate contact with an email introducing yourself (if you don’t already know them). The email should be formal and briefly state your interest (why you need their help) and what about the person’s background you admire and would like to learn more about. If they’re still actively working they may be busy and not respond to your initial contact request for several days so be patient and give them adequate time to respond.
Mentors can come from anywhere and at any point in your career. You can be a young professional just beginning your career, someone with several years of experience looking to move into management or a business leader looking for a mentor to help guide you in growing your business or becoming a better leader. If you’re an executive looking for guidance having a thorough knowledge of your business in all aspects is required to get the best guidance.
Cultivate the relationship without being too pushy. If they’re amenable to mentoring you, setup a schedule of communication. You need to stay in contact on a regular basis so they are abreast of your progress. They should be able to help you develop a plan for achieving your goals and hold you accountable for doing your part. Once you’ve established the relationship be sure to let them know periodically how much you value their support. Avoid having the relationship be only about you receiving guidance and not giving back. If you meet someone through professional (or personal) interactions that may have relationships or mutual interests with your mentor let them know and ask if they would like for you to arrange an introduction. Try to give as much (or more) as you receive. Remember they’re sacrificing their time to meet with you and help advise you along your journey. Showing appreciation is important but need not be expensive (especially for young professionals). Thank you or gift cards are appreciated. Also, something as simple as buying them a cup of tea.
It’s also important to let them know when you have successes based on guidance you’ve received from them. If you get a new position, acquired a new skill or nailed an interview or presentation. Whatever it is let them know and thank them for their help. As you succeed so do they vicariously because of their advice. If you have challenges or failures seek their advice on navigating them. It’s not just a matter of listening and following instructions. If you have ideas that may differ from theirs feel free to express them. You may have perspectives or insight they hadn’t considered. However, it’s important to approach everything with an open mind. As your career progresses the frequency with which you communicate may decrease. This doesn’t mean they’re less valuable only that you have enough acumen and savvy to rely more on your own learning(s) and instincts.
These relationships will develop and transition over time but always look for ways to stay curios, ambitious and growing. Always ask for things you do well and areas you need to improve to help you grow. If you find the time spent beneficial consider reaching back and finding a mentee of your own to guide in the future.
You have a goal of wanting to be an executive or start a company by a certain age. You’ve got the necessary experience, in your opinion, and prepare to apply to that coveted position. The great unknown is whether the employer agrees that you’re qualified.
A close and objective examination of your professional experience is necessary. Assess whether you have adequate management experience. How many years of experience do you have? Have you been a senior manager already in a smaller organization? Have you had P&L responsibility? These are all questions you need to answer to gauge whether a hiring manager could take a risk on you. These are important positions within a company, so there’s a higher standard and greater level of scrutiny.
Expect competition from inside the organization. Companies want to retain their best employees and promoting them into senior management positions is one of their best levers. They risk losing stars by bringing in someone from outside the organization.
As with any job search, relying on your network is the best way to enter the senior management ranks. It’s even more essential when trying to get your first executive position. The majority of these positions are filled through referrals. If the previous executive left the company voluntarily they may have recommended someone from the company’s ranks they’re familiar with. It’s even extremely difficult going through a recruiter.
How can you break through the door if you’re highly capable?
In addition to the obvious networking requirement here are things you can do to ready yourself further.
Look for opportunities to have leadership roles in organizations by seeking board memberships. Charitable or non-profits are good places to serve on a board. They are often looking for help and it’s a great way to learn leadership skills.
Mentors are beneficial throughout your life. Executive managers also have relationships with mentors who help guide their careers. Seek out mentors at any juncture of your career. Don’t assume they’re only for young professionals.
Get a video endorsement from an executive(s). The next best thing to them making a phone call on your behalf is to record a video talking about your abilities. They can talk about how long they’ve known you and in what capacity. Give specifics about your strengths including your qualities as a leader. A video from the C-Level executive goes a long way.
Meet with executive placement agencies to get a critique of your background and resumé and develop a plan to shore up any deficiencies in your experience, if necessary. If you work with an agency it’s important to remember that they are charged with finding opportunities for candidates, not for a specific job type.
Having a clear picture of what you want is the first step in moving into executive management. Learning early on from mentors helps you navigate your career and make decisions based on the essential skills needed for advancement. Getting recommendations from executives is the best way in the door but utilizing recruiters is also valuable.
If you’re not qualified today don’t let that deter you from continuing on the path and getting prepared for the opportunity when it arises.