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Anonymous Career Advice

Knowing it’s time to leave vs unfinished business

This week’s anonymous career advice is going to be applicable for many people over the next quarter, with more people returning to offices and continuing working in the hybrid environment, we will see staff of all levels question is it time to leave or complete your role at your current company.

Dear focus, I have been in a director of role for the last three years and a director of for two years before this at another company, although I feel like I have Unfinished business, I’m not sure if it’s time for me to leave and take on my next challenge. Can you help?

You are encountering something that many people will be wrangling with over the next six to nine months. 

Regarding your specific question, there are a few layers to unpack.

Service:
The job market has shifted a lot over the last 18 months, there are many businesses rehiring, there are many companies growing and expanding headcount, there are others making the calculated risk to hire and mature their teams with more senior hires. 

Gone are the days in many markets you stay with a company for over a decade most tenure is under four years, so you have been with this company in a senior role for a good time period. 

Service and tenure can work for you and against you, one thing to ensure is ‘have you used up your social capital’ and have you become part of the furniture vs adding real value and being listened to? 

Regularly this can be understood by speaking to those around you and those above you, if your influence has declined and you feel like this is hurting your career, it might just be time to explore and get back to high performance and being valued. 

Title:
Many titles can be misleading, it doesn’t necessarily indicate your influence within the company or the level you operate at externally. 

If you are disheartened about the same title or not being able to take a V title or a c-suite title, there might be ways to ask for the timeline when this might be available. 

Is promotion an important thing to you? Are titles important to you where you are at? If yes, you need to understand the timeline and understand how you are considered internally, often this is harder to gain feedback on, however speaking to your boss, your colleagues on the same level and HR can help you understand this. Be prepared for tough questions and honest feedback loops. 

Know Your Worth?
Something an old boss used to say to me and what Netflix tells their employees, take the meeting or the interview see what you are worth or what might be out there. 

An important question to ask yourself is do you doubt yourself or have you lost some confidence in your current role?

If yes, it’s probably time to look at updating your cv/resume and start having conversations with recruiters and headhunters. 

If you have been unhappy in this role and need some help I suggest reading the professional injuries blog post to help you break down what is happening and why. 

To answer if it is unfinished business or time to leave, you will know in your own mind, you will have a feeling, unfinished business is often a reason why many people stay in their role when they don’t know what they want to do or where they want to go next. 

I would really question if you having doubts, you should start proactively making a change,  start with LinkedIn, CV and start having conversations, external conversations will help you make the right decision. 

Sometimes better the devil you know other times it takes the right step forward to catapult your career onwards and upwards.  

I recommend you to use a Risk vs benefits framework you can easily see what risks you have staying and what benefits you might have.

You can then apply the same risk vs benefit analysis for leaving. 

Once you complete the analysis you will be in a better place to answer this question for yourself and for your future. 

I always recommend writing a professional SWOT when you are at a crossroads. This is likely the time to put yourself first.

Consider introducing interview practice runs into your department as it will help your colleagues and help you prepare for what might be to come. 

If you are looking for other advice and tips for virtual interviews read this leaders letter.

My personal experience is, if you feel like you have unfinished business and you can make the changes required, you should map this out in detail and if you have the feeling it is time to leave don’t leave it too late as you will kick yourself and you may feel like your career has gone backwards. 

Best of luck with your decision, if you are asking the right question – you are on the right track. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

Virtual Interview Failures

In this week’s anonymous career feedback, we tackle virtual interviews and how to handle potential difficulties and how to impress,  

Dear Focus, I keep stumbling at interviews, what can I do to improve my virtual interviews? 

Interviews are difficult, whether they are in person, completely virtual or in the future hybrid, some in-person others virtual.

Virtual interviews should not be too much different to in-person interviews, however, the feel and flow can be offputting and each internet connection and quality of connection alongside the quality of headphone, the quality of your sound via your microphone, the background distractions and how good your webcam is can feel like competitive edges or a negative from the first hello, how are you. 

In 2021 the majority of interviews will be virtual, or virtual first with a second or third in person, if you have worked for a large international business or in a senior role this process has not changed but for many less experienced in these scenarios will feel daunting and hard to gage. 

No interview is ever the same, some interviewers are bad interviewers, some interviewees have off days or days they struggle to interview well. Like a good video meeting or session, there are components you can control and set yourself up for success rather than failure.

The best advice we can provide is: 

Pre-Interview 

  • Be prepared
  • Write down the questions on a notepad so as not to flick between screens or applications 
  • Ask clarifying questions before the interview during interview can take any flow away the interview and talking openly 
  • Arrange your desk and camera so you are looking at the camera and having “dedicated eye contact”
  • Do your research – let the interviewing panel know you have prepared 
  • Get yourself a drink and anything you might need like a tissue etc 
  • If you have a mac switch on do not disturb, there is a similar mode on PCs
  • Download the web client natively, browsers can be slow or need processing 
  • Join on time 

During The Interview 

  • Eye contact as much as possible 
  • Remember you are on camera 
  • Focus on the interview, not interior distractions 
  • Let the interviewers know you are taking notes 
  • Go through your list of questions, it is completely fine to take notes and ask numerous questions 
  • If the tools or software struggles call this out early and recommend logging back in or using another tool, do not struggle through with, own and lead interviews 
  • Answer as openly and honestly as possible 
  • Show you know the deck or document you have created, reading each slide bullet by bullet doesn’t show you are prepared or confident 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and let interviewers know there could be a delay 
  • If you have been asked to prepare anything consider how you can leverage third-party tools to record the video or send a copy of the information before the interview like you might with an important pitch or strategy session 
  • Ask about the company culture and recent failures – this shows you are interested and you ask important questions 
  • Think timelines, budgets and delivery – these are typically the three sections and story arch you have to deliver on 
  • Understand what the timeline is you are working towards 
  • If you have other interviews let the team know

Post Interview 

  • Ask follow up questions 
  • Ask for feedback 
  • Take the time to send through any links referenced 
  • If you wish you had said something, you can liaise with the team to provide more content 
  • Take the time to collate your thoughts and ideas 

Often your best work is not what the interviewing panel is looking for, often you will go over and above and you miss crucial summaries (exec summaries are priceless) or talk in the language of the panel, everyone has different challenges in interviews it is about being prepared, being able to connect with the interview panel and having a direct point and reference to guide your interview towards.

This year won’t be easy but often practise makes perfect and if you can practise with friends, family or a potential management coach or professional mentor.  

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Anonymous Career Advice

Self-Taught Manager Issues?

 This week’s anonymous career advice comes from “middle manager with middle manager problems”. 

Dear focus, I am a self-taught manager and I struggle managing my team and manage my manager’s expectations. What is the best way to develop my management style of managing my manager and managing my team? 

There is something quite important about understanding you can improve as a manager and improve managing those around you and those you come into contact with regularly. 

An issue managers face is typically being able to create time to manage, to do their own work and manage out managers, or at least their expectations. 

Middle management is the hardest area of management, it is often the time you learn most about the work environment, the way people are motivated and what expectations truly are. 

Personally, I have a belief that management is an art form that a tiny per cent of people have managed to crack, it evolves every day and with every interaction, so this advice won’t be perfect but will be a guide to help you improve as a manager and improve communications and expectation management.

Management Advice

Managing up 

Managing up is about relationships and time management, most senior managers are time-sensitive and struggle to have much time to dedicate themselves to one to ones or one to few. 

From experience key to managing up is to communicate the most important aspects and goings-on with clear thought and in digestible chunks. Being able to have an exec summary and a list of objectives and the ways you are thinking of tackling those objectives often puts you on the front foot. 

One issue to countermeasure is handling the requests and helping your manager to know when you can take more work on and when they need to take work off you. This happens with a relationship and having clear one to ones and clear communications around hurdles. 

One problem two solutions framework will help greatly with overbearing bosses as will risks vs benefits framework when going through and managing your communications. 

Managing Around 

Managing around you is an area many ignore as managing those managers in the same position as you are is an important part of your development and building a support network. 

Managing Your Team 

Managing your team is always a challenge, something that has been a help in my career is working out the individual motivations and the way people want to be managed and compare to how you manage them. Surprisingly you will find some are motivated by praise, others are motivated by money and some are motivated by knowing they can improve. 

Being able to have open conversations, help problem-solve together and collaboratively and speak on the right level will help you have better relationships and improve as a manager, being trusted and proving you have their best interests is vitally important. This comes with time and having their back and supporting them by knowing when they need you, when they want you and when they don’t know they require support and guidance. 

An important lesson: saying my door is always open and not being available is something that upsets and frustrates your team far more than you will know. 

More actions you can take to proactively progress as a manager:

  • Hire a professional coach 
  • Ask for internal mentors 
  • Look for external mentors – costs can vary but important to know how much an external mentor will improve and challenge you differently
  • Hire a personal development coach 
  • Join a manager group – some can be particularly useful, be wary of HiPPO bias or admin bias in big groups
  • Build a management group on slack, discord or on LinkedIn to improve your skills and be able to have voice anonymous issues. I have built a number of communities that have helped greatly  
  • Write a professional and personal SWOT – this will help you spot your own weaknesses and build on opportunities you and others see
  • Read lessons from leaders this was an important set of interviews from last summer
  • Bringing those up around you will improve you as a manager, consider is it time for a co-pilot
  • Ask to co-create leadership principles to roll out to your leadership teams if this does not exist and will enable you to understand different situations and working environments particularly if you have access to broader teams, for instance: tech vs non-tech management are completely different challenges.

Leadership is not a linear journey and often you learn more in challenges than you do when everything seems to be going well. 

Keep up on knowing you want to progress and being proactive in developing out your career. 

Finally, never discount free resources on YouTube, LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to invest in books. 

Have Your Own Question?

Our book recommendations can be found 

Focus book recommendations 

5 Business Books To Read 

Ride of a lifetime  – The Disney Chairman autobiography

The Netflix Company Culture Book aka No Rules Rules – – The Netflix CEO book autobiography


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Anonymous Career Advice Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 26th March

This week’s five for Friday, aka Friday focus, we showcase our five anonymous career advice articles, we have written helping those who people who completed our anonymous career help form.

Anonymous Career Advice Must Reads

  1. Disconnected from my team, what do I do?
  2. How to prevent burnout and working when my team are sick?
  3. I’m failing to get my message across, how do I improve?
  4. I feel like my career is going backwards, what can I do?
  5. My colleague keeps stealing my ideas, what should I do?

Need some of your anonymous advice?

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Anonymous Career Advice

Failing To Get My Message Across

In this weeks anonymous career advice, we tackle a problem many managers and leaders face, not being able to get their message across.

Dear Focus, I seem to struggle to get my message across to my company. My leadership team suggests it’s down to how I communicate, how can I improve?

For almost every leader, internal communications and landing a message has never been as challenging as it is today.
Why? Today there are too many channels to send and land a message, emails go unread, internal instant messengers are often ignored or skim read and there is no sense of urgency or importance.
Then there is the challenge of choice of language and more often than not sentiment can be difficult to understand and land as one message for everyone.

Over the past three years, there has been a shift to creating richer content when these communications are not made in person, typically video has been something many leaders have tried to embrace but the delivery mechanism is still email or instant messenger.

Questions to ask yourself?

  • Are you the best person to send the message?
    • If no, who would be the best to deliver the message?
  • Who is the best person at delivering a message in your organisation?
    If someone else is better, leverage them and their connection with the teams.
  • Have you watched any important speeches or watched free materials on speech rating or internal comms?
    There is a lot of free content that will help you deliver your messages
  • Can you use a mix of audio, written and video?
    It can seem like more work, however, making your message apply across different formats helps the message to land and will become shareable internally like it would on social networks.
  • Do you have a set of communication communications within your business to understand important communications and how urgent they are?
    Remember an email from the HiPPO does not mean it is important.
  • If you had to pick just one channel to deliver your message, which channel would it be?
  • Which channels land for you and your colleagues?
  • Do you explain the essential communications in the most simplistic and understandable way possible? Do you sense check any of the language you include?
  • Are you using any localised words which do not translate well?
  • Have you looked at the time you send these messages?
    The time that emails are sent are often too late or at busy times and can be ignored. Choose early, just before lunch or towards 16.00 (timezones are a pain to compete with).
  • If this was delivered by a large company as an advertising campaign, what formats would they use?
    What can you learn from this?

You have plenty to think about, I would consider leveraging free content online to help you become more compelling, speaking to those who can land a message and working with them on delivery and speaking to the team around you to help them spread the information in a multi-person comms attack vs trying to deliver one knock out punch.

If you are looking for a quicker fix, I would concentrate on:
(1) what you want to say – consider writing post-it notes out and then typing up or recording,
(2) how you want to deliver it (text-based vs video vs audio recording, email vs messenger) and
(3) how you ask for feedback
(4) how you follow up.

Best of luck.

Have your own question or need advice? Submit yours below

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Anonymous Career Advice

Complete Change In Career

Today’s anonymous career advice post is common for many people with a desire a complete career change.
Although today’s question is super-specific the recommendations apply to many other situations.

Dear Focus, I have been working offshore in the Oil and Gas industry for 13 years now. Never really worked a job on land. But I feel that this chapter of working offshore has to end. My problem is I have no idea what to do next.

Changing your career is always a big change, it can seem daunting but often it is something you can break down piece by piece.

Not knowing what to do next is not uncommon, the majority of us have no idea of what we would want to do next. You have the opportunity to build towards your next step.

One thing you should do is make the time in knowing what the next career move ideally is.

Firstly, your skills are always transferable, many skills seem specific on the surface but once you evaluate you will see how they often apply to so many roles.

Most of the skills I learnt in part-time work when I was 17 and working in QSR still applies twenty plus years later.

Your industry is a specialist industry and might seem unique however almost all of your skills are transferable and it is something for you to explore, map out and explore.

The question to ask yourself is what role do I want to do and what makes me great for that role. These are going to be the first questions the hiring manager and HR team will ask.

Below is a series of actions you should take:

Actions

  • Find areas of new work you will want to work in
  • Review places like Glassdoor for reviews of interviews and the workplace
  • Review LinkedIn for people who have these roles and their backgrounds, often you will see there isn’t always obvious steps to the roles they have
  • Create a hitlist of jobs, roles and levels you are applicable for
  • Find as many people within that sector that would make time to discuss the job and their roles with you
  • Write a detailed pros and cons list of the role and your fitting
  • Write a SWOT analysis and be brutally honest, you will be surprised how many strengths and opportunities you
  • Start writing or recording content about the subject matter and the area you would like to go into – clearer thoughts and ideas will really help you
  • Look at free online courses and take as many as possible in your spare time
  • Write a standout cover letter, explain why you are relevant, these are questions you will have to answer before they question you
  • Create bespoke CV/resume for each role – this is something many fail to do
  • Lean into the free resources available, dive into webinars, YouTube is full of useful content
  • Self-learning is essential, show how you have developed yourself and those around you

This list should help you understand the steps to take and how you will be more applicable than you think.

Best of luck.


Read The Previous Anonymous Career Advice Articles:

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Anonymous Career Advice

Career Going Backwards

In this week’s instalment of focus anonymous career advice, we cover something many of us face, is our career going backwards?

Dear Focus, I feel like my career is going backwards, I have not been promoted for two years, my manager cannot answer why this has not changed, unless my boss leaves I won’t get a title change, what should I do?

This sounds like an issue so many people face, you have hit your ceiling within your business and there is nowhere to go unless you feel like they leave.

There are a couple of sides you should consider:

– Have you evolved in the last two years?
– Are there any development opportunities within the company?
– Can you arrange a skip meeting with your bosses boss and discuss what potential steps there are?

The more obvious the question, the more important it is to answer the question.

Something that is important to keep front of mind and something you should continually ask yourself is what have I learnt and have I evolved?

Personal development and being the person who evolves your career is the easiest hack, you have the ability to learn from millions of resources online and the option to ask for specific training courses from your company. Not developing yourself in this situation is holding yourself back.

Often managers cannot answer these tricky questions, for many reasons, often this is because they are concerned for their role, for the competition from you, for losing you to another business and you are a secret weapon or hidden leader and rely on you more than know.

Many businesses have top-down company culture, meaning your boss has far more influence on you than the business around you, it is important to understand if this is happening across the business or just in your situation. Be delicate in asking these questions, for yourself and so this does not fed back to your boss.

Something that Netflix openly encourage is for you to understand your worth and take external interviews, taking an interview or interviews will help you to understand where you are at, what other companies are looking for and if you can take a step up in another business. Often this is a great way to know if you are undervalued or underachieving or frankly in the wrong business.

Ceilings are everywhere, as the number of headcount and senior people has to be limited (despite some companies feeling the opposite).
This does not mean there are not any other opportunities or leadership roles internally or options to own other projects outside of your current roles and progress within this organisation.

Many times businesses are looking for leaders to step up and move laterally to improve the company. This is common in many of the larger orgs and something I and many others have benefitted from.

The harder truth might be, to develop or gain a promotion, you will likely have to move on or wait for your manager to leave, this is not a foolproof plan.

For what it is worth: Titles do not really mean as much until you look to leave a role, often titles are overly internally focused that what internal title you have is completely different externally.

Good luck with this, I would recommend having the open conversations with your boss or bosses boss, look for interview opportunities to understand where you are and consider how you might take the step up by taking on different projects.
The key here is to be super proactive and drive your own career forward.


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Anonymous Career Advice

Stealing Ideas

This week’s anonymous advice column is quite common and something you will likely face, stealing ideas and passing them off as their own.

Dear Focus, one of my colleagues steals ideas and passes them off as their own. It happens multiple times a year, what do I do to ensure the company know they are mine or my team’s ideas?

Firstly, I am sorry you are experiencing this, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence and is something that I would imagine that everyone goes through once or twice a year.

What worries me if it happens multiple times per year and if this is an occurrence of the last couple of years, it is either
(a) they do not know they are repacking ideas,
(b) they know they are doing it as you have not brought it up with them or
(c) potentially they are in a better position to push this idea forward.

We are always taught to apply the best intentions first, I imagine in this scenario the best way to address this is to arrange a meeting and raise these ideas with dates and how they have taken them on and packaged as their own. Conflict is difficult for many staff members especially between colleagues, however, you have to address it.

Many businesses are built so the best ideas bubble to the top and brought forward for the best of the company, this is something to keep in mind and ensure you remember whilst having the conversation and response you may receive.

Importantly, moving your career forward you will come across this situation and resolution in most companies, the way you deal with it is addressing in a positive manner and the first move is to raise and then address this. In times of conflict, many will see the best of you, versus the worst traits of you.

If the ideas are being repackaged and they are aware, this is where you have to make a decision, bring the best ideas to the right management team or action these ideas in your team and write the specification to bring other teams into the project.

Working transparently and showing off your work and ideas are essential, not only for more transparency within your business but for colleagues recognition but personal development within the business.

It’s important to remember the jobs in this situation:
– Your job is to make the company successful.
– If you have a manager or fellow leadership team, this is their job to take notice, attempt to address or be made aware of this is happening and how you are going to resolve this while making the company progress.
– The company’s job is to push these business decisions forward and enable success.

Good luck with address this, if you cannot address this personally, I would recommend bringing in your manager and showing examples but keep in mind this is likely going to raise more questions. I would recommend not raising this issue with the management team unless you are in the MT and consider how you work transparently and present ideas.

Best of luck.


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Anonymous Career Advice

Dear Focus, Anonymous Career Advice

Over the past twelve months, there has been a number of professionals who have struggled with the newer ways of working.

Being disconnected from colleagues, reduced interactions and being disconnected physically away from your team has seen a number of new challenges and led to a number of your colleagues questioning their role at your company and questioning if it is a good time for a career change.

The forced remote world of work we have experienced has challenged the least experienced to the most experienced.
From seeing colleagues leave, furloughs, redundancies and having to pick up more work with less support around us.

Even in recent CEO mentorship sessions and CMO coaching sessions, experienced leaders have asked for career advice which if anonymised it would be applicable to many others in similar positions.

It is imperative we set everyone up for the future of work and workforce and often you just do not have the support network you require for the problems you encounter.

So today, I am announcing Dear Focus, an anonymous career advice column, send in your questions and we will write up as a blog post to offer career advice and provide support. Please remember this is anonymous unless you decide to include your email and will send the article when live.

If you would like advice please complete the form below.

Leaders Letters (AKA Focus Newsletter) That May Help In The Meantime: