Broken Computer, broken heart.
It’s about time I wrote something about work life. After all, my working career has been good to me so far, although I have been good to my career by working at it. I work in a finance role at the moment managing a small global team for a large multinational. I have been in my limited career, project managed, insourced, outsourced, invented the wheel, fit square pegs in round holes and drank lots of tea. You don’t need to be a coffee drinker to succeed in life – trust me!

Given its all doom and gloom in the papers today, Ireland is hemorrhaging jobs, let me share with you some thoughts and ideas to maintain a healthy career. Some of it may seem obvious, some of it may seem like common sense, but hopefully there is something in it for everyone. Granted this is a very brief article, hopefully it can inspire some ideas.

We all need some level of security in our place of work, be us a cog in the corporate wheel or an up and coming entrepreneur. What sets us out from everyone? Think about the reasons that you shop in Dunnes Stores instead of Tesco, or go to one gym instead of another. After price, whats the reason? For many of us its Value.

Have you set yourself career goals, short, medium or long term? You probably have one of the following answers:

* Nah, what’s the point, sure I’m in X career, there is only so far I can go unless I go back to college or sumthin.
* Haven’t had a chance or given it much thought really.
* Yes

Now if you are reading my blog, you’re already a walking genius so lets assume you’ve your goals written down. Well done, you’ve given yourself a head start on everyone else. There are plenty of books that will quote you stats on how much more successful it will make you. But lets be honest, writing down “Goal 1: I want to be rich and successful” isn’t going to make you rich and successful no matter what Rhonda Byrne (author of The Secret) may tell you!

Its all about the detail.

If you goal is to be rich and successful, where do you begin? I’m fecked if I know! So get specific. Write down goals such as; “Goal 1: I want to own a 03 Mercedes in 2010.” Now we’re getting somewhere. You’ve set yourself a specific goal with a timeframe. Same goes with the workplace. E.G. “Goal 2: I want to project managing the outsourcing of X tasks to Site B by 2010.” Bingo. Same thing. Specific, time frame.

I could go on, but there are plenty of books out there on goals and realising them. Lets look at the roadmap to realising your goal.

Lets say your goal is to be your team supervisor by such and such a date. However there is rarely an opportunity for promotion because the person currently doing it has been there for years yada yada. Sound familiar? Yeah we’ve all been there at some point. I couldn’t be arsed, blah blah blah, hate the place blah blah blah. You get my drift. One day though that person will leave, or new position is created or a new opportunity within your company or externally. Its definitely going to happen. The question is how are you going to be prepared for it?

Let me give you an example from some years ago when I managed a large team of 20 people with 4 supervisors. The supervisors were institutionalised and happy with their positions. No signs of them moving on. One of the core feedback items from their subordinates was there was rarely opportunity for promotion. 2 people in particular came to me asking me for advice on moving up the ladder and expressed interest in progressing the management route. Over a 12 month period, the penny dropped with one of the girls, she started taking on additional responsibilites from her supervisor, getting more involved in task and decision making where she could and started to do more in house training. All off her own back and without (a) brown nosing and (b) working any extra hours. The other girl moaned about it the lack of progress in the company and how “shite” morale was. 12 months passed and one of my supervisors annouced she was unexpectedly pregnant. No prize for guessing which of the team members was first in line to cover her maternity benefit. The same individual is now a team manager in another industry, for another company. Progress with little effort.

So what has this to do with riding out a downturn? Well its an analogy for your effectiveness in the workplace. Take a step back from yourself at work. Are you good at your job? How do you know? Are you grade against your responsibilities or are you graded on what you do above and beyond your responsibilties? What value do you you add to your department and organisation? Just because its not in your job description does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t take heed or just get it done. The buck stops with each of us individually regardless of whether we are customer facing or not.

As a manager I surround myself with good people. (Some will argue its because Im a lazy fecker who wants to skive as much as possible!) If you are part of an effective team, your strengths far outway your weakness and in many cases, null and void them. For the same reason the dragons on the Dragon’s Den dont invest in the new and interesting products but rather the individuals who create them, companies like to keep good people. Are you one of them?

Its a busy pace of life both at home and in the office. I generally use the Outlook calendar and Tasks to manage my daily routines. Whenever I need to set my goals for the week or even the day, I write them all down and then shave 30% of them off the list. That way I know I have a good chance of achieving them. Afterall, the work week never goes as planned. We get distracted from all directions. Bespoke requests from management, dragged out customer request, or just even the computer network being down. It all adds up.

Finally the last thing I will say (if you’re still reading and chances are you’re not!) is try stay positive. Nothing worse than a grumpy employee!

How Smart Workers Survive a Downturn

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