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There might a be Gamer in the Next Cube

I have been reading a lot lately about the gamification of work. While I support making anything having to do with making work interesting and engaging, I am not in favor of people treating their careers like a game.

I can hear it now.  “Go ahead and try to fire me. I have infinite life and infinite money.”

Or how about this:  If I don’t like your proposal, I’ll get a few birds and a slingshot and show you how much I want to destroy it. (I’ve been practicing this one……)

Although, there are good parts of gaming too. Gamers have been using enterprise software and chat technology way longer than us corporate wonwks. This has created a generation of multi-taskers who can talk, make decisions and choose complex button combinations at the same time.

Also, gamers are always trying to get to the next level. That’s good in the workplace isn’t it?

And gamers have been collaborating since long before it became fashionable. I remember my son playing on the same team as his cousin and a guy from camp who both lived far away at the time. No silos there. True, they were trying to kill bad guys with automatic weapons but they were doing it together, as a team.

Perhaps it’s time for Electronic Arts or Ubisoft to start management consulting practices.  Maybe they could help organizations sort out which parts of gamification make sense for their work groups.

Until then….keep playing Minecraft and Candy Crush.  You never know when you might have blast apart someone’s proposal.

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What’s Your Superpower?

I am reading Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming.  It’s really good.  I am not the only one who thinks so.  It’s been near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 19 weeks.

She has had the chance to support, counsel and mentor many, many people.  One of the things she often asks is “what is your super power?”

I know it sounds trite but this is a really important concept when you are looking for your next role, especially when you are employed.

When you have to balance your day job and your outside-work responsibilities, finding time to look for another job is a huge challenge.  You want to make sure you are investing that precious time in the best way possible.

It is essential that you start by figuring out exactly what it is that you do.  I am not talking about your job title or your daily responsibilities but what you actually do.  I don’t mean something vague like “I solve operational problems”.  First of all,  who will understand what you really mean by that and second, doesn’t everyone do that?

I mean the real meat and potatoes of what you do.  Here are some examples.

  • I create and implement policies in a complicated environment.
  • I pull together subject matter experts to solve customer escalations.
  • I hold people accountable in a fast paced environment.

You can add words to make it reflect your own specifics but you get the gist.

This exercise serves two purposes.  It sets you apart from the crowd and also allows people to get a handle on how you might fit into their organization.

Here is how this concept worked for me.  When I describe myself as a Recruiter, people just nod. Everyone knows  a recruiter.  (For better or for worse…..).  But if I say that I find people for strategic and demanding roles in manfuacturing and industrial environments, that usually gets a thoughtful eyebrow lift as they process what I have said.

It’s that stop-and-think-about-me thing that you want to create.  That’s how you get noticed and stand apart from the crowd.  And in the jobs game, that’s the secret sauce.

 

 

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Time to “Marie Kondo” Your Network

This weekend marks the hypothetical beginning of spring. I know the calendar says it is has arrived but I can still see my breath in the mornings so it’s not here yet.

Spring is when we think about cleaning, decluttering and generally freshening things up.  This should include not  just your living room, fridge or stinky, salt stained car but also your network.

Yes, I said network.

I am not saying you should unfriend people in droves however, once in a while, you need to take a look at your network to see if it reflects your needs and brings you joy. Your network is a bit like insurance.  You really only learn about the consequences of choosing the cheap plan when you get into an accident and realize what is not covered.

You don’t want to figure out that your network is made up of mostly peers from the same company or industry when there is a downturn in that business.  You will all be moping at the same time.  Not helpful.

Here is what really drove this home for me:  Justin Bieber.  Seriously.  We re-watched his roast on Comedy Central this week.  It was hilarious (on many levels) but what struck me was the diversity of the people willing to go on tv to roast the kid.

You might expect comics like Kevin Hart and musicians like Ludacris.  They are his natural, industry network.  They probably go to the same parties and award shows and have  a lot in common.

Guess who else was on the stage?  Shaquille O’Neil, Snoop Dog and, wait for it, Martha Stewart.

No matter that they were only there to make fun of him.  That’s not the point.  The point is that they were willing to expose themselves by telling jokes about him to a live audience.

That is a powerful network.  With that kind of diversity, Justin should be able to steer clear of all kinds of career obstacles.  He should be able to use them to evaluate opportunities and get doors opened for new ideas.

So, who would do your roast?  Can you pull together people from difference industries and backgrounds?  Do they know enough about you to tell some stories?

Forget cleaning the fridge.  Spruce up your network instead.

 

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How External Recruiters Help with Diversity

One of the best ways to change up your work groups and increase the diversity of your company is to use external recruiters and I am not just saying that because I am an external recruiter.
When you work with someone outside your company, you are focused on describing what the new person is going to do and where they fit into the greater scheme of things.
Your talk about the activities and leadership style, their technical knowledge and priorities.

The external recruiter does not know that people in your organization all went to Stanford and all play broom ball.

So they hit the candidate marketplace and start talking about your company and the great things that are happening and within a few weeks, you have a new group of candidates who would not have applied to your posting or been a part of your employees’ networks.

There is going to be some fresh new thinking in that group. It can be a pretty interesting experience to interview someone who understands the role but is from a different environment.

They have credibility but none of the baggage. This can be a tremendous help with innovation based roles or where a group has become a bit stagnant.

The key is to keep an open mind when you are interviewing. Review your questions before hand. Be sure to remove things that contain company specific acronyms or personalities.

When you find the gem and hire them, make sure you have a very inclusive on-boarding process. Hiring managers and peers alike sometimes need to be reminded that even though someone can’t play broom ball, they can
still contribute some great ideas.

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Explore, Research and Discover

Spring is just around the corner and whether you are about to graduate or just itchy for change, there are many new and emerging roles and even, industries to explore.

Gone are the days where a job with IBM or a bank or the government meant you were set for life. Those institutions may have good pensions but that’s about it. The concept of a “job for life” no longer exists. Even if you have been with.a company for a long time, there are no guarantees.

So, let’s put that idea aside. For good. That gives us the freedom to explore all kinds of different options. And there are lots of options. We just have to throw away the blinders that cause us to ignore or dismiss jobs seem unfamiliar or could be short lived.

I toured a bread factory this week. It was fascinating. The company has invested $10 million in new equipment. There are new mixers and a flour transport line and five kilometers of conveyors. Think of how many people were involved in designing, manufacturing and installing all that equipment. Not to mention the number of people it takes to develop recipes for clients and actually make the bread. (Turns out those pretzels buns we love are quite the challenge to make!)

Or consider the nuclear industry. Ontario Power Generation is refurbishing the four reactors at the Darlington station and the mega project is expected to take 112 months. That’s a long time and will involve not just engineers and trades people (although there are millions of hours of those skills needed). They will need analysts, and accountants and public relations folks and they might even need a sandwich or two as well.

Which brings us back to bread……

Don’t be afraid to explore opportunities that you have not considered. There are so many things happening so quickly that it really is up to each of us to explore, discover and research the big possibilities for our careers.

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Work from Anywhere – the New Distributed Workforce

I heard a great podcast on distributed work yesterday.  The speaker was a CEO with three or four successful start-ups under his belt.

He said he never uses the term “remote” as it implies that that particular group was not part of the whole.  He prefers distributed because his whole force is spread across the globe.  Some of them work in clusters but most work completely independently.

There are people on his team are nomads and don’t even have a home base or a work base.   He says people can work anywhere as long as there is wifi.

That breaks with a lot of the traditions in the Canadian workplace.  Many companies are still struggling to create a “work from home” policy that says how many days people can work somewhere other than the office.   

But still, we need to pay attention to these trends.  As more people’s careers focus on service or knowledge jobs, working anywhere becomes practical and efficient.

Obliviously, you can’t fix cars remotely or perform a root canal virtually.  Consider that two years ago, you could only order pizza for delivery.  Now you can work for a fine dining restaurant and never see another customer drop a fork thanks to all the new food delivery apps.

Working with people in the same physical location will never be the same as logging into a video chat platform and meeting that way.  But there are many benefits – no commute, no need for pants, no enduring colleague’s smelly lunches.

You also get the chance to work with a broader range of people and that makes life way more interesting.

In fact, this is one of the CEO’s rationale for a distributed work force.  He can hire talent from all over the world without having to take them out of their home community.  He also does not have to compete for the small group of talent that might be available near his corporate office.

There are more and more jobs available like this.  Try it out. Ditch the pants and work from home or try working from another office. (Keep your pants on if you go with this option).  It might open up a whole new world.

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It’s a Funny Story…..

Over the last few weeks I have been asking candidates how they got into their professions. And more than two thirds start their answer with “well, it’s a funny story”.

Then they proceed to talk about the seemingly unrelated series of events that took place and culminated in them landing in that exact place.

This gives me great cause for optimism. I read a lot about workplace transformation and AI and jobs disappearing. And I worry. I worry about how people will change themselves to keep pace with the shifts in the workplace.

But if that many people fall into jobs that they never imagined when they were in school then I guess there is a certain amount of hope that they will continue to follow new paths.

I have read about journalists who are working in digital marketing, an English grad who is working in software development and the music student ended up being a great project manager.

Many of the initial opportunities came from networking. A former colleague or a former manager reached out or made a key suggestion.

The takeaways:
Keep your network warm. Make sure they know who you are and what you care about. (Not just your title and company).

Be open to listening to ideas and evaluating them as you go. If you are always “way too busy” to consider a new opportunity, they will cease to come your way.

Read a lot. Read about your industry, the tools you use, the news of the day and a bit about the economy. Keep your world broader than your desk.

Basically, if you keep your eyes open for ways to explore and learn about the future, you will be ready when it arrives.

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