I Know What You Did This Summer
Submitted by Michael Salgaller on Wed, 2014-09-10 19:55
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I know what you did this summer. You probably worked on your job, but not your career. 

That’s okay. It’s hard to connect with people when so many are away on vacation. Weren’t you away part of the time? Please tell me you took a vacation. Please tell me you weren’t one of those who added to the sorry statistics about how little vacations Americans take. 

Not to be a buzz-kill on your thoughts of nobility, but you’re not doing yourself, or any of your co-workers for that matter, a favor. Reports show that people taking vacations are generally more productive, and contribute to a more positive atmosphere in the workplace. 

Not to shatter your world, but they can carry on without you for a few days. The scientific world won’t die without you. The laboratory mice won’t die without you. In fact, you being away is probably the only reason they’re still alive.

So, back to where we left off in my last post, picking up strategies to make an informed judgment when and if to leave the job you love/like/tolerate/loathe. It comes down to this: if you’re the only one involved in managing your career, let alone finding a position, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. Think about it for a moment. If you’re the only one involved, it’s harder finding anything. When there’s anything lost that warrants television coverage, they never organize a search person

There isn’t just strength in numbers. There are also distinct viewpoints and strategies and approaches. They help assess where the search has already been, as well as places to look. 

There is a direct association between being in your comfort zone and putting effort in your career development, such as assembling a team to mentor you, guide you, provide the occasional realty check, provide a reference, serve as psychiatrist. 

If you already have a team, congratulations. Hopefully, they are regularly thanked, watered, and fed. Be sure to check on how you might help them

You may be surprised with something other than a “no” now and then. Even if the answer is always “no,” they’ll appreciate the gesture. Never let them go. Dare to walk the balance between attentive and stalker.

If you don’t already have a team, and aren’t sure where to get started, perhaps start by standing in the middle of your work environment and turn around slowly until you’ve turned completely around. 

Any possibilities? It doesn’t have to be a superior. It could be a co-worker with a different skill and a different viewpoint. It could just be a different experience, someone who has lived a small part of their career in an area you find interesting. 

Have you looked up your co-workers on LinkedIn? Should there be discomfort asking people about their past, you can see where they’ve been and what they’ve done on that site. Assume that it’s all right to learn about things they’ve chosen to share. These could be seeds to a great conversation or two. 

People like talking about themselves. Genuine interest is likely to be returned with genuine interest.

It’s certainly possible you’re not in a work environment conducive to developing your mentoring team. Unfortunately, there are more circumstances under which it wouldn’t be conducive than otherwise. You may not feel comfortable approaching colleagues and friends. 

If you start asking supervisors about career development, they may jump to the conclusion that you’re looking to jump ship. They may be so busy performing and meeting expectations, that they’d prefer keeping your interactions to what is listed in your job description. 

Perhaps your work and/or life location leaves you somewhat isolated. I certainly understand that there are more situations that don’t align, making it more challenging to confront the mirror of your career. In such cases, you’ll need to look outside (yourself and your work environment) to gather needed information. I’ll help with some tips in an upcoming posting.

Information is power. Information can be a warm security blanket, wrapped around your shoulders when you confront the mirror of your career. It keeps the cold winds of uncertainty at bay. If you’re in science, you know how to gather information for an article, a procedure, a presentation. Get busy gathering information for yourself.

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