This is the final post in a three part series summarizing a presentation I recently gave to the CPI Executive Forum on how to keep yourself motivated, engaged and positive as your job search extends from weeks, to several months, to over a year. I have been applying Lencioni’s “Three signs of a Miserable Job” paradigm to career transition, because people often describe transition as one of the most miserable jobs they have ever had.
Having covered how to avoid “Anonymity” and “Irrelevance” in my previous two posts, I will now focus on “Immeasurement”, a term Lencioni coined for jobs in which:
- Clear means of assessing progress are lacking
- Measures are outside of your control
- Measures don’t tie directly to purpose
One key to avoiding “immeasurement” in a career transition is effective individual time management. Unfortunately, for many executives, this skill has atrophied with the reliance on executive assistants to schedule their time and when Franklin Planners were replaced by Microsoft Outlook. They need to get back to having their daily activities and calendar being driven by their meaningful objectives and placing a weekly planning and review session on their calendars to “count” their successes and plan their next week’s priorities. Otherwise, it is far too easy to drift and waste time on low yield activities.
“Take Back Your Life!” by Sally McGhee and John Wittry is a great book that shows how to implement David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach to time management using Microsoft Outlook. The authors walk you step by step on how to configure MS Outlook into a single dashboard that organizes your tasks, your calendar, and your files around your objectives, and provides a control panel on one screen that enables you to track your progress. One of the tips I find particularly helpful is the use of categories by which you can color- code tasks and appointments according to objectives. (For example, use green for networking meetings, teal for networking calls, blue for interviews, and red for on-line marketing activities.) In addition to meetings, also schedule time blocks for completing specific tasks on your calendar. (E.g. Outbound calls and emails to set up networking meetings, LinkedIn search engine optimization (SEO), Internet research , blog posts and tweets.) By scheduling and color-coding all of your tasks as well as your meetings on your calendar, you provide a graphic visual on how you have spent your time this week and what you have planned for next week. If you see too much white space next week or not enough networking time (green), start making some calls!
The second key to avoiding immeasurability in your career transition is knowing what to count and setting daily and weekly goals for those metrics. You are much more likely to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day if you achieve daily goals you can control, rather than simply chaining yourself to your desk all day to “work on your job search”. (E.g. set up 3 networking meetings for next week, submit resume with strong cover memo to job posting, connect with hiring manager through LinkedIn connections, complete talking points for next week’s interview, obtain 3 additional contacts and 2 introductions from this afternoon’s meeting, register for next month’s networking event, schedule self for 2 hour shift at Feed My Starving Children.) Set reasonable goals, but don’t stop until you achieve them. If you need to make 5 more phone calls to set up one more meeting, do it. If you have to work after dinner to finish your blog post, do so. You will find that you will be working harder and enjoying it more! Make sure to include personal goals regarding family, fitness, fulfillment and fun to avoid burnout.
Finally, put a recurring weekly planning and review session on your calendar to celebrate your successes, evaluate your progress and time allocation, and plan next week’s priorities. If you find it difficult to hold yourself accountable, schedule it with a friend in transition, and hold each other accountable.
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To avoid “immeasurement” during your career transition, assess your progress weekly (if not daily) with relevant measures that are under your control.
- Use Sally McGhee’s approach to configure MS Outlook to align and manage your time and tasks against your career transition meaningful objectives.
- Manage by results, setting and achieving reasonable daily and weekly quantifiable objectives.
- Set a recurring weekly appointment with yourself or a partner to review your progress, time allocation against priorities, plans for next week and hold yourself accountable.
- Ultimately, avoiding a miserable career transition is about learning to count—Why you count and add value as a person, how what you do counts, and what to count on a daily basis.