5 People You Need On Your Career Team

By Karen Adamedes

Who's on your career team?

Who’s on your career team?

Nobody stands up at the Oscars, the Golden Globes or any other event where individuals are recognized and says in their acceptance speech, “Thanks, I did this all myself!”.

Not only would this be seen as arrogant (to say the least) but the reality is, it’s not true or even possible. No one can really ‘shine’ without the expertise, coaching, knowledge, support or help of other people.

When Morgan Freeman won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby in 2009 he said, I want to thank everybody and anybody who ever had anything at all to do with the making of this picture.” He credited everybody who was involved for his success.

At the 76th Academy Awards where “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” won all 11 categories it had been nominated for, host Billy Chrystal quipped “It’s now official. There is no one left to thank in New Zealand.” (which was where the movie had been made). Everyone thanked everyone because those that were acknowledged knew they had not done it on their own.

Politicians who get elected (or not) thank the teams behind them, winning sports competitors, recipients of academic awards and Nobel prizes, top business people, in fact, any individual who achieves success, knows that they needed the support of others to achieve their individual accomplishments. It makes sense that this theory applies to us mere mortals and the achievement of our goals….because they are just as important to us as internationally recognized accolades are to actors in Hollywood or players in Grand Slam tournaments.
If you play a sport, you may have a coach or a personal trainer if you work out as an individual. The physio you go to if you injure yourself. And perhaps a sports masseuse if you treat yourself to a post game/workout massage. A family member who supports you in your nutritional choices, your friends who are interested in how you are playing/progressing and even the team at the sports nutrition shop that are providing your vitamins. No matter what you are trying to achieve, whether as part of a team or as an individual, there’s a lot of people needed behind the scenes that contribute to you achieving a goal.

What about your career development?

Do you have a team behind you?

I don’t mean the actual group of people you work with…but a team you have assembled, behind the scenes, to help you achieve your potential?

“career team” may never know they are part of your personally appointed entourage, hold a meeting or even know about each other – but they all can play a vitally important role to make sure that you can be your best. From my experience there are 5 people who are vital to have on your career team:

1. The Manager

Sometimes in organizations you get the experience of working with an amazing manager who provides you with knowledge, develops your skills and supplies valuable insights. Other times, you get a shocker (I’m guessing no further explanation is needed?). 

Regardless, there is always something you can learn from a manager.
In the case of a “bad” one you might learn what not to do. There is no gain in having a painful relationship with them and being adversarial…it will only make your life miserable. Even worse this person has a degree of organizational positioning over you and could block your development or opportunities in other ways. At the very least, you want a relationship where they are not going to stand in your way. You need them on your side. On your team, however they can contribute.
But when you get a good manager – one who you can learn from and is genuinely interested in your development – this is gold!
Take full advantage and learn everything you can and develop a relationship where they can become a mentor, sponsor or trusted adviser.
Sometimes organizational restructures happen or people move roles and you don’t get the chance to work with a manager as long as you would like or for as long as you need to learn from them. If they (or you) are moving on ask if you can still stay in contact. Be direct and let them know why. It might be because you really like their thinking, they have a certain skill you are learning or they challenge you in some way. Whatever it is that makes you want to continue to work with them in some way.
Tell them and ask if they would could continue to work with you as a mentor. Or if that seems too much to ask – at least confirm whether it would be okay to stay in touch to discuss <whatever it is> in their new role. Most people are a) flattered and b) interested in spending time with people who want to learn. It’s pretty rare that you get a no. What have you got to lose by asking?

2. The Mentor

Your manager may fulfill the criteria of a mentor providing you with coaching, expertise and guidance…but you get them for free with your job.

The opportunity is to broaden your team and add one or more people who can help you with the specific skills, experience or knowledge that you have identified you need or want to develop.

You may have one or several…it all depends on what you have worked out that you need to learn.

3. The Trusted Adviser

This is the person that you trust absolutely, knows you well and that you respect.

Where a mentor might gently guide you – this is the person you can go to when things go wrong or you don’t know where to turn. The person who will tell you like it is.

Often these relationships are built on mutual trust and respect so you might also play the same role for them.
Your trusted adviser may be someone you have worked with in the past, a previous manager, a colleague or a friend from another company.
They are the person that when things go wrong or you’re really not sure what to do you can ring, text or somehow send an SOS to ask for advice or just bounce around ideas.
They will be empathetic and “on your side” – which some days you just need!
They can give you “fresh eyes” on a situation and provide you with a different viewpoint or perspective and some really practical advice to get you back on track.
They are your secret weapon when you need them.

4. The Sponsor

This person might not seem to be playing an active role in of your team.
They may not be in your immediate sphere and in fact, you might not even know them that well.
There’s a good chance that they don’t even tell you that they are recommending or speaking well of you.
But they’re there, in the background…talking you up, recommending you for projects, roles or promotions. If your career antenna is working – you’ll get to hear who they are. Even if you never know – they can make a tremendous contribution.
People ask other people for recommendations of good people.
The best way to develop sponsors and to be the person that is recommended is to build a positive professional reputation by doing a great job and working in a way that people want you on their team. 
People will recommend people who do a good job, are easy to work with. And the recommendation will reflect well on them for putting you forward.

5. The Fan

This may seem a bit self indulgent but having a fan (or more than one) can be good for your ego.
Developing a career is a bit like a marathon and some stretches are harder than others and it’s just really nice to know that someone thinks you are doing a great job and admires you. 
A fan may be someone that you mentor, or who comes to you for advice or feedback or someone you’ve helped along the way.
A fan can help you ‘lift your game’. When you have someone looking up to you as a role model it can keep you motivated to do your best (or not slack off!)

So what about your career team?

Do you have all these people on your team?

Who’s missing?

Who do you need to add to your team?

And, when are you going to do it?

The Career Tip To Go: Identify who you need and build your career team!


Include Career Tips To Go in your career team…


What are career skills?

by Karen Adamedes

Career Skills are the abilities you have to that enable you to do your job and to manage your career. These are over and above the skills and technical knowledge you need to perform the tasks that are part of your job.

iStock_000022751997SmallThere are numerous reasons why career skills are important – from the expected arrival of robots and other technologies that will change jobs to the reality that being good at what you do is just not enough to ensure that your work is valued and to allow you to keep moving forward in your career.

The question is – What are the skills that are required to be effective in your job and manage you career?

And the supplementary question – Are these different skills?

Taking the second question first…no these are not different skills. The skills required to be effective in your job and manage you career are the same. Bonus! Which means that you can be developing the skills you need for your career and get even better at the job you are doing (which is only going to help your career anyway!). Double Bonus! And if you need to, you can justify the time and effort you invest in developing your skills as they are helping you in your current job. Bonus! Bonus! Bonus!

They are the sum of your knowledge, skills and experience.

They will determine your success in decision making, influencing others and getting the job done (well).

They will ensure that you are able to get the job you want, negotiate your salary and are prepared for your future. The one that you want. (Not one that is dictated for you by others).

So the crucial question, what exactly are career skills?

They fall into 3 main categories:

  • the skills that you have to communicate with others
  • the skills that form your operating style – how you work (whether anyone is watching or not)
  • Career development skills

Let’s have a quick look at each of these:


Communication is the currency of work.

It’s the mechanism of how work is done in organizations. Your interactions with others is how you build your reputation and relationships – and get stuff done. It’s how you ask for what you need and let people know what you’ve done.

Understanding and adapting your communication to the accepted style of business can have a substantial impact on your career potential, how much you enjoy your work and whether your contributions are recognized.

These skills enable you  to be able to say what you mean and have what you mean understood.

Operating Style

Your Operating Style is how you work and importantly how you are seen to work.

It is the expertise that underlies how you work and interact with others. It’s how you naturally work when you don’t think about how you are working!

Developing these skills, such as how you work in teams, behave in meetings, negotiate and resolve conflict will enable you to work efficiently and productively, allowing you to think about what you are doing not how you are doing it.

How do others think about your capability? Your competence? Do they see you as someone who is able to get things done? Effective? Efficient? A good thinker? A strong leader?

How others view us determines credibility and professional reputation.

The skills that determine and influence your Operating Style are not often talked about but they can be learnt.

They are not techniques to trick others into thinking that you are good at your job if you are not. Rather they are specific and tangible tactics to optimize your time, your energy and your potential for career success.

Your Operating Style is the expertise that underlies how you behave and interact. It is fundamental to success in a business career.

Career Development

Developing your career requires the skills to plan, negotiate, build networks, learn from your experiences and understand who you are.

It’s also essential to develop the ability to recognize opportunities and threats (and be ready to act on them).

The skills you develop and the support you put in place to manage your career for the long term will also help you today. It’s human nature to evolve, transform and develop. Working towards the future you want will not only put you in the best position to get what you want, it will give you confidence about what you are doing today and the choices you are making. And theses skills also help you improve your performance in your current job. It’s a win-win!

The world of work is full of subtleties and nuances, competing priorities, too much work and too tight deadlines.

The more skills you have, the better equipped you are to be effective and positively impact your destiny and manage the complexity of how work works. Knowledge, skills and experience are the keys to career success. Focusing on the areas that are most important and have the biggest impact is vital.

The Career Tip To Go: Take the time and effort to develop how you do what you do.

Next week: How communication skills help and what they are.

Working on your career? Why not get our free Career Tips To Go updates? It’s easy…

7 Options when you’re caught in an Email War

You might be smiling when you send an email but that could be lost in the words

You might be smiling when you send an email but that could be lost in the words

By Karen Adamedes

The opportunities for misunderstandings, misinterpretations and conflict over email are many.

Without meaning too you can end up in the middle of a conflict on email that you have to work your way out of. One that you’re not even sure how it started in the first place or how it escalated to become a problem.

With most people receiving at least 100 emails a day at work – it’s easy to understand how quick messages, sent when you’re in a hurry, stressed or thinking about something else, may not be your (or someone else’s) best literary effort.

An email war does not serve any purpose or do anybody any good.

It just uses valuable time and threatens constructive working relationships.

For a start it’s not an efficient way to resolve an issue or seek a resolution to a business problem. And nobody comes out of a written email conflict with an enhanced business reputation – especially if it’s a public battle and there are lots of people copied or included on the email.

It can happen in a variety of ways:

You’ve sent off a quick email and it’s been misinterpreted. Something’s taken out of context or just not received in the manner it was meant in (you had your tongue firmly in your cheek and they didn’t realize) and with little effort you have a situation that you are now going to have to put some serious work into resolving.

There are more than enough challenges ensuring that what you mean is what people actually understood when you are talking to them. And that’s when you have the benefit of your body language, pitch and tone of voice to help convey what you mean. In writing it’s even harder! Something you write sounding one way in your head can be taken quite another on email.

Or someone is frustrated by a situation and fires off a message with half the world (well, it seems like it) included or cc’d on the message. Their reason may have been well intentioned (these are all the people who involved in the issue, they think) but what they actually do is create a messy situation that results in multiple emails and often confusion about who is doing what. Someone gets upset, a little bit terse and before you know it the emails are flying back and forth and a proverbial mountain has been made out of the molehill.

Or even worse (I think) is the person who sends emails and copies their manager or other ‘important’ people in order to get a response. This is a very heavy handed approach and akin to bullying. If nothing else it demonstrates that the person the email has been sent to isn’t trusted to do what has been asked. Or that the person sending it is too lazy to negotiate what they need without bring in the big guns!

What it often comes down to is that the person who has been copied often feels the need to weigh in on the issue, be directive or want explanations and you have more email havoc!

Whoever starts it or however you got involved (your fault or not) the trick is how to get out of the conflict, resolve the issue and ensure that relationships and reputations (particularly yours!) are not damaged.

Consider these options:

1. Take it off email

Often the best way to diffuse the situation is to take the issue off email. Call or if you’re co-located go to see the person involved.

You’ll have the advantage of being able to ask questions, get immediate answers and be able to respond appropriately in a very short time frame. You’ll also be able to use more communication tools like your voice tones and intonations to help resolve the situation.

Speaking directly with the person will help you understand where they are coming from and / or assist you reinforce or position what you are saying.

An actual conversation can really help take the heat out of a situation that is about to implode on email. A little bit of gentle humor can work wonders in a conversation. On email it often doesn’t work at all.

Taking the time to making contact offline also shows that you have prioritized the issue and are concerned about their position by taking the time, interest and energy to make a call. It is usually well worth the effort. And if a 5 minute phone call saves 5 emails back and forth in all probability it’s going to be a lot faster!

Talk to the key person (not a committee).

The situation is going to dictate who is the best person for you to talk to about an issue. If an email is only between you and one other person – then they’re the one you call – easy!

But if there are multiple people involved decide who you should deal with to resolve the issue the fastest and without putting any noses out of joint. If your manager is involved it can be well worth speaking with them for their insights or counsel. It may be another senior stakeholder that has the delegation to make the required decision. If it’s not going to cause more harm than it fixes – escalate the issue directly to them.

Don’t sacrifice speed for making sure you don’t get anyone offside! Depending on the situation it may be that a quick call to one of the people involved to find out the information you need or agree on the resolution is needed before you make the call to your manager/stakeholder.

If there are delays in getting a response or the answer you need I would make a call to the senior person and let them know why you’re calling, what you are doing to resolve the issue and exactly when you will be back to them with more information.

Engaging in an email war of words with multiple people cc’d only asks for trouble. And when I say trouble I mean multiple emails, opinions from those who aren’t decision makers and more work. Not to mention some aggravation for yourself!

And you don’t need an audience whilst you resolve a conflict or a misunderstanding.

Make direct contact to resolve an email issue.

Make direct contact to resolve an email issue.

If you do need to respond by email:

2. Be clear. Crystal clear.

There are some circumstances (time zones, availability etc.) where the issue has to stay on email.

Be really clear in what you write; don’t say anything that can be subject to misinterpretation.

Choose your words carefully.

Ask someone to proof read your response to make sure that your meaning is obvious.

3. Take the emotion out

Don’t reply to an email when you are angry or emotional.

Go for a walk, do something else and if at all possible, leave it until the next day before you respond. Angry exchanges back and forth will ignite, not resolve, a situation.

Choose words that are factual and positive and reinforce that you are seeking a resolution to the issue.

4. Acknowledge the other person

Thank the person for their email and succinctly paraphrase your understanding of what they have said.

If you have interpreted what they meant properly – acknowledging their position is respectful.

But there’s a chance (it may be remote, but there is a chance) that you have misunderstood what they meant. Checking your understanding will confirm that you are at least talking about the same thing!

5. Remove the cc’s

If you do need to respond by email it’s better if you can do it without an audience. Whoever has been copied is likely to have opinions or want to become involved – which just adds complexity to the resolution of the issue.

Communicate with the other party involved directly. Once you’ve achieved the outcome you can then go back to the cc’s and let them know the outcome. Most will be relieved that the problem is solved and that they haven’t had to be subject to multiple emails.

6. Manage expectations

If there isn’t going to be a fast resolution send an email letting all those involved know what is going on, who is doing what and when they should expect to know when the issue is resolved.

You’ll be seen as professional, the emails will be reduced and most importantly everyone can get on with business.

7. Follow up

Every time I suggest taking an email off line by calling or going to see the person involved I get comments like “but I need an email trail” or “there won’t be a record of who said what”.  

Which is often true.

But I think it’s often used as an excuse to stay behind the safety of a keyboard rather than have to have a tough conversation. And unfortunately some organizational cultures require that you ‘cover your back’ by having proof of everything that happens.

The way around this is to send a follow up email after any offline conversations or agreements. For example,  “Just a quick note to confirm our agreement…. ” or ” A short note to thank you for helping to resolve…” 

This provides another chance to confirm the outcome, reinforce your professionalism and gives you a record of what was discussed or agreed.

George Clemenceau (French Prime Minister during World War 1) once said, “It’s far easier to make war than peace”. So true.

When it comes to email I reckon, It’s far easier to take the time to resolve a conflict than deal with the consequences!

The Career Tip To Go: Don’t play Email Wars – there aren’t any winners. Find ways to resolve the issue and maintain relationships.


Working on your career? Why not get our free Career Tips To Go updates? It’s easy…

The Robots are coming! 5 Reasons why you need career skills…

The robots are coming...your job might not exist tomorrow

The robots are coming…do you have the skills you need if your job doesn’t exist tomorrow?

by Karen Adamedes

You might not want to take a yoga class led by a robot but there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that robots and other technological advances will change the job market. And the type of jobs available.

We’re already seeing declines in the number of people in jobs such as telephone operator, retail cashier and travel agent. The typing pool, filing clerks and elevator operators are roles already assigned to history. Other jobs that are forecast to decline rapidly include sales roles, mortgage advisers and even social media managers.

There’s a good chance that you will need to change profession, company or role, if not now, at sometime in your career.

Your next job or role might not even exist at the moment.

Which makes the skills you need to be both good at your job and to manage your career essential.

They will help you showcase your abilities and provide you with choices. Choices about where you work, who you work for and the kind of work you do.

MongoDB CEO Matt Schireson recently announced he was stepping down from the role he described on his blog as the “best job I ever had” to get some balance back in his life. He said, “Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so.” He went on to say, “As great as this job has been, I look forward to creating one which is even better.”

He has the confidence that he has the skills to carve out a role that he will enjoy. The skills that let him make the choice he wants.

These skills are not an option. They are as important to your working life as hash tags are to Twitter, Robin is to Batman, or bacon is to eggs (you get the picture).

And it’s not just fear of robots replacing you and having the ability to make choices why it’s important to work on your career skills, there are some other good ones like:

1. You Need To Eat.

Along with those other basics of life – shelter, clothing and Wi-Fi, food is right up there on the list of things you need money to pay for. Earning what you’re worth is the best way to make sure you eat well!

Career Skills will help you reach your potential, be able to communicate the value that you contribute and make sure that you have the ability to negotiate what you’re paid (and many, many more!).

If you’re going to spend your time working, shouldn’t you earn as much as you can?

And eat as well as you want?

And afford unlimited Wi-Fi?

2. Minutes Tick By Slowly

Very slowly if you don’t like your work.

There is nothing slower than the minutes counting down to knock-off time if don’t enjoy what you do. And there’s plenty of them in your working life (minutes, that is!). In fact, 4,920,960 is a conservative estimate of the number of minutes you will be working during your career. It’s a lot of time to watch the clock if you’re not doing something that you at least like.

The ability to take control of your career will ensure that you will get the knowledge, skills and experience that you need to choose where you work, who you work for and the type of work that you want to do. You need to have the skills to get the opportunities to gain the knowledge, skills and experience you need to be able to make those choices.

As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  I’ll add, “or have to waste those precious minutes of your life watching the clock!” 

Get immersed in something you really enjoy and time can just seem to disappear. And you’ll feel like you have spent it doing something you enjoy or that at the very least interests you!

(For the number crunchers out there the minutes of the day estimate is 8 hours a day, 233 days of the year for 44 years…it’s actually 295,257,600 seconds, but I didn’t want to freak you out…)

3. The person most interested in your career is…you!

That’s right. The person who looks back at you in the mirror every morning is the one who has the most to win or lose out of your career decisions.

They’re the one who is in the position to make the biggest difference to your career.

They’re also the only person who is going to be with you your entire career. And has the most interest in what you do, how you do it and if you enjoy it.

Other people may be supportive and provide you with coaching, guidance and training. They may provide you with unbelievable opportunities, great advice or fabulous sponsorship. But you are going to be with you your whole life…and ultimately your career. The choices you make are up to you. Developing the skills you need to manage your career is up to you.

4. Being good at what you do is not enough

You do need to be good at your job.

In fact, you need to be the very best at your job as you can. But that is unlikely to be enough in the madcap world of business targets, customer demands and busy schedules.

Nor is being dedicated, working long hours or leaping over small buildings in a single bound!

You need the skills to communicate who you are, what you do and the contributions that you are making.

You need to be able to sell your ideas for others to understand your contribution and appreciate the value that you bring to your role.

You need the skills to establish an operating style that helps you be effective in your work and builds you a positive reputation.

How you work with others and how you are known to work are great drivers of whether other people want to have you on their teams, or work with or for you.

These are all career skills that will empower you to be good at what you do and provide you with choices about your career.

5. The robots ARE coming

Bill Gates called it “software substitution” when he spoke at the American Enterprise Institute in March and as Business Insider reported said, Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses … it’s progressing. … Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set. … 20 years from now, labour demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

Software substitution or robots, tomato or tomato (think different pronunciations!), call it what you will – technology is going to and has already made significant changes in the hobs that are available.

Remember it’s only in the last 10 years that the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter have been part of our lives. Who knows what the next ten years will bring?

Ensuring that you have the right skills (as opposed to the right job title) is what will enable you to adapt and navigate your career path through change. They will allow you to proactively manage your career to make the best choices and negotiate the best outcomes for you. Skills for networking, working with mentors, negotiating your salary and knowing when it’s time to move on (to name just a few).

And make friends with the robots…they look like they have cool cars!

Career Tip To Go: Commit to developing your career skills.

And you will be good to go!

– Karen

Next week: What are career skills?

Working on your career? Why not get our free Career Tips To Go updates? It’s easy…
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