Social networking & your career

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I had the pleasure of speaking, along with Karen Ganschow from Telstra, at the FITT CeBIT lunch today in Sydney.  We had a great turnout and there were even a few men in attendance.

It’s FITT’s 20th anniversary this year – a big milestone for a volunteer based organisation that was working to encourage women into ICT careers before it was trendy.

Here are the slides from the presentation …

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Social networking for your career

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I’ll be talking about social networking from a career perspective at the FITT lunch on 13 May in Sydney.

This is very topical now with the global financial crisis starting to hit Australia. Our personal & business networks will be critical, not only for staying in touch with people, but also for finding work.

In the past we sat down the Saturday newspaper and circled jobs of interest (or the Tuesday IT section of the Australian for the geeks). Now the job ads have moved online. But there are other avenues for job search, and social networks are a critical component in this shift.

There are also some important issues about boundaries between the personal and public, private and business that need to be considered.

Event details are on the FITT website, but the basics are:

Topic:  How to make the Net work
When:  12:00pm – 2:00pm, Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Where:  Harbours Edge, Level 2, Harbourside Darling Harbour, NSW, Australia

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Hard work beats talent

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I have seen many young, fit, intelligent people with a fine education, sound values and good family behind them. But they do not realise that what they make of them every day from now is up to them.

Many people with those advantages do nothing with their lives. It is up to each of us to choose every day to do something with our life. You do not need a grand plan – very few people actually have these.

Whatever it is you do, you need to work hard at it and be enthusiastic. Find some things in your life that you have a passion for, and don’t forget, that on your deathbed, you will never wish to have spent more time at work.

“Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933)

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Reasonable Hours of Work in the ICT Industry

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A friend who works in IT support (for a very large and well known IT industry multi national doing security patching and stuff) just phoned me because his boss wants him to work overnight to do a release and then to front up to work again early tomorrow morning. This is not the first time his supervisor has asked this, and not the first time that I’ve heard this type of story. It even happened to me when I was younger and working in tech support roles.

These demands to work unreasonable hours make the ICT industry unattractive to work in. What is very sad is that this company has won awards for its diversity policies and its website raves about the programs that support work-life balance. Again, where is the congruence between the values articulated by the organization and the values it demonstrates towards the human beings that provide labour?

Of course, none of the fabulous diversity programs for work-life balance apply if you are contractor or a casual employee. My friend, who is a good tech support geek, is now thinking about retraining and leaving the IT industry for something with a more human friendly approach. While I generally do not support union campaigns this one does seem reasonable (no pun intended):

The Australian Council of Trades Unions is running a campaign for Reasonable Hours:

“The ACTU Reasonable Hours campaign aims to raise awareness about the effects of long working hours. ACTU research into workplace issues has found that long hours and the increasing intensification of work is the overwhelming primary concern of workers. For much of the last century Australia lead the world in fair working time. But in 1980 Australia started to buck the international trend and hours began to grow. Currently, Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD. On current trends we will soon have the longest. It is a sad irony that Australia now has one of the worst records in the world. It is time to once again civilize working time.”

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Women and getting ahead in business

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Just had an anonymous comment on an old post.

The commenter said:

“Honey, you must be very young. It’s not just about how hard you work. The ole’ boy’s network is alive and well – you just haven’t reached a high enough level in the corporate hierarchy to see it yet. “

The comment is welcome on several levels:

1) I love being told I’m young (more people should tell me that), which probably reveals that I’m older than the commenter thinks.

2) I have worked as a senior executive in large corporations for quite a few years.

3) Many of my female friends are senior executives, ‘C’ level executives or board directors. Many of the women I mentor are aspiring to those roles.

My personal history is instructive because it does not fit the ‘normal’ pattern of how you get ahead in the corporate world. I was born into a poor family and lived in a socio-economically deprived part of the city; I also have attention deficit disorder together with some learning difficulties. When I finally did get to university I dropped out in third year to assist my four younger siblings when my parents died. I had to go out and get a job. Without a completed degree the only option available was an entry level clerical job, and I watched other people with better educations and less personal responsibilities zoom past me. Over the years I worked hard and smart to get promoted and eventually I got to parity with those peers who had zoomed past me. Then I started to go past some of those peers, they had not been working as hard or remaining as focused (i.e. they went home while I stayed at the office). But the important thing is that I found something I had a passion for, and that makes it easy to stay focused. With a thirst for knowledge in my area I became the go-to person in that area. Eventually I went back to university and studied while I held down a C level job in a major corporation, finally obtaining a masters degree in business. Along the way I was also Chairman and President of a number of industry and professional associations.

Over the years in corporate life there are a few things I have learned:

  • There are only a few top jobs in each company, and those that get them are those who have no other life. You need to be dedicated, focused and committed. There are very few people in top jobs who have not put in 12 hour days for many years. Fair or not, work life balance does not get you to the top in business (not yet anyway).
  • Nobody is going to just offer you these top jobs; you have to go for them. You need to put up your hand for tough assignments and get noticed.
  • You need to work out what the networks are in the organization and link into them. In one company the power network was the smokers who used to go downstairs and stand outside for a smoke. I did not smoke so I used to grab a coffee and stand with them while I drank it (ensuring never to stand down wind of them).
  • You need to take risks and show the powers that be that you are the solution to some of their problems. I have always worked on the ‘no surprises’ principle for my boss and other stakeholders, and have always been the provider of solutions rather than just pointing out problems.
  • You will never get ahead if you leave it to chance. It is important to work out what you want to achieve and the steps necessary to achieve it. A plan is a good and useful thing.
  • You will meet people of ill will, it is important to get used to this and to develop your own strategies for dealing with them. Sometimes those people of ill will and your boss will be one and the same. The options are: stay and manage the person and situation, cry and be a victim, or vote with your feet.

On the whole, I am tired of the woman as victim theme. Women have choices, lots more than men in many cases. Many men also do not get ahead in business. The men that I know who got ahead have all worked longer and harder than their peers, have networked more ferociously, and have become well respected in their specialty area. The case is precisely the same for the women who have been successful. One thing I know for sure, none of these successful people sat around whingeing that nobody was giving them a chance. They set the agenda, took the risks and showed why they should be given more opportunities.

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More on Bullies @ work

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Recently I posted on bullies @ work & made some fairly harsh comments about a colleague who had been doing this sort of thing often and openly. The other day I actually had some time to talk with this person and discovered that they had been going through a very difficult time at work. It seems that the behaviour I was seeing was a reflection of the behaviour that was being displayed by this person’s own superior. Also the other day I was under a lot of pressure from senior management and was very snappy with a few of my own team members. This really got me thinking that bullying is not just an incident – it is really a culture.

The nature of bullying is that it is tied to the power relations of a workplace. These are still essentially hierarchical (in spite of what organisational management theorists would have use believe). Further, the threat of job loss or downsizing means many people operate in a fearful way. All of this goes towards making bullying almost inevitable.

What can people do about this? How can people low down on the food chain make it stop? I do not have the answer, but many folk I know are going out on their own to escape. It is definitely one response. But those of us in management positions have to ask ourselves do we want to leave the world of work just as dysfunctional when we leave it as when we arrived?

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Bullies @ work

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I am getting really tired of bullying in the workplace. I’ve worked in many places – being in info tech I change jobs every two years – and the bullies are mainly babyboomer men (there do not seem to be many women bullies where I’ve worked).

At the moment there is someone who is in a hierarchically superior position in the workplace and who screams at people for real or imagined infractions, and calls them stupid in front of the entire office. The strange thing is everyone is letting this person continue acting like this! I seem to be the only person who thinks this is wrong behaviour that must be stopped.

One thing I know is that a lot of people are thinking about leaving their jobs because of this one person. Strangely enough all it takes is this bully’s own manager to speak up that this behaviour is not acceptable.

Why is it that management can be simultaneously running programs to make this a better place to work but still let this guy abuse and emotionally destroy people, tearing them apart verbally. They do not seem to perceive that their rhetoric is not balanced with action.

In short, people in this company are not modeling the behaviours they are articulating in their values. We can see what is happening and it is undermining all the good work. What good are corporate values if staff are crying in the toilets due to a workplace bully who is part of the management?

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What is it with Baby Boomer Women?

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More food for thought from Ally about women, men & feminism

As Ally notes, “What too many women do not understand is just how privileged we truly are – especially in today’s climate in the free world. We are not caged by our womb – we are given abilities and boundaries that are broader than men will ever have. We can choose to have children – or not to have them. A man has to nail down a willing female. We can choose to work, or stay at home with our children – not only is it socially abnormal for a man to stay home (that is, outside of the current norms), psychologically, it is hard for many men to accept that role due to their own instinctual male needs.”

I’ve just finished reading a book called When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore – Women, Work & Identity by Elizabeth Perle McKenna (ISBN: 0671856006). This book is a passionate diatribe outlining (as per the back cover blurb), “the unliveable bargain women have made in order to have meaningful work in a world whose rules are still designed for men”.

This book looks at what are termed ‘hidden trade-offs, submerged values and outdated premises that keep the workplace from working for women”.

Reading this book really annoyed me! And I was vociferous about my annoyance, which did disturb the televisual enjoyment of my partner.

The forces discussed in this book are actually the same for men & women if they want to make the same life choices, for example taking time out of the work force for child care. The book failed to distinguish between the results of lifestyle choices and the results of gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination does remain a fact in some places. But now inequity in the workplace tends to result from lifestyle choices. The fact remains that people who work longer hours tend to move up the food chain more readily than those who do not. And, people who run companies sacrifice very large parts of their personal lives to do so.

McKenna also talks about women being passed over for promotion, as if men are rarely passed over for promotion.

Her perspective is one that I am familiar with. It is the perspective of yet another whiney baby boomer who thought they could have it all, and who has just realised that they cannot have it all. In the end one must assign values to the alternatives that we each face in life, then make decisions based on what seems right to us at the time.

Women in the western world live a very privileged life. No one wants to kill us to preserve family honour if we go out with the wrong guy, nobody wants to perform female circumcision on us, we eat well, and we can do pretty much any work we care to. Yet there remains an ongoing stream of woman as victim stuff coming out. In the west women do not have to be victims for the most part unless they choose to do so.

Baby boomers seem to feel that they are entitled to things that are actually impossible to achieve. This has appears to have made some of them a bit grumpy in their middle age.

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5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: some interesting ideas for the ambitious person

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Found this site in my wanderings the other day when I was supposed to be studying for an exam. It is based on a book called The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith and more info can be found at www.5patterns.com.

The basic premise of this book is that people who have extraordinary careers display some common patterns:

  1. Understand the Value of You
  2. Practice Benevolent Leadership
  3. Overcome the Permission Paradox
  4. Differentiate Using the 20/80 Principle of Performance
  5. Find the Right Fit (Strengths, Passions & People)

There are some really good ideas here and a quiz you can do to see if your career will be “extraordinary”. Personally I’m always up for a quiz!

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Good quote about self esteem and talent

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Found a great quote about self esteem yesterday:

“Where talent is a dwarf, self-esteem is a giant.” (J. Petit-Senn, Conceits and Caprices)

This seems to encapsulate my feelings about the current obsession with building up self esteem even in the face of indubitable evidence as the individual’s incompetence in a particular area. We are so busy building up self esteem at the expense of true self knowledge.

There is no point having good self esteem if (a) it has no basis in fact, and (b) you know in your heart it is not true.

Is it not better to teach people to understand and value what they are good at and to build on and improve the other stuff?

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