How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade

career derailers

The Right and Wrong Stuff

Most people don’t realize how easy it is to derail a career or to lose a job. Adding to the problem is that it is possible that your career has stalled without your knowledge, an unexpected plateau because of something you don’t know about. Maybe it’s because you’ve been labeled impulsive or not seen as a team player.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to pause and assess where you are so you can get back on track.

Carter Cast knows this firsthand. In a terrific new book, The Right and Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade, Carter sheds light on what causes careers to derail and others to soar. His advice is practical and actionable. Carter is a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, a former CEO, and a venture capitalist. I recently asked him to share some of his perspective.

 

Korn Ferry Research: people who overstate their abilities in 360-degree assessments are 6.2 times more likely to derail than those with accurate self-awareness

 

Would you share your own story of career derailment?

Back when Bill Clinton was president and I was a marketing manager within PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division, I found myself sitting in my boss Mike’s office for my annual performance review. I worried as he started the preamble, which was along the lines of, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Mike didn’t bury the lead for long—soon he came right out and told me that senior management considered me unpromotable, which meant I was no longer on the fast track at Frito-Lay. He laid out a list of my offenses, littering his examples with words like “uncooperative,” “resistant to feedback from authority figures,” and “unmanageable.” He described my behavior in various situations, repeatedly pointing out times I circumnavigated the established processes and procedures and ignored the chain of command for the sake of expediency, or the times I quietly ignored his feedback and chose to do things my own way.

Thirty painful minutes later, as he was wrapping up, when Mike asked if I had anything to say for myself, I simply asked if I was being fired. (It sure felt like it.) He said, “No, but I don’t want you to work in my group any longer. You’ll need to look for another marketing position within the company.”

Eventually I found another boss and team to work with, but it was a humbling experience because as I talked to prospective bosses, I learned that I had a reputation problem. I was considered “difficult to manage.” I realized I lacked the self-awareness needed to change my behavior right away, so I went about doing so. I identified the circumstances that triggered my disruptive behavior (e.g. sitting in ponderous process meetings; being managed tightly by a very “participative” boss; being talked at by a verbose senior manager), and I steadily began to develop practical methods to better self-regulate and curb my tendency toward stupid, unnecessary insubordination. Over time, I was again considered to be a promotable employee, but it took a couple years to climb out of hole I’d dug for myself.

 

Career Fact: half to two-thirds of all managers will be fired, demoted, or plateau at some point.

 

Use Negative Feedback to Propel You Forward

Your story highlights negative feedback, and I was intrigued that you actually called your boss and had him give it to you again! How do you coach individuals to hear negative feedback and use it in the best way possible?

I must be a glutton for punishment. (I was a swimmer, so I’m fairly certain.) Yes, twenty years later, I called my old boss Mike to get some quotes for the book. And he gave them to me. Yikes. Even after all these years, when he spoke to me, about me circa 1995, I felt a wave of queasiness! Thirty-three year old Carter needed some tough love.

How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success

job switcher

Make a Career Change

If you’ve been itching to make a change, but don’t know where to start, or feel like you’re stuck in a career path that no longer makes sense, you’re reading the right article at the right time.

Dawn Graham, PhD is a Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director, coach, author, Forbes Contributor, and Sirius XM Radio Host. Her new book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, is a resource for anyone looking to change career directions in a purposeful way.

 

Switchers Fact: Most Americans spend around five years engaged in some type of job activity.

 

You have a unique vantage point both due to your leading SiriusXM Radio show and your role as Director of Career Management for the Executive MBA Program at Wharton. What trends are you seeing across professional job searchers today?

People want a job that inspires them! Compensation will always be important. However, professionals are willing to make some sacrifices to find work that is meaningful or flexible, or that puts them on the path to a career that is more satisfying.  Many mid-career professionals landed in a job after college and climbed the ladder, only to realize that the path they chose isn’t fulfilling. Others have discovered careers that may not have existed a decade ago and still others have experienced life changes, such as having a family, which have led them to seek something more flexible.

 

“Lifetime regrets are more painful than delayed gratification.” -Dawn Graham

 

What is the “new normal” in America for most people in terms of changing jobs?

The great news for career switchers is that the market is becoming more accepting of trying new paths. The rise of the gig economy, portfolio careers, and entrepreneurial pursuits have opened the door to non-traditional career paths. The average tenure in a company is about 4.2 years, so long gone are the days of the 30-year retirement gift. In fact, while yearly job hopping is still frowned upon by employers, so is staying at a company for too long, especially if you’ve not shown significant progression or diversity in your assignments. After 10 years, hiring managers in new companies start to wonder if you’re adaptable enough to function effectively in a different culture, so it’s more important than ever today to pay attention to taking charge of your career.

 

Research: up to 80 percent of employee turnover is due to poor hiring.

 

How difficult is it to change careers today?

How to Recruit Rockstars

rock stars

Recruit the Best

Jeff Hyman has hired more than 3,000 people over the course of his career as a top-tier executive recruiter. Jeff’s new book, Recruit Rockstars: The 10 Step Playbook to Find the Winners and Ignite Your Business, reveals his method for landing the very best talent.

I recently spoke with Jeff about his book and work. Here are a few ideas that will help you assemble a team of rock stars.

 

“90% of business problems are actually people problems in disguise.” -Jeff Hyman

 

Recruiting Mistakes

What percentage of business problems do you attribute to recruiting mishaps?

  • 90% of business problems are actually people problems in disguise.
  • Hiring B and C Players can cause more problems than staffing these roles solve
    • They may do the job, but do they do it well? And if they don’t do it well, that’s another problem to fix.
    • B and C Players need to be micromanaged, which distracts the leader’s time from improving the company’s performance.
  • By investing in hiring Rockstars, you can take time away from micromanaging and fixing the problems of B and C Players

 

“Hiring the best is your most important task.” -Steve Jobs

 

Improve Recruiting Accuracy

How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant

How to Hire Right Now

Most of us know that success in business depends on people. From an entrepreneur-led startup to a large organization, we don’t go very far without relying on individuals and teams. Some go so far as to say that the only real competitive differentiation organizations have is people.

But hiring the right talent isn’t easy. We’re often worried we may pick the wrong person.

 

A hiring mistake can cost up to 5x the bad hire’s annual salary. -SHRM

 

As the CEO of a large company, I’m often pushing managers to fill open positions. To me, an opening that drags on too long causes all kinds of other problems. Customer needs not met, employees doing multiple jobs for too long, and milestones delayed.

Scott Wintrip takes on the topic of hiring talent in his new book, High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant. Through his global consultancy, Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott has worked with companies around the world to hire top talent in less than an hour. I recently talked with him about his research and his new book.

 

It’s Taking Too Long!

Why is it taking longer and longer to fill jobs?

Two factors have caused the time it takes to fill a job to reach all-time highs: the skills shortage and an inefficient hiring process.

There’s a persistent talent shortage that’s pervasive across all industries. For example, when you look at middle-skill roles (jobs that require education beyond high-school and below the level of a four-year degree), there’s a gap between the number of jobs and the number of people to fill them. According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill roles account for 53 percent of jobs in the United States. However, only 43 percent of U.S. worker have current skills at the middle-skill level.

Copyright Scott Wintrip. Used by Permission.

Qualified people also have more employment choices than ever, including the option of doing their own thing by joining the “gig economy” as freelancers. Because of this, an increasing number of people are leaving the traditional workforce. When you combine this with increased globalization, borders will matter less, creating a talent competition unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The old way of hiring—keeping a job open until the right person shows up—doesn’t work when there’s a people shortage. A reactive process keeps a job open for weeks or months. To have the people they need, organizations must permanently change their hiring strategy by engaging in the new way of hiring: actively cultivating top talent and then waiting for the right job to open.

 

“Dating and hiring have a lot in common.” -Scott Wintrip

 

Avoid these Hiring Errors

Warning: Your Job is At Risk

Rethinking Excellence in the Smart Machine Age

 

Artificial intelligence will change everything. It’s coming. In some areas, it has already arrived.

Take Amazon. Its new grocery store has no cashiers and no baggers.

How about water meter readers? Just yesterday someone appeared at our door explaining that those days are over for our neighborhood.

And it’s not only these jobs that are changing. Millions of jobs will be affected from manufacturing to services.

Machines have access to more data than we do. They can analyze it faster than we can.

 

“We can be humble and live a good life with the aid of the machines or we can be arrogant and die.” -Norbert Wiener

 

Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In addition to fifteen years in academia, he also spent twenty years as a business executive. His research is in high performance in the midst of change.

He argues that we need to change our definition of smart. We need a new smart. We need to be good at what machines can’t do well. His new book, co-authored with Katherine Ludwig, is Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.

I recently spoke with him about the changes ahead.

 

“A good listener is totally focused on the speaker with an open mind.” -Hess, Ludwig

 

Millions of Jobs Will be Automated

What jobs will be automated?

Over the next decade or so, tens of millions of service and professional jobs will be automated along with more manufacturing jobs. Service jobs that are at risk include retail, fast-food, manual laborers and construction workers, truck drivers, accountants, administrative people, paralegals, customer service reps, and security guards. Increasingly, professional jobs will be automated reducing the number of professional workers needed in the fields of accounting, law, finance, consulting, marketing, strategy, management, journalism, medicine and architecture.  The Chief Economist of the Bank of England in November of 2015 predicted that over the next decade or two 80,000,000 jobs in the United States could be automated.

 

How to Prepare for the Smart Age