Tag Archives: career

Career Poker: Knowing When To Cash In Your Chips

Perform a quick Google search for advice on exiting or entering a job and you’ll find millions of articles dedicated to helping you make the critical hold ’em or fold ’em decision. Most of this guidance, however,  provides a very reactive, even passive formula to decision making. If you simply wait until you’re dissatisfied with your current role or presented with a better option, you’re paying huge opportunity costs in the form of unnecessary angst, frustration and inefficiency. Proactive career management requires a tops-down look at these decisions.

Admittedly, I’m a horrendous poker player (seriously, don’t even ask me to shuffle cards) but the dynamics of absorbing environmental cues, adapting to uncontrollable circumstances and risk management are a great blueprint for building better career decisions.

Career Poker Knowing When To Cash In Your Chips

1) Know how much you can lose

In poker, folding a hand isn’t losing – it’s quitting before you lose. Amazing winners are awesome quitters who limit their losses on bad hands. A winning game plan starts with a strategy for losing the right way. How much are you willing to bet and what are the indicators that signal you’re losing? Good poker players don’t play more than 50% of the hands they are dealt. Each one has a starting hand requirement that determines when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

2) Play tight and aggressive

There are 169 possible starting hands in Texas Hold ‘Em. Tight and aggressive players limit their play to only the top 10 hands – or about 6% of the hands dealt. Career poker requires each player to predetermine and measure exactly when to bow out. I started my new role at Intuit 13 months ago and within the first 6 months I created 3 requirements that would signal its time for me to fold:

#1 – I’m in the way. My background and skills are insufficient to lead the team and there are better candidates present. Simply being temporarily insufficient isn’t a deal breaker because that doesn’t mean you’re not the best fit for the role. It just means you need to learn and get to a break-even point faster.

#2 – My leadership and management approach are no longer a fit for the requirements to be successful. There’s rarely a need to force a square peg in a round hole.

#3 – I fulfill the initial charter of my role (launch and lead a new Center of Excellence) and can expand my scope for greater impact in another capacity .

3) Count your chips

What’s the market compensation range for someone in your field with similar skills and experience? Don’t know? Find out using Glassdoor or any number of websites that provide a peek inside the salary mechanics of major companies. Winning is not solely based on income but maximizing your earning potential is a significant contributor to future opportunities. If you’re underpaid by 30% or more it may be time to address the value discrepancy or look to roles that provide more equitable compensation models.

4) Higher stakes mean higher risks

What’s the biggest difference between a poker game with $2 stakes versus $20 stakes?  Skill.  As the stakes rise so does the average skill level of the other players. Mastery of a low stakes game does not translate into continued success at higher levels. Smart poker players are intentional about where they play and who they play against. More often than not, your pursuit of higher positions and income is also a pursuit of more responsibility. Do you want your boss’s job? Do you want your boss’s boss’s job? Think about it before raising the stakes on your own game.

5) Pay attention to the other players

Poker is a game of odds and observation, with opportunities to flex both sides of your brain.  While you’re watching the cards don’t forget to keenly pay attention to the other players for tells, bluffs and play styles that influence your success. One supremely beneficial tool in the game of career poker is LinkedIn. It’s a great tool for identifying individuals who have positions you aspire to and then mapping their journey. Do they have MBAs? What’s the average age or tenure in a certain industry? What skills or past experiences are a common thread among certain roles? Another great observational tool on the job is the lost art of asking. Many senior leaders are refreshingly candid about their career history and offer simple advice for moves you should emulate or landmines to evade.

Have you ever seen someone move into a high profile role or promoted to a position ahead of their time? These aren’t accidents. They are the result of patiently and intentionally building up career value (chips) over a period of time and leveraging this value to place well-timed bets when the cards are right. Like anything worthwhile, it’s much easier said than done but the rewards can far outweigh the risks if you’re willing to invest the time to truly build a career, not just a job.

I would love to hear your thoughts. What are your requirements for doubling down on a role or taking a bet in a new position?

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What To Do While You’re Waiting To Be Discovered

Waiting to be discovered - Adrian Parker

Most of us are waiting, wanting or wishing for something.  I am.  I’m waiting to meet my firstborn son in a few months.  I’m waiting for what lies ahead in my career.  I’m wishing for a better me.

I’m not alone. Recent research suggests that we’re all wired to wait longer for bigger rewards.  When given a choice between small rewards that are immediate and large rewards that are delayed, we instinctively choose long term success.  It seems waiting is natural but it’s how we wait that makes all the difference.

The 30-something hopeless romantic, the table-waiting pop singer and the self-published blogger are all waiting for a moment when dreams and opportunity intersect.  They’re waiting for a chance to be someone else’s solution.  Waiting for that defining moment when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill and changes life as we know it.  They’re waiting to be discovered.

waldo image

There’s only one problem.  No one’s waiting for you.  The few people doing the discovering aren’t waiting for you to show up.  In fact, they don’t even know you exist.  There is no American Idol for your dream or X-Factor for your future. No one holds open auditions for roles, assignments or challenges that really matter.  Instead they look for people who are already doing what you’re waiting to do.

Why wait for lightning to strike when you can make your own storm?  Your next big break, soul mate or dream job will find you when you start working.  Simply put, there’s a right and a wrong way to wait.  A wait that produces results is productive.  A wait that prolongs worry is unproductive.  As someone who has been on both sides of the coin and learned a little about being the waiter and the waitee, I’ll offer a few tips for things to do while waiting to be discovered.

Work More

Why wait when you can work? Work produces energy and results that just beg for attention.  Get busy in a small way each day.  When I started my own marketing company in 2007 I had big ideas and zero customers.  Once I began to actually plan the work and work the plan, clients rolled in.

Talk Less

I’ve never hired the candidate who wants the job the most.  I hire the one who produces results.  Talk less about how bad you want an opportunity and showcase how good you already are.  When your work speaks for you, people notice.  Increased competition means everyone is looking for the best and they have easy access to technology and information to help them decide if you are or aren’t.  Your reputation should create breadcrumbs that lead opportunities to you.

Refocus

Eliminate this phrase from your human hard drive: “This job is perfect for my career because…” Same goes for relationships, movie roles or whatever else you’re cooking up.  Focus on how you solve their problem rather than how they can be your solution.  What pisses you off?  What gets you super excited?  What pains you constantly? Focus on the problems you intend to solve and the skills you need to prepare for them.

Be Patient

When you can’t be useful, be patient.  During the course of most major endeavors you will inevitably reach your end – the point where you’re not in control.  When the money, time, contacts or desire are running on “E” it’s a great time to park and be still.  This one’s tough.  When my business hit a wall it felt like being stuck in quicksand.  Taking time to quiet my thoughts and engage my creativity was much more productive than flailing around for a quick-fix. (Note: Here’s what to do if you ever get stuck in quicksand)

Seek Help

It’s easier to help someone who is already helping themselves.  Once you’ve invested in pursuing your path don’t be afraid to ask someone for counsel, support or even a helping hand.  Oftentimes you have an arsenal of people ready, willing and able to pitch in if you’ve won their hearts.

The greatest strength is gained by waits.  Though it can be hard, resist the urge to seek short-term solutions for endeavors that are worth the effort.  There’s no shame in waiting for what you truly want as long as you’re doing it in a focused, productive and positive manner.

What are you waiting on? Any tips you would add for your patiently impatient peers?

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10 Career Commandments to Learn in Your 20s

Modern life is rife with opportunities to make your mark, forge your own path or even fall flat on your face.  As knowledge work becomes the norm, there is no playbook for young professionals who have yet to learn how to manage their careers and personal brands in the information age.  Also, as competition for promotions and positions goes global, managing your professional reputation starts the moment you sign up for a Google+ account.  Now more than ever, careers are planned looking forward but understood looking backward.

How can early career professionals ensure they are following the North Star and building a truly successful foundation?  I’ve cobbled together some hard learned lessons that I often share with younger movers-and-shakers.  Take a read and let me know what you think of these 10 Career Commandments.

10 Commandments 20 Somethings

1. Reputation is everything.  There isn’t a short cut to building integrity but there are innumerable ways to cut your time short by breeding mistrust, dishonesty and conflict.  Stay far away from grey areas even when they seem shiny.  Remember, today’s emotional outbursts can easily be tomorrow’s missed opportunity.  People talk. (See earlier blog post: “3 Steps To Discovering Your Personal Brand“)

2. Fry the big fish first.  Contrary to popular opinion, it’s easier to start at the bottom of a world-class company than to squeeze in mid-career.  Intense competition only gets hotter in the most desirable industries and corporations.  If the Fortune 500 are on your hit list, don’t be afraid to start actively pursuing relevant opportunities via internships or entry-level assignments.

3. Mo’ money, mo’ problems.  After graduating from Florida A&M, I relocated to the NYC area and discovered my marketing coordinator salary didn’t go far in the Big Apple.  I worked hard and got promoted. Then I worked hard because I was promoted.  And so on.  As income increases so do expectations, visibility, rewards and risks.  Building wealth through employment isn’t impossible, just be sure what you’re signing up for.  How much you save is far more important than how much you earn. (Required Reading: Stop Acting Rich)

4. Don’t read your own press.  The biggest career blunders I’ve ever witnessed were the result of too much pride and not enough reality.  One former peer who worked in sports and entertainment marketing was so enamored of the celebrity lifestyle of his clients that he actually began to believe he was one of them.  He flaunted his Rolodex and glitzy relationships to anyone who would listen.  Then one day his wealth of unfulfilled promises became the very weapons of his demise.  Let your work speak louder than you do.  Never gauge your self-worth simply by work performance because failures are inevitable.

5. Bust your butt.  When I was a 20-year-old intern at Footaction USA, the CEO shared a simple, yet powerful piece of advice: “Bust your butt in your 20s.”  Hard work doesn’t guarantee greatness but nothing great was ever accomplished without hard work.

6. If you’re explaining you’re losing.  Unless sincerely requested, your boss’ s boss needs enough information to make decisions and anything more is wasted time.  Your confident communication of the right amount of information goes a long way in instilling trust in your abilities.  Like a former CMO said, “When I ask for the time don’t tell me how to make a watch.”

7. Know your role.  Were you hired for your digital creative chops or experience with Six Sigma process improvement?  Is your team positioned to launch a new product line or turnaround a lagging division?  It’s critical to know both your official and informal job duties from the lens of leadership.  If you want to change paths, let someone know and be sure you’re using your skills to solve an actual business need, not simply a personal passion.  As Greg McKeown noted, “At any one time there is only one piece of real estate we can “own” in another person’s mind.” (Required Reading: The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make)

8. Work horses vs. show horses.  Busting your butt and working hard are now requirements to keep your job, not to thrive.  The “work horse” efforts of your 20s are the building blocks for more visible, far-reaching “show horse” projects.  Work horses manage projects, events and details.  Show horses may focus more on people, expectations and strategy.  We’re all called to be both at various points in our careers but knowing when is the key.

9. Define success for yourself.  No career nightmare is worse than pursuing someone else’s dream.  A book, conference, blog post or webinar can provide perspective but the job of discovering and pursuing your purpose is all yours.  Decide what you stand for, what’s important and where you’re headed.  Then deliberately work towards it with focus, fervor and flexibility.  (Required Reading: How Will You Measure Your Life?)

10. Opportunity knocks when you’re ready.  Professional and personal doors are rarely opened when we want them.  More often than not, I’m resigned to wait, listen and learn in preparation for what I thought I was ready for.  Thank God.  Sometimes the closed doors are there to protect me from an ill-conceived idea or an unknown, invisible threat.  Other times the closed doors are there for me to showcase exactly how bad I want something.  Knowing one from the other is crucial.

What qualifies me to create 10 career commandments?  I’m a former 20-something know-it-all turned 30-something student of life.  Let me know what you think.

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