CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

What are You Going to DO this Year? (Avoiding My Traditional January Goal Setting Post)

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Welcome back to the new year! If you haven’t noticed, any life commentator, advice giver, business writer, most parents of older children and adults, and Oprah have all had their shots at encouraging you in making and pursuing some kind of self-improvement goal for the year. Actually to be fair I’m not sure anyone can avoid pressure to do something new in the new year since I think I saw an article on goals for pets in 2013 a little while ago (and I wish I knew where I did now.)

Typically around this time of year I join in the frenzy of goal encouragement, but not this year! This year is full of all the promise that every man, woman, child, pet, TV personality and diet program can contrive, and I’ll leave it up to each of you to find your own way this time around. Instead, I’m here to encourage you to see whose goals you can help achieve.

How dare I go against the magnificence of the great life guides? Simple. Goal setting and observing for yourself shouldn’t be a once a year event, forgotten by February and hiding, guilt inducing, in a corner until we give up and decide the thing can’t be done. Goals are on-going, pervasive things that everyone should have and work on constantly. It takes follow-through and the right scale to the next step to get there and there is an equal number of helpful articles and voices with tips for succeeding with your goals as there are about what your goals should be.

Back to my point though.

You’ve already got the idea of setting and working on goals, but the best way to reinforce all of that is to help someone else through the process. Ask people what their goals for the year are. You are very likely to find out interesting things about the people you ask as well as what is most important to them right now. Each goal describes a part of what a person wants to be. Some of the interesting responses I’ve heard so far this year are preparing for their first (or next) marathon challenge, planning for trips to explore new places, and taking up new hobbies. All of the answers have been interesting and only a few people have not had a ready answer to share.

The important thing here is that you’re engaging with someone else’s goals. Just in asking we’re doing two very important things. Firstly, we are building our relationships and showing that we care about the other person’s life. Secondly, we are encouraging and supporting the person’s goals by showing interest and letting ourselves be open to the other person’s accountability in choosing their goals. You can extend this support by just saying you’ll be interested in their progress. It’s amazing how much of a lift it gives to show a genuine interest in someone’s journey.

Depending on the goal and your relationship with the person, you can offer to help directly. Offer a concrete idea if you can and make sure that whatever it is, it’s something you can (and will) do for them. This reinforces your interest in them as a person and their goals, and gives you a tangible way of engaging with them beyond day-to-day pleasantries.

Why should you help someone else with their goals? Giving of yourself builds relationships and strengthens your network. It builds your credibility and allows you to show integrity in a simple and genuine way. Above all, it builds self-esteem of the person you’re helping and yourself.

Finally, goals are always more fun when you have someone to share them with whether it’s yours or theirs. Helping is just another way of joining in the fun!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is still working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and looking forward to a year of possibilities.

Knowledge is Power Only When Shared

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

“Knowledge is power.” – attributed to Sir Francis Bacon

This week I got pretty animated sharing process patterns of the industry I work in. It’s not the most exciting topic, but it’s the baseline of what we do.

Frankly, if you aren’t working in the area it’s one of the most boring topics imaginable.

That being said, if you don’t realize that there are natural patterns to it you’re at a disadvantage. Knowing the basic building blocks gives context to make all the other work make sense. Without it you have to reinvent the wheel if you want to get anything done.

This experience got me thinking about how people use knowledge. The only way to increase knowledge is to share it or have it shared. The more knowledge is shared, the more tools people have. The more tools people have, the more open we all are to new ideas and new opportunities are easier to find.

On the other hand, hoarding knowledge prevents it being useful.

I’m sure you’ve met the “wizards” of the workplace. The person or small group of people whose vast knowledge of some critical business activity makes them indispensable. Other people line up to ask questions and come away with the tidbit that they were looking for, only to come back later for the next pointer. Nothing functions when they go on vacation. Everything in their domain of understanding comes to a grinding halt when they are absent.

Have you watched their reaction when change comes knocking?

Change is scary to a lot of people, but to the “great Oz” it’s terrifying. Change means their power, their security, their perceived value to the organization shrinks. They are usually the most vocal proponents of why something new won’t work and the fastest to latch on to any fumbles as signs that a change spells doom.

Don’t get stuck as a “wizard”. The knowledge of the way things are done prevents you from seeing the benefits of a change and, more importantly for your career, even prevents your growth. If nobody else knows what you know, how can anyone step up and take your place? If nobody can take your place, how can you possibly take on other, more interesting roles?

Who can you share knowledge with today?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Tripping the Career Rhapsodic

Monday, September 19th, 2011
Could you be ecstatic about your career? Could you really be tripping the Career Rhapsodic?

For many people “career” equates to “job”, but they’re quite different things. A job is what you do now. The way you pay the bills and spend a good portion of your waking hours. A job is a temporary situation. Ultimately it’s an exchange of time for money that may or may not be in line with your goals. Jobs change even when you don’t change employer or group. Your co-workers and boss will change. The work you do will change. Even the location you work in will probably change.

A career is more than a job, representing a calling to do something in a particular fit with your life. Your career is special. No matter how much it has in common with someone else, you will do it differently. Your career is an expression of who you are, no matter how far off your current job feels. Sometimes your career has nothing to do with your job at all!

This is why changing careers is often such a huge proposition. Real career change is recognizing and expressing a shift in how you see yourself. It’s traumatic to make that kind of change, but it opens you to a new and rewarding chapter of your life. Career changing is a much bigger topic that I’ll come back to another time.

Your career may not have anything to do with your job at all! It might be that your volunteer activities or your family life might be your real career with its own goals and aspirations. Recognizing that your career may or may not be a “professional” endeavor is important. If you work nine months of the year to volunteer in disenfranchised and under-privileged communities, which is really your career?

It might be that you work at jobs to support your career.

Your career is something you draw a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from. Getting fully engaged with it might not require you to make any life changes or it might mean drastic change is needed. The clichéd adage “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” might need some adjustments when you think about your career.

Framing why you work and reminding yourself where you are going and what your career means to you are crucial to knowing that it is going in the right direction. Getting excited about your career begins with knowing what your career is and where you want it to take you.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Considerations for Labor Day

Monday, September 5th, 2011

It’s Labor Day! Wait… if you’re reading this in the USA on Labor Day just stop. Immediately. Go relax!

Labor Day, to quote the US Department of Labor, “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” A fine rationale for a national tribute and a great moment to get perspective on what accomplishments you as an individual have had in the previous year. It also marks the start of the fall hiring season for most industries.

For me, this combination sounds like a great time to figure out how to describe and present your achievements. Whether you’re intending to look for a new job or not, it’s good to regularly take stock of accomplishments. If you’re ready for a new challenge, describing your successes prepare you for writing and speaking about your resume to a new employer or group. If you’re not ready for that change, that same description lets you share the same information with your boss and prepare for reviewing your performance.

So spend some time thinking about your sucesses, your achievements, the benefits you’ve provided to others. Once you start you’ll find things coming to mind you haven’t thought and the growth of your list will surprise you. Don’t limit yourself to professional achievements and let the accomplishments flow.

Also, write them down. I can’t say this enough when it comes to goals and achievements. The simple act of recording your successes reaffirms them in your memory. You can be assured that the more you remember your successes the better you can share them with others and the more others will understand your impact on “the social and economic” success around you.

So on this Labor Day relax and take time to reinforce how successful you really are.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Do Not Mourn the Necktie

Monday, May 9th, 2011

First up, let me apologize that I haven’t been able to think of a feminine equivalent to the necktie. I’d like to say that I have a comparative item of work attire to discuss, but I’m stuck. (If anyone out there would like to suggest a similar clothing status symbol for women in the workplace please do share it in the comments!)

That out of the way, I’ve shared the following clip a few times since it first aired in 2008 and I think it has some enduring relevance. In it, Ben Stein shares his perspective of the value and presence of the necktie as well as what it represents to him.

(Ben Stein appearing on the CBS Sunday Morning show – 2008)

The tie is many things: A conservative fashion statement; a throwback to an earlier era; an imperative in (some) big businesses; a choking noose; and a personal addition to otherwise constrained traditional attire. Much as I don’t agree with many of Stein’s positions, his perspective rang surprisingly true and brought to the fore all the concrete (if mildly satiric) rationales for wearing a tie. I’ve been wearing one every day for work since.

Where do you stand on the use (and abuse) of neckties?

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of and is currently working on his first book, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.