Taunee Besson, career transitions expert and President and Principal Consultant at Dallas-based Career Dimensions, is back today to offer 10 universal practices of happy professionals – those who take know what they want, take charge and reap the full benefits. — Maurice Gilbert
Q: While employment gurus are focusing their advice on job seekers, those of us who are working could use a little attention as well. How can we get more job satisfaction when we are exhausted and doing the work of two or three people?
A: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was a bestseller for an incredibly long time, given its relatively simple advice. Even though most readers probably already know the seven habits, putting them on paper enhances their credibility and charges them with a spark of genius.
With this in mind, I offer you Besson’s “10 Habits of Happy, Successful People”.
#1 Know your mission and pursue it with vigor.
Like Shakespeare’s prose, this habit may be interpreted on more than one level. As a philosophy, it challenges you to discover the unique role best suited to your talents, interests and values and serves as a driving force to propel you toward success.
On a more pragmatic level, your mission is represented by your day-to-day job description. The happiest professionals are those who understand their work and perform it with excellence. Part of their savvy comes from technical competence and part comes from knowing they are doing exactly what their management/clients expect. As quality experts would say, they do the job right the first time.
#2 Competence alone will not get you what you want.
You must also make sure management is familiar with the caliber of your work and understands the rewards you expect for it.
All too often, employees assume their bosses know the best career paths for them and they mistakenly think their high-level performance will automatically be acknowledged. Unfortunately, many workers only generate attention when they produce a problem.
Unless you are willing to run the risk of being passed over for a key assignment or promotion, ask for what you want. Your manager isn’t a mind reader.
#3 Become an “intrapreneur” who views his job as a long-term consulting assignment with a valued client company.
Years ago, Fast Company magazine had a cover story called “Me, Inc.,” which revolutionized its readers’ thinking about their careers. The article said that because organizations no longer give tacit guarantees of lifetime employment, it’s wise to think of yourself as a contractor with a portfolio who does excellent work, learns as much as possible from each position and is ready to move on, should the desire or need arise.
Corporate downsizing, outsourcing and moving jobs overseas are long-term structural changes in both blue- and white-collar positions. Employees who recognize and accept this trend and increase or broaden their skills will prosper now and in the future.
#4 Take some risks.
Seize the responsibility for your own career satisfaction. Don’t waste valuable time hoping for the best or waiting for your company to do what’s right. Chart a career path, and make your management your partners in walking with you down that road.
According to Auntie Mame, a Broadway character who has more than her share of ups and downs, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Pull your chair up to the table and take part in the feast.
#5 Trust your gut.
If a situation doesn’t feel right, don’t let logic override intuition. Have you ever taken a project or job your gut warned you against only to find weeks later your instinct was correct?
Steve Jobs knew what the public wanted and made it available to them before they discovered they needed it. If he had traveled the “path well taken,” we may still be using CD players instead of iPods.
Certainly logic has its place in the decision-making process, but whole-brained thinking will give you a balanced perspective that pure analysis cannot.
#6 Network, network, network, even when you’re very happy in your current position.
Savvy professionals know a well-developed support system can be a source of wonderful friendships, mentors and referrals for everything from pediatricians to plumbers. Your network can also provide objective insights for evaluating opportunities and problems. Mastermind groups, trade organizations, churches, alumni associations, friends of friends, continuing education classes, etc. all offer excellent sources for cultivating relationships with colleagues who are stimulating, fun, resourceful and willing to serve, upon occasion, as human crying towels or a personal cheering section.
#7 Negotiate for a win-win solution.
While it may appeal to our most primitive instincts to leave opponents bleeding in the dust, we will probably have to work with them again. Humiliation does not breed long-term relationships. It promotes a long-lasting desire for revenge.
The next time you are in a mood to take no prisoners, put yourself in your opponent’s place. Suggest a course of action that you perceive to be genuinely palatable to both parties. Your opponent will respect you for it and probably return the favor the next time around.
#8 Fake it ’til you make it.
No, I’m not suggesting you lie on your resume or present yourself as someone you’re not. I’m alluding to those occasional lapses of self confidence we experience when faced with a project that stretches us. Self doubt nibbles around the edges of our consciousness. Can I really pull this off? I asked for what I want and I got it. Now what?
In these moments of rising panic, it’s wise to remember that positive behavior can easily overtake negative feeling. And, fortunately, behavior is what others see. Remember that great presentation you gave with your mouth dry and knees knocking? In it, you used fear as a source of extra energy. Fear can be your ally if you channel it effectively.
#9 Set only goals you really want to achieve.
How often have we heard people say in January, “I plan to lose 25 pounds this year.” Yet, come December their weight hasn’t changed? Goals prefaced by “I should” rather than “I want” are generally doomed by self sabotage.
To test a goal for viability, see if it will RUMBA. Decide if it is Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed upon. Meeting only the first four conditions isn’t enough. You and everyone involved with your goal must genuinely agree it’s a great idea, or lack of enthusiasm will scuttle it sooner or later.
#10 Fill your life with a combination of work, education and fun.
According to Richard Bolles in his life-planning book Three Boxes of Life, Americans tend to divide their lives into three discrete time periods, each having a singular purpose. From birth to about 21, we are in our learning box. Our mission is to absorb information and advice from our elders. From about 21 to 65, we are in our working box, where we must concentrate on producing worthwhile products and services. Then at 65, we retire and move into our fun box. Unfortunately, people who buy into this pattern for living lead a pretty stale existence and often die early because they feel useless without their jobs. They’ve forgotten how to learn and enjoy themselves. For them, life without work is meaningless. Many Baby Boomers are facing this dilemma as they struggle to decide if they want or can afford to quit working.
Those who have mastered the art of combining education, career, and leisure throughout their lives follow the sage advice of Robin Williams in The Dead Poet Society: “Carpe Diem!” They seize each day and make it their own.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.