We Don’t Work In Kansas Anymore

Today’s employer has created a world that resembles the Wizard of Oz, and expects you to be prepared for it.

Credit: onelifesuccess.net

Let me explain. I was interviewing Mark, an engineer frustrated with his current company. For 20 years in the same position, he had been consistently passed over for promotions. Mark asked me why organizations always seemed compelled to go outside their own ranks rather than hire internally. His voice grew louder as he insisted on his dedication, obedience, and loyalty to his company that, he felt, went unnoticed and unappreciated. As I began to tune out his rant of “What Makes A Good Company Man,” all that came to mind was the family dog that’s often portrayed with those same qualities. I began to catalog in my mind how many people I must have heard this speech from, both young and old. After allowing Mark to complete his therapeutic venting, I asked the same simple question, “Did you ever communicate your career intentions directly to a promoting authority?”

For those of you who read my blogs, you know where I stand on the topic of having a career plan, yet I never go there in interviews like these because I rarely meet a job seeker who has thought about it in their head, let alone written one down. Mark gives me one of the two responses I expected to hear: “Doesn’t my work and commitment speak to my personal desire to grow?” In other words, “No, I did not directly communicate my career intentions to anyone who could impact my future instead of a peer or significant other who I can complain to.” The other response I get is, “Yes I did approach them with my professional goals, but they said I did not have the skills needed for the role.”

Well Mark (and countless others who have been in his shoes), lets ask if we have the Oz-like qualities (employer-desired traits) that have stood the test of time…

The Scarecrow. Despite his mission to acquire a brain from the grand Wizard of Oz measured by the standard intellect, the irony was, he was the problem solver of the group. Employers emphasize the importance of this trait in every job my firm works on. Ask yourself, do you simply do “just enough” to get by or do you consistently make an effort to stand out?

Exercise: Write down the tangible contributions you’ve made and problems you’ve solved at your organization and whether they are enough.

The Tin Man. His quest for a heart symbolized the status of the industry world at that time in history, and how it needed oil to survive. Even in those days, the ability to care about one another was important. Do you have and utilize the soft skills required for your position and company culture? If you are asking yourself what are soft skills, we’ve already got a problem. Are you still a believer in the misconception that you do the work for “the man” rather than for yourself? You never take advantage of enhanced training and are happy to maintain a status quo. Do you show your employer that you have the heart not only to go above and beyond in your position, but to grow the company as a whole?

Exercise: Write down your soft skills, and remember to give yourself credit for the intangible traits you bring to your role. Look at the people next to you. Do they have the same sense of dedication and people skills?

The Lion. The lion represents most important and biggest challenge for the job seeking population. We have to get comfortable in an employment setting to ask for what we want. And we have to be ready to hear constructive criticism if we have to work on improving certain aspects of our “Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion traits.” It’s tough to hear, but it’s much better to face your shortcomings rather than making the rash decision to leave a company based on assumptions versus facts. I’ve seen many individuals quit jobs over hurt feelings only to find out that they were valued members of an organization.

Exercise: Make a commitment to yourself. If you find that you are weaker in some of those areas needed to move up in your company, work on improving them. Using these traits as guidelines, go after a position you can thrive and grow in. Great employers tell me all the time that they’re too busy figuring out their company’s growth strategy, let alone each and every employee’s growth strategy. They need your help as a valued partner to take interest in your own personal development.

The great meaning of Oz: We all have the required traits to be successful, but we need to be prepared to go on a journey, and work on cultivating those traits. By completing the Oz test, you’ve already started to map out the framework for what your next employer and role looks like, and the outline of your updated resume.

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