Failures on the way to success

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlXAAAAJDdjMzk1MDQ4LTVkODMtNDg1MC05ZDE4LTlmZDA3Mzc0MTNiYwThat’s me on the right of the photo. I attended an Outward Bound course last week and this was my very first time rock-climbing. I was really worried about how I would do, and about how I’d look compared to the others. I kept reminding myself that I didn’t have to be the best climber out there, I just had to try. I tried, I got stuff wrong, I kept trying (and failing) and when I eventually got to the top I felt a huge sense of achievement. The experience reminded me about the things that sometimes hold us back when we’re in situations where we’re not sure of the outcome.

One of my favourite quotes is by Olin Miller who said: “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do!” How often do you hold yourself back because you’re worried about what other people will think?

Could it be that we’re more afraid of being judged than we are of failure? Could it be that we’re not scared of failing, but we’re scared of what people might say if we fail?

Let me digress for a moment to note the difference between mistakes and failures. A mistake is when we do something wrong even though we know the right way to do it. Failure is when we’re trying something new and we don’t know ahead of time how to make it successful. Where possible we should try to avoid mistakes but in reality there are times this can be hard (such as when we’re under high levels of stress, or we’re tired). Sometimes you are going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. And if you’re trying new things, pushing yourself, or taking action you are almost certainly going to experience failure.

Find peace in the fact that people aren’t judging you as much as you think they are. And even if you do have some critics, do you want to spend your time satisfying them at the expense of your own growth?

Failure is a powerful way to learn. We learn about ourselves, and we learn where we went wrong so we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Failures are not meant to be buried, forgotten – they give us the opportunity to reflect and can be used to help us decide our next steps.

Instead of living in fear of your failures, you could use them to your advantage. Start ‘banking’ your failures – imagine they are sitting in a high-interest savings account of all the things you have learned over the years. You can withdraw these important learnings any time you need them.

It’s natural to try to avoid looking bad in front of others, but try to fight through this fear and allow yourself to take the action you need to make in order to grow. People aren’t actually paying that much attention.

When you do experience failure, be gentle on yourself. Instead of using all of your energy to feel embarrassed or frustrated, use your energy to focus on what you can take from this experience, and what your next step should be. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Remember, you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

Stop looking at your failures as a bad thing. Start embracing those moments for what they have added to your knowledge, your career, your growth. It’s amazing what can result from this simple shift in perspective.

Switching on to real life

SwitchingOnThe holiday season is a great opportunity to take a ‘digital detox’ and enjoy some time away from screens, smartphones and social media.

I love being ‘digital’. I love that my phone gives me email, social media, communications and a camera all in one small device. But technology often consumes many of the valuable hours I have left after I’m done with work, chores and other must-dos.

I find I am more content when I make a conscious effort to unplug every now and then. Over the holidays I try to make it a daily practice to minimise digital distractions. This helps me feel rested, recharged and ready to get back to work when the time comes.

And the best part? Embarking on a digital detox isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to help you switch off this summer.

  • Do more of what fills you up. Try not to think of a digital detox as a sacrifice, but instead as a way of creating more space for the things you love. Read a book. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Listen to music or podcasts. Spend a few hours on your hobbies. Be lazy. Daydream.
  • Teach people you aren’t on call. It’s okay not to reply to emails, texts or calls immediately. You’ll be able to give people the full attention they deserve if you’ve taken some time to rest and focus on what makes you happy.
  • Turn off notifications for all your apps. The sound of a new Facebook message or tweet can be incredibly distracting. A good way to focus on the present moment is to switch off all notifications. Everything will still be there the next time you choose to log in – what’s the worst that could happen? Turn off your notifications for just 1 week and see how it goes. If it’s made things harder for you just turn them on again!
  • Avoid screen time before bed. Do your best not to look at your phone, laptop, television or any other screen within an hour of your bed time. The light on phones and tablets tells your brain it’s time to wake up and can  affect your sleeping patterns.
  • Take back control of your time. Checking your phone every five minutes is often an unconscious – not to mention distracting – habit. The good news is, like all habits, it can be undone. Take some time to switch off the things that chew up your time and switch on to everything else.
  • Be present. Look up and look out from screens. Notice the world around. Interact with people you love. Be present with your family and friends – listen to them, laugh and build great memories. These are the moments that will give you the energy you need to be successful and happy.

When I’m old and grey, I won’t remember all the Twitter likes, but I will remember that time my brother and I were laughing so hard that we both ended up collapsed on the floor, trying to breathe. I’ll remember time with family, hanging out with friends, having fun, being absorbed in hobbies, or just time off relaxing or enjoying nature.

Invite more of these moments into your life by taking the time to switch off. Even an hour a day can make a huge difference. All of the notifications, emails and funny memes will still be there when you’re ready to reconnect.  But you’ll be reconnecting on your terms.

Have a wonderful, restful holiday season.

Small steps to build your self-confidence

Do you sometimes feel anxiety, fear or low self-confidence in the workplace? I’ll let you in on a little secret: most people do.

We all have an inner voice of self-doubt that tells us we can’t do something, or that we might fail. It’s part of being human.

But that doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. Most of the time this voice is ruled by fear and should therefore be gently acknowledged, and then firmly ignored.

Self-confidence is about living beyond fear.

Think of some of the things that make you feel vulnerable or anxious at work. Some common examples include asking for a promotion or a pay rise, delivering a presentation or dealing with conflict.

Now think about the one thing all these challenges have in common: fear.

The best way to improve your self-confidence at work is to employ techniques to overcome your fears, so you can act with purpose and clarity as opposed to anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that this is easy, or that it will happen overnight, but remember: small steps can reap big rewards. I believe we can all overcome our fears if we are kind to ourselves along the way.

Try small things until you feel more confident.

Some people overcome their fear of heights by parachuting out of a plane. While this ‘quick fix’ has been known to work for some, I’d suggest a gentler, more long-term strategy for improving self-confidence in the workplace.

You don’t have to walk straight up to your boss and tell him you want a pay rise! Or deliver an impromptu presentation to a large group of people, just to test your fears.

Instead you can try small things each day or each week, and see what helps you personally to feel more confident and centred.

Here are some tried and tested strategies for success:

  • Be kind to others: Support and appreciate their work. This is great for your own soul and happiness, and your colleagues will notice you for all the right reasons.
  • Be kind to yourself: Listen out for compliments and record them in a notebook so you can refer back to them on tough days. Make note of your achievements and the things that make you feel proud of your work. Celebrating what you are good at is so important.
  • Be open: Talk to trusted colleagues about your own fears and ask them what areas they struggle with. You might be surprised – most people aren’t as confident as you think.
  • Be curious: Ask for feedback about your work and look for opportunities to learn. Show that you are willing to improve and grow. This will help you make a good impression as well as discover what people already appreciate about you.

These are just some of the ways you can make small adjustments to your confidence. Remember, self-confidence isn’t about being the loudest or the brightest; it’s about awakening your calm inner strength. It’s amazing how much we can flourish when we be kind to ourselves and others.

Can recruiters find you, and will they like what they find?

I recently attended an IT recruitment conference that had speakers from many successful and fast-growing companies. The event was about how to attract, recruit and retain IT professionals.

Companies operating in the IT/tech/digitech space are well aware of how hard it is to find good people to fill their vacancies. Presenters at the conference spoke about new methods they’re using to help them with this task.

How companies and recruiters find candidates.

The most common ways for recruiters (in-house or at agencies) to find candidates are:

  • Place an ad on an online job board or on a company’s career page
  • Look at their existing database of previous candidates
  • If they’re in-house recruiters they’ll likely look at their pool of existing staff
  • Ask for referrals
  • Approach people directly

Aside from the channels above there are is now a trend towards looking for people online, via various social media and other channels. Or, maybe they have someone’s name but they want to find out more before they proceed.

The cost of not filling a role or of hiring the wrong person or high so it’s reasonable that companies and recruiters will try to find out as much as they can, and in places you might not expect.

Here are some places they might look.

In most cases below, people can search for a name or more generic terms (e.g. developers in Sydney). Once if they find someone they’ll usually expand out the search to see that person’s contact, followers etc and get even more names of potential candidates.

1. Twitter.   This is a great starting place to see who you follow or interact with, what types of things you post and how you communicate. Use this to your advantage – follow or interact with companies you like or ‘influencers’, post relevant content. Also remember that companies often post vacancies on Twitter so it’s a great place to see what roles they offer and how they deal with candidates.

2. LinkedIn.   Recruiters are likely to have a look at your LinkedIn profile, but they also search more generically for people with certain skills or in specific locations. This means you should keep your profile up -to-date (but remember to disable notifications if you don’t want your current employer to suspect you’re thinking of moving). Do you have a title showing what you currently do or what you’re looking for? Do you have a few, specific recommendations from people about how you work? (See my other blog about creating a good Linkedin profile and CV.)

3. Facebook.   Depending on your privacy settings there could be a wealth of information on Facebook that you don’t realise is public. Check what your profile looks like to people who aren’t friends and edit posts/photos that you want to remain private.

4. Instagram.   As with all social media, employers can tell a lot about you from what you post or respond to.

5. GitHub.   I’ve heard many times that if you’re a developer you need to have a GitHub profile.

6. Meetup.   If I was looking for someone with, for example, testing automation experience, one of the first places I’d look would be the local meetups. I’d get the list of members and then cross-reference them with other places (Twitter, LinkedIn etc). If you belong to meetups, make sure your profile – for each group you belong to – is up-to-date.

7. Google.   A plain, old Google search might yield lots of information about you or people like you. Google+ is used in some countries but not in others. For example, if you work in India (or if you want to be found by an Indian company), you need a Google+ profile. A reverse image lookup (drag an image and drop into the search bar) might take searchers to other places online where your details can be found.

8. Online.   Searchers might look at sites where tech people can offer their services or display their portfolios. You might be found on one of these – Bēhance, Elance, Upwork, peopleperhour, Fiverr, dribble, etc. What about if you leave a review with you name on TripAdvisor, AirBnB, eating out sites etc? People can get a sense of your tone, your attitude and what you do in your spare time.

What will they find out about you?

It’s not only about how you might be found, but also what information people might uncover when they find you.

  • If you use your name in any of these sites or applications then make sure you have content that won’t discourage potential employers.
  • Keep in mind the image you are portraying online. Does your online presence give the impression that you’d be a suitable employee for the kind of company you want to work for?
  • You don’t need to sign up to all the sites listed above. Only do so if it makes sense (e.g. if you’re a developer then GitHub is a good place to start).

candidateSo, be aware of your presence online, but possibly even more importantly be honest, professional and hard-working … these are the things that will ultimately create your reputation.

 

Who looks after your career?

One of the best things about working in tech companies are the people. Smart, interesting, funny, dedicated people, with diverse personalities and backgrounds who work hard to do great things for their employers.

Over the past few decades in many different companies I’ve seen these people working under pressure, in challenging and constantly-changing environments. They take on tough projects, they do overtime, they deal with frequent restructuring and too-small teams. They hold training sessions during their lunch breaks. They’re asked to justify the time they need to do their work. They’re the first people questioned when projects go wrong. They’re expected to keep up with new technology, to be great at communicating and to be excellent team players and if they don’t already over-achieve in these areas it gets noted during their annual review. Hard work and innovation are not always appreciated, sometimes not even noticed.

But … some people are promoted and given raises. Some get opportunities and cool projects to work on. Some companies train and develop their staff, and value their contribution.

It’s frustrating how much it comes down to luck. Are you lucky enough to work for a company where staff are valued and cared for? Do you have a good manager who has your best interests at heart?

Even if you are fortunate to work in a good environment, that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be rosy. There are still pressures and times you may feel neglected.

Right now, there is a large group of experienced and skilled people doing just fine in IT/tech roles, but they’re not happy with ‘fine’ … they want to be better. They want to keep learning, to improve and advance. They want to be noticed, get promoted. They want a more balanced life. What options do they have to be supported to get the growth and challenges they want?

This is the reason I started Elementum. I want to make it easy for everyone to move forward and achieve their goals, no matter where they work. I want people to be in full control of their careers. I want people to be able to learn how to improve the skills that make the most difference. I want people to realise how easy some of these things are – you don’t have to change jobs or make big commitments … small and steady improvements will add up over time and become life-long habits.

I’m learnt some shortcuts working in a range of IT roles for the past 20 years, but the most important learning for me was when I realised it didn’t matter if I was a permanent employee or a contractor, it didn’t matter who employed me or what my role was. What mattered was that I needed to take charge of my own growth and career happiness.

A job is the work you do for someone else. A career is what you own over a lifetime of experience and growing and doing awesome work. Even when my job wasn’t what I really wanted, I could still work on the skills and experiences I dreamed of for my career.

“You can apply for a job, but you can’t apply for a career. A job is given to you; a career is made by you.” Lynne Mattoon

imthebossofmeAlways remember that you own your career. The power is in your hands. Is there anything you need to do to take back control?