Saturday, January 14, 2017

Job Non-Negotiables

I may not be far along in my career, but over time through short-term jobs and a few long-term jobs, I have developed a list of non-negotiables for any job that I intend to stay in for more than, say, two weeks. This list is not about nice perks, like an employer who pays for gym memberships or free meals at the office or the ability to work from home any time you want. Those are great, but they are not non-negotiables. The items on my list are so important that if a (long-term career) job doesn't have any one of these things, it's time to look for a new job (I say this as someone who has worked in jobs with some of these, none of these, and now, fortunately, all of these). 

Here's the list:

1. You actually like the people you work with. I know, I know, this is so elementary. You'd be amazed how easy it is to convince yourself that it isn't that important, and that feeling like you have nothing in common with your coworkers and quite honestly don't even want to be around them isn't that big of a deal. Well, it is a big deal. You're obviously not going to have fun every minute that you're at work, and you're not going to be interested in everything your coworkers are interested in (football, anyone?) You're not going to work with people who never get frustrated with you or snap at you because we are all human, we all get stressed out, and we all have bad days. But in general, you should like your coworkers and your boss(es). You should feel like you can carry on real conversations with them. You should feel like you can be yourself around them. You should be in a workplace where (genuine) laughing and smiling is a regular occurrence because you simply enjoy each other's company. And the idea of a 4-hour road trip with a colleague or boss for work should not make you freak out. 

2. You are being treated with respect. This encompasses more than I can write in a short paragraph, but of course, if you are being respected, you will know it, and if not, you'll know that too. Your bosses should not act like you're stupid because you don't know how to do something. You shouldn't be getting yelled at (and if someone ever does yell at you--because like I said, we're all human and make mistakes--they should apologize and work with you to fix the problem). You shouldn't be getting ignored. If there are meetings that pertain to your work or involve members in your group or team, you should be getting included in them. If you make a mistake, you should have a calm discussion with your boss about how to fix the issue, and then you should both get to move on--mistakes shouldn't be blown out of proportion and you shouldn't be treated like you are stupid when you mess up. 

3. Your managers are invested in your professional development and you are being challenged and pushed to be better. Your bosses shouldn't ignore you when you talk about your professional goals and long-term development. They should care about helping you get to the next level in your career. You shouldn't be bored--of course you'll have some boring projects or assignments here and there, but overall the kind of work you are doing and the quantity of work you have should not bore you. You should have managers who challenge you to keep improving yourself and your work and to keep growing as a professional.

4. You receive appropriate mentoring, training, directions, and feedback, and you always know where you stand. You should not be expected to know how to do things you have never done without being taught or trained. While mentoring and training is especially important for very inexperienced professionals, it's crucial for anyone. You shouldn't be thrown into the deep end of a job or a profession with no guidance. Your managers should care enough about you to show you how to do the things you need to do and to teach and train where necessary. Along those lines, you should receive regular feedback on your work and on how you are doing. You should know where you stand in terms of your performance, and your boss shouldn't save up six months' worth of feedback to be delivered all at once where it's invariably going to come as a huge shock. And this is another article entirely, but let me just say this. Feedback should not be delivered as if it's punishment. Receiving feedback should not be an event that only happens in incredibly stressful closed-door meetings with the boss. It should be delivered organically, naturally, and often, in relaxed settings as much as possible, with the intent to help rather than to make the employee feel like they are in trouble. For instance, some of the best feedback I've gotten at my current job has come on the drive back from court appearances with my boss. It starts out with, "So, how do you think you did today?" and then we talk about what went well and what I need to work on, and I walk away with a lot of helpful information without feeling stressed and anxious. This is how it should be. 

5. You are given fair opportunities to show what you are capable of. You should be receiving opportunities to try new things and new tasks. Your manager shouldn't give all the opportunities to one or two "favorite" employees. You should never be told that you are not capable of doing something that you've never been permitted to try. You should be given a fair chance to succeed. 

6. Your performance is evaluated fairly and accurately. You should know what you are going to be evaluated on before it happens. You should receive feedback on an ongoing basis so that the dreaded annual review doesn't have to be dreaded, as nothing in it should come as a surprise. It should be accurate. If you've done high-quality work and met your goals, you should receive good evaluations. You shouldn't be receiving feedback from left field that you've never heard from your boss before (or worse, feedback about you that you've never heard from anyone before). You should be given a fair summary of what you need to improve and what you do well on. You should not only hear about your mistakes and weaknesses in an evaluation, because that's totally demoralizing, especially when you've worked your butt off and generally done really solid work. If you have a boss who thinks that the purpose of a performance review is to demoralize an employee as much as possible in 45 minutes, you probably need to find another job. Likewise, just in general terms, if you have a boss that thinks the way to motivate employees is to ignore the 50 things they've done right and harp on the one thing they've done wrong, you definitely need to find another job. 

7. The job pays what you need. I don't really know what else to say about this one, because this is such a personal topic. I personally do not believe that you should leave a job you really like just because you think the pay is slightly below the market. I find too many of my peers getting themselves in really bad job situations because they're chasing salary without much consideration of anything else. Does the job pay enough to meet your needs and some of your wants? If so, it's probably not worth it to leave just for a higher salary (assuming you are not grossly underpaid). 

8. You are appreciated and valued, and your boss makes you feel good about your contributions, not bad about them. This is another one that's hard to put into words, but you will definitely know if you have it or not. Does your boss say "thank you" for your work? Is credit given where credit is due? Are your strengths emphasized? If you go above and beyond, is it rewarded? Do you hear from your managers about your successes and what you are good at, and not only about your mistakes? Do you feel supported? Generally, do you feel good about going to work? (Seriously, one of the biggest but simplest questions I've answered in my career so far was this: Do I feel good or bad the majority of the time that I'm at work? When I answered that question with "bad," that's when I knew something had to change.) You are not always going to have good days, good weeks, or good months on the job. But overall, you should feel that your hard work is appreciated and that your work--and you--are really valued. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Essential Questions for 2017

Happy New Year! And what a year 2016 has been. My three biggest takeaways from 2016? Jesus is unfailing. His ways are higher than my own. And sometimes God's greatest blessings are not in what He gives--but rather in what He takes away.

I don't know about you, but I am looking toward the future with hope and expectation. These are some of the questions I'm asking myself at the onset of a new year. I think they're pretty important questions--for a lot of different reasons--and I hope you'll consider asking them of yourself, too.

In 2017:

1. Who or what are you going to wear out your knees in prayer for?
2. How are you no longer willing to feel?
3. What are you no longer willing to settle for?
4. Knowing that your tongue can either give life or it can kill and destroy, what are you going to do with yours this year? How? Why?
5. If you could read one book in 2017 besides the Bible, what would it be?
6. Imagine that it's December 31st and you only managed to accomplish one thing this year. If you had to choose--what would it be?
7. Is anyone or anything poisoning your life? What can you do today to detox?
8. What bondage in your life needs to be broken this year?
9. What do you want Jesus to do for you? (See this post.)
10. Are you willing to be a person of excellence? (See this article.)
11. What's worth some--or a great deal of--pain and discomfort this year?
12. What in your life are you utterly disgusted with? What are you sick of? (I know this is strong terminology, but I'm thinking about that quote, "No one will ever change until they become utterly disgusted with the old way.")
13. What is the best compliment you can imagine getting this year? (I'm a big believer that what you label "the best compliment you've ever gotten" speaks VOLUMES about what is important to you and the kind of person you want to be).
14. Who do you appreciate? If you are not telling them that you appreciate them, why not? What are you waiting for?
15. Are you being faithful in your life? If not, why not? (See this post.)
16. What's worth sleepless nights, early mornings, sore muscles, and other sacrifices to you?
17. What promise(s) of God are you going to stand on when you are strong and fall on when you are weak?
18. How are you going to take care of yourself this year?
19. Imagine that the life you want in 2017 is being turned into a movie. What's on the soundtrack?
20. What's stopping you?