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You’re Fired: 5 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Career

September 28, 2015
“You’re fired.”  No, I’m not quoting Donald Trump. These are real words, not just words made famous on a reality TV show.  People are fired and let go every day.  Most of the time, it’s because they fall behind.  Employees don’t stay ahead of the curve.  The skills they once had are no longer as relevant and they have not learned the new expectations and skills needed in the workforce.
 
I recently watched an individual get fired.  They were asked to leave because the organization had significantly changed.  Since the 2008 economic downturn, the pressures of our economy caused the organization to have to change its business model.  With that change came a restructuring of the way work got completed and a change in people’s job responsibilities and expectations for success.  This individual stuck to what used to make them successful and viewed leadership and the organization as the problem.  They lost their sense of curiosity, desire to change, and most importantly they lost the ability to look at themselves critically.  They could not see that they were no longer delivering results that were needed.  They were unable to notice that they were not learning from their mistakes and growing as an employee any more. They did not realize that their gossip due to frustration was becoming a problematic behavior and they were unable to notice the breakdown in the relationships within that office. 
 
More importantly, it is usually about a mindset. I’m afraid that that mindset has infiltrated our business culture to a large degree.  It’s a mindset that holds us back individually and collectively.  It is a mindset that makes us less competitive and makes us less curious.  It is the mindset that success is all about strengths.  Strengths matter, but building on your strengths is not enough.
 
Weaknesses can matter too.  A weakness is anything that can hinder our job performance.  Some weaknesses have more of an impact than others.  We should not try and change everything that we struggle with.  We will need to prioritize, but our inability to deliver results that matter, to build strong networks and interpersonal relationships, to learn from mistakes and even at times engage in questionable behavior – all relate to weaknesses that many of us have.  If left unchecked, those are career limiting and even terminating issues.
 
It wasn’t always like this. Years ago we were able to talk about strengths and weaknesses.  Over time our language began to change.  We used the terms strengths and challenges, then moved to strengths and opportunities, and now many organizations and individuals use the phrase “only focus on your strengths.”  Now, there is a certain kernel of truth in that statement.  Strengths are important.  We make more progress focusing on our strengths and that is where we should spend the majority of our time.  However, strengths are not enough.  While it is difficult to change a weakness, and may be demotivating to focus our time on those things, there are many instances where our career progression rests on our ability to improve in an area that we are weak in. 
 
Weaknesses matter too.  How do you manage those weaknesses?  Here are five ways:
 
  1. Admit you have a weakness. Vulnerability is strength.  The ability to admit you are uncomfortable with something, is a sign of a strength. 
  2. Ask for help. There are people around you that are diverse in their talents, skills and passions.  Utilize them and get their support.  They will help you learn.  More importantly, if you surround yourself with the right people, with the right talents and skills, they can compensate for your weakness. 
  3. It may be hard to get traction trying to improve a weakness but you can.  People who get up earlier than others, work later than others, typically do better than others.  I’m not advocating for no breaks and no life.  I am advocating for intentional disciplined practice. When we push ourselves, when we stretch ourselves, we do better.
  4. Build safety systems. Use process and tools, systems and routines to help you manage your weakness.  You can build almost anything into a process, and if you can build structure where there is ambiguity, you can build that structure to compensate for your weakness.
  5. Stay ahead of the curve. Regardless of your age and where you are in your career you never know what circumstances may bring, when there will be another financial meltdown, so we must be prepared at all times. You must be competitive up to the very end of our career. Keep your eyes open for changes in the industry, in the market, in the economy, in the technology and in your business.  Identify what’s going to be needed 3-5 years down the road and beyond.  Know whether your skills and talents will be relevant based on future needs of businesses or organizations and spot key opportunities for growth.
Remember, no one wants to hear the words, “you’re fired.”  No one wants to get the proverbial pink slip.  So, know your strengths, build your strengths, and as importantly, know your weaknesses and manage them well.
 
Are you prepared?