Corporate Survival Guide

Do You Need an Innovation Coach?

July 12th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Could a coach help you tap into your inner genius? Check out my recent post on futurethinktank about the value of innovation coaching.

The futurethinktank blog is brought to you by futurethink, an innovation research and training firm that helps companies put the principles of innovation into practice on a daily basis.

futurethink has also been a partner and client of mine for more than five years now. I highly recommend their innovation research and tools (many are free).

Get Creative at Work

February 9th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Grand Street: Painter
Image by moriza via Flickr

Are you a creative soul trapped in a cubicle job? Check out this article from Metro: Let Your Office Creativity Fly Free.

I shared some tips with Metro columnist Drew Hinshaw for the article. Creativity at work is one of my favorite topics and is also the focus of my upcoming New York University course: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur at Work.

I strongly believe that knowing how to tap into your creativity and use it in a business setting is essential to superstar success in any field (and especially for entrepreneurs). More to come on that…

I know my posts have been sporadic and short lately. That’s because my business is booming and my time for blogging here is limited. Check out the blog I write for About.com if you miss me. : )  Hope to be back and posting more soon.

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Be An Entrepreneur….Or Just Think Like One

January 24th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

As a career & interview coach, one of my core philosophies  is that we all must learn to think like entrepreneurs when it comes to managing our careers.

That doesn’t mean all of my clients are running their own businesses — many are very happy and successful in Corporate America or working for others. However, they all know that it’s important to run their careers like they would run a business.

An entrepreneurial mindset is key to success in any career path these days – whether you’re starting your own company, climbing the corporate ladder, or managing a career transition.

That’s why I’m excited about teaching a new class at New York University called How to Think Like an Entrepreneur at Work: Improve Your Results in Any Job

In three weekly evening sessions (February 10, 17, 24), students will learn the techniques and strategies that successful entrepreneurs use to identify opportunities, generate brilliant ideas,  develop and sell their “products” (including their expertise and talents), create action plans, persevere in the face of rejection and obstacles, and more. Learn more and sign up to join us.

P.S. I  am also gearing up to teach a new NYU semester  of Coaching Clients Through Professional and Personal Transitions, which provides instruction on essential transition coaching skills for managers, HR specialists, and professional coaches. It’s a valuable class for anyone working with clients or employees in transition.

Dream Jobs and Job Nightmares — Work-Related Dream Analysis

October 30th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

During this week leading up to Halloween, a holiday designed to let you live out your secret fantasy or nightmare for the evening, I have been plagued by weird dreams about work. I decided to do some research and  it turns out that bizarre work-related dreams are very common. But what do they mean?

According to self-proclaimed dream analysis experts, if you are dreaming regularly about your job, it’s a good sign that your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re overworked or feeling overwhelmed by career issues. This is why I have now scheduled an overdue vacation so I can start dreaming about Caribbean beaches instead of gray conference rooms.

Have you ever awakened from a twisted office nightmare that makes you fear for your sanity? After researching dream interpretations, I discovered that there are several very common work dreams. I bet you’ve had at least one of them. Read on for interpretations of what these job-related dreams may be telling you about your waking life.

5 Most Common Work-Related Dreams Explained


desk-sex-boss1) The Dream: Sex with Your Boss

I might as well cover the most exciting (or potentially horrifying) dream first, right? If you’ve been living in shame and confusion about sexy-time dreams involving your vile boss, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone. Many people dream about sex with a boss or authority figure at the office.

The Dream Interpretation

Maybe your boss just happens to be hot. Maybe you have a suppressed fetish for pinstripes and comb-overs.

On the other hand, sex in dreams can also be a metaphor. You may dream of sex with someone that you feel a strong chemistry with — even if the chemistry is strictly professional. Or your boss may represent something — authority, success, control. Your dream of hooking up with the boss may indicate that you want to connect with the part of you that he/she represents.

Years ago, my friend T. was troubled by a dream of very satisfying sex with her then-boss, who was not particularly attractive and about as far from T’s usual type as humanly possible. For weeks, she had trouble looking him in the eye without blushing. Actually, after hearing about the dream, I got a little giggly in his presence myself. We decided that the dream symbolized her eagerness to please her new boss (and to have him please her with a positive performance review).

2) The Dream:  Killing  Your Boss

But what if your dream self is more interested in homicide than hot sex? Have you ever dreamed about harming or killing your boss?

The Dream Interpretation

The straightforward interpretation here is that your dream self is acting on strong feelings of dislike or envy toward the boss in question.

Another interpretation is that your dream murder victim represents a part of you that you resent or hate. Maybe your boss represents a nightmare version of the future you. Then again, it’s possible that you just played a rousing version of Shag, Marry, Kill before bedtime.

naked-with-briefcase3) The Dream: Naked at Work

In this dream, you’re going about your business at the office when you suddenly realize that you’re completely naked. Oops.

The Dream Interpretation

There are a couple of potential reasons for your public dream nudity. The most common interpretation is that your nudity symbolizes feeling caught off guard. Perhaps you are currently overwhelmed with responsibilities or feel unprepared for a particular project or presentation.

If nobody else in your dream seems to notice your pantslessness, your subconscious may be trying to tell you that you are blowing your fears out of proportion and you’re the only one who thinks you’re out of your depth.

Alternatively, if the discovery of your dream nakedness makes you feel ashamed or  horrified, your subconscious may be reflecting feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment surrounding a secret that you’re keeping. read more…

Do You Have the Right to Moonlight?

October 16th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

moonlighting

Image by c@rljones via Flickr

That may sound like a silly question — especially if you need a second (or third) job to pay your bills. However, many companies reserve the right to control whether their employees can earn extra income after hours.

Workforce Management presents the employer’s side of the debate — starting off with the fact that companies are legally entitled to fire workers if second jobs affect their ability to be “present, prompt, and prepared” at their primary jobs.

I strongly believe that you have the right to a life (and even revenue streams) beyond your cubicle. But I don’t dispute most of the points in the article.  In my book, I recommend a strategy of “ethical moonlighting.”  This means ensuring that your second job (or side business)  never prevents you from doing your day job well — and never puts you at risk of violating your employment contract (including non-compete clauses).

But today’s typical day job is incredibly demanding. For most people I know, the demand to be “present, prompt, and prepared” for work doesn’t end at 5:00 pm. Does an employer have the right to require you to be fully devoted 24/7 — especially if they’re not paying you enough to live comfortably?

No way. You have a right to time of your own to pursue your passions outside of work. Many corporate escapees have used the “ethical moonlighting” strategy to get new businesses or careers off the ground before they quit their day jobs.

As long as you’re not cheating your employer out of an honest day’s work (or conducting shady business like stealing clients or consulting for competitors), you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. After all, guilt won’t stop your employer from laying people off to reduce expenses and ensure the company’s future. You have to be looking out for your future too.

The trickiest part is figuring out where to draw the line between doing your day job well enough and sacrificing your entire life to make your bosses happy. Then again, I suppose that’s a challenge for pretty much everybody that works for someone else — whether you’re a moonlighter or not.

The Workforce Management article provides a petty good summation of Human Resources perspectives  on moonlighting. If you’re going to moonlight, it’s good to know what your corporate overlords might be watching for so you can avoid HR hassles and keep your job until you’re ready to leave it.

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Labor Day Success Inventory — The Fruits of Your Labors

September 5th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

beachlabordayHappy Labor Day weekend! Labor Day was established in 1882 by the American labor movement as a yearly tribute to the contributions of workers.

Today, I also encourage my career coaching clients and students to think of Labor Day as a day to celebrate the joys of meaningful work (between cold beers and volleyball games). That means pausing to pat yourself on the back for the good work that you’ve done this year and give thanks for the opportunities that you’ve been given.

For those in transition or marking time in a frustrating job, it might also mean taking a step back to re-evaluate your long-term career strategy. Remember: You are not trapped. Even in this job market, there are opportunities. You may have to invest a bit more time and creativity to achieve your goals in a challenging economic environment. But that makes the achievement all the sweeter.

Whether you’re happily employed in your dream job or struggling to find a new path, I have a Labor Day exercise that will help you take stock of where you are and spark  some ideas for the next chapter of your career.

It only takes a few minutes and can totally change your perspective on labor. For best results, complete the exercise while relaxing on the beach, in the park, or in the backyard (with cold beer, iced tea, or frozen margarita close at hand).

The Exercise: 2009 Labor Day Success Inventory

The goal of the Success Inventory is to look back at your greatest successes in life so far. The easiest way to approach this is to divide your life into 3 or 4 segments — for example: birth to age 12, 12-24, and 24-46. For each stretch of time, list your most memorable accomplishments.

Think about school and job milestones, but also look beyond graduations, promotions, and awards. Think about learning to ride a bike, organizing a charity fundraiser, running your first 10K, knitting your first sweater.

What achievements are you most proud of? Which were the most fun? Which had you forgotten about until prompted by this exercise?

What’s the Point?

Come on, get out your notebook or open up a fresh file in Microsoft Word and start cataloging your shining moments so far. The results may surprise you.

My clients always tell me that they walk away from this exercise with renewed confidence and feelings of empowerment. During tough times, we often forget about all of the amazing things we’ve accomplished in the past and all of the challenges that we’ve already overcome.

This exercise can also help you spot some trends and patterns that merit further exploration. Why is it that all of the best moments in your life involved music? Isn’t it interesting that your biggest triumphs revolved around public speaking?

Does your current career give you opportunities to leverage your greatest talents? If not, how can you change that?

On Labor Day weekend, take some time to celebrate the fruits of your labors so far and think about what you want to achieve in the future. What will your legacy be? What do you want to celebrate next Labor Day?

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Genius may conceive, but patient labor must consummate.”

– Horace Mann, American educator

Here’s to another year of genius and patient (and fulfilling) labor.

P.S. If you’re in New York City, check out these other ideas for fun things to do over Labor Day weekend. After you’ve inventoried your successes, you’ll be ready to celebrate.

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Right Brain Help Wanted — Left Brains Need Not Apply

July 15th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

left-brain-right-brainMarco della Cava at USA Today wrote a great article about how to retrain your brain to succeed in the new economy. He makes the argument that right brain thinking (big picture, creative) is more valuable than left brain thinking (linear, logical) in new economy careers.

This is one of my areas of focus right now — helping job hunters and career changers become more entrepreneurial and creative (both of these qualities rely heavily on the right brain). Marco quoted me in the article, along with A Whole New Mind guru Daniel Pink and several career changers who recently made the leap from left-brain careers to right-brain careers. He also wrote an interesting  related article about how to train kids for a “right brain future.”

Obviously, no one is purely “right brain” or “left brain.” We all need both sides of that wrinkly grey organ in order to thrive. For entrepreneurs, that is particularly true. We rely on our right brain for vision, innovation, and big-picture synthesizing and strategy. At the same time, we must tap into that left brain for managing our employees, keeping our finances in order, and staying on top of our task lists. We have to be able to switch back and forth between our left-brain and right-brain personalities (or hire/partner with people who have the skills that we lack).

Right now, I’m working on developing seven new training programs for three different clients in three different but related topic areas (this is why my blog posts are kind of few and far-between these days). This has required frequent right brain/left brain switching — from researching to big-picture strategy to organizing to writing to PowerPoint formatting, etc.

The right-brain stuff always comes pretty naturally for me. I have had to train myself in the ways of left-brain thinking — and it can be learned. Twelve years in Corporate America certainly helped with my left-brain development. But ultimately, I had to escape from Corporate America because all left-brain and no right-brain made me a very dull (and unhappy) girl.

Some people say that you can’t learn right-brain thinking, but I strongly disagree. I have led many creativity workshops and watched left-brainers learn to tap into their inner creative genius. For those in career transition, I highly recommend starting a right-brain workout plan. It may very well help you find and/or qualify for a more rewarding career path in the new economy.

Oscar Wilde (and George Costanza) on Productivity

July 8th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Oscar Wilde“We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid. And, harsh though it may sound, I cannot help but saying that such people deserve their doom. The sure way to know nothing about life is to try to make oneself useful.”

— Oscar Wilde

This quote struck me today. Oscar Wilde wrote these words in 1891, but they could easily have been blogged, tweeted, or podcast today.

Sometimes it seems like everyone that I know is competing for the title of Busiest Human Alive (including me). It’s a thankless title that doesn’t even come with a tiara, but we’ve bought into the myth that true virtue lies in always completing your to-do list (and  quickly!) .

Your worth is measured by the number of hours that you work, the number of emails that you process, the number of people on your connections list, the number of tasks that you check off (and the amount of money that it all generates).

Is this obsession with productivity making us stupider? Only if you take it too far. I personally love being busy. But there’s a certain point at which I see diminishing returns from all of that activity.

My best ideas always come to me when I step away from the daily task list — when I’m taking a walk, reading a great novel, chatting with a friend over a drink, sitting in the park people-watching. That’s because I need space to process all of the stimulus, all of the new information that I’m taking in 24/7. I need occasional moments of quiet and zero productivity.  I need a long-lens view to  see the big picture, to make the interesting connections between the ideas swirling around in my head.

Productivity is a beautiful thing. But you need inspiration and creativity to fuel and channel that productivity into work that’s truly meaningful.

So don’t let your to-do list kill your brain cells. Summer is the perfect time to step away from that daily grind and invite your muse over for a visit.  Schedule some time for brilliance — read an intriguing book that has nothing to do with your job, make a dinner date with someone who challenges your brain, or take an afternoon to play hooky at the museum or lying in the grass with your journal.

Here’s another quote from the brilliant Mr. Wilde to help you remember what it’s all about: “I don’t want to earn my living; I want to live.”

georgecostanzaannoyedAnd if you work for a boss who frowns upon such frivolities as taking time to think, try a tip from George Costanza (a man not known for thinking or for productivity): “If you look annoyed all the time, people think you’re busy.”

Look annoyed, be happy.

Hypnotize with Your Words — Learn Persuasive Writing Skills

July 2nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Learning how to write to persuade can really pay off in the business world. Your writing can sell a product or service, score you a job interview, justify a promotion or raise, establish credibility with a client or boss, motivate a difficult employee, or win support for your cause.

In the current hyper-competitive business environment, persuasive writing skills are more valuable than ever before. That’s why I worked with the American Management Association (AMA) to develop a live 90-minute webinar that teaches the 12 proven techniques for writing persuasively.

The webinar will take place on August 6th from 1-2:30 pm and we have worked hard to pack it with valuable information and exercises that will help anyone be more effective at work — even if writing isn’t a major part of your job. In fact, persuasive writing is an essential skill for managers (write convincing emails and performance reviews), entrepreneurs (write winning proposals and pitches), and career changers and job hunters (write brilliant resumes and cover letters).

Sign up now if you’re interested in learning how to convince, inspire, and influence with your writing. The email just went out the the AMA database and spots are filling up, so I wanted to give everybody here a heads-up now. Learn more about the course.

7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

May 29th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Free Webinar Alert

This new webinar for the American Management Association will teach you how to write more effectively for the web. We presented it live last week to thousands of participants and got a very positive response.

Now you can download and listen to 7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them for free at your convenience.

The AMA also has lots of other great free webinars on topics including leadership skills, emotional intelligence, networking, and negotiation.

The 7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes webinar is a great introduction to the best practices of writing online content.

I have also worked with the AMA to develop a two-day course on the topic for those who really want to build this valuable skill with structured exercises and feedback.  The classes will take place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Arlington. You can save $100 if you register by June 12th.