Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Perseverance - The Invaluable Tool For Successful Careers






"The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity”.

Amelia Earhart, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.




Warning:

This post recounts a real professional journey. Read at the risk of being encouraged, inspired or prodded into action.



Perseverance is an endangered attribute in today's insatiable drive for instant gratification.


We want instant food, faster service and overnight successes.


Technology has made many things effortless. Our gadgets thus boast of lightening-fast capacities; our smart devices help us manage the 'stress' of our lives; and social media crowns regular people as celebrities in the digital age.


In all this manic rush for speedier results, at often a pitiable fraction of the required effort, we relegate the admirable tenet of perseverance to the by-gone era of slow progress. 


Nevertheless, perseverance is required for worthwhile feats. This is because not only is there justifiable satisfaction with achieving our goals by standing firm, but perseverance also does something powerful:


It builds character.


When considered alongside with passion, perseverance produces gritand grit is a predictor of success. 


This is what Angela Lee Duckworth discovered after conducting studies with students and professionals. Her enlightening TED talk below explains why we should develop grit in our academic and professional feats to succeed.



   



Now we know that we'd inevitably face challenges in our personal and professional lives. Setbacks, crises and tragedies may suddenly strike. While it's human to avoid unpleasant situations or to want to 'fix' problems as they occur, we should realise that sometimes, we'd be required to keep doing the right thing, over considerable time, to achieve lasting results.











In our careers, it can be frustrating when, in spite of our stellar  abilities, we don't receive job offers, nor are we rewarded with appointments that are worthy of our talents and experiences.




So, how could we remain positive and keep persevering in our efforts?




Hopefully, my personal journey recounted below, will encourage people seeking opportunities to stay the course and not to give into disappointments.







What perseverance taught me about career advancement






Years ago, I resigned from a respectable position that allowed me to gain valuable international exposure and build my skills. I needed to grow my family and since I was young, I decided that a few years away from corporateville wouldn't hurt my career.




What I couldn't have predicted would be the economic downturn in the country, triggered by the 2007-2008 global financial crisis which originated from the United States. What eventually happened was that when I was prepared to re-enter the employment pool, it became impossible to get a job.






Since I had started to develop an interest in communications, I decided to start a blog to explore this newfound passion, and proceeded to blog every month. Over the next few years, I blogged, applied for a few jobs, attended some interviews but received no offers.




Still, I continued to write, even when my articles recorded few views or when no one posted comments on my blog.




A few well-intentioned people advised me to get a job, any job, anywhere, to break the 'jinx' of being unemployed for a lengthy period. But I declined. I wanted a role related to communications and was prepared to wait for relevant vacancies.




In the meantime, given my desire to pursue a career in communications, I continued to research about the field. I spent a lot of time and effort in churning out high-quality blog posts. 




Favourable feedback from my articles was rewarding and I recorded a few 'wins' that encouraged me to continue with my blogging journey. For example, my first article was published in print and online by a reputable business newspaper in Nigeria:



Property of the Rethinking Business Communications Blog




Then my article on President Obama's first speech after the Boston bombings in 2012 was  ranked  in  first  position  on Google for a few weeks:


Property of the Rethinking Business Communications Blog



And a few years later, I landed my first consulting gig in Lagos.



I persevered and continued blogging on communications and management/workplace issues because I was interested in those themes. 





Nevertheless, I was 'unemployed' for eight years in total and had blogged monthly for the last three of those years, before the ideal job opportunity presented itself. It was a communications role at a prestigious business school and was designed to directly improve the communication skills of participants in the different MBA programmes. 






What happened after I applied for the role was unexpected.





In the first stage, I was advised to write a two-page document to specifically explain my proposed agenda for the role, as well as list my plans for coaching, evaluation and feedback. 



Having written numerous blog articles, read ample materials over the years and delivered my first communications’ consulting gig a few weeks prior to the application, I produced a convincing document. 



The next stage, the interview, was itself an experience. I was both ecstatic and terrified to have landed the opportunity to explain why I thought I was a perfect fit for the role.
 



I arrived at the expansive campus. With its carefully manicured lawns, superbly maintained facilities and professional staff, I immediately knew that the interview was going to be unlike anything I had experienced. 



I was briskly ushered into a room with internet access and a projector, and given 30 minutes to whip up a PowerPoint presentation on any topic. I was informed that I would give a presentation to a panel. 



Since I had no prior warning, I immediately panicked when I was left alone. I however took some deep breaths and calmed down after a few minutes. That was when I remembered that I always had my flash drive in my bag...the USB on which I had saved—as had been my habit for the last three years—all the articles that I had ever written, including images that I had collected.
 



The relief I felt was akin to the clouds parting and me sighting a helicopter in the distance, which quickly approached the spot where I had been stranded on a deserted island. 



It was exhilarating. 





So I  'assembled' the slides. Drawing upon everything I had learnt up until that point, I used images and less text. I also ensured that the entire presentation was short; it did not exceed seven slides, including the notes and references (some of which were links to two of my blog articles), at the end. I was then able to rehearse for the last 10-15 minutes before making the presentation. I finished with an enjoyable Q&A session with my audience. 





It became evident at the interview that my experience in blogging, my stint in consulting and my published article in print and online by a business daily, (all results from my blogging journey), were instrumental to my high scores. They also led to me being hired from the shortlist of seven (more experienced) professionals. 






All that would have been impossible if I hadn't persevered in blogging. 






I'm convinced that divine providence was at work and that I was fortunate to have landed the job. However, I also believe that the reasons below helped my good fortune: 





1) Strength of purpose




I persisted in reading content about communications. I knew I had no practical experience in the field. Given that such experience could only come from working in that segment, I read whatever materials I thought were relevant to the subject matter. The constant research gave me ideas and added depth to my articles. They also helped me develop a 'voice' online. In this digital age, having digital footprints in the topic was useful to perceptions of my relevance. 


Self-education was also vital in sustaining my interest and in expanding my knowledge. 




2) Mental toughness 



Some sincere people in my circles whom I respected couldn't understand why I was being 'picky' about the role I wanted to work in. They had valid points, such as why being away from corporateville for so long was detrimental to my chances of getting a job, and how it was advisable to get into any job first, and then network to search for something better. 





I listened and even attended a few interviews for companies I didn’t like, (more for the interviewing experience than for the roles themselves), so when I was rejected, I was actually grateful. 





I had to stay true to my convictions and even though I often felt defeated, I had faith that the ideal role would come. I was determined to be prepared when the opportunity arrived. 



And I was. 



Mental toughness is required for worthy causes and in our professional lives, we'd need a good dose of it to help us persevere. In the inspiring video below,  Navy Seal trainer, Admiral William H. McRaven, explains how we could change the world by persevering until the end in our efforts, and to even start with the mundane task of making our beds. 






                                                                 




While we wouldn't all desire to become Navy Seals, McRaven's advice on persevering on the right path is universally relevant. 




Conclusion


 







  
As professionals, perseverance is a quality that we should take seriously if we're desirous of advancement.


Let's develop grit and be clear about our professional aspirations.


Let's identify the necessary paths that will lead us to success and work to achieve our goals.


As Amelia Earhart suggested, let's make the toughest decision first, which is to act, then tenaciously prod on.


If we don't do it for ourselves, who will?


And now, over to you:



Share your account of how you persevered in your career. What advice can you give to encourage others? 






   Kindly post your comments below.



P.S - I've added a new page to this blog: Clients.  You can access it from the homepage. Kindly take a look. Remember that I provide customised communications coaching for individuals, groups and companies. Contact me for details. 




  If you need help. If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:


  - Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.
 

Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles! 



 Do you need help with improving your communication skills? 


  

Hire me for:



 - Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;

Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);


Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.
 



  
  Let me help you get results.

 

 

  
  Contact me:



  
  A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.
 
  
  B) Call for a free consultation: 


    Nigeria:            0704 631 0592 


       International:  +234 704 631 0592 


   


  ------------------------

 N:B- First and fourth images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, at freedigitalphotos.net. Second image is courtesy of Yodiyim, at freedigitalphotos.net. Third image is courtesy of Master Isolated Images, at freedigitalphotos.net. Screenshots are provided by author.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

An Open Letter To Management - From Working Mothers






Dear Management,



We did not suddenly lose vital brain cells when we became mothers.


Nor, upon resumption from our maternity leaves, did we become delicate porcelain pieces easily broken at the vaguest suggestion of a critique.


Moreover, prior to taking whatever breaks we deemed necessary, we were hard-working, high functioning professionals who consistently provided undisputed value to your organisation. 


And that has not changed.


Indeed, our competencies have not deteriorated because we decided to prioritise our mental or physical health and eliminate stress-related ailments.


We are not asking for the impossible. We just want the flexibility to discharge our duties, while also taking care of our families, so that we can continue to hit those key performance indicators that justify our tenures in your establishment.


So before you dismiss this letter as yet another feminist rant worthy of scorn, the points below plead our case: 



1) We are competent professionals but humans first







We would not apologise for deciding to have children. We are life-givers.



Yes, we realise that it is a choice we freely made; we know that not every female employee might choose the path to motherhood. 


Still, that does not mean that we are demanding preferential treatment.


For example, how is it 'preferential treatment' to be given extra time—upon strict medical instructions—to recuperate after complications at childbirth? We would do your organisation and ourselves a disservice, if we do not completely recover to perform at peak performance upon resumption.


Do not force us to choose between our families and your toxic, uncaring work environment, because we would leave in droves.


We are humans first.


Remember that the 21st-century work environment is a human workplace, whereby the allure of value for both the establishment and employees is undeniable.


Therefore, if we feel unappreciated, under-valued and are covertly penalised—by unfounded criticisms, poor performance reviews and delayed promotions—for the time taken off to attend to family matters, even when we continue to go over and beyond in our duties, we will research other fairer, more flexible work cultures and abandon ship. 


Empathy for our family circumstances goes a long way. When it is genuine, we would trust you, remain loyal and would include those discretionary efforts that boost productivity and increase profitability. In other words, we would become highly engaged at work.


In a statement that you would appreciate: The benefits of engaged employees make the strongest business case for treating us as some of your most valued partners. 




2) Life happens








It is a fact for us working mothers that there would often be circumstances concerning our families that we cannot control.



A child might become gravely ill at four a.m. so we would be unable to get to work a few hours later to deliver that big presentation to your top client.



Or a husband might be involved in a car accident at lunchtime and may require immediate surgery.



Or other family crises may hit, often at the busiest or most challenging points in our careers.



We would deal with such scenarios with the strength, grace and faith we can muster but deal with them we must.



Thus, despite our most precise plans to juggle family obligations and work commitments effectively, life happens.



In those situations, we would do our best to limit disruptions to our work while we deal with our family matters. Nevertheless, we would be grateful for your understanding.



Your directors giving us ultimatums, or our bosses verbally issuing loosely veiled threats that our priorities 'do not align with organisational goals', and  consequently, that our jobs are no longer guaranteed, would not be forgotten.



For you executives who have families or are lone working parents, switch your situations with ours in those trying moments. Now tell us if your chief concern would be a deal you must close or a report you must present.



Life happens.



And life happens to us all.
  




3) We cherish a culture of meritocracy






We have read the facts about the struggles of women in corporateville and know from experience how difficult it is for women to be appointed CEOs. We are also aware that women are rarely promoted to the C-suite.


We are often at the mercy of your Big Boys' Club (the powerful, close-knit group of male executives that calls the shots) when it comes to our professional advancement.


We concede that we have come a long way from the era of the suffragettes in the early 20th century, when women took a courageous stand to campaign for equal voting rights.  We are grateful that things are changing...albeit slowly.


Yet, we would like you to consider a culture based on equity and meritocracy. Allow us to be promoted, recognised or celebrated by objective markers such as meeting (and exceeding) our targets, increasing profitability by X%, expanding your operations in new markets, or cutting costs by Y%.


No, we do not want to 'take over' the Big Boys' Club. Based on our consistent performance, moderate temperaments, and conflict-management skills, (we have saved your top male cronies from many a public relations scandal), we just want seats at the table where key decisions are made.


Then when we have earned our stripes of excellence, ensure that we are rewarded.


Your company will not be praised as a beacon for diversity if your high achieving working mothers rarely progress beyond a certain level.


Thus, you should create policies that promote the advancement for women based on merit.





Make progress with such principles and watch how those positive ripple effects reverberate in your organisation and beyond your corridors.






Conclusion




So dear Management, the fact that we are working mothers who are requesting for the flexibility to do our best work, or who would be required to attend to family crises when they occur, does not make us irresponsible or unproductive.


It makes us human.


Since the modern employment relationship is strengthened or weakened by human decisions, we hope you consider our views as valid for further deliberations.


We have been one of the most loyal groups in your establishment thus far.


Help us to help you ensure that it stays that way.


Now over to you: What are your thoughts about the concerns of working mothers?


P.S - I've added a new page to this blog: Clients. You can view it from the homepage. Kindly take a look. Remember that I provide customised communications coaching for individuals, groups and companies. Contact me for details if you need help. 


If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off yet. Please remember to:


Ø  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.



Ø Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles! 





Need help with improving your communication skills?




Hire me for:

v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;

v Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);

v Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.


Let me help you get results.


Contact me:


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:            0704 631 0592.
International:  +234 704 631 0592.



----------------------------------------

N:B- First image courtesy of Jk1991, at freedigitalphotos.net. Second and third images courtesy of Stuart Miles, at freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image courtesy of Iosphere, at freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Vlado, at freedigitalphotos.net.