Difficult Times Require Personal Action
By Rachel Elaine Yoka
The past two years have not been kind to the parking or AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industries, along with many others. Despite glimmers of improvement, the next 12 months do not hold as much promise as many of us had hoped. Budgets and staff have been slashed to improve the bottom line for many firms, and may continue to be reduced. Streamlined departments will do more, with much, much less.
This article examines multiple strategies for individuals to add value to their organizations. Challenge yourself and your staff – at all levels – to view their work, and their positions, in innovative ways. Each person holds many of the cards for his or her own success, and can work to improve their position and personal brand.
Use the following recommendations, ideas and questions to take a hard look at your position, your work ethic and your firm. Decide if you are creating value for your firm and your future, or simply treading water.
Not all of these concepts are relevant for everyone, but a few may just be helpful for you. These are loosely organized into a few primary categories: Leadership, Specific Skills and The Softer Side.
• You are responsible for your own success. At any level, it is not management’s job to encourage you to succeed and give you the tools to do it. Many great organizations offer truly amazing education and skill-building opportunities; many do not. Make your way, and your plans, regardless. Write down your goals – short, medium and long-term – and work toward them.
• Don’t make a living, build a life. If we wake at the start of the week with an “anti-Monday, can’t wait until Friday” attitude, we constrict our ability to succeed and shortchange the value of the work we do. Don’t just make a living, and get a paycheck at your job. You spend 40, maybe 50 or even 60 hours a week engaged in the work. Value your time, your commitment and your work enough to build a life around your personal and professional goals.
• Know your priorities. Regularly review your goals, lifestyle and time commitments. Develop a firm and steady grasp on what is truly important for you, and prioritize around those goals. If your tendency is to guard your time jealously, and you are less engaged than you could be, consider using some of your time to engage in activities that will support and enhance your goals.
• Forget your job description. Be willing to extend yourself. Look for ways to do more to support your organization and add value. Don’t limit your activities to the bulleted list in your job description. Push the envelope of what you typically do, or are told to do, to serve clients, supervisors and colleagues. Starbucks’ “Green Apron Book,” for example, asks staff to “surprise and delight” customers to create unique experiences – same idea, different industry.
• Read extensively and widely. Take note of book recommendations from a multitude of sources and create a reading list for yourself. Read quality material that will align with your goals.
• Develop a personal network. As you develop relationships in your work and personal life, collect people – those who share the same values and ethics, the same type of work, or are simply like-minded. These are your “go to” people. Stay in touch, know what they are working on, and ask for their input. From these, choose a mentor who can help you, offering advice and positive criticism along the way.
• You run the day or it runs you – your choice. Sometimes the day runs you anyway, and there is nothing you can do about it. Know what you need to achieve and work on the most critical items first, within your workload and deadlines. If you aren’t writing down and prioritizing all the tasks you need to do in the day, start by taking 10 minutes before you leave to summarize what you need to do tomorrow.
• Get technical, earn some ‘letters.’ Pursue and achieve certifications and professional designations. Your intelligence is not a function of the letters after your name, but contacts, colleagues and competitors view you differently. In the process, you will open up new doors, and meet more of those go-to people.
• Come to work with your boots on. I stole this one from Tim Haahs, our company president, but it was perfect for this article. So much of success is dependent on outlook and attitude. If you are on a cruise ship, feel free to wear your flips-flops. If you are coming to work, to beat out the competition with better service and smarter solutions, put on your work boots.
• Ask for feedback, and really listen. Get in the habit of asking for feedback on your projects soon after completion – and be willing to listen. You can do this on major assignments, or just ask for a “touch base” with your supervisors and principals. It reveals a propensity to improve, and allows those you work with to give you candid suggestions.
• Connect with social media. Get up to speed on the business side of social media. Learn how LinkedIn and other sites can work for your network and your firm’s branding. Use them to reinforce your network of connections, but don’t limit your networking and contacts to online communities.
• Write it all down. Keep a written log of goals and results, or a journal to capture your thoughts and observations on your work and professional goals. Take stock of your accomplishments, and they will be available as a resource for discussions with your supervisor. This takes time, but it’s an investment in you – what could be more worthwhile?
Rachel Elaine Yoka, CPSM, LEED AP, is Marketing Manager and a Parking Specialist at Timothy Haahs & Associates. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Abstract from December, 2010