Friday, July 27, 2012

Change your job without changing your job

Excerpted and edited from Source (Amy Gallo, HBR.org)

Sometimes you know your job just isn't right for you. Maybe you're in the wrong field, don't enjoy the work, feel surrounded by untrustworthy coworkers, or have an incompetent boss.

Most people would tell you to find something that's a better fit. But that may not be possible.

There are many reasons you may not be able to leave: a tough economy, family commitments, or limited opportunities in your field. So what do you do when you're stuck in the wrong job?
Here's how to make the most of an imperfect job situation.  I love these case studies in job redesign: 

Case Study #1: Integrate your interests into the job
Thomas Heffner is an engineer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, a university-affiliated research center that contracts with the Department of Defense. When Thomas took the job eight years ago, he started off doing purely technical work focusing on radio frequency design and radar analysis. He knew pretty early on that this work wasn't his passion. "So much of what we do is done in isolation. We have classified labs where I might be the only person typing away," he says. About five years into the job, he took on a project manager role, thinking it would allow him to interact more with people. Still most of his tasks — managing schedules, developing contracts, reviewing documentation — involved working alone. Thomas thought about looking for another job, one that suited him better, but he couldn't. He and his wife were having a second child and it wasn't a good time to make a move, especially given the tough job market. Instead, he started taking classes in positive organizational psychology and found ways to integrate this interest into his work. He offered to do presentations on positive organizational scholarship. He first spoke to his own group and then at brown-bag lunches, which were open to everyone in his 5,000-person center. He also approached his company's training and development office about developing a course that uses positive psychology to teach innovation and creativity. The staff in that office encouraged him to create and teach the course. While these new projects are outside of his scope of work, he still does all of the things his project manager role requires. And, he has been able to reduce his administrative workload by delegating certain tasks to his team members who were eager to take them on. "I was able to make room for the things I wanted to do," he says. And it's paid off. "Before I started making changes, my job satisfaction was probably about 3 [on a scale of 1-10]. I'm making small changes; it's nothing earth shattering, but it's now up to a 7." By finding other ways to spend time doing what he enjoys most — learning, teaching others, spending time with people — he believes he can boost that up to an 8 or 9. 

Case Study #2: Start doing the job you want
Nine years ago, when Shammy Khan took a job at a contract manufacturer based in Texas, he knew it wasn't the perfect job for him. The position was in account management and required Shammy to handle routine, day-to-day work related to one of the company's clients. Shammy felt his strengths lied elsewhere. "I was more interested in growing businesses and putting deals together than servicing existing clients," he says. Yet he was spending less than 5% of his time doing that. After a year on the job, he completed a job crafting exercise, which helped him realize that he would be happier focusing more on new customer deals, which he saw others doing full time. He approached his manager and explained why he was the right person to cultivate a potential client in a market — large scale electromechanical integration services — the company had never served. His boss was convinced. Shammy's title and role didn't change but he shifted his attention to developing and acquiring the capabilities needed to win the account. The client is now one of his company's top six customers. Based on that success, Shammy was promoted to vice president and is now focused exclusively on new ventures, strategic markets, and business development.

Here are some tips and tricks before you change your job:
Madam, by Tosin Otitoju
Look at yourself
Whether or not you are satisfied with your job often has to do with your disposition... it's worth asking: Are you just the kind of person who tends to be dissatisfied? This understanding may not make you like your job better, but may make you think twice before you look for a new position.

Find meaning
... looking at your job responsibilities through a different lens. For example, if your position involves menial tasks, try to remember they are stepping stones to a longer term goal and you won't be doing them forever. Or, if you are in a field that is emotionally taxing, like nursing or social work, remind yourself that while  you are tired at the end of the day, you are helping others...

Alter what you do
If you can't change your perspective, you may be able to shift your job responsibilities. And you don't necessarily have to transfer departments or get a promotion to do it... redesign your job to better fit your motives, strengths, and passions. "Some people make radical moves; others make small changes" in how they delegate or schedule their day, Wrzesniewski says. While the former might require approval from your manager, the latter often doesn't. For example, if your most enjoyable task is talking with clients, but you feel buried in paperwork, you might decide to always speak with clients in the morning, so you're energized to get through the drudge work for the rest of the day. Or you might save talking with your clients until the end of the day as a reward.

Change who you interact with
If it's not the work you dislike but the people you work with, you may be able to change that too. Wrzesniewski says she has seen people successfully alter who they interact with on a daily basis to increase job satisfaction. Focus on forging relationships that give you energy, rather than sapping it. Seek out people who can help you do your job better...

Resist complaining
When you're in the wrong job, it can be tempting to moan about it to others. But it's not advisable. "Complaining about your job is a recipe for trouble. You never know how the complaints may be shared with others in the organization," says Spreitzer. Plus you may drag others down with you. If you are unhappy, it's better to focus on what you can change not grumble about what you can't.

Keep options open
The improvements you make to your job situation may make things more tolerable, but you should always be open to the next thing. "You can improve your job but you can also be on the lookout for new opportunities," says Speitzer. Be sure your resume (e.g. your LinkedIn profile) is up to date and that you are continually meeting people in the field you want to be in.

Source:
Don't Like Your Job? Change It (Without Quitting), by Amy Gallo ( Harvard Business Review )

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Internet hell


Is this internet connectivity signal dead or alive? 
MTN in Nigeria sucks so bad. 
Past week paid for, with not one minute of usable signal (including overnight), and not only is my money gone, additional money has vamoosed from the SIM card as well.  MTN steals "credit" for fun.

What's strange is that it sustained rates over 1000kb/s on a recent Sunday evening in Lagos Island - completely baffling pleasant surprise. 
On my usual location on Lagos Mainland, MTN internet is dead. 
In Ogun State, dead. 
So I migrated to the island, still dead. 

I tried this arbitrage scam: use a blackberry internet plan on your modem, browse without a data limit - very funny.  I just found a more promising one here. 
I try to unsubscribe for the future: text NO to 21600 - no way. 
And they stole an additional N1000. 


Using a different product right now.  But Ah'll be back!
FOOD, WATER, and INTERNET, are (wo)man's three basic needs. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Preserve your eyes while using a blackberry/mobile phone

It's nice to be connected to the internet via Blackberry, but the devices are ugly in my opinion.  Most cell phones are flat and ugly.  And there's the pesky ergonomics to deal with.

Here are some tips I learned:
  • When reading on the internet, check the settings in your browser for "Column view" which may reformat the page so you can read in large font and without scrolling side to side. 
  • When reading from a pdf or image file, the print is often small and/or blurry.  Try the options for "View text" and it may display the text in a nice column of text (again, no side-to-side)
Some easy things to try also:
  • In your internet settings, change the default font size to something comfortable for you.
  • Download a second browser (like Opera) for your device.  It may have better functionality than your native browser.  At any rate, it's nice to have two browsers, then you can use both simultaneously as I always do.  
Save your poor wrist and fingers:
  • Leave that scroll-button and use the SPACE key to go down one page at a time.You'd be surprised how many people scroll line-by-line instead of skipping down page-by-page. 
  • On standard laptop and desktop screens, don't put your mouse over the scroll button and click on it a thousand times; jump by clicking the space between scroll bar and scroll button. 
What to do about eye-strain?
The backlight on my phone screen is far too powerful.  To improve the situation, I usually to keep some other light on in the room when I'm working, or hold the phone/screen at an angle (not easy). 
Ideally, I could place a screen / filter over the original screen?
What do you think?
Is there such a filter for sale, or should I just tape the thing with cellotape/cellophane???

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Business Ideas

According to the UNDP, here are NINE specific investment options for business people and entrepreneurs in Africa. (Source, and details: How We Made it in Africa)
What do you think?
1. Fruit juice concentrate processing facility in Nigeria
2. Cassava value chain investment
3. Cultivation of soya bean and other oil seed plants
4. Sorghum production
5. Intensive production technologies for fresh vegetables
6. Production of milk powder in west Africa
7. Aquaculture
8. Equipment leasing
9. Market centre infrastructure investment

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