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7 Things I Learned About Work and Life After Years of Hating Sports

5 Sep

Approximately 27 million.

That’s how many people are playing fantasy football.

And so it begins…

Football season.

Here’s something you should know about me:

For years and years and years, I HATED sports.

I mean, really, I detested them.

Perhaps it was because one of my ex boyfriends left me after high school to go play basketball.

Or, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I can’t understand how athletes make bazillions of dollars and teachers make pennies.

Maybe it’s always been a little bit of both.

Regardless, every year as all of my friends indulge in the craziness surrounding their favorite sports teams, I’ve always sat around watching everyone drink beer, kind of scratching my head, wondering what the big fuss is about.

I just never understood.

But as I entered the workforce, I began to see parallels between the world of sports and organizational structure.

So here’s why I can now say that I LIKE sports.

I don’t LOVE them yet, but I like them.

Because through sports, we learn lessons about life and work, and they’re important.

1. Sports teach us about competition

Competition is the key to success and ensures that we continue striving for excellence. No team likes to lose. They don’t. Therefore, in order to win, they have to play their best. Whether you’re competing for a spot at an Ivy League school or for that kick ass job you applied for, if you want to win, you have to be better than your competition. Same applies to any company. You want business? You want clients? Then you need to be better than your competitors. You need to be committed to learning and growing and perfecting your skills so that your competition doesn’t even stand a chance.

2. Sports remind us of the importance of succession plans

There are always going to be stars. We’ve got Lebron James and well…I don’t know that many sports players other than Tim Tebow and…um…okay…Dan Marino and…um…all the Alabama football players that my boyfriend’s always talking about, but the point is that while they’re on the team, the team dominates. The team does well. They win their trophies. Everybody cheers. Everyone is happy. But what happens when these star players no longer play? What happens when they get hurt or they retire or they go play for another team? More often than not, the team’s performance suffers.

Just like sports teams recruit new players by watching college games, eyeing prospective future players, companies should be doing the same, recruiting talent for the future. That way, when their current stars no longer work for them, they’ll have great new talent and their team’s performance won’t suffer.

3. Sports show us that if you put in work, you get results 

It’s not that complicated. If you work hard, you’ll see results. If you’re out practicing on the field, more often than not, you’re going to perform a lot better than that player that never attends practice and thinks that he can just show up the day of the game and be awesome. Nothing in life that’s good comes easily. I don’t care how corny that sounds. It’s true. If you put in effort, if you dedicate yourself to continuous improvement, you will ALWAYS be better off than you were before. Be it your job, your relationship, those six pack abs that you’re dying to have, if you want to achieve great results, you need to put in the time and energy. Great companies understand this and know that to achieve success, they need to have employees that are committed to nothing less than that and therefore, they facilitate an environment that encourages continuous learning and improvement.

4. Sports create team players 

There’s no I in team…blah…blah…blah…you’ve heard it a million times. But it’s as true for an organization as it is for any sports team. Organizations need to have teams that work well together and know how to play on each other’s strengths in order to win.

5. Sports give us a sense of hope and are a source of inspiration

There are a lot of bad things going on in the world, a lot of unfair things happening on a daily basis. But it’s nice that for a few short hours, while people sit in front of the t.v. shotgunning beers, people have something else to think about. We love to root for the underdog. We watch sports movies about the team that never could have won, but did. They remind us that regardless of how bad a situation is, things can be better. That if we believe that we can do things, we can surprise ourselves and everyone else with how far we get. People want to be inspired. They want to have something to believe in. We want to know that even if our team went 0 and 500 last year, with the right coaching, the right players, and the right attitude, we can turn it around and go undefeated. Sports do that for us, and I love that.

6. Sports create for us a sense of belonging

People want to belong to something. People want to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. 22 year old Marina Keegan, a Yale student,  wrote a beautiful essay about just this, right before she died in a tragic accident. Here she writes as she dwells upon graduation:

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

We want to belong to something. Especially us Millennials, just entering the workforce, who have just been ripped apart, as Keegan says, from all the “tiny circles we pull around ourselves.” Those circles define us. They’re how we define ourselves. When we cheer for a particular team, we belong to that group of people who cheer for them as well. And just like that, we belong to something. We’re Dolphins fans…we’re Patriots fans…we’re Auburn fans (just kidding, babe). We cheer together. We cry together. We throw the remote control at the t.v. when we’re down together.

For that same reason, companies need to focus on building their brand and cultivating a positive culture within their organization. They should want their employees to feel that they belong to something much bigger. They should want their employees to feel that they’re part of the team. That way, they cheer when the organization is doing well and they work harder than ever when they’re down because their goal is to see their team win. Because they don’t want to belong to something that loses.

7. If nothing else, sports give us something to talk about at work 

Yes. It’s true.

So there you have it. Those are seven reasons why I can no longer say that I hate sports.

I’m sure there are other reasons, like this…

There. I officially LOVE sports. I said it. Thank you, Mr. Beckham.

And so that my man doesn’t kill me, ROLL TIDE, everyone!

Other stuff you might like:

Why Companies Are Using Gen Y and Embracing the Blogosphere

Companies Need to Make it Easier for Gen Y to Job-Hop

Invest in Young Talent, It’s Worth It

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Companies Need To Make It Easier For Gen Y to Job-Hop

29 Jul

It used to be that employees would stay at jobs for years and years and years and then they’d die. Or retire. Or whatever came first.

But today, that’s not the case.

Studies have shown that on average, Generation Y workers are staying at jobs for about 18 months. Then, they’re leaving. Because it’s so expensive, the cost of turnover is something that’s really making employers nervous. I, however, don’t think it’s a bad thing. On the contrary, I think it’s wonderful that workers these days want to experience new things and expand their skill sets.

When it comes to Generation Y and turnover, there are a few questions that need to be addressed:

1. Why does this happen? 

This new generation of workers grew up with more options than ever before. We’ve lived with technology our whole lives and that has contributed to our awareness of all of our options. There’s  zero appeal in doing the same thing for the rest of our lives because we want to experience so much. There’s too much to do, too much to see, and we don’t want to be stuck doing any ONE thing, forever.

In addition to this is the fact that our interests are changing. By the time we enter the workforce and hold our first real jobs, our interests are much different than the interests we had when we first entered college. And that’s the problem. From as early as pre-school, people are asking us to decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives. I’m really sorry, but in pre-school, the only profession I could see myself going into is that of being a princess. But as we grow up, our interests change. ALOT.

For example…

I used to hate eating.

Now, this is me…

Also, I used to hate boys.

Today, not so much.

My brother is one of my favorite people.

And this is the love of my life…

Okay, but really, our interests do change. When I first started college, I thought I’d be a Physical Therapist. Then, I got a degree in Health Services Administration, figuring I’d be a hospital executive one day. Today, I can see myself doing a lot of different things. I’ve learned through the past couple of years that I’m passionate about teaching. I’m passionate about leadership and helping people make the best out of the workplace. I’d like to one day write a book. I would love to work in a non-profit some day. I’d love to be a college counselor.

Point is, we only figure out what we like and what we don’t like through time and experience. We shouldn’t be expected to know what our dream job is upon entering the workplace. We shouldn’t be forced to stick to any one job for years and years and years especially if it’s not the best fit for us. Generation Y wants work that engages us and that allows us to explore our different interests using the talents that we have. This is not a bad thing.

2. What can we do about this?

Without a doubt, it’s in a company’s best interest to understand their workers, in this case, Generation Y, because by 2025, 75% of the workforce will consist of these employees. By better understanding their workers, companies can then strategically align employee incentives to ensure that they are able to retain the best talent.

So rather than fighting this issue of turnover, how about employers just go with it? Young workers aren’t interested in having the same job for fifty years. They’re just not. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t want to stay at the same ORGANIZATION for quite some time. What does that mean? Employers can retain employees by making it easier for internal talent to transition to other jobs. They can also do so by allowing employees to belong to different task forces, helping to expand their skill sets on a regular basis. We want to develop, we like varied tasks, and when we express interest in another field, we’d like nothing more than the opportunity to explore that.

Too often, people start off their careers at jobs that they soon realize are not for them. And then what happens? They leave the organization because they figure it’s their only option. At most organizations, it’s really difficult to change jobs. Why? Because every job requires x amount of years of experience in that particular field. If you’ve been busy working at job A, how are you supposed to have x amount of years of experience in job B? You just can’t.

Companies can really do a much better job at providing on-the-job training which would allow employees to pursue other career options without leaving the organization and taking their talents elsewhere. Companies need to make sure that their employees don’t feel stuck. And in order to do that, there exists a need for leaders who guide and mentor other employees, helping them reach their career goals.

3. Why is this a good thing? 

At this point, I’m sure some people are reading this and thinking, “Dude, that’s a lot of work…I hire someone to do a specific job and that’s it. If they don’t like it, they can leave.”

That’s fine. You can choose to feel that way.

But they WILL leave.

And you WILL miss out.

You’ll miss out on talent. And you know what? Your people and their talent are your greatest assets. So use it. Make better use of your talent. If your employees are expending their skill sets, that’s great! Let them! Encourage them! Instead of being proficient in only one area, they’ll now be proficient in many. Isn’t that the goal? To have well-rounded employees? I certainly think so.

Teaching Gen Y How to Lead: Why We Can’t Afford Not To

2 Jul

I could probably spend a whole day annoying people about all the things that I’m passionate about. But since most people have an average attention span of about 2.7 seconds, I won’t do that.

Instead, here’s a list of my top three interests:

  • Leadership
  • Youth Development
  • Food

Yes, I freaking like food, okay?

But this isn’t a post about food.

It’s about the fact that employers are doing a terrible job a cultivating proper leadership within their organizations.

I have a problem with the fact that organizations don’t start leadership training sooner.

Don’t get me wrong, many companies have wonderful on boarding programs that aim to teach new leaders how to handle conflict and how to deal with difficult employees (like me, sometimes).

But here’s the problem…

Professionals are being taught how to be leaders at the time when they’re already expected to fill these roles.

What organizations should be doing is training individuals how to lead BEFORE they’re in leadership positions.

This will allow them to be more successful.

Come on, people. Let’s be proactive, not reactive. Would that be so bad?

As a young professional in the workforce, it’s frustrating to see that knowledge in general is usually reserved for the “elite”… for supervisors and above.

How annoying is that?

Very.

Look, as a member of GenY, I know that we have a tendency to annoy those older and more experienced than us because we’re seen as hungry and ambitious when we enter the workforce.

I get it.

But the beautiful thing about many of us young professionals is that we WANT TO LEARN.

So if you’re smart, you’ll teach us.

Leadership seminars are great. I find them quite interesting. But more often than not, this is the attitude held by most organizations. “Oh, there’s a leadership training? Sorry, you can’t go. You’re not a supervisor. You’re not a manager. Maybe next year.”

Okay. So we’re not yet in leadership positions. We’re not supervisors. We’re not managers. We’re not the CEO. We don’t own this place.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re not leaders.

And most importantly, it doesn’t mean that there’s no value in preparing us to lead, before we fill those positions.

Tell me, would you train a surgeon how to perform a procedure while his patient is bleeding out on the operating room table?

Not so much.

The same principle applies to leadership development.

Strong leadership is what sets great organizations apart from the rest. It’s the difference between engaged employees and employees that hate their lives and make everyone else miserable because of it.

For this reason, we can’t afford to wait until employees fill leadership positions to teach them how to be leaders.

There’s too much at stake.

Successful organizations understand this. They understand the value of leadership at all levels. And most importantly, they understand the importance of developing and investing in young workers.

Effective Use of Gen Y Talent…Why We Need to Look Beyond Job Descriptions

18 Jun
 
Companies are struggling these days. Times are tough. There’s a lot of work to be done, plenty of jobs that need to be filled, yet in many instances, there’s no money to fill them.
 
Well that’s a problem…
 
So how do we fix this? It’s simple, really.
 
We look beyond the confinements of job descriptions. 
 
Here’s the deal…
 
Employers complain about budget cuts and the inability to hire more workers, but more often than not, the issue isn’t that they LACK human resources.
 
They just aren’t using their resources properly.
 
When an employee is hired, it’s usually to fill a specific void within an organization and so they’re given a basic job description detailing their responsibilities. Fine. I get that…
 
But let’s say that employees discover that they can assist the organization in ways not described in their job descriptions? Can these descriptions be altered or are they set in stone?
 
What if employees have ideas that can potentially help your company? Do you shut them down or do you allow them to contribute?
 
Great organizations do the latter.
 

As a Gen Y worker, nothing’s been more frustrating than not being able to use my talents in the jobs that I’ve held. Usually, whenever I’ve had an idea or wanted to contribute in ways that go beyond the span of my job description, I’ve been shut down almost immediately. “That’s not your job”, “That’s not what we hired you to do.”

How annoying.

Unfortunately, that’s the attitude shared by many managers and as a result, they’re missing out on opportunities to optimize the impact of their human capital.

However, I HAVE been lucky to have some managers that understand this and they’ve been awesome. Those are the managers I want to work for. Those are the managers I want to work with. Those are the leaders that I admire.

But for the most part, managers aren’t using their Gen Y talent as they should. Many young professionals have so much to contribute but they aren’t allowed the opportunity as management insists that these workers need to simply “pay their dues“. They’re hired into entry-level positions and their responsibilities consist of making copies and scheduling meetings. No more, no less.

Well that’s dumb.

Because if an employee has an idea or can contribute to efforts that help meet the goals of the organization, who cares what their title is? Who cares that the task isn’t stated on their job description? Add it on there.

As long as employees are fulfilling the needs of the job they were hired to do, how is this an issue? Rather than seeing it as a problem, shouldn’t we be seeing this as an opportunity? I mean, employers ARE being asked to do more with less resources, aren’t they?

By limiting employees to the responsibilities listed on initial job descriptions, you’re doing your company a great disservice.

If you don’t want to completely toss the notion of job descriptions, that’s fine, I understand. But remember that theyaren’t engraved in stone. They’re not written in permanent marker.

They can and should be changed if you wish to get the most out of the people that you hired.

The talent is there. You just need to use it better.

Invest In Young Talent, It’s Worth It

23 May

I like money.

Not in the sense that I need a million dollars and not in the sense that I need to go shopping every day, but I do like shoes.

I’ll own these one day…

God, they’re gorgeous.

Okay, fine. I like to shop. But I do like to SAVE money more than I like to shop. I like to save a lot of it. This makes me happy.

Unfortunately, today’s economy is rather unpleasant and many people haven’t been able to save much money. So whenever I meet with my financial advisor, he tells me that I’m one of the lucky ones. He tells me that I have the luxury of saving now, from a young age, and that by the time I’m much older, I should be in a pretty good financial situation. My advisor tells me to buy stocks. He tells me to be aggressive.

Now while I know very little about stocks, I do understand the basic concept.

You buy them at a price. You sell them at a higher price. That’s how you make money.

So when you buy them for pennies and they end up being worth millions years later, that’s freaking awesome.

Well, that same concept applies to talent management.

Employers these days are missing out on great candidates as they continue making experience qualifications unrealistically high for recent grads. Like really, you don’t need three years of work experience to be an administrative assistant. You just don’t. But I won’t get into that right now.

Employers, here’s some advice that will allow you to attract and retain the best talent:

  1. Identify high potential candidates.
  2. Chase them aggressively.
  3. Then hire them.
  4. Then teach them.

Sure, they don’t have years and years of experience…How can they? THEY JUST GRADUATED!

But guess what? That’s great news for you! You know why?

Because you don’t have to pay them huge salaries to get the job done!

Give them that experience. Provide them with training. Allow them the opportunity to make something of their lives. That’s really all they want.

But before you feel like you’re doing these young professionals a favor by employing them, understand that it truly is a win-win situation for everyone involved. In regards to training, the more you teach your employees from a young age, the more they’ll know five years from now. The more they’ll be able to contribute in the future.

Think of your employees as retirement accounts. The more money or the more knowledge you put into them from an early age, the higher the likelihood that the payout will be large.

Fully embrace the idea of compound interest.

Buy your employees when they’re worth pennies and when they’re worth millions, they’ll contribute to your organization in BIG ways. Cultivate talent as early as possible. That’s how organizations become rich.

Invest in young talent, it’s worth it.

In Response to Stephens, on His Address to the Class of 2012

9 May

Dear Mr. Stephens,

I read your letter to the class of 2012. And while I graduated about two years ago, your letter was rather thought provoking.

To begin with, it’s not very nice of you to not congratulate those students that spent the last four years doing simply what society has told them they have to do. They went to elementary school, then middle school, then high school, and then they were told they have to go to college if they don’t want to starve and die, yes?

You state,

“through exertions that-let’s be honest-were probably less than heroic, most of you have spent the last few years getting inflated grades in useless subjects in order to obtained a debased degree”

So to that I ask, whose fault is this? Clearly we’re not the ones that put together the curriculum. The college system was not something we created. We were simply being advised by those before us and now many of us are dirt poor and in debt, perhaps for no reason.

As for our president, I can’t say that I voted for him. Because guess what? A lot of us still believe in the importance of working hard despite the the stigma that our generation has been given of being lazy and entitled.

Yes, many of us are, but there are others that are not. So please, I’d prefer it if you didn’t generalize.

But while we’re on this subject of entitlement, once again, I’m going to ask, whose fault is it? The sense of entitlement our society  seems to have adopted is simply a byproduct of policies implemented by previous presidents that many of you, in previous generations, “voted for with such enthusiasm”.

As I reflected on the other various issues that you have with us young workers, I’ll admit, many of the points you make are valid. Perhaps we are the least knowledgeable graduating class in history. But really, who’s teaching us?

Yes, I agree, our competition is global. But it’s not just the competition of us young workers, it’s your competition too. So we ALL better “shape up”.

You then go on to say that to read through our CVs

“is to be assaulted by endless Advertisements for Myself. Here you are, 21, or 22 years old, claiming to have accomplished feats in past summer internships or at your school newspaper that would be hard to credit in the biography of Walter Lippmann or Ernie Pyle”

Mr. Stephens, with all due respect, we HAVE to make even the most minute accomplishments seem of the utmost importance, because how else do we get jobs?! The requirements for entry-level jobs these days are absurd!

But yes, absolutely, I agree that there will always be a market for people that are capable of thinking for themselves.

I’d like to conclude this letter by saying that as of late, this conversation about young workers entering the workforce seems to be an “us against them” conversation.

I think that’s dumb.

Because rather than being a conversation of attacks against generations, it should be one of collaboration. We should be trying to figure out what we can  learn from one another. We should be trying to learn each of our strengths and weaknesses so that we can work together to better society and to help others.

So how about we ALL “tone down our egos” and “shape up our minds”?

What do you think? Let’s call it a truce?

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